Major Robert F. Burns

90th Division, U.S. Army

 

War Letters from Europe

Normandy to Germany

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Letters from France

June 22, 1944
June 29, 1944
June 29, 1944 (2nd)
July 6, 1944
July 17, 1944
August 10, 1944
August 14, 1944
August 25, 1944
September 1, 1944
September 2, 1944
September 3, 1944
September 3, 1944 (2nd)
September 14, 1944
September 16, 1944
September 16, 1944 (2nd)
September 17, 1944
September 28, 1944
October 2, 1944
October 14, 1944
October 22, 1944
November 2, 1944
November 12, 1944
November 24, 1944
December 2, 1944
December 27, 1944

Letters from Luxembourg

January 9, 1945
January 16, 1945
January 20, 1945

Letter from Belgium

February 7, 1945

Letters from Germany

February 9, 1945
February 21, 1945
February 23, 1945
February 26, 1945
April 5, 1945
May 5, 1945

Letters from Czechoslovakia

May 10, 1945
May 16, 1945

Letters from Germany

May 19, 1945
May 20, 1945
May 24, 1945
June 3, 1945
June 22, 1945

Letters from France

June 30, 1945
July 3, 1945

Letters from Germany

July 14, 1945
July 27, 1945
July 30, 1945
August 3, 1945
August 14, 1945

Letters from France

August 26, 1945
August 28, 1945
August 29, 1945

Letters from Germany

September 9, 1945
September 11, 1945
September 13, 1945
September 15, 1945
September 17, 1945
September 23, 1945
September 27, 1945
October 1, 1945
October 9, 1945

Letters from France

October 13, 1945
October 15, 1945
October 22, 1945
November 5, 1945
November 17, 1945
November 17, 1945 (2nd)
November 23, 1945
November 30, 1945
December 17, 1945
December 17, 1945 (2nd)
December 18, 1945
December 26, 1945
January 2, 1946

Letters from Belgium

January 14, 1946
January 15, 1946
January 17, 1946
January 17, 1946 (2nd)

Letters from France

January 21, 1946
January 24, 1946

France

June 29, 1944

Dear Grace,

Your letter came yesterday. Many thanks.

I am writing from my "private" room in a French farmhouse - a fairly capacious closet. It has a window, table, old trunk, and a litter of shoes under the table. Just enough space is remaining for my bed roll which has caught up to us for the occasion.

Most of the shoes are discards, but they appear to be saved for future use. There is a new-looking pair of women's dress shoes, brown with a white edging and new rubber soles and heels, but for the most part the others are old, dust-covered and shabby. Some bear signs of three or four lives, particularly the tiny shoes, which belong no doubt to the little boy Charles who lives here. These shoes are mostly resoled with wood to which are attached bits of rubber. Then there are a quantity of wooden shoes, some unfinished wood, others painted black to look like leather. There are several pairs of men's shoes and a pair of boots, all belonging, no doubt, to a man of the house who is not here. His whereabouts is something of a mystery. There are pictures of him in French Army uniform about. Whether he is a prisoner or is dead we do not know. No one has ever inquired.

One of the astonishing things about the war is that civilians live right in the front lines and pay almost no heed to the metal messengers of death which fly past their very door and sometimes in it.

Just the other day one of our officers stopped at a farm house to see if they had any eggs. A half dozen French people poured out, waving an American flag and carrying bottles of cider and Normandy champagne. They ushered him into the house to see the event - a new baby born the day before to a young French couple. The girl was about 18, the boy about a year older. The baby had been delivered by an American Army doctor. Anti-climax was that they named the baby "Jack". The officer expected something rather more romantic.

All along is this curious mingling of domesticity and war. Outside the house is a strutting white rooster lording over his harem of black and white hens. A mother hen leads her brood of baby chicks around the yard, shooing them into the barn upon approach of heavy feet. A little tan and white dog (mongrel) lies in his tiny house and eyes us curiously. Ducks swim calmly on the static (and frequently stagnant) pool in the yard. Occasionally there is a wild whir of wings as the older ducks fly past the window to light in another pond at the other end of the courtyard. A young foal bewilderedly follows a dark brown mare while new-born calves stand stupidly about in the nearby fields.

Overhead an occasional Jerry shell shrills by on its long journey to the rear. Once in a while there is a krr-rump of mortar shells landing. Then our own guns shake the house as they roar in angry answer and off in the distance we hear them hit with the devastating smash of a pile driver.

Oddly enough, in spite of shot and shell, many areas are relatively untouched by the war. When no guns are firing, the scene is peaceful enough to make me want to do a water color of it. Opportunities are boundless but time is not.

Some of our soldiers are teaching young Charles to talk English. He's about five or six years old and learns faster than we do French. He was very shy at first but now has loosened up quite a bit. You should hear him count up to ten. Like many Frenchmen, he wears a blue beret, a white scarf and wooden shoes, which clatter noisily on the stones in the yard and the concrete floor of the house.

Oddly enough, the woman steps out of her wooden shoes whenever she goes up the worn stone stairs. Those stairs, incidentally, give you a nasty jolt. Two of them are worn lower than the others. One is about half way up, the other a third of the way from the top. As you start up or down your foot hits these worn hollows and you drop with a jerk that snaps your head on the neck and your teeth bite at each other. Very unsettling.

Love,

Bob

June 30. Missed the mail because I got called away before I finished this yesterday. This will probably go out tomorrow.

Sure wish I had my camera and there weren't so many restrictions on it. There were some wonderful pictures to be had in England and now here.

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