Schloß Haimhausen


Excerpts from the Hundreds of Letters of 1st Lieutenant Claud S. “Gil” Gillespie
to Phyllis Tetard (his fiancee and later wife of 54 years) in Los Angeles, California,
from Europe during his wartime experience with the U.S. Army during World War II
from January 1945 to February 1946

As transcribed with many cuts but no editorial changes
by his son, Tim Gillespie, in 2019
(Ellipses indicate places where material was left out.
Explanatory material added by the transcriber is in brackets and italicized.)

Saturday Jan. 5 1945
[from Ft. Benning, Georgia]
            I intended to write this early today but I just didn’t. I’ve been busy packing a foot locker and getting it shipped. Yes, that’s right, I’m on my way, bub. We leave here Wednesday and have to be at Meade [Fort Meade in Maryland at the Army Ground Forces Replacement Depot] on Friday of next week.  I’m as excited as can be. On the other hand, I sorta hate to tell you because I’m realizing more and more by the hour how much I miss you and love you…
            Please keep secret the date I report to Meade. Make only general references as “He expects to go over soon.” Please also warn my folks as I forgot to put it in their letter. [This paragraph was a note added in the margin.]
            I doubt if I’ll get any mail from you for awhile unless we stay at Ft. Meade for a few days before we hop the boat. Our train leaves here Wed. at 0930 + we get there Thursday. Hope to look at Washington or New York Thursday p.m + report to Meade Friday. From then on I don’t know nuthin’ + possibly won’t be able to write you for awhile…

January 9 1945
[from Ft. Benning, Georgia]
            Managed to get a berth on the train we take tomorrow which was unusually lucky. We arrive in Washington on Thursday and then, since we’re not due at Meade until Friday, we’re going to get a hotel in Baltimore and stay over Thursday night. Since I know most of the other officers on the same orders, I presume Thursday night may turn into something of a shindig. However, I expect to stay pretty much on the ball so I’ll be fit to report on Friday.
            Again let me caution you not to say anything to anyone except the folks about when I report in. And after I get there I know I won’t be able to tell you when I leave. Mail service may be delayed for awhile until I land somewhere so don’t fuss if you don’t get letters for a while. I’ll write you as often as I can but if my letters sound rather limited it will be because of censorship rules…

Jan 22 1945 On the East Coast
            One feature of our letters must be changed—per Uncle Sam. Censorship regulations prohibit the use of any signs, codes, or symbols. Therefore, m’love, the usual signs at the end of our letters [like Xs and Os and little drawings his fiancee often made] are out.
            As to the Army of Occupation—yes, I might get that detail some day, but since I’m in for the duration plus 6 months it shouldn’t last longer that 6 months. Let’s forget if for now though, as there still is a bit of fighting to do.
            You know how I feel about this war, though my first duty is to fight like hell for Uncle Sam, who is us. When we finish the fight then we’ll have time to enjoy the liberties of a peaceful world.

Undated V-mail letter from shipboard
            I find, to my happiness, that I am a good sailor. Haven’t been sick at all although we’ve seen some rough weather. Someone said to be careful not to fall overboard because you might get hurt by the propellor and they neglected to mention all the damn water around here…
            Duties are light, food is fine, and although my bunk is a bit short I’ve enjoyed some fine sack duty. No further news now. Please read this to the folks…

February 7, 1945 V-mail letter
Dearest Phyl:
            I’m a fast moving soldier these days. I am now “somewhere in Belgium.” If I go much farther I’ll start getting nearer home—since they tell me the earth is round.
            I am now eligible to join the “40 and 8” club…40 men or 8 horses. That is the sign of the side of the French freight cars— my home for the past few days. Remind me to tell you of it some day.
            I miss you a great deal. We have a lot of living to do.
All my love, Gil

February 10, 1945
Somewhere in Belgium
            Sure hope you and the folks have been getting my V-mail letters but I have no way of knowing, since I have received no mail since we left the States…Haven’t engaged in any hostilities yet…The war news sounds good and I hope the Jerries [World War II Allied slang for Germans] will see the light and give up soon…I still want to get my chance at combat but I dunno, they seem very aware of age here and I’m somewhat above the average…

February 14, 1945 V-mail
            I’m “somewhere in Germany” now though I didn’t know the difference until I saw some signs in German. It seems to take a while to get to where the fighting is going on, but I’ll make it eventually.

February 17
            At last I have been assigned to an outfit – and the best in the whole damned army. They have done more fighting than any other outfit in Europe and Have never been forced to withdraw. I’m speaking of the 47th infantry Regiment – part of the ninth division. I was lucky to get assigned to company D, which is a heavy weapons company and my work will be primarily with mortars, a weapon I like very much. I just joined them last night and have been finding out how much there is to do. So far I feel like a stranger as these are all good experienced combat men. I only hope I can prove my worth to the outfit as time goes on…

Feb. 25 1945 V-mail
            Hello, darling! Just had a fine shave and even brushed my teeth. And we managed to rig up a sort of a stove to warm up this basement we are in so life is not bad at all.
            Had two good laughs recently. One of the boys found an old suit of armor and stood up near his sentry post with a rifle and a gas mask on. It struck me as very funny and typically G. I. Then another man found a lady’s fancy umbrella and as he moved out on a half track he had it open and over him. He also wore a battered top hat.
            Have had some interesting experiences and so far like what I have done. I’m learning a lot and hope to learn lots more. The men in this outfit have been through so much they all deserve a good break. Hope the Jerries give up soon.
            Miss you terrifically. Don’t forget to send the Christmas pictures.
All my love,
Gil

Germany March 7, 1945 V-mail
            I think I have the right date on this letter. Can’t seem to keep track of what day is which as it’s night and day now. I’ve had only six hours sleep in three days but had a chance to wash today so I don’t feel bad at all. Still haven’t had a bath since February 15...
            Don’t know much what is news but hope all you hear is good. Please read this to the folks…

Germany
March 8, 1945
            It’s about 3 o’clock in the morning but I haven’t “danced the whole night through,” as the song goes. I caught three hours of sleep to midnight and now I’m doing a three hour stretch as my share of night duty. I’m lucky – I’m in a house where I can write you whereas some of our boys are sleeping, or on watch out in the open.
            I thought about you a lot lately as I know we all do about our gals, wives, and folks. I’ve been scared silly on quite a few occasions but then I think of how you and the folks would want to be proud of whatever I do and I do a little praying and then everything is all right. Besides, my men are such courageous individuals I can’t possibly let them down. We’ve gone through quite a bit together since I joined the outfit and I sorta feel as though I’ve been accepted and it’s a good feeling…

Germany March 9 1945
            When this is over I can’t predict the future but I’d guess that I will probably have to put in my six months and then get home. You can remember this though and that is that I’ll get there as fast as I can when it’s over. I’m still anxious to do my part as long as we’re fighting but after that I volunteer for no occupation duty. Just keep your eye on the newspaper for news of the 9th division or if they mention the 47th infantry Regiment, that’s me in either case.

Germany March 15 1945
            Last night we moved again and I am bunking in a little bathhouse on someone’s estate. Except for needing a stove it would be a wonderful place to spend a honeymoon with you. There is a little stream just outside the door with the bridge running across up to the main house. There’s even a swimming pool, empty now. And, strangely enough, I even heard a bird singing nearby. They usually are quite voiceless where there is or has been shelling. And the sun is even shining. If it weren’t for the damned war it would be swell...
            I see by our army paper that our people in the states figure the war over here will end soon. Hope they’re right as I am beginning to feel a little weary and I know these boys who have been here over two years are sure anxious to get home...

Germany March 20..
            ... there is a great deal going on but not much I can tell you so I try to remember little things which might interest you...
            I lose track of what day it is as one day seems about like the next. Time passes very fast and it seems like I’ve been away from you a year already. There is a great day coming when we get together again. And if old Churchill’s prediction is correct this thing may end by summer. We are beating these louts – I don’t see why they don’t get smart and give up...
            I’m lucky to be inside where I can see to write. We even rigged up a stove down here so it’s fairly warm too. Just a few minutes ago, though, the doggone rags we had stuffed around the stove pipe for black out started smoking and we had quite a scurry to fix them...

March 22 1945
Germany
            ... The company commander told me tonight that tomorrow I would switch jobs with one of the machine gun platoon leaders…My new job will be to have for heavy machine gun squads and to work with the rifle companies. I may as well admit that I’m a bit jumpy just as you always are when you’re about to take on a new job. In addition there is slightly more exposure in the machine guns as they work up forward where the riflemen are. I expect my usual luck to hold out however and as I have told you before I figure if the Lord has my ticket made out for a short trip, why, there’s very little I can do about it...
            Oh yes, today I had a bath! Found a tin tub in the home and heated up some water on the stove and really enjoyed a good scrubbing. Then I ran around half dressed whilst the underclothes  I washed were drying, so now I smell pretty good, I betcha. I said “I washed”  my clothes though it’s much against my principles. What miracles this war does accomplish!…

Germany
March  24 1945
            ... since writing you the other night they decided to keep me in the mortar platoon as our captain got a promotion and everyone moved up a notch. I am now third in seniority in the company. I’m glad to stay with the mortars as I feel I know them pretty well now and though I will always do my part I don’t particularly desire to stick out my long neck upfront anymore than necessary.
            I hope you’ve been able to pick up some news of our division in the papers. An army is made up of several divisions and I’m not privileged to tell you what army I am in. In any event I think we’re doing well. Oh yes, neglected to mention that a division generally has three regiments and mine is the 47th regiment. A Regiment generally has three battalions and mine is the first Battalion. A battalion generally has four companies and we are in D company. And in D company I’m in the third platoon which is the 81 mm mortar platoon. There you have the organization...
            Can’t send anything home except captured enemy equipment and I have no desire to make a collection of that stuff. When this thing is over I may be able to get you some lace before I come home...
            Ick Leeber Deek (phonetic spelling in German...ask the folks) 
            [“Ich liebe dich” is German for “I love you.” Gillespie’s mother’s parents—the Schmidt family—had immigrated to the U.S. from Germany and his mother spoke a bit of German. Gillespie’s full name was Claud Schmidt Gillespie, though he went by “Gil”]

Germany March 30 1945
            ...I feel good because we’ve done good lately. I believe censorship permits me to tell you now we were one of the first units to cross the Rhine. It was a thrill, honey. We had some tight squeezes at times but you can’t whip these boys. They’re  strictly on the ball and since then Jerry just can’t stop us...
            [What Gillespie cannot say is that his regiment crossed the Rhine River at the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen. He will tell more about this in a letter written after the war.]

Germany
April 3, 1945
            ... Easter Sunday was quite a busy one for us. I can’t give details but I can say we worked hard under rather trying conditions. I can also say that it was cold and raining and toward nightfall we started digging in...
            We moved later to a place where we could get some cover. I went ahead and made a reconnaissance and found four houses where I could billet my men and we even have heat and some good water...

