Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Letters from home

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,

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

The prettist sight was Chateau Thierry

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.

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


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.)

June 26, 1945

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.



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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Calling Russell

Elsie is seated front row, center. Russ has his arm around her.

June 25 1945

Dear Family -

Just finished calling Russell. Spoke to him - he sounded real good. I'm sorry he and I are so far away from each other, as it will be some time before I get to see him.

I am hoping to spend my weeks' vacation (I have 2 weeks vacation due me) one week I hope to spend soon on the Riviera, and if I do I will be able to see Russ then. He's near there.

I don't know how I will feel after I get set up at the Hospital and get back to work - but right now I have a feeling I don't want to stay in France. Now the war is over here, I want to go to the Pacific, 'cause if I can't be close to the war I would rather be at home.

We now find that we are to be located near Rheims (not Nancy). The hospital unit has been there for almost a week now so we are leaving today to catch up with them."


Arc de Triomphe including historical pics.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Took train for Paris 9:30am

June 18, 1945

Dear Folks -

Arrived yesterday June 17th in Parish. We rode (15 Red Cross workers) on a truck from Mesnieres-en-Bray to Ruoen for 11 1/2 hours. Took train there for Paris at 9:30am. Should have reached there at 11:30 but it took until 3:00pm. Train service is terribly slow.

Yesterday was a holiday here and buildings were covered with flags. Five years since Gen. Charles DeGaulle rallied Free French. Parts of the city were lit up by floodlight but we missed seeing it.

At present we are quartered at the Patio Club (for WACS and Red Cross). We near jumped out of our skins when we first say it, cause each of us have a private room consisting of a bed, wardrobe and sink. There are three rooms plus a bathroom and sitting room. This is our own little apartment! After living in one room with 90 people this is a bit of heaven, I assure you.

We eat at the Red Cross mess. A lovely restaurant taken over by the Red Cross and we have army rations, which all fixed up is real good. Here we have table service, etc. and our old "mess gear and food lines" seem like a nightmare. The best part is just going in, sitting down and eating and then leaving with no bother of paying any bills.

Paris - Hotel de France et Choisuel
239-241 Rue Saint-Honore

Last night a group of us went to see as much as Paris as possible. The streets around the Opera House were lined with people. The sultan of Morocco was here to confer with Gen. Charles DeGaulle. The Moroccan soldiers looked so odd in their full pants, bloused coats and turbans.

Our greatest delight was seeing the famous Parisian hats. They are something - piled high with anything and everything atop. Prices of same are terrific! ($35.00 $75.00 etc). We all want to bring one home but prices prevent that!

Also, it is a sight to see the hair-do of the French women. They wear their hair piled very high. Short skirts, right dresses, etc. Oh, la, la their bicycle outfits of billowing skirts is something I must try when I get home.

It is very hot here now - English weather is so very different. There is so much rain there and here it hasn't rained since we arrived.

Saw Notre Dame, Palais De Justice, Palais du Louvre last night. Palais du Louvre - old palace of French kings was a sight to behold. It is gigantic! Now hold museum and government offices. Paris is clean and Paris is gay, Paris is everything anyone says about it. I think I will enjoy my stay in Paris.

We are here to have orientation classes and to receive money for our hospital set-up, instructions, etc. Have no idea how long for but hoping we will get time in between classes to sightsee.

Must now go to meeting with Claire regarding our Revolving Fund. I do my bookkepping in francs! Hope it isn't as confusing as pence, shillings and pounds (in England). Will write again tonight.

Bon soir,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The gorgeous poppy fields

"June 16, 1945

Mesnieres-en- Bray

Dear Folks,
Greetings from France! Landed here on Wednesday nite, June 13th. Crossing the English Channel was excellent. Lovely warm weather.

(c) 13 June 1945 Elsie (Barks) Naylor. Arrival in France. Elsie is standing on the right with other Red Cross girls.
Had chance to see Southampton once more before I left England. As you know this was where Uncle Herbert lived.

I was ever so sorry I didn't get up to see Aunt Eliza and family before leaving. Called cousin Ivy and spoke to Elsie, however.

Haven't seen too much of France as yet. Rode from port to present "residence" in open trucks and my only impression of the countryside thus far was the gorgeous poppy fields. Such loved red patches of fields! They say Normandy is supposed to be so beautiful - I am anxious to see it for so far there is no comparison to England.

Passed thru LeHavre. Perhaps you have read of the terrific damage done there. Everything is flattened to the ground. Saw a number of German pill boxes [1].

The feeling of the French toward us in this port is not good. We have been told that the French have not forgiven the Air Forces for the deaths and damage caused by their bombings. We sensed this feeling the first day here. However, I am not one to blame them too much, for I feel there are those who know no better., and their lives under German rule were no different that life under ours. Some Americans feel bitter about this - I find, however, I have no respect for them but yet I can understand.

