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

September 14, 1944

Dear Mom,

Your letter of the 30 Aug. with Mrs. Weymouth's enclosed arrived together with Marn's of 2 Sept. Prior to that I had yours of the 23rd Aug and in between came yours of the 16th Aug. Many thanks for all of them.

I am having sent to Marn through the Treasury Dept. another $60. This is simply excess money for two months for which I have no use. The other check you received about which you were wondering was the same thing.

There is simply nothing to buy, for we are kept out of large towns. Our main expenditure is for extra food which we get mostly by barter anyway, and for wine which is relatively cheap. Frequently we get it as a gift. We just don't have use for a great deal of money.

The breakdown on my own funds is very simple:

Base pay - $200

Longevity (for length of service) - $10

Foreign Service Pay (10% of Base) - $20

Ration allowance ($.70 per day) - $21 approx

Total - $251

This is expended as follows:

Allotment to Marn - $175

Gov Insurance - $6.90

Rations at $.75 per day - $22.50 approx.

Total - $204.40

The balance I receive in cash and it is this money which I have been sending via extra checks.

Whenever the fighting is not too strenuous and we have a chance, we operate a small officers' mess for those around our headquarters. A couple of the orderlies are also cooks and I tell you we have had some fine meals. We buy or barter for bread, meat, eggs, and vegetables and sometimes, as recently, we capture some. We found a bunch of homemade jellies and preserves and quite a stock of wine in a German headquarters in the town we captured recently. The vocabulary of wines: "Kemajda", a red wine from Oran, which I liked very much. It is not so sharp as most. I suppose the connoisseurs would find it quite dull. "Moselle", an excellent French white wine, and "Rouge de Mascara", a red wine, which is supposed to be very good, but which I don't like as well. It is on the bitter side, though not excessively so.

We have just totaled our accounts for the past eight days. We've had two meals a day and sometimes three. At least one meal had eggs and two had steak. All had fresh vegetables and potatoes. Our total cost per officer was 120 francs - about $2.40.

Our new chaplain is a young, stocky Italian from Brooklyn. He speaks the vernacular. Yesterday morning when he said Mass in the village church he introduced himself to those who hadn't seen him by saying, "My name is Father Tony Sidoti from Brooklyn, New York. Any arguments?" "If so, see me after Mass outside." He's quite a kick and handy to have around for he speaks French and Italian fluently and, I believe, some German. He's our authority on wines for he studied over here and was a year at Rome studying.

As usual, the villagers attended Mass and surprised us by bursting into song. It was all right except the chaplain set his own speed, and they had a little trouble finishing before he did. After we said prayers after Mass in English, they came out with something very staccato and rapid like a chant but hurried as if afraid we'd leave before they got through. I didn't recognize the language at all. Could have been anything, for the people here are polyglot.

It will soon be time to change to woolen undies, I suspect. I don't like French rain one bit better than English wet.

Found another Illinois boy. Our new artillery liaison officer, Captain White, was graduated in '39. Lives in Jerseyville and was a chem major. Seems like a good fellow.

Marn is so enthusiastic about Mexico I guess I'll have to take it in after the war. Like to get some training in landscape watercolor before then though. Found a set of German watercolors in a recent headquarters, but have had no opportunity to work with them. I'll practice some Spanish conversation, too, before I go.

Incidentally, Joe Landers did send the French books. Had a letter from him the other day in which he said much the same as you have already quoted in your letter. He should have included some German stuff I guess.

Anyone who has traveled through France should never again be embarrassed at having to go to the toilet in company. In the more populated areas it is not unusual to have a sizeable but indifferent audience. As we have stayed at several school buildings, I should relate that the usual toilet there is a carefully poured concrete form surrounding a hole in the ground with a place for both feet. It's a custom-built Army slit trench.

The French are rather casual about all such things. One time our men were bathing au naturel in a river and a crowd of civilians persisted in coming over to chat and exchange pleasantries. Our frantic efforts to dissuade them were of no avail. They apparently thought we were being friendly. Anyway, they stayed until we finally thought to ask them in. Our chaplain then was with us and he demurred. At long last they withdrew to a discreet distance and we were able to recover ourselves.

Most of our bees are gone but the flies linger on by the thousands. They never seem to use screens here and the little pests roam at will. It's a wonder we're not all taken ill. As it is we've been most fortunate not to have any illnesses from this cause.

I did have one bad day and night some time ago when I must have got hold of some untreated water. Made me the sickest I've been in four or five years. I thought I'd turn inside out. But before that and since I've been fine.

Thanks to Marn for the news letter she enclosed. Tell her Mr. Bouscaren was pretty close.

I had a letter from Mrs. Hoibey who used to be at the S.F. Museum. From what she says they really have had some fog there. She told me Jack Brookes, who worked with us, is in the S. Pacific where he is snapping color photos like mad. He is in the medical department. What with censorship and film, obtaining and developing troubles it's not worth while to have a camera here, though I often wish I had mine.

Sorry I can't give you any dope on what army we're in. Wouldn't do you much good, anyway, as I may be able to tell you someday. Down around where we trained is where you'll find news of the Division. I've seen several news items from there.

Love,

Bob


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