Germany
April 5 1945
Hello Honey!
            Today I could be perfectly happy if only you were here. Let me explain the situation.
            Day before yesterday I made a trip back to division HQ to try and get some clothes... after I finished a few other duties for the company I discovered that I was with my jeep driver and my platoon sergeant with two hours to kill before chow. Since division is in a fairly large town we rode around a bit and admired the “scenery.” And you have to do such admiring from a distance because there is $100 fine and 30 days in the clink for  fraternizing.” So-o- eventually we noticed a sign “Brewery” with an arrow. We followed the arrow and finally arrived at the brewery. There, with drooling mouths, we inquired where we could get the beer and were told that we needed a requisition from the quartermaster. Since I hate paperwork and red tape I started talking fast and finally persuaded the man to sell us a small barrel. Then yesterday I sent my platoon sergeant back and he managed to get two more. Do you read me?
            Wellsir, today is Saturday- it’s cold and raining outside but inside we have a good fire in our stove, our radio is playing fine music, I am drinking beer and nibbling at “canapes” (crackers with cheese, anchovies, and sardine paste), and occasionally munching on a fine dill pickle which is from a supply a nice lady “gave” to us. And with the wonderful news that all of Germany has surrendered except a small pocket in the south and in Norway – why things is looking very good…

April 9, 1945
            ... I’m beginning to feel that I know this job pretty well now. And with this feeling comes the confidence we all like to have and which, I’m sure, my men like me to have. Recently we have found several targets and have been complimented by our company commander for the results obtained. It gives you a strange feeling though – I’m know that I’m probably responsible for killing or injuring a lot of Jerries but I guess that’s the only way we can get this thing over with. Of course they threw it back at us too and sometimes you get damned mad when one of your boys gets hit. As far as I’m concerned I begin to believe your prayers are helping, honey. I’ve been within 10 to 12 feet of where shells have hit on several occasions and never got a scratch of course, I’m getting pretty expert at ducking fast. Sometimes I wish I could shrink into about 5 feet instead of 6’ 2” but you’d be surprised at how small a space I can occupy if necessary. I still want a big bed when I get home, though so I can stretch out full length.
            Speaking of beds I slept in one last night and didn’t sleep nearly as well as I have on the ground or some straw or a floor in a beat up building. We’re in a town now and we found some places where we can live in comparative comfort...
            We have to be ready for anything 24 hours a day and you can’t really relax and write a decent letter under such circumstances...

April 10 1945
            ... I’m enclosing some clippings which you might like. All except the one from our army paper The Stars and Stripes were sent over here by the wife of one of our lieutenants. By now you have guessed that I am in the 1st Army and can figure what I’ve been doing. Believe I told you before that I am in the 9th division and the nickname of our Regiment (the 47th) is on this writing paper [“The Raiders”]. And last night our battalion commander called and gave us (my platoon) his personal compliments for some good firing we did the other day. So I feel good, honey, I feel like I’m really doing what I came over here to do...

April 16 1945
            ... I presume that there you all have hope this will be over soon. From what little we hear of the published news it would appear that a bright picture is presented to the American public. For us average GIs we hope what we hear is correct but of course all we know is what we do day by day. The reason this letter is so late is that we’ve been very busy. I know I use that expression too much but hope you realize I can’t disclose the nature of my business. I can say that the outfit has been everywhere where there is action. It’s really a screwy war what with work on one front and then the other and then clear out pockets of Germans. We go in every direction and often get to a place where we might fight in every direction...

April 17 1945 
            ... I am now in the 3rd Army, so I won’t be home with the 1st.
            Can’t seem to write a decent letter these days... I don’t think I’m down in the dumps because I got up on the wrong side of the bed - rather, I got up on the wrong side of the world. Sure hope they let us know pretty soon what we’re going to do....
            I’m enclosing a picture postcard which shows how this country looks where there are many woods...and very hilly. I don’t like woods because of artillery tree bursts which spread the shrapnel too much but the hills offer more protection from direct fire. Guess you can’t always have everything the way you’d like...
            I forgot to tell you – I have been into palaces belonging to either German nobility or some big shots in the Nazi party. They look like something out of the movies. In one case a Duke “gave” me something for you. It’s for our house – a very beautiful letter opener and scissors to match. In addition, there have been some nice ladies who recently “gave” me some lace for you.
            I just started to figure and I can remember 10 separate occasions when me and my boys have been subject to rather severe enemy fire (small arms, artillery, or mortar) since I joined the outfit. And only one boy was hurt bad enough to go to the hospital. So you see, honey, I’m either getting the benefit of your prayers or I’m just plain good luck. In any event, don’t worry! This thing should wrap up before long and then, I hope, we’ll all get home…

April 26 1945
            I don’t know how it happened nor how long it will last but, honey, you sorta learn to take advantage of every minute of rest you can get here. And though I can’t be too specific about the weather I will say that, for a change, it is damned nice. And besides we got a break in living quarters. we were supposed to be out in the open. However, some bird had a sort of hunting lodge near us, pretty well beat up from the war, which the brass decided we could use. We moved the whole platoon in and started to work fixing up the place. It’s unbelievable how these boys can work. They built windows, repaired the roof, cleared the whole area of debris, fixed up some old boiler so hot water is available for washing and bathing – in short they have the place as close to home as they can make it. Then of course they have all their weapons shining and are getting their clothes washed and over there another barber is busy cutting hair. And as for eating, the people who abandoned this place left some canned vegetables, lots of spuds and onions, and a few (sh!) chickens. Other day we had a real spread. Table with tablecloth, dishes, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing (from some old bread they begged off the mess sgt.), salad (they found some beets and put wine and vinegar with them), spaghetti with some tomato sauce they made from some canned tomatoes and onions, coffee and crackers, and some canned peaches and cherries one of the boys got from home. Whatta feed!
            ... I can’t help thinking how nice it would be to have a walk with you through some quiet place – a place from far away from all war or any thoughts of war. You can be sure, honey, that we all are very much aware of the blessings of peace for living, and unless I am badly mistaken, our large army of men who return are going to have a lot to say about future wars. We’re still willing to fight for a better world but first we’re going to try to see that no one has to fight.
            Gee, I kind a whipped up a fury there, did night? Do you suppose I could run for Congress?…

April 30 1945
            ... One of the boys just dropped into the CP [Command Post] and said “want some turkey?” Just like that! Naturally, I ask no questions and accept and have just finished munching some luscious turkey. I rather expect that if I happen to count the nearby turkey flock tomorrow I may notice that some got lost in the woods. Tsk tsk – such dense woods! The other day I visited one of the machine gun platoons and had a taste of some very luscious venison. Such dense woods!...
            [Gillespie adds to this letter some negatives of photos he has taken with a camera he’s recently acquired…including his orderly and some of “the boys” leaning on a jeep…From this point on, he is often sending negatives back home.]

May 2 1945
Hi! Honey!
            Doggoned if I didn’t let May 1 go by and forget to leave a May basket on your doorstep! And do you know what I’d have  left if I had been able to leave anything? – Yep, me. Poor May basket, I admit, but think what fun I would have had!
            Just completed a letter to the folks and one to Irv Fuller. Irv is fighting with the 7th Army just south of here somewhere and I hope the newsflash I just heard over the radio will ease up his work. They said over the radio that the Germans in Italy had surrendered unconditionally. Last night Hitler‘s death and then this – boy! I sure hope this is the windup!...
            Another newsflash! This time the company CP [Command Post] got it on their radio that Stalin announced that all of Berlin was taken and phoned it over to us. Guess I’ve never told you much about our communication system, but briefly wherever we set up our mortars  we run lines to every gun and one line to the company CP. That’s part of why I have a CP staff. When all lines are in I get calls for fire either from my observer or the rifle company commander by radio or from the company CP by phone or from battalion by radio. I plot the targets, decide what kind of fire I’m going to use and how many mortars, and then phone my orders to the men at the guns. Sometimes when we’re busy I look like the one armed paper hanger with phones at both ears, my radio operator giving me reports and my maps in front of me. It’s then I could sure use you, honey, to sit on my lap and take notes.
            Guess it’s all right to tell you now of an interesting experience I had a few weeks ago. We’d spearheaded our way into some Jerry territory and they decided to clear out the pockets on the side. So they made us all riflemen for a day and we combed the woods in the cold rain for 11 long miles. Yours truly was a weary gent when we finished, but we did a good job…

Germany
May 8 1945
“VE Day”
My darling Phyl:
            Today is the day! About 1500 we heard Churchill make the official announcement of the peace terms and then at 1800 we heard a transcription of President Truman‘s speech...
            We are still having a very easy life. Train the men half a day and relax the other half. Rumors as to what comes next fly thick and fast, but we can only hope that we will all be home eventually. Since this division has seen lots of action they may get a break and be one of the first to go to the States. Or they may figure it is a break for us to stay here as occupation troops. Or they may send the old men home and send new recruits to the South Pacific... you can see the many possible sources of rumor. I do hope I can get home first if I eventually have to go to the South Pacific because right now I miss you very much.
            It’s hard to believe that just a short time ago we were fighting. I guess it’s only human to try to forget the unpleasant. Today I expected there would be a lot of wild cheering when the official news came in but we have had a few days of build-up by radio and the men were rather subdued except for looks of relief on their faces. I got sort of a knot in the middle and couldn’t think of a single sensible remark to make. Then I immediately began to think of home…then I begin to think back on some of the experiences I’ve had. It hardly seems possible that so much could’ve happened in the short time I’ve been here. You’ll notice I’ve mistakenly dated the letter March 8. [crossed out and replaced with May 8]  It was on March 8 that we crossed the bridge at Remagen only shortly after the first units had gone over. That is quite a story in itself. Guess I’ll have to jot down a few notes so I could remember what tell you...

May 10 1945
            Flash! The radio just announced the point system... look, honey, suppose I get stuck on this army of occupation staff. We once talked about in our letters but I just put it off then. Well, suppose I do find I’m going to be here for a year or so, would you be interested in joining me? We’d make it all right, of course, by possibly some sort of long distance marriage or marriage by proxy and then when you got here we could have a real wedding. It’s all very remote as to possibility but please think it over and let’s talk about it by letter...

May 13 1945
            ...I’m next in line in the company for a pass to Paris. Officers get three days there plus travel time which is mostly by truck and partly by train. What would you think of me going to Paris? Should be interesting if I get to go...
            I only wish I were able to keep your letters but space does not permit. You see when we make a move we have to haul everything in our own vehicles. Even though I have more vehicles than any other platoon in the army (7 jeeps and 6 trailers), I also have more to haul. Six mortars with ammunition, radio equipment, sleeping equipment, and all personal equipment. So you see a 5 foot stack of your letters would make it necessary for someone to walk. (I have a large platoon too - over 60 men – and the only platoon leader with three other officers under him!)...

