Oakley Graphic (Oakley, KS0
18 May 1945
From the Men in the Armed Forces
Greeting from England
Dearest Mother and Daddy,
When Monty crossed the Rheine — he made history for th world. When I crossed the Rheine — I made history for Dorothy — and that history was made today. Just got home from a flight across the Channel, France, Belgium and into Germany — crossing the Mosel and Rheine Rivers.
Last night Major Starks called me and asked if I wanted to make a trip today. I said sure, but actually thought he was kidding until he said that a ship was going over to Frankfurt and had room for me.
We left our base about 1030 this morning, flew over London, out Dungeness, over the Channel, crossed into the continent at Cape Gris Nes, crossed the Belgium border, over Rouboix, Nivelles, Hurg, Maldenny, German border (at 1230 hours), over the Siegfried line, Mosel River, Rhine Rier, Weisbaden and landed near Frankfurt. Coming home we took off about 1600, circled over some of the badly bombed cities such as Frankfurt, Koblens (Coblens), Aachen and Lille, crossed over the continent at Boulogne, entered the English Coast at Dungeness over London and landed.
We flew in a B-17 so there was plenty of room to move about and really see from any direction that one desired. I rode most of the time in the nose so I could watch the navigator’s maps and check the points that we were crossing. We flew at 2500 to 3000 ft so could easily see the general area ahead, and on both sides.
Points of interests were pointed out to me as we left the English Coast — first of all was to look back to the left and see the White Cliffs of Dover — sun was out so made an impressive sight. Next was to take notice of the bomb craters on the French Coast as we entered. Cape Gris Nes, Rouboix, noted for its silk mills, an old castle between Rouboix and Nivelles. Heavy forest areas all the way in Germany, the battle damage to all the buildings, houses, bridges, and railroads (seemed every building had lost its roof), the Siegfried Line which looked just like the picture — made of concrete, trenches which had been made in the shape of connected “V’s”, the change of the soil to red shale, noticed how hilly all the country was, huge yellow patches of mustard which stood out against the continuous varied shades of green, then that all the buildings and homes had slate roofs, attention called to the fact that there was very little movement below, no traffic until near Frankfurt when we sighted a convoy.
We landed on an airfield which had been badly bombed by us and the R.A.F. The runways had been repaired but the field was full of craters, and all hangers and other building were practically roofless. We might have seen a German prisoner the night before as one brought down his PW 190 and they had it on inspection. Was very interesting to actually see one as have heard much about them. There were a couple more on the field in very bad shape. The airfield had once been an airport — the Municipal Airport — one of the finest in Germany. Bits of its finery still existed, such as open pavilon, the foundation of a pool complete with fixtures of sprays and lights (and now badly damaged) beautifully planned Control Tower (soda fountain fixtures were still in place but non-functioning at present)
We were allowed to look around the field for a couple hours before the plane was ready to return. It was very interesting to talk to the personnel now stationed there. They have learned a lot about the field, town and surrounding country in the short while they have been there. We inquired what the small silver pin was that most of the enlisted men had — found out it was a miniature Graf Zepplyn which was flown from the field. They gave us each a few. Most of the vehicles about were Army and G.I., but a few were the small little German unique and compact. It is a very small four-passenger and has its steering wheel in the left side which we all noticed (as the British cars all have its wheels on the right side).
On our return trip they circled Frankfurt and other towns to let us see the extent of the damage done to the various towns by our own bombers. We were all astonished and amazed — the damage was terrific. After we passed over Aachen, I got to ride in the co-pilot’s seat for quite a while. We had some side wind and I found the B-17 a bit harder to hold on course than the little ships that I had been used to holding the stick and wheel on — but it was fun.
I don’t think I have taken a day off and spent it as profitable as I did today. I shall never forget my first trip across the Channel, over France, Belgium and into Germany. When I look back not to think between 1030 and 1900, I had traveled over a thousand miles and seen as much as I did, I wonder if I am just awakening from a wonderful dream. We realized today the length of some of the boys sorties — they penetrate much deeper, fly much higher, and get much colder — not mentioned the danger that they are over enemy territory and it wasn’t long ago that most of the country over which we flew as in enemy hands.
As a souvenir of the trip, Major Stark gave me a picture of Hitler which he found lying outside of one of the billets. The glass had been broken, his face scarred and his eyes punched out — evidently some of the new inhabitants didn’t have the same respect for him as the previous ones had. All the crew and passengers autographed the picture and I added it to my collection of ETO tokens.
I was sorry that Johnny couldn’t make the trip with me as he had never een over either but had gone back to his work and couldn’t get down for the day.