Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Letters from home

"Sunday
July 1, 1945


Dear Ma, Pa and all -


Received two handfuls of mail yesterday and today. First I have had since leaving the UK (England). Glad to know you are all alright -- the garden sounds wonderful - and I envy you so for being able to see Judy all the time - she sounds adorable. I hope you got to go to the mountains.


Had a letter from Lester. His handwriting on the envelope looked so good. I trust by now he is home, or on the way. Harriet and I often speak of home. We certainly don't help each other. I'll say "Gee, Harriet, I'd give anything to go home" and she immediately replies, "and I would too". I find that I am closer to homesickness here than ever in England. I loved England and altho I am sure France is lovely, I have no desire to stay here.


Please don't misunderstand me tho. Harriet and I both want to come home to see our loves ones again (she has the sweetest old mother and a very nice family - 3 brothers in the service overseas). We both feel, however, we want to stay in it until the finish or at least until our Red Cross overseas duty period is up. We are not content here because we want to be with combat wounded. The boys from now on in this hospital will only have ordinary ailments and as there are many girls willing to do this type of work, we want to do the other. So many are leaving here for the CBI (China-Burma-India). We hope soon to join them.


I'd give anything to join a unit that was coming home before going to the Pacific. But one never knows. Is Marje Harlow home yet? Last I heard she was in New Jersey. She said she would come out to see you.


This camp is almost like a League of Nations. We have American, Polish patients, Polish workers, French patients, French workers, Italian workers, German prisoners, German patients, German nurses and Dutch nurses! What a time we are having trying to tell them to do our washing, pressing, etc.


The other night the cork stopper in the tub split in two. I wanted a knife to pry it out of the drain. I went to the boiler room and when my English failed I tried to ask for a knife in French. Finally the man shrugged his shoulders and said "Me Italian". This was the nite Harriet almost collapsed. According to her she opened the door of the room where I was going to take a bath only to see a man standing outside but halfway in the window with an open knife in his hand and me bent over the tub with my back to him! OF course, all it was  was my Italian friend trying to hand me his knife. ONLY SHE DIDN'T KNOW THAT!!


The other day, I asked for two German prisoners to help me. They asked for volunteers and I think the whole group raised their hands. Two were pulled out of their line-up and I was told to have them back in 15 minutes. Off I trot down the road (both sides lined with prisoners digging ditches) the two following after me. I walked them over to where Red Cross girls before us had their quarters and into one of the houses there. The house was all boarded up and no one around but me and the two Jerries. I suddenly began to wonder if maybe I shouldn't be scared - but I wasn't. So I (in sign language) told them to move a wardrobe over to my new quarters. After 15 minutes of banging the thing around trying to get it through doors we got outside. Just then a column of Jerries passed by and the two yelled for help and then I had six to account for! But I got them all back OK.


It was funny during the day, I had three carrying furniture for me. I stepped out onto the main road ahead of them when two GIs came up and started talking to me. One happened to say "Gee, you women - when we get you home again guess we will have to live in tents with you -- you girls seems to thrive on rough living". Just then I saw the Jerries going the wrong way and I yelled "Hey, this way". They immediately turned and came towards me. The boys looked at each other and one of them said "Well, I'll be! We had to have guns to make them do that -- say you should have joined us sooner, we could have used you on the front".


This is the sort of a mixed-up mess I want to get out of. But while here I'll manage to enjoy it because it is an experience and a very odd one at that!


Be happy with each other and enjoy your comfortable home for you don't know how much these things mean until you don't have them.


Love to one and all,
Elsie"

NOTE
Lester is Elsie's younger brother who served in the military during WWII.

The prettist sight was Chateau Thierry

"Sunday
June 30, 1945


Dear Family,
Guess these are my first lines since I've been in my new home. Left Paris on Monday 25th I believe I told you Co. Dietrich and two boys came down to pick us up. You should have seen me helping the boys load the cases of gin and champagne onto the truck. We rode in the back of a truck and all the liquor was transported in a small trailer behind. The roads were terribly bumpy and we were all sure the bottles would be smashed. We had an anniversary party that night at the Officers Club.

The ride from Paris to Rheims was very pretty after we once left the towns. Frans seems to have so many plains. One can see for miles and miles over flat land. The prettiest sight of all was Chateau Thierry. If you remember there were great battles fought there during the last was (WWI). A beautiful monument has been erected by the Americans and the French and it is built on a high hill overlooking the town of Chateau Thierry and the surrounding countryside. We stopped there and ate some sandwiches Red Cross gave us and I took a few pictures which I will send as soon as they are developed.