May 20 1945
            ... I still can’t tell you where I am but I can tell you that it is a very beautiful part of Germany and up to today when it rained a bit the weather has been swell. And up to a few days ago we had our share of good beer but since beer is now considered a possible source of food for the Germans we no longer have beer. However, we can drink in the beauty of nature and satisfy our thirst, I guess...
            If you can find the city of Dessau, you will know where we were before we came down here. It used to be a nice large town but seem pretty much beat up by our air bombardment. We were lucky to be on the outskirts of the city where there was not so much damage.
            Five of my boys left the other day to go home. I was very happy for them but golly it was hard to see them go... we heard they were going to fly this first bunch home and they would be in a parade in New York sometime the next week. Boy! Did that make all the rest of us dream! I still have about 15 men who have the necessary points to go home and when they leave we will really be hurting for experienced men.

May 23
            ... if you can find the town of Inglestadt [Ingolstadt, I think] in southern Germany (on the Danube) you are near where we are. We’re about 10 or 15 miles south of there in the woods as I said before, and I must say that for natural beauty I’ve seen nothing else in Germany to beat it. This is in the part that used to be called Bavaria. They say that eventually we may get to make some trips to places around here and even possibly see Switzerland and Italy.
            Now I noticed by our regimental news bulletin that the papers carry the story of the 1st  army going to the Pacific by way of the U. S. I hope you get this in time to prevent any undue excitement because we are now no longer in the 1st army but in the 3rd army. I still don’t know what my future holds but for now I am here and if we can get our living quarters fixed up I won’t mind a bit... I guess that I will probably know my future in about 30 days (purely guesswork). And if I go to the Pacific I may get to come home first and in any event, remember that the Pacific is near home than here...

May 27 1945
Beauty spot of Bavaria
            ... just when I was getting my outfit organized they want me to do supply work in regimental headquarters now. I came here two days ago and I’m looking to get out and back to my mortars as soon as possible. I suppose I’m a bit balmy because I am under studying the regimental supply officer who has the rank of major and is about to go home but I just can’t see going back to administrative work after all I did of it in the states. Besides, honey, I think the men with the front line units will get home faster sometime in the future than will the supply units and I’ll go through just about anything if I can get home to you sooner.
            This is another time when I wish we could be together so I could tell you how I feel and ask what you thought of my action. I feel very restless and believe a desk job in the army now would drive me nuts. Then I get to thinking, “Hell, man, what are you going to do but go back to the desk when you get back to be a civilian again?“ – Do you see what I mean?
            But then maybe when I do get home, see you and everyone, and have a good rest then maybe I will be able to fit back into the groove at the office – if such groove still exists. Perhaps I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say again that for sometime I’ve had an obscure idea that maybe I could do well as part owner or operator of a resort fishing lodge. I might have a fair bankroll when I get back, which I might use for such an investment and I believe there will be a large run at such resorts if you can believe the dream of 94% of the soldiers say they will do when they get home. It’s a very indefinite idea but tell me how you might feel about us doing such a thing...
            As you may have read, they are releasing the German PW farmers and there are a lot of them on the road making their way home. It seems rather strange to simply pass by these fellows when we were fighting such a short time ago.

Bavaria
31 May 1945
Good evening, m’love:
            In this letter I intend to try to tell you of a few experiences I had while fighting, stories which I could not write before and which I had no desire to write to you while fighting continued. As a matter of fact I never planned to write of them but to tell you some day, bit by bit. However, it might be some time before I see you and besides these are things which I wish to put out of my mind once I have had the chance to get them off my chest to someone who is very near + dear to me.
            First you may wonder how I felt about seeing men who had been killed. I was lucky in that respect. The first few I saw were just glimpses as I rode by in a jeep and not banged up very bad except one. That one bothered me a little because he hardly looked like a human being.
            Later I saw many and at times I had the chance to inspect them quite closely. For some reason they always looked more like wax dummies to me rather than dead persons. It seemed that some artist had done a wonderful job of modeling clay or wax. I was lucky never to see someone I knew or perhaps I might have felt different.
            Then perhaps I can tell you of the times I was near death and how I felt. The first was when we made a crossing of the Ruhr River near Schmidt (when they had the newsworthy dam which might have been destroyed to delay our progress). I was a section leader then and given the job of manning a post to observe our mortar fire. They call it an O.P. (Observation Post). Because of dense woods I had to select a spot only 200 yards from the river on a steep slope. The Germans were on the other side of the river. Our attack was scheduled for about 0600 + prior to that our artillery + mortars were to deliver fire on probable enemy positions. I had to prepare a position (dig a hole) a couple of days ahead of time and I also had to string wire to my field phone.
            A radioman + I moved into the O.P. about 2 a.m. + tried to stay warm until the firing should begin. It was very quiet except for an occasional distant artillery shell + I felt like we made a lot of noise as we stumbled down the steep slope in the darkness to our position. As the appointed time came there was a slight uncertainty as I heard no immediate firing and then suddenly I heard the distant boom of many guns + the shells started whistling in. Then began a show of explosions greater than I ever felt possible to see + hear. It was terrific + I had difficulty adjusting our mortar fire because there was so much going on. Then I wondered why Jerry was so quiet + it wasn’t until our firing let up about half an hour later that I saw and heard machine gun + “burp” gun fire coming our way. Then suddenly their shells hit 1,2,3 right in the rear (about 20 feet) of where we were. They came so fast I hardly heard them before they hit and I didn’t duck into our hole until, if I had been going to be hit, it would have been too late. I was terrifically excited but I can’t say I was awfully scared + I kept thinking, “Golly, that’s the first time I ever had anyone shoot at me!” The radioman was a fairly old hand so I asked him what it was and he said “probably an 88.” Now the German 88 is one of the fastest shells there is - that’s why you rarely heard them coming so I felt that my initiation to direct fire was from the best.
            Anyway, later we crossed the Ruhr on a bridge the Engineers had built to replace the one blown up by the Jerries. For some reason our column stopped when my jeep was on the bridge. It was rather quiet for awhile + then Jerry started throwing mortars and artillery our way but since they were hitting about 300 yards away I just got out of the jeep + sat down on the bridge. When one shell seemed to land a little closer than the rest I raised up to see where it had burst + just then a shell fragment hit the bridge making a loud “clang!” + even made sparks just one foot from my face! The one sorta made me wonder if someone might be mad at me.
            Crossing the  Rhine at Remagen was a series of exciting moments. First as we came through the town we got caught in three Jerry artillery barrages. Then we got more as we crossed the bridge + it was only then that we realized that we had crossed the Rhine - they did such a good job of keeping the move a secret!
            We stayed a couple of days on the top of the hills just across the bridge + here we caught everything! How we ever escaped being hit I’ll never know as we had almost continuous shellfire + we were directly in line between Jerry + the bridge. Besides about every other plane that tried to bomb the bridge also strafed our hill just for good measure.
            I remember the first strafing I experienced. I was looking out the window of a beat up building when I heard little pops like small firecrackers. My gaze moved to the ground outside the window + I was amazed to see the dirt fly just like it does in the movies in a neat line across in front of me. Only difference was that there was also a slight flash as they used explosive bullets.
            I forgot to mention that once before we got to the Rhine I had a very close one. I had gone on ahead of the platoon to choose mortar positions in a town our boys captured about 20 minutes before. About a minute after I arrived a sniper started shooting out of a house I had selected for an O.P. Then I heard what sounded like one of our automatic rifles firing + after waiting a couple of minutes my wireman + I went to check the house. No one else was around + I couldn’t find out whether they’d got the sniper or not but since I needed the O.P. we entered the house and searched it fairly thoroughly to the attic in the best approved commando style. One thing I found out though, it isn’t easy to break down a door even with an 11 1/2 shoe! Anyway, after I set up the O.P. I left my wireman to man the phone + went back downstairs + took a casual glance into one room on the first floor as I walked by. We’d checked this room briefly by a glance into it as we entered + so now I was very startled to hear a cry + on looking more closely there was a Jerry lying on the floor with a rather bad chest wound. His gun was at his finger tips but he made no move to use it so I walked in + kicked it away + checked his wound. He made no more sound but just looked at me as though he prayed I would do something + he looked very frightened. His wound was too bad for me to handle so I lit a cigarette + after  a couple of attempts he managed to hold it to his lips. Then I went out + found one of our aid men + asked him to check. He later told me the Jerry was dead by the time he got there. It made me feel strange because if someone hadn’t got him before we entered the house he probably would have gotten us.
            In this same town about 5 minutes later I had to duck fast as they threw in an artillery barrage. None hit too close but I felt a few pieces of stone hit my leg from a house hit nearby. About 1 hour later I had my mortars all in place + ready to fire + things were fairly quiet. I was standing in the back doorway of a house talking to a runner. Out in the little courtyard was this same wireman I’d had with me in the house. It was like this. [Diagram]
            Then suddenly without warning a shell “whist” + burst…not over 8 feet from any of us! The runner + I were both blown back through the door + the wireman knocked down and only the runner had a little scratch to show among the three of us. Why, I don’t know, but I do know that again I thanked God for being watchful.
            Another time I moved from one section forward to a place like this. [Diagram]                 
            Right after I got them set up I radioed back for the other two sections to come up + then Jerry threw a few rounds around the road junction. I had no way of stopping the other group coming up as our radio didn’t seem to work so I went out near the road + when I saw them coming I stopped them back aways + told them to move off the road fast so no one would get hit + as I stood there in the road the Jerry tank, or whatever it was that was firing down the road, let loose with another + boy! I heard it swish by awfully close - so close I even imagined I felt the breeze ruffle my hair.
            At another time (again after we crossed the Rhine) I glanced out of a window in a building during a barrage of artillery by Jerry just in time to see a dud (thank goodness!) crash through a wall about 30 feet from me, bounce on the ground, + come to rest on the front seat of my jeep! (My platoon Sgt. later calmly walked out, lifted off the dud, + put it away where it could do no harm - an act which I felt called for terrific courage + for which I recommended + got him the Bronze Star for heroic achievement.)
            Then one time I had been forward + picked a good mortar position. I used a road both ways which seemed quite free of fire but when I returned leading my 6 jeeps of mortars a tank in front of us suddenly drew machine gun fire from a hill on our left. The Jerry M.G. [machine gun] + our tank proceeded to shoot hell out of each other (or tried to!) whilst I fretted at the delay. Finally I asked the boys if they’d like to go ahead anyway + they said OK so we hopped on our jeeps + drove like hell down the road to our firing positions and left this tank + M.G. still shooting behind us. Why he never fired his M.G. at us I’ll never know, but I guess I’m lucky that way.
            This is getting too long but a couple more + I’ll quit. One time I got ambushed by a couple of Jerry self-propelled guns. Luckily they were only shooting A.P. (armor piercing) shells + dropped these all around us but if it had been H.E. (high explosive) stuff I don’t think we’d have done so well. There were also some machine guns + a couple of guys with Panzerfausts (sort of a one shot bazooka) but they missed us too.
            The last one was one I try to forget + can’t. It happened one night we made a long ride into a new area. It was a secret move + therefore in complete blackout on a very dark night. Rode all night + we weren’t far behind our spearheading armor as nearly all the towns we went through had plenty of burning houses. Finally at about 0400 we stopped on a road just outside of town - the one we were to go to. As we sat there with vehicles almost bumper to bumper I heard the “whumpf” of what sounded like a tank gun from a hill across from us + a shell hit about 500 yards ahead of us. I’d just begun to wonder what we’d gotten into when the gun “whumpfed” again and I heard the shell briefly + then a terrific blast as it made a direct hit on a jeep just about 15 feet ahead of me. I knew it was loaded with men so I hopped out + tore forward to try to help the boys. They were scattered all over + it was a nasty sound - you couldn’t see much. Then apparently the Jerry knew he’d hit something because he began firing a round about every 20 seconds + they hit all around. It was a helluva feeling trying to help the boys who had been hit and worrying about getting the rest off the road. After what seemed like hours we got all the wounded back to the medics at the rear except two so I got my boys back on their jeeps + told them to get the hell forward + into town where they’d be out of line of the fire + I and another guy stayed there with the two left who needed litters to be moved. I was lonely + I was damn scared + worried about getting the two men to the medics. After about 12 more rounds had been fired near us a couple of empty jeeps came tearing down the road + I stopped them and they took the boys on into town + then this other fellow and I walked in. If I ever wake up in a sweat after I get home you’ll probably know that I’ve relived that awful moment when that shell hit + then the boys started screaming. That is one I want to forget.
            So there you are, darling, the nasty side of the business. I don’t think I can write of it again so if you’d like to read part of this to the folks maybe they’d understand why I can’t tell them the same in a separate letter.
            I miss you terrifically, my darling. Miss me some too, willya please?
All my love,
Gil
            [Back Stateside, the recipient of this letter, Claud Gillespie’s fiancee and later wife, either typed up or had someone type up this account.]