Children amuse us - little boys in dresses and pinafores [2] and in wooden-soled shoes! We are now quartered in the grounds of a once lovely chateau [3] (nurses & Red Cross girls only). It at one time was the summer residence for the French kings. Later was made into a monastery. 

Chow line at the chateau.
We are in one huge building which has about 90 sleeping cots in it, and thus we live. Its a "GI" life. We almost died when first we hunted and found the latrine! Just old-fashioned community seating. However, as with everything else one soon gets used to it. Chow is served in the chateau and we start lining up 1/2 hour before time (we are still using our mess gear). At times, the food makes us squirm and after washing our gear we find ourselves in the sand pile trying to get the "grease" off the plates, etc. but we still survive. We eat in a small room - long wooden benches and tables - crucifix on the wall in front.

Walked around the grounds yesterday. Visited chapel in the chateau. Stained glass windows smashed. Canadians took this place last October. Chateau had been Nazi headquarters. Stumbled upon ten Nazi graves in the orchard. Wooden crosses with names - rather young men. Also saw wire stockade Germans held Americans in. As I passed by I remarked about a bottle on the ground only to find it was a dud mortar shell! Walked by rail tracks and saw huge unexploded bomb.

Yesterday went on a conducted tour to see V-bomb[4] sites. Long rail lines lead to the site. Direct bomb hits had smashed along the line and huge craters were all about the adjoining. Tracks were twisted and lay all along the line. Lovely poppies and daisies were growing among the ruins. One building was completely demolished but others were intact inside although camouflaged roofs had been blasted off. The walls were 2 ft. thick only direct hits could damage the inside. 

The Nazis were thorough!!! Can't roam about in France - mines and booby traps still being found. However, I don't' believe I want to stay in France. My eyes are on the CBI (China-Burma-India). Please be patient it you don't hear from me from time to time as I may not have chance to write. I will try to send you my new APO as soon as I know it, as your letters will now go to England to be forwarded and I don't expect to hear from you for quite a while yet. Keep writing tho -

Keep Happy

PS This place is not permanent. I will be going further into France."


[1] To learn more about German "Pill boxes" during WWII, see Bunkersite.com. Click France, and roll your mouse over the locations on the right side to see pop-up pics of German pill boxes.

[2] A pinafore is a utilitarian type of apron worn on top of a dress to keep it clean. The pinafore could be changed out with a clean one without having to fully change clothing on a young child.(WikiPedia includes several pics).

[3] Although the Chateau-de-Mesnieres-en-Bray suffered a devestating fire in 2004, the tourism board for the region has a picture of the chateau as it looks now.

[4] Learn more about the flying bombs known as V-Bombs at WikiPedia.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I remember when I saw Tojo

"I remember when I saw Tojo. In December 1946 while awaiting transportation from Tokyo Japan to a Red Cross assignment in Korea, I had the opportunity to attend the War Crimes Trial in Tokyo with a group of Red Cross girls.

Side A - original in possession of Elsie (Barks) Naylor.
As we entered the building where the trial was being conducted, we were searched for weapons and camera. A balcony was set aside for spectators. One side was reserved for Allied Personnel, and the other side for Japanese civilians. On the floor below us there were ten interpreters in five glassed-in boxes. To the left of them were ten judges dressed in black robes, except the Russian judge and the US judge who wore their uniforms. On the left hand side of the room were two rows of prisoners, ten to each row. Tojo was seated in the front row. There were eight defending and prosecuting attorneys at a table in front of the prisoners. Next to them was a long table set aside for the press.

Each spectator seat had earphones. The prosecuting Australian Army Colonel question on this morning a Warrant Officer who had been a Jap prisoner. Out of 2,295 prisoners only 6 survived. When the questions were asked in English, it was translated into Japanese and the Japanese sitting next to us heard it over their earphones. We also heard it in Japanese in our earphones.

Side B - original in possession of Elsie (Barks) Naylor
It was a vary interesting morning. Proof came out of the death marches on Java. Of treatment against prisoners, for example, feeding a Capt. Matthews rice and putting a hose down his throat and forcing water into his stomach, which later caused swelling but no medical aid was given, tacks hammered under fingernails, pounding hammers on heads, cigarette butts burning under arms, stretched on racks, etc.

Tojo and the rest listened intensely at times, but other times just sat reading or writing. We remarked later, however, how kindly most of the defendants looked. Most of them looked like very proper business men. Tojo, Matsui and Muto wore uniforms but everyone else wore suits."

Elsie explains she was given this card with the courtroom seating and rules, before entering the tribunal.

According to WikiPedia, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East was convened in the former Imperial Japanese Military Headquarters on 5 May 1946. Hideki Tojo is pictured below in this official US Army photo seated in a wooden desk, wearing his uniform, roundish glasses and earphones for translation as Elsie mentions in her memoirs.

A brief outline of Tojo's career and the trial is found at the WikiPedia website.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code. See Copyright.