The hospital now is located in a redeployment area. Perhaps you have read of these in the newspapers. Divisions of troops are being sent to the USA and CBI and they go through what is known as Assembly Areas. If any have any medical complaints they are hospitalized and sent to surrounding hospitals. There are ten hospitals where we are. The boys are treated and then sent on. All this is supposed to take until Nov 1st to finish.


We passed by a few of the Assembly Area Camps. Everyone was so pleased to see us when we called in at the club Monday night. We were flattered and sincerely amazed to think we had been so missed!


Fifteen of our nurses had left for another camp (a mile away) awaiting assignment to the CBI. Ruth, a nurse Harriet and I have been friendly with and had planned a number of things to do together had left. We were disappointed at that but have seen her since.


I'll cut this letter short here and start another - my, but I can "chatter on" can't I?


Love to all.
Elsie


PS Am enclosing clippings re Redeployment Areas.
Camp Pittsburgh is mentioned - that's where Ruth is."



FOR FURTHER READING

See WikiPedia for more info about the
WWI battle at Chateau Thierry.
NOTE: CBI - China Burma India (theater of military operation)

Chateau-Thierry: Overview and the Defense of the Marne River Line

Battle of Ch√Ęteau-Thierry (1918) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I have seen Paris

[Left to right] Ann Wilson, Arleine Schnure, Harriet Lenk, Elsie [Barks] - Tracadero Paris - June 1945
(Unidentified Red Cross girl at right.)




"Paris
June 26, 1945
Monday


Dear Folks -


Well dear ones, I have seen Paris. We have spent one hectic week and seen most everything. We, as I have written, arrived last Monday.


Tuesday, I met two girls I knew at headquarters. One I came over with and the other was Ruth York -- remember the blond girl with glasses - the roommate of Irene. I thought Ruth was in China but she had been in France and was on her way to the Pacific. She was asking about you.


At nite four of us walked to see Paris. There are no taxicabs or buses. Subways run and street travel is done by horse and buggy (300 francs 1/2 hour ride + $6.00). We never rode in one. An officer and GI wanted to ride but I wouldn't let them spend their money. I think prices here are outrageous and refuse to pay what they ask. Hankies - $200.00, Dresses $75.00, hats $35.00, scarves $25.00. These prices are for things we would be apt to buy at home at prices we usually pay.


Tuesday night we visited the Red Cross Officers' Club. The large hotel facing the square. Lovely place. We met the Red Cross girl who helped run it and she showed us her apartment. We were able to stand on the top balcony and look across the Place de Concorde. It was a beautiful site -- Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, etc. It was from same building that President Wilson, King and Queen of England and other famous visitors appeared before the public when visiting Paris.

Click to find out more about
this musical.
Wednesday - We took a Red Cross tour of Paris. Went by bus. I'm sending a picture we had taken in front of the Eiffel tower. Everything we saw was interesting. Paris is a lovely city. Clean (the new part at least) wide streets, lots of trees, etc. At nite we went to the Canadian show "Meet the Navy". It is equivalent to our "This is the Army:. Very good. On way home met three officers who begged us to return to a night club with them. They wanted to spend the evening with American girls. We were tired and dirty but felt as though we were "duty bound", so we went. It was a lovely place and we had our first champagne. They were very nice boys and we truly enjoyed their company. 


Thursday _ We went to the follies Casino du Paris. Had extra ticket so we found a lonesome soldier sitting on a wall and took him along. Gosh! Our faces were red! We hadn't realized what a "follies" show in Gay Paree was like!



Friday -- Friday night we attended an Allied Movie House and enjoyed the show. Called in the Red Cross Club for coffee-and-donuts.


Saturday - Up early and took the tour to Versailles. The palace (built by Louis XIV) was wonderful. So different from any castles we had seen in England. huge with just "oodles and oodles" of statues about the grounds. Beautiful tapestries and ceiling paintings in the rooms. Saw the Hall of Mirrors. Visited Madeline Church. Saw funeral (French). Rested in afternoon. Harriet came in reporting she had picked up two bewildered GI's and for the good of the Red Cross we took them under wing. One boy was from Providence and was absolutely thrilled to see anyone from Providence. We took them to supper at Red Cross. They then took us to the Stage Door Canteen of Paris and the new GI night club (which we were anxious to see as the paper mention it so much). It was very poor - we thought.


Sunday - The GI's here in Paris are funny. They stare as we walk down the street. Most of them say "hello" and seem so grateful if we nod and greet them as we pass by. A number of them stopped us and asked us to say "hello" to them, as they haven't seen or spoken to American girls for some time.


Well this ends my stay in Paris. I'll be glad to get to camp and relax for a while. We have been running around so much - so as not to miss anything.


Love,
Elsie"

FOR FURTHER READING

Eiffel Tower - Official Site
Notre Dame du Paris
Palace of Versailles