8 June 1945
            By the end of this month I should pretty well know what I’ll be doing in the future. I hope it’s occupation duty but that’s pretty much of a dream. I expect to go to the Pacific…

Thursday June 20? (21) 1945
Hello, future frau!
            News! —tonight I attended a class for officers at Regt. + our Regimental Commander announced officially that our unit is in Category I- which means occupation.
            Now, don’t get too excited yet, because although I think that means I will stay here there is still some question as to assignment of officers. Should know before long though…

Wed June 20 1945
            The next two weeks will see inspections by Battalion, Regiment + Division staffs. Such indicates that we are living a garrison life again + will also mean a lot of spit and polish from now on
            As Orientation Officer for the Company I have to give a one hour talk per week. Last Sat I went over D Co’s history in the ETO [European Theater of Operation]. I’d heard many stories but didn’t have the big picture until I went back in the Morning Reports (a daily report of the CO—-official reports) + traced things from they day they landed on D + 4 [four days after the first landing in Normandy on D-Day]. Then I called on several of the men during the hour to relate some of their personal experiences + they all seemed to like it…
            Hope you’ve spotted where I am by now. If you found DESSAU you probably also found MUNICH. Draw a line between the two and then measure north from MUNICH about 30 miles + you’re getting warm…
            By the way, did I ever explain why I never sent home any souvenirs such as helmets, etc.? Well, maybe I’m a dope but I figure that when I do come home I want it to be home + not a museum of German weapons or helmets + war materials. I like things American! So except for a coupla pistols I intend to bring home (I like to shoot guns) why, you’ll get nothing of a war nature. Hope you don’t mind.
            [In subsequent letters, he visits Munich, Nuremberg, and sees a USO show starring Jack Benny.]

[In the collection of letters at this point is a photocopy of this Bronze Star Citation:]
Headquarters Ninth Infantry Division
24 June 1945
            Award of Bronze Star Medal for Heroism. Under the provisions of AR 600-45, dated 22 September 1943, as amended, the Bronze Star Medal is awarded to:
            First Lieutenant Claud S. Gillespie, 0292876, Infantry, United States Army, who distinguished himself by heroic achievement in action against the enemy on 6 April 1945 in the vicinity of Assinghausen, Germany. While moving at night, the battalion convoy was subjected to intense fire from enemy self-propelled guns. Seeing several of the men fall seriously wounded, Lt. Gillespie unhesitatingly exposed himself to the concentrated enemy fire to go to the aid of the casualties. He capably and swiftly administered emergency medical attention and supervised their evacuation. Lt. Gillespie’s devotion to duty, aggressive leadership, and courageous actions under enemy fire were instrumental in saving the lives of the wounded. Entered military service from California.
By command of Brigadier General Ladd

July 2, 1945
            .We’re moving this p.m. and I got most of my packing done last nite…As usual when we move it’s raining but we have only 50 miles to go + when we get there we will be in nice buildings. I’m sure glad because I never could figure out how to explain to the men why we had to bunk in the woods whilst our Jerry friends (whom we presumably conquered) were inside. It’s just one of those things that happen in the Army that there’s no answer for. ..

July 3
            It’s me again, and boy! am I in clover! I’m inside! sitting at a nice desk with a desk lamp, my bunk beside me to fall into if I need rest (and don’t get caught!) and a modern bathroom, complete except for hot water, only a few steps away. We even have curtains in the window—a big double window. Cheez! A guy feels almost human again.
            We are much nearer Munich now (about 25 kilometers—1 mile equals 1.6 kilometers) and we are billeted in some great big buildings which formerly held members of the German Air Corps or Luftwaffe as they were known hereabouts. We’re located just outside of a little town called Furstenfelbruck which is almost directly west of Munich. One of our jobs here is to guard a whole pack of prisoners who are near us. It promises to be a neat set up + seems too good to last…

July 4
            Did you ever hear of the DACHAU concentration camp?…[One of the first German concentration camps, and the only one on German soil.]
            No foolin! Last Friday we moved to Dachau where we will have the job of guarding a flock of no good SS troops.
            [SS is literally “protection squad,” the outfit that started as a small personal bodyguard unit for Hitler and the Nazi Party in their early years and grew to be a major paramilitary organization—separate from the official German armed forces—Hitler’s true believers responsible for security, surveillance, and enforcing ideological and racial purity. The Gestapo was one of the arms of the SS, and the SS was the organization primarily responsible for carrying out the Holocaust, which included running concentration camps including Dachau. After Nazi Germany's defeat, the SS was judged by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg to be a criminal organization.]
            Sat morning before I had even got unpacked they tell me I will take over as Battalion Supply Officer for awhile + my job includes getting food for the 10,000 prisoners. Then to top it all off today they tell me that there is no gasoline + they don’t know when we’ll get any. And only 400 gallons a day is all I need to run my various trucks ’n stuff…
            I’ve been so doggoned busy I haven’t even had a chance to look over the place myself. I’ve been where they keep the prisoners and it doesn’t look too bad but I haven’t seen the crematorium or any of that stuff…

July 4 1945
            We’re all pretty well settled now. Yesterday we were kinda busy getting the men settled + putting up these wooden double bunks. Since my sgt had already fixed up my room very nicely I organized a reconnaissance detail and scoured the countryside to buy radios from men in other units who are going home. Got one for each platoon in the company + one for myself…
            Having the prisoners around really lightens the work. We brought a detail of about 6 over here this morning and they really scrubbed the place clean. They like to do such work as it gives them a chance to get out of the stockade. They even wash clothes!—and boy that saves my neck…

July 5
            In our prison stockade there are about 25 SS gals. Most of them are very well built and not too bad looking. Anyway, they have them in a coupla buildings in one corner of the stockade and also in that corner is one of our guard towers where our boys are on guard. And since the gals like to sunbathe and aren’t too modest the boys are fighting to get to stand guard in said tower. At least that is the story I heard. (My but it’s chilly in this tower!)…

Grobenzell, Germany
Wed July 11 1945
            I have my platoon billeted in four very nice houses. There are no large public buildings here so we got permission to use houses. We checked with the Burgermeister (same as our Mayor) + he selected four families who he knew had been very active with the Nazis and told them to move. There was a fair amount of weeping and wailing, but they moved and my boys, I know, aren’t going to do any wrecking of the places. It’s like I said before, I see no reason for our boys to live in the woods while these people are quite comfortable and if we find it necessary to use these places it should be done.
            I helped select one large house for the officers where each of us has a room. We picked up some furniture from the last barracks we had + we’re very comfortable. There are two inside bathrooms and a tub in one with a hot water heater. I’ve had two wonderful baths already + plan to have one every day. One of the boys who will go home soon volunteered to act as our kitchen master and in addition to securing portions of our regular chow he fixes extra things which make eating a pleasure. He even got the Burgermeister to get us a tablecloth + some napkins + I’m beginning to feel quite civilized. Then he found a Polish boy who had spent 5 years in DACHAU (the famous concentration camp—near us) + this boy wanted to work for us in return for a room in the basement, some food, and a few smokes, so he cleans up the place…I had a lot of fun talking with him. He is so doggoned anxious to please everyone! He came up her at 2200 with some sandwiches + beer for me, so I drug out the dictionary + discovered (after much trying) that he is 21 years old, that he doesn’t want to go back to Poland as the Russians are occupying his part of Poland, that he was captured 3 years ago by the Germans + spent one year in a concentration camp in Berlin  + 2 years at Dachau, that he was beaten by the Germans 10 times while a prisoner, and that he has 2 brothers + one sister living + his father + mother both were shot by the Germans. Everyone likes him + I hope he gets a good break from now on.

Wed July 18 1945
            Since Saturday I’ve been the Supply Officer for our Battalion and a very busy man. In addition to supplying our 800 odd (the figure is odd—not the men) in the Bn [Battalion] I’ve got 8000 Jerry prisoners to supply + the food problem is terrific….there is much fun with trucks + gas etc.
            Luckily my predecessor had found some German supply officer + he has been a great help. Yesterday + today I took him to Munich which is only about 8 miles away + we got well organized. Had a Jerry chauffeur + used a great big Jerry staff car formerly used by a German General. We got a lot of curious stares as we drove around Munich.
            A new officer came in yesterday to take over as Supply Officer so as soon as I teach him the little I know I’ll go back to Dog Co. [Gillespie’s original outfit was D Company; this position started as a temporary job.]
            I think I’m definitely here on occupation now…I’m looking for a newly furnished cell for us at Dachau so as soon as I get it I’ll have you fly over—but schnell (quickly in German)….
Yer guy, Gil
This paper is through the courtesy of the supply of Dachau Concentration Camp.

Wed. July 25 (I think)
            I finished my job as temporary Battalion Supply Officer on Saturday having completely zeroed in the new Supply Officer. Monday I thought I’d get back to get acquainted with my platoon but about noon they told me the Lt. who has charge of the prisoners was to go away for 4 or 5 days so I would take over in his absence. So tomorrow I begin as Camp Commander of about 8500 “SS” German prisoners at the former Camp Dachau. In other words where the Jerries used to do their dirty work we are now trying to show these people how to live right.
            The whole place has been cleaned up. No more bodies or bones + the place is even completely deloused. It is 1900 + I just finished a tour of inspection with the Lt. who will leave tomorrow. They’ve done wonders and I must say that if you tell these people to clean up they really clean up!! They even have a hospital unit made out of 4 of these barracks + everything in there is really immaculate. Lt. Samuel has borrowed begged + perhaps stolen much equipment, even an X-ray machine.
            Lt. Samuel is himself a very interesting person. He is a red headed German Jew… He got out of Germany in 1940 to go to the States—got in the Army in 1942 in Military Intelligence work + was given a battlefield commission for his good work.
            He formerly raced in motorcycle races, got a college degree in Berlin in Mech Engineering (night school) + even managed to drive a midget auto racer in the States in his short time there. He is a ball of fire while working + has a very good slangy command of English and of course jabbers German to perfection. The other evening at our Officers Mess he casually sat down + played the piano very well indeed. He is really quite a person + I admire his fairness to these people in spite of his race.
            As for me, I’m getting rather fat. We picked up a crew of discharged German cooks + they do miracles with our GI chow. Tonight, for example, they first served a wonderful potato pancake (kotofopuful—sp?) as a canape or appetizer, then came a pork chop fixed so’s you’d never recognize that item of food—potatoes mashed to perfection with wonderful gravy, creamed peas (they used powdered milk), a salad made of ordinary string beans with onion + vinegar, iced tea, + then the dessert! It was very good + I had to ask what it was. It seems they had cream of wheat for breakfast + had a lot left over. So they sweetened it up a bit, put it into a mold with a canned peach half + then in the refrigerator. They served this with a white sauce made of whites of egg + sugar. Where they got the eggs I didn’t ask. Good!-m-m!…

July 30 1945
            [He talks to her about hearing that his beloved uncle Frank Welty has passed away.]
            It’s a very peculiar thing. When I came over here I knew I’d have some heart breaking experiences because no one got by without losing at least one good friend. I sorta tried to steel myself to it + succeeded pretty well.  I don’t recall that I ever really let my emotions get the best of me because you just can’t do that + be a good leader. Even after the war was over this same feeling existed until the news of Uncle Frank came along + then I let loose inside…
            Still very busy trying to run the prison camp. Our PX rations came in today + I had my first bottle of American beer since I came over here. Very good too. Each man got a bottle.

Dachau
Monday Aug 6 1945
            I kept my job as camp commander of the prisoners here at Dachau until last Friday when Lt. Samuel, the regular CO returned from his trip north. It was a very interesting week, being “mayor” of the village of 10,000 of Germany’s so-called worst prisoners. Interesting because I never knew what was going on from one minute to the next but also very wearing since my hours of work each day averaged about 17. I started at 0700 + generally left at about 2400. 
            Honey, maybe you can imagine the thousand and one details which arise when you’re taking care of 10,000 men. I had a staff of only 7 enlisted men (EM) to help me, which doesn’t count the men who guard the enclosure.
            It’s rather difficult to describe what I did each day because every day brought new problems but maybe I can tell you some things which will give you an idea. First of all, the PWs have their own camp commander who was a major in the German Army + he is a very brilliant + capable man. He has organized his own staff + carries out any orders we give with the greatest of efficiency. Naturally, we keep a close check on all his activities but so far he has proven to be very cooperative + reliable. Of course, there is really little chance that much trouble could arise since the enclosure is very well guarded + no one gets out without a guard. One of the biggest problems is supply—food, clothing, etc. We use German captured food + clothing + equipment exclusively so you people need not be bothered that the prisoners are getting our supplies. However, some day the German supplies will run out + the push will start. In the matter of food these men get from 900 to 1000 calories a day + this will have to be increased soon as it is estimated that a man should get 1200 a day to live long. The average GI, incidentally, gets about 4000 per day.
            In regard to clothes, many of the men still have nothing but wooden sandals + quite a few wear only an old shirt + a pair of shorts + the nights are pretty chilly here. At first I too was sorta of the opinion that since they mistreated so many other people why, let them suffer too, but after you think it over you begin to realize that we didn’t fight the war to get revenge on someone but to try to teach these people the right way to live. So, in the time I was in charge, I tried to improve their lot to a certain extent so that eventually they might realize that we Americans are human + are trying to do as we would like to have our men treated.
            In the transportation line we acquired some German trucks from the Military Government and even use German gasoline + oil to run them. That is a headache in itself since we dispatch from 30 to 40 trucks every day. Some are used to get supplies, some are used to carry PWs (a PW is a Prisoner of War—just to smart you up!)
            Then we have things like arranging to pay the men (the money comes from Germans), to take care of the sick, to provide punishment for those who misbehave, to listen to gripes + personal problems, to arrange for repairing buildings + see that the plumbing is in order, to send in reports constantly, + to act as a reception committee for all the brass who visit the place. That, very briefly is what I had to handle for a week + this morning I’m again back here sitting in on the job while Lt. Samuel (the CO) makes a trip. Hope he’ll be back by noon!
            Since our battalion commander apparently thought I did a good job I took my opening + asked + got permission to go see Irv Fuller [an old friend in an Army unit nearby] this past weekend…
            And in regards to your joining me I understand (rumor) that Truman is “agin’” having wives + gals come over here. If so, I’m in favor of throwing him out of office right now. As far as I can learn I’m stuck here… We’ve been getting men in from lots of other outfits + now some of our men with low points are going out. There has been so much shifting around that I don’t even know all the men in my platoon…

August 7
            I mailed you some pictures…showing how the country looks. Also included a postcard which shows how the “Autobahn” looks. Autobahn is the name for all the superhighways Hitler had built all over Germany. They really are super being set up so that there are two lanes of traffic each way and there are no crossroads. Also, none of them run through any towns + you can really make wonderful time in traveling. The Jerries blew many bridges but our engineers have now repaired most of them…
            Gosh, sugar, how I miss you! I believe I’ll really know what heaven is on that day wen we get together again. Maybe it won’t be long—-who knows? Last night + tonight the radio has been buzzing with news of the new “atomic bomb” + though details are scarce it sounds like a fearful thing which should discourage the Japs to a quicker surrender…

Wed Aug 8 1945
            Was out to our new area today with our Company Commander, Captain Barber. They gave us a new town to move to which is about 9 miles from her and it is really much better than they one they picked previously. Another outfit is there now but they will move out when we move in + they have everything well organized for us to take over. Don’t know exactly when we will move but it should be within a week…

Aug 10 1945
            Monday we move for sure + get out of this place. Besides just this minute (1500) the radio announced that Japan has offered to accept surrender! Yippee! Sure hope it’s right because that means that—well—it means peace! I can’t even guess whether it will effect me or not but I anticipate that when was is definitely over everywhere that the boys with the lowest points who are still here will stay here. As I said, I’m in the middle with 57 points fo what happens to me?—I dunno…
            Got my second pair of hand made shoes yesterday. I have one low pair + one pair of boots. The PW’s made them for me + the work is beautiful. Will try to take a picture of them for your “enjoyment”?
            It’s a rainy day again + I’m sure achin’ for you. I feel so happy that the war may be over that I feel like I’ll bust. Wars are so doggoned needless and so many people suffer…

V-Day
Aug 15 1945
Hello, Honey:
            What a day! One of the officers woke me at about 0130 to tell me the long delayed Jap surrender was official
            So this morning at the breakfast table we talked it over and of course all we thought of + spoke of was—when do we go home? Wellsir, I didn’t have much time to throw the bull because I had to report to our Ba. Cmdr. who tells me (as he hinted yesterday) that I am now going to take over B Co. as Co. commander. It seems he figures I want the R.R. tracks (two silver bars for Captain) to go home on. All I want is to go home but since he says they need me I accepted…
            Anyway, as I talked to the gang the nine o’clock news came in and amongst other things we hear of the great celebrations in the States where “servicemen kissed + danced with gals in the streets.” (These guys are so lonesome for an American gal—news like this only hurts.) Then they say that gas rationing in the States will stop immediately! Hmf!—and only Monday gas was so scarce here that we had only 15 gallons to put in the tanks of our 20 jeeps to move our company out here (9 miles) from Dachau. And finally something we all could not understand—they said some guy in Congress planned to reduce income taxes! And with the debt we have!
            These guys are thinking, honey. First, of home but next of what we fought for. It was peace first + then a good set of plans for the future. They’ve worked + sacrificed a lot to win but they’re still willing to work + sacrifice to keep the world right. And why some screwball—trying to get votes—would ever prop\ose a reduction in income taxes—we just can’t figure!
            Guess that’s enough of a blowoff…

Fahrenhausen, Germany
Aug 19, 1945
Hello, darling:
            Yah! - try and find me now on your map! This little place is not even on our maps except a few local road maps.
            It seems ages since I wrote you last but, again, it’s something new which has kept me busy. I can’t even remember whether I told you of it in my last letter. Anyway I am now the proud possessor of a rifle company. In other words I’m “the old man” for about 247 men. We moved (when I was with D Co.) from Dachau on Monday and on Wednesday I took over this Co. and since then I’ve really been busy trying to get to know my men + do things for them.
            We are about 15 miles north + slightly East of Dachau. Each company is in a town by itself + so of course I’m happy to be away from the brass. Only trouble is I find it hard to keep up with the news. The war is over + we all want to go home + the feeling generally is - t’hell with the Army! - not spoken, but I can sense it. As a matter of fact I catch myself feeling that way - just a bit…
            Boy do I get super attention now. In addition to my allotted GI orderly I also have one Hungarian who sorta acts like he considers himself my personal valet. Keeps my clothes pressed, shoes shined, room cleaned, and clothes washed. By golly, I believe he’d even brush my teeth if I gave him the chance. All we do is feed him + give him a bed + he seems quite happy…
            As near as I can guess, my chance to come home will be about next March

23 August, Sept 4
            [Gillespie gets a pass to Paris—it’s a 26-hour overnight train there and back, with 20 cars filled, he says, with 4400 GIs on leave, and he spends three days in the city itself…When he gets back to Germany, he laments having lost many of his key sergeants while getting a bunch of new soldiers to put his company command at 300 men.]

Sat night 8 Sept
            I believe I previously mentioned briefly that I was a little busy on August 15, V-J day. That was the day I took over the company. Yes, we were happy but contrary to your belief + perhaps the newspaper stories there was no wild cheering or shooting. These combat men have apparently had so many exciting experiences and have learned so much the hard way that they do not show much on the outside how they feel inside. They were relieved that further combat was not necessary and many said they were glad that the boys in the Pacific were through but in practically the next breath they all thought or said- “When do we go home?” Home is a wonderful word to us all now. I presume the GIs did celebrate in the larger cities, but us country Yankees didn’t. We had nothing to celebrate with anyway…
            the way it looks I judge that our plans to have you come over here probably should be put away as I honestly believe I’ll be there by March or sooner. ..The radio just said that all except essential organization troops will be home by February. They keep strangely silent about officers but I’m [illegible], bub, to get there as soon as possible. With the 8 new points I have a total of 65. One of my officers has only 28.

Thursday Sept 20
            Have had another terrifically busy week…I’ve been looking for a place to move to which might be better than here for the winter. Found what I thought was good but they wouldn’t let me have it. So I checked another place, decided it wasn’t so hot, + decided to stay here. Whereupon my dear Ba. Comdr. looked the last place over and said he believed I should take it. So you know the answer - I haveta move.
            [The place Gillespie and members of his company will be billeted is Schloß Heimhausen, which is today the site of the Bavarian International School.]
            Now the place is the estate of a former bigshot SS guy who now lies in prison. It’s one of those things you see in the movies - terrifically ornate with scads of statues, tapestries, paintings, marble staircases ’n sech + it’s bigger than I ever imagined a place could be. I’m enclosing some pictures + have scads more which I will send in a bundle.
            My objection to it is that it will be terrifically hard to heat + the plumbing is all shot + much repair work is necessary. I don’t want my guys to be cold + I want them to have plenty of chances to bathe + be comfortable. 10 years ago the place would have been OK. But now - I dunno. Anyway I got the “old man” to promise he would get some good engineers on the job so maybe it might work. It will take me a year to completely describe the place so I’ll do it  a little at a time in each letter. Incidentally, we haven’t moved yet + probably won’t until late next week…

Friday 28 September 1945
            This occupation stuff is sure an anticlimax. We all get the feeling we’re the forgotten men at times though we try to realize it takes time to get things organized. We beg + plead for more recreation and things to make the men content. They come gradually but at times it seems they are dispensed in a reluctant manner. Therefore it is hard to sell the men on the idea of working. The training as for another war is toughest. These boys think the atomic bomb has outdmoded old forms of warfare…         
            Working like everything on our new home trying to get it ready to move into next week. The other night the boys I had on guard over there built a fire in one of the fireplaces. (They have about 5 - very grand, lovey, but they’re not cozy like we like ‘em to be.) Anyway, the chimney was defective, the roof caught on fire + the boys battled for 2 1/2 hours to put it out. They had to haul water by hand from three floors down + in the dark. It burned out about 25 feet of roof. However, we’ve got plenty of roof and now I’ve got the local carpenter fixit it. Never a dull moment…

Sunday 30 Sept 1945
Dearest Phyl:
            Our new home, the Castle, is really beginning to look better. Friday I told the boys to fix up the ballroom for our “Day Room” where the boys can read + write. So the Sgt in charge put a Polish GI on the job. Now this boy is one of those who looks + talks like a rather rough character but he must have the soul of an interior decorator because it’s the fanciest job I’ve ever seen. He took the rugs off all the stairways + completely covered the floor. Then he found furniture - beautiful chairs, settees + tables + little desks - all of which go beautifully with the way the ballroom is decorated - and arranged them so it looks as grand as anything I ever saw…It always amazes me the hidden talents that all men have if you happen to give them a chance to show such talent…
            You’d go nuts if you could see the things still left in the castle - even after it seems that it has been looted. It’s unbelievable how grand the place must have been. All the walls in the main room are covered with very luscious cloth instead of paper or paint. And the drapes are still hanging in many windows and though I know nothing of cloth etc it’s not hard to see they’re almost priceless. And there are still about 20 paintings - all huge and most of them dated in the 1700s. Some rooms have murals on the walls - the ballrooms has one huge painting covering almost the entire ceiling. And there are dozens of small, medium, + huge tables + cabinets - hand carved, inlaid with mosaic, marble topped + very finely polished. Joe Schroeder [a fellow officer and close friend] and I were looking around today + found large supplies of fancy china, glassware (gold rimmed) and vases ’n stuff. I found us 5 fancy metal “swizzle sticks” to mix our drinks. Much of the stuff is too fancy to suit me but if it were possible to send you stuff we could furnish about half our house without any trouble. I get socialistic ideas when I see such evidence of wealth surrounded by many countryfolk who have so little. For example the other day I took the chief electrician for the town…over to see about repairs and he spotted a fancy fireplace screen which he claimed was worth “fil” (many) dollars. [He meant “viel” in German.] In fact he said thousands of dollars. And his weekly wage is about $7.00.
            Still have the problem of getting the water + heat fixed but they’re doing pretty good considering that the place is over 800 years old + has had much alteration + repair. Had to dig one main water pipe out of walls which were about 4 feet thick - there was a leak. Guess I told you we had a fire that burned out about 25 feet of roof - defective chimney…

Tuesday Oct. 2 1945
            The Batallion Cmdr we have has been in my hair all day long + if he were here now I’d probably lose my commission an an officer. Y’see - my sweet- I’m a bit steamed (as if you din’t know.)
            They put out our liquor ration today and tonight I split it up. It’s really quite a problem. I got 9 bottles (4 whiskey - 4 liquer - 1 cognac) for the enlisted men (of which there are now 170). So-o-o I split it evenly among the platoons + they are going to raffle it off so at least one man will get a decent drunk. As for me i got about 1 1/2 bottles for our officers  + I felt so mean I tossed off quick ones (drinks, not bottles) + since I’ve had nothing from the time of the last liquor ration 1 month ago (except some “schnapps” a week ago), it kinda got to me…. [as is clear from the scribbled handwriting]
            Next day - if you can read this you are good. [Penciled note added to end of letter]

Thursday
11 Oct 1945
            Today and yesterday have been beautiful days - clear and sunny- and very welcome after two weeks of almost continuous rain and cold. Sunday and Monday night we had very heavy frosts which have quickly changed the leafed trees into huge masses of red, gold, and brown. It is comparatively warm yet there is a crispness in the air. It reminds me of the fall football days back in Nebraska.
            This week has included the usual daily training and more intense work on the new castle. There sure is a lot of work necessary to do on that place just to get the facilities - light heat + plumbing - in order. Today I made a trip down near Munich to try and pick up my cable for the electricity but got stymied. I had an order from General Ladd but they wouldn’t come through as they claimed that they had orders from General Ike himself to let nothing go out of the place. It was formerly the Bavarian Motor Works [BMW] (made good cars) and in spite of much bombing there is still a tremendous amount of material there - much of it underground. So tomorrow I’m going to try a place near Augsburg as our Ba Cmdr says we will move in next week - lights or not. Wish me luck, Bub.
            Did I tell you that our castle has an organ? It’s in a huge and very beautiful chapel. Unfortunately the organ does not work and the chapel is now full of thousands of books from the Munich libraries…
            The grounds on our estate have not been damaged nor has the building. Only damage was caused by vandals + looters who broke in here and there and tried to burn it in one place

Oct. 6 1945
            Made a trip to our castle this p.m. + things are going pretty good. Look like we might get our water system working OK + we now have most of the parts to fix the heating system. Big problem now is to find a cable to run from a power house for our electricity. Pretty hard to find - the big stuff -  about 1 inch, I think, + we need about 600 yards of it. Have the roof almost completely repaired now where we had the fire. And our officers quarters are shaping up beautifully. Wish you could see some of the fancy china + glassware we located + may use to throw a party some day. Have some scouts out now to try and get some coffee cups + some silverware…
            It’s just 7 p.m. + the radio program has changed to a hillbilly program (like the Saturday Barn Dance program)  and it’s coming from the Hofbrau Keller in Munich (of all places - that’s where Hitler planned his original “putsch” - + and it is now made over into a Red Cross club). Podden me whilst I change to another station. You’d be amazed at the dozens of stations you can get over here now. It seems so strange at times to tune in on some good American music + then when the record stops to hear some Kraut [American slur for German] announcer talk in German…I can get programs in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and one which sounds like Chinese or Japanese. The Krauts play a lot of waltzes and what sound like Polkas + Schottischen. Have seen some of these dances + they look like they’d be fun - slapping their knees + feet ’n stuff. Right now they’re playing something and some Kraut is talking like he was calling a square dance…
            I’m still looking for lace but it’s kinda hard now. Except in large places, outside of Germany, you don’t see anything like that. May be able to arrange to have the local natives make me some. We cannot buy at stores here, and except for foodstuffs I’ve seen no stores anyway. I suppose it’s hared to imagine towns or cities without things like department stores but that’s the way it is. In places large enough to have such stores the bombing has destroyed most of them…
            [Later] As I write this I’m listening to the 5th game of the World Series coming by short wave from the States…

Sunday 14 October
            this p.m. went to Dachau to arrange to get two trucks to pick up a big electric cable tomorrow.
            That’s about the last thing we need to complete repairs on our castle as they now have most of the plumbing fixed. Tomorrow they try the central heating system + keep your fingers crossed for me, honey. Yesterday they pumped water into the system (it’s hot water type heat) and about a dozen leaks sprung out + almost flooded the place. The plumber got those fixed but left the pressure on + this p.m. another leak started and partially flooded all three floors but now he thinks he has that fixed too. All this has been with cold water + tomorrow they put heat on + then - holy mother, I hope it works! In any event, we move Wednesday because a week from today we start on maneuvers for one week + must be moved before then.
           
Saturday
20 Oct 1945
            ..How do you like this for stationery? [Letter written on quality blue paper with embossed initials FH under a little crown and Haimhausen München at the top]  The former owner of the castle placed this at my disposal recently. Ho-hum! -wonder what the poor people are doing today…

Haimhausen
Monday night 29 Oct 1945
            Our town of Haimhausen is just about 4 miles closer to Dachau than we were before. We’re about 15 miles from Munich. [Draws map]
           
Sunday Nov 4 1945
            We’ve been trying to get settled in the castle since we returned from maneuvers a week ago. Wed it was announced that we would have to take over the area of the 3rd Battalion while they went on maneuvers. So yesterday I took about 95 of my men to Freising - about 45 minutes northeast of here + set them up to guard a couple of DP (displaced person) camps - mostly Polish people. I’ve been tearing over there and back here trying to keep both places running…
            Honey, I miss you so much it gets under my skin at time. And I have a fairly tough hide. Soon it will be our 11 month anniversary [since he proposed just before he left for his overseas duty]. Irv + I were talking about how long it has seemed + we both agreed that we probably shouldn’t kick too much as so many of our buddies will never go back…
            Freising is a large place - about 25000 + they have 2 movies [theaters?] which the boys really go for. They also have “fil” (many) [viel] frauleins and polsky which in plain language means that the German + Polish gals are plentiful + very good looking + the boys also go for that. They spaziren (walk) + dance with the gals although I personally can’t see most of them - they are all mostly interested in seeing how much food or cigarettes they can chisel…as for me I’ll take any American gal in preference but mainly one in particular - guess who?…
            You should see the desk I am writing on. It’s another little number they had around here and shows much work + probably cost a young fortune. It has very fancy metalwork on inlaid wood on the front and a carved leather top…

Thursday Nov 8 1945
Freising
Hi Honey:
            It is now 2200 and I have about half an hour or so to go before I have to hit the sack. You see tonight is the first of three nights when all the civilians have a special curfew + must be off the streets by 8 p.m. If not we pick ‘em up + throw them in jail. it seems that this is the anniversary of several very nasty Nazi atrocities against the Polish people + since there are several hundred Poles in and near her (Freising) we, or rather the powers that be, figured we’d better take steps to eliminate the possibility of any trouble so we have patrols + guards all over the place…
            [Could this  be a reaction to the November 1939 Gestapo operation code-named Sonderaktion Krakau? A couple of months after Germany invaded Poland, the Gestapo arrested almost 200 professors and academics from universities in Krakow, as an early step in the plan to eradicate the intellectuals in places like Krakow that the Nazis had slated to become culturally German. Most of those academics ended up being deported to Dachau. Could these Polish folks be connected to those ones? It’s a mystery.]

Sunday
Nov 18, 1945
            We got sorta tired of waiting for the higher ups to provide us with recreation so I got a few of the boys together and told them they had the prime job of providing fun for the company - no other duties. And they’ve really done very well. They have brought in bands to play in our recreation hall (an old beer hall), they’ve found beer + wine and they’re getting a company orchestra started. They had a dance Monday night, Tuesday night, Thursday night + last night. I managed to get a stage show for them from Munich on Friday night but otherwise they did it all.
            It’s very amusing how enterprising they are. While in Freising they had arranged with a Polish band to play…Wotta crew! Then they got six gals from our town to act as waitresses (They’re middle aged but nice) and they’re having aprons made for them with “B” Company sewed on. They’ve painted all the old beat up tables + chairs + plan to paint the walls + ceiling. And here’s the real laugh. They “found” a bunch of sandpaper + plan to get about 25 prisoners, line ‘em up knee to knee with a piece of sandpaper in hand and have them sand the floor. I wanta see that!
            Today we “swooped” several towns. Started by rising at 0530 + moving out at 0730 to search every house in our town + then move on to others. It’s all done on a very businesslike basis + requires lots of planning. The purpose is to discover weapons + discourage black market activities. We found a few things + picked up several people without proper passes. Finished at 5 p.m. + start again tomorrow. This is something the boys go for as they feel they’re really accomplishing something…
            [Wraps up the letter telling that in two days he’ll have a week-long leave to Switzerland.]

November 22- Dec 2 1945
            [Series of letters describing Gillespie’s leave at a U.S. Army/Red Cross Rest Center in Lucerne. He describes shopping including buying her a Swiss watch, biking with other GIs on leave, drinking his first cup of milk in almost a year, and having a brief phone call with his fiancee, the first time they’ve heard each others’ voices in almost a year. ]

Monday Dec 2 1945  
            [Back in Germany, Gillespie learns that his company is being moved out of Schloß Heimhausen and back to quarters at the Dachau prison camp.]
            Sunday they suddenly told us we were moving again! Back to Dachau! And I will have charge of only 19,000 prisoners this time. Watta life! Boy! I get so p_ _ _ _d off! Here we had our area nicely fixed up for winter. We move tomorrow and I’m up to my ears in work again. Honey, I’ll be so-o glad to get home where, I hope, things are a little more normal.
           
Dachau Germany
Dec 6 1945
            We’ve had much snow lately and there is about 6 inches on the ground right now. It gives the feeling of Christmas but it’s hard to hold, if you can understand what I mean. We had so many fine plans for a Christmas at Heimhausen…

Dachau
Dec 15 1945
Dearest Phyl:
            Boy! this being the “Beast of Dachau” (that’s what the boys call me now) has its advantages and its disadvantages. They (the prisoners) give me the old snap-to stuff like I was a king but, believe me, there are plenty of headaches. Trying to take care of 19,000 guys is quite an experience.
            When I was here before they had about 10,000 and had just been moved from poor quarters in the field so they didn’t give much trouble. Now they’ve begun to think a bit + get kinda tired of being cooped up. Not that they give too much trouble but any group of 19,000 are bound to have ideas…
            We’ve had much snow lately but somehow I don’t seem to mind the cold weather too much. It got down to 5 above one night but our quarters are pretty well heated here so we don’t suffer…

Dachau
18 Dec 1945
            We have a Battalion Officers Mess here + eat very well. I furnish an orchestra which plays during our noon + evening meals + they are wonderful musicians even though prisoners. The mess officer had the enclosed list [not saved] printed the other day + they will play any of these on request. If no requests, they play some very fine eating music such as soft waltzes…

Dachau
19 Dec 1945
            I’m beginning to feel the Christmas spirit…I don’t know what caused it - maybe many things. For one we are decorating in the barracks for the men to lounge around in. Maybe you know that we call such places the “Day Room.” Anyway, some of my boys “found” some paint and we had prisoner painters come over and and fix it up nice. One of them is an artist and he did a pretty good job of drawing a portrait of Truman plus our Regimental and Division insignias. Then the boys “secured” three very beautiful Christmas trees and talked another outfit out of some decorations. Also they are making wreaths + long ropes of tree boughs + the place is looking very nice.
            Or maybe it was the fact that I talked to a couple of priests who hold services for the prisoners and we arranged a service for next Sunday (to consecrate the church the prisoners built) and a midnight service on Christmas Eve. They were so grateful I felt embarrassed - but sorta nice inside - if you know what I mean

Dachau
Christmas 1945
Merry Christmas, sweetheart!
            It is 9 p.m. here so that means it is noon there
            At the prison, the prisoners had quite a program of activities including special church services, music, and an exhibition of art and handcraft which was very wonderful. The have some of the most beautiful + original inlaid wood work I’ve ever seen. And some excellent artwork - oil + watercolor paintings, etchings, caricature ’n everything.  We hope to soon be able to sell such to give them a regular job.
            Time out
            1:30 a.m.
            Dammit! Had a general alert + I’ve been rushing about like mad. Can’t tell you any more but don’t get fussed.
            Last night Lt. Schroeder, Lt. Romme, + the Supply Officer + I went to church at 8 p.m. + heard a wonderful musical program, 90% of which was done by my SS prisoners. They had a 20 piece orchestra, mostly string, which played many fine numbers including all the Christmas carols. Had a short service by the Post chaplain + then a 60 man prisoner choir sang +, honey, they really were thrilling to hear
            Today I slept until 11 a.m. and at 1 we had a very fine Christmas dinner - turkey + all the trimmings

Dachau
27 Dec 1945
            You should see what I got yesterday from the prisoners. We have them divided into Regiments and one Regiment sent over this very beautiful bracelet made out of hammered silver coins with my name engraved on it + with the flags of many countries + the 9th Division insignia on other parts. On the back is engraved “Weihnacten” (meaning Christmas, I believe) 1945 German Boys.”
            [This bracelet has been in our family since. No one has ever worn it publicly, because the German flag has the swastika symbol of the Nazi Party on it.]
            I’m enclosing the note which was sent with the bracelet. [Not saved, unfortunately.] Of course, I’m not supposed to accept such things but golly, I don’t think it will hurt to accept this. Incidentally, the first two names [on the note?] are American - they’re my GIs who I have supervising this regiment. ..

Dachau
Jan 1, 1946
            Happy New Year, honey!
            It’s darn near 10 p.m. + for a new year we got sort of a rough start. Both yesterday + today were supposed to be holidays but our higher commanders suddenly got ants in their pants + made the two days kinda rough. I guess the general idea was to keep us from relaxing too much + thus jeopardizing our security. I worked all day yesterday + last night a bunch of us went over to the Post Officers Club. As nearly everyone was sorta peeved at having to work we foolishly decided to throw a wing ding + as a result my health today has not been good. And just as I was trying to enjoy a sleep this morning I was called + told to inquest (?) my company as they believed some of the enlisted men had frauleins in the barracks. Then a prisoner escaped + I had to check that + then I had a big pile of work on my desk at the prison. This evening I started to sort our my junk + had to go get a couple more boys the MPs [Military Policemen] had picked up. So - you see it’s been quite a day…
            You might…like the enclosed pictures. It’s the rest of the Switzerland pictures, a couple from Haimhausen + a couple to prove that I had a Christmas tree in my room…
            The German camp commander told me today that the prisoners wanted me to take anything I wanted from the [art and handcrafts] exhibit, which I wrote you about, as their Christmas gift to me. They said they really wanted me to have the very beautiful chair + table they made but realized I might want something I could take home so gave me my choice. I don’t know yet what I’ll pick but I told him I couldn’t accept a gift - per military law- but maybe if they wanted they could loan me something… 
            [My father eventually accepted a beautiful carved wooden box made by the prisoners that is still in our family.]

Dachau
6 Jan 1946
            This morning I had to run a special job of checking two Regiments of the prisoners. It was a surprise to see if they were keeping their records straight. I used 24 officers and 80 enlisted men + we got done with the job about 11 a.m. Not bad considering we had over 2400 men to check. Then I worked about two hours this p.m. + then grabbed a little nap. So passes another “holiday.” This battalion commander of ours sure is an eager beaver.
            I’m enclosing a copy of our Regimental paper wherein I immodestly admit that my name is mentioned. Have a couple of the stories about my SS boys in it too. Hope you enjoy it…
            [This is a reference to the January 5, 1946, vol II, No. 1 issue of “The Raider,” the official publication of the U.S. Army’s 47th Infantry Regiment. I notice that the main public relations officer leading the staff is a Lt. David E. Gillespie, but he has no relationship to my father. The story my father marked has this headline: “First Battalion Commended for Camp Discipline.” The text:
            The First Battalion and Fox company of the 47th Infantry were commended this week for the marked improvement the Raider personnel has made in the discipline of the former SS troopers in the Camp Dachau lager. Prisoner escapes have also been greatly reduced since the 47th relieved Third Army units several weeks ago.
            Prior to Dec. 5, when the battalion took charge of the camp, 2225 prisoners had escaped, either from the camp itself or from work details. Since the Raiders have taken over only 17 prisoners have escaped, five of them from the lager. Three of the 17 were recaptured.
            There are 18,826 SS troops and war criminals confined in the compound and in a successful effort to bring the camp under maximum supervision, the prisoners have been broken down into fifteen regiments. Two enlisted men from the battalion are in charge of each regiment and exercise strict control over the prisoners under their command.
            1/Lt. C.S. Gillespie, Baker company CO, is commander of the entire compound, assisted by 1/Lt. P.C. Barnas…”
            Another short front-page story in the same issue has this headline: “First Prisoner Shot at Dachau SS Cage.” The story:
            The first prisoner to be shot at the Camp Dachau SS compound since the First Battalion of the 47th assumed charge Dec. 5 was credited to an alert Polish guard the night of Dec. 28, it was announced this week. Three prisoners were challenged outside the enclosure by the guard and one was downed by a bullet when they attempted to run.”
            On page 2 of the same issue was a story about a Catholic church built by and for the Dachau prisoners.]
                       
Dachau
Sunday 13 Jan ’46
            we have two companies of Polish soldiers here made up of men who volunteered to help on occupation duty. They are excellent soldiers + since many of them were formerly imprisoned by the Germans they have no love for the Jerries. They’re rough but likable + help us a lot in pulling guard duty…
            We are now discharging some of the prisoners and they are pretty much in a mess. In addition I’m losing some more men from my company + it’s a problem how to get enough men to fill the job. However, we manage to get the work done somehow + maybe things will ease up soon.
            On Wednesday I leave for a 6 day pass to the 9th Division rest center…It’s only about 50 miles from here in the Bavarian alps. They have a nice hotel on a lake, horses to ride, a few clubs, + some skiing. All I wanta do is get away from this place for awhile + relax…
            It’s nearly 11:30 so I think I’ll hit the sack. I got interrupted while writing this by news that one of my boys tried to escape + got slightly shocked when he hit our electric fence. We’ve been pretty lucky having no escapes for over two weeks now. I guess the news that we’re going to discharge a few is tending to keep them behaving better. Besides, we’ve found and blocked a few places where they maybe have gotten out…

9th Division Rest Center
17 Jan 1946
            We started down here from Regt. HQ [Regiment Headquarters] yesterday morning about 0930 + got here a little after 11. It was a very cold ride as as we came south there was more + more snow. The rest center is on a lake - Kochel See (see means lake) and the scenery is breath taking. Mountains surround the lake and it really looks like pictures of those famous winter resorts.
            After lunch yesterday I came back up on the hill where the officers stay in what used to be the home of the leader of the Hitler Youth [Baldur von Schirach?]. The outside isn’t spectacular but inside there are statues + old paintings (one is reported to be a Rembrandt!) + it plainly shows evidence of money. Anyway, I nosed around + tried making several pictures of the house + of snow.

Monday
21 Jan 1946
            Today is the day when I can put on two “hershey bars” - the little gold stripes worn on the left sleeve and standing for six months overseas service each.
            Looking back, it hardly seems possible that a year has passed already but when I think of all the experiences I’ve had it might well have been two years of normal living.
            It was about 4 am one year ago when we arrived at the dock. [This was in New York City, and he is reminiscing about the start of his experiences one year earlier.] On the ferry across the river they had large curtains to keep prying eyes from seeing us. A few of us managed to peek out + as we approached the dock we saw the outline of a huge ship and much wild guessing took place as to whether it was ours.
            We struggled on to the dock with all our gear + had to climb up several flights of stairs into a big warehouse. There we had a short break during which the Red Cross gave us donuts + good hot coffee -Tasted swell!
            Rather soon they began calling last names + we answered by giving our first name + middle initial + then walked across a covered runway onto the huge boat. We soon learned it was the Queen Mary. Then we were assigned rooms + I had a very nice one with one other officer + 4 Red Cross men. And so, later in the day we pulled out + sailed past the Statue of Liberty + of course we all hoped we’d see it again. I surely hope that I have as nice I trip back as I did coming over + I get to see the old gal like we did going out.
            This stay here at the Rest Center has certainly been wonderful…Yesterday I tried skiing and really enjoyed it a lot. Took many tumbles but had a whole lot of fun. And I didn’t do too badly either…[Then goes to Garmisch and sees an ice skating exhibit at the place where the ski jumping and skating competitions were held in the 1936 Winter Olympics.]
            Perhaps by now your papers have had a story similar to the enclosed. Yep - that’s my place but I was down here, not there, when it happened. [No newspaper article enclosed, so I’m not sure what the reference is to…] Don’t know whether I’m lucky or unlucky - anyway I missed it. The story is much wrong on these people were being sent home to be set free, according to the Russian liaison officers who were there when I was. It was unfortunate but just another aftermath of war…

Rest Center
Wed Jan 23 1946
            I just had a report of some news which I hope + pray is true. one officer who came here today to visit told me just a short time ago that he had seen an order about a Lt. Gillespie from the 47th Inf who had received the Bronze Star medal. Now there is another Lt. Gillespie in our Regt, as I believe I told you before, but I know that I was put in for another Bronze Star about 3 months ago + that up to the time I left it had not been turned down.
            So, as soon as I get back tonight I’ll know for sure. And if it is correct that will give me 70 points + make me eligible to go home! - right now!…Boy, I’m chewing my nails + working up a fever hoping that it is correct. I’m almost superstitious about being too optimistic but maybe our luck is changing like I said the other day.
            I sort of dreaded going back to Dachau after all the wonderful time I’ve spent down here…[Talks about feeling healthy and skiing again for four hours the day before. Sun and exercise and rest healing him.]…
            We’re due to leave in about half an hour so I’d better get my stuff down the hill where the rest of the boys are to meet the truck. This time we ride to Munich by train + then to Dachau by truck. Hope the trucks meet us at Munich as I won’t rest until I see if that news is correct.

            [In the collection of letters at this point is a copy of his second Bronze Star citation:]
HQ 9th Inf Div
16 Jan 1946
Gen Orders No 3
Award of Oak Leaf Cluster to Bronze Star Medal for Heroism
            By direction of the President, under the provision of Executive Order No 9419, 4 Feb 1944 (sec II Bul 3 W D 1944), and pursuant to authority in AR 600-45, 22 Sept 1943, as amended, an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Bronze Star Medal for heroic achievement not involving participation in aerial flight in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States on the date indicated is awarded the following named officer:
            First Lieutenant Claud S. Gillespie, 0292876, Infantry, United States Army. On 19 April 1945 near Ballenstadt, Germany, 1st Lt Gillespie’s mortar platoon moving in convoy suddenly encountered heavy enemy tank and panzerfaust fire at a roadblock near Ballenstadt, Germany. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, he led four volunteers who exposed themselves to direct enemy fire to remove the roadblock. Then they moved the vehicles off the road to safety. Still under heavy enemy fire he directed the emplacement of mortars and machine guns and place effective fire upon the enemy positions in support of the attacking rifle company. 1st Lt Gillespie’s aggressive leadership, devotion to duty, and courageous actions contributed materially to the success of the operations and was a credit to himself and to the Armed Forces of the United States. Entered military service from California.

Dachau
24 Jan 1946
            This is my last night in Dachau. Tomorrow I go to an Engineer outfit on the first step of my way home! By now I presume you + the folks have the cable I sent. They words they offer for use weren’t too good but I hope you got the idea.
            When I got back last night there were about 20 officers waiting for me. They told me I got another Bronze Star giving me 5 more points + that I was on orders to ship today. Then without even letting me clean up they took me to the club + proceeded to throw a farewell party…I managed to sneak out about midnight so today I was in pretty good shape.
            I was supposed to go today but I had to turn over the property of my company + clear up all the unfinished business. Tomorrow at 0730 I go by jeep to Regt + then to a place near Augsburg. From there I don’t know where I go next but I’m on my way!
            If you get no or very little mail it is because I won’t be able to write. In any event I’ll let you know when I hit the States. I’d guess it will be a month before I land but I’ll try to keep you informed.
            Isn’t the world wonderful?!..

Gunzburg Germany
27 Jan 1946
            Wotta life this is compared to what it was at Dachau! I left Friday at 0830 + got here about 1030. This is an Engineer Battalion + they originally were scheduled to leave Monday - tomorrow - but the date was postponed about 1 week. They’ve turned in almost all their equipment + are just waiting to go. There will be about 800 men + 30 officers in the group. They get all set here + then when the word comes we go by train to the port - another two days in box cars!- + within a day or two climb on the boat! Honey, pray that it will be a big one or I’ll have a rough trip because I’m not too good a sailor. But I don’t care - unless there are many unforeseen delays I should hit New York sometime in February…
           
Bremerhaven, Germany
2 Feb 1946
            Not more than 800 yards from where I lie here in my bunk is the North Sea and maybe some day there will appear in that Sea a ship which will take me home. Right now it looks like it might be some time before that happens…We left [Gunzburg?] Thursday a.m. at 0930. About an hour later that discovered that one of the box cars had caught on fire so we stopped while it was disconnected from the rest of the train…we finally got long poles and pushed it (by hand) about 1/4 mile up to where we were able to put if off on a siding. It was a bad piece of luck for the boys in two of the companies (about 360 men)  who had all their baggage in it except what they were carrying + not a thing could be saved. The can replace their clothes but lots of them had souvenirs they were taking home + lots of personal stuff...
            We got here last night at 10 p.m…This is the first place where I’ve seen regular Army steel beds + mattresses + they feel swell…

Sunday 3 Feb 1946 1300
            in a few days I’ll be passing my 35th birthday…

[Almost daily letters from Bremerhaven as the assembled soldiers wait for ships to take them back to the U.S.]

Bremerhaven   19 Feb.
            This waiting for a ship certainly puts one in a mental fog…

Bremerhaven
22 Feb. 1946
            I’m enclosing a copy of the second Bronze Star citation I got…The folks might like to see it. What I like most about it is that it gave me the extra five points necessary to get started home…                         
 
Bremerhaven
Monday 25 Feb 1115
            The boat is supposed to arrive today but up to now they’re not sure it will. It is believed on the way from LeHavre…
            This will be my last letter to you from over here. We’ve had such fine correspondence, haven’t we? I’ll probably have to learn to talk to you instead of writing. Maybe now + then I’ll write you a letter - just for the hell of it.
            The next you hear from me will be by phone or telegram from the U.S. In fact, that may be before you receive this letter.
            Hasta luego [See you later in Spanish], my sweet— this is Gil signing off from Germany. Next appearance - U.S.A.        

Bremerhaven
27 Feb 1946
            Of necessity, this becomes another last letter. Yep! we got fouled up again.
            We were all set to load yesterday morning. We were supposed to get on a train at 0840 for a 15 minute ride to the dock. At 0800 comes the word - “Your boat will not leave for from 7-10 days because of engine trouble”!
            Then later in the day they reassigned us to another boat (the sixth for us) which is expected to arrive tomorrow, the 28th. Then later yesterday they said the new boat probably wouldn’t arrive until March 1. I dunno- it beats hell out of me what the score is.
            It would appear that we’d better plan on me getting there just sometime. I’ll believe we’ve actually left when we’re halfway across the Atlantic. Hence, I will not try to predict when the date will be for me to actually arrive home…
            So long, honey. I’ll see you  - when?
All my love
Gil

[Last letter in the collection]

Postscript:
            Sometime late in his stay in Europe or before he was discharged, Claud S. “Gil” Gillespie was promoted to the rank of Captain.
            After a ship voyage across the Atlantic and a train trip across the U.S., he finally made it home to Los Angeles in late March of 1946 to see his fiancee Phyllis Tetard, to whom he had written all these letters (and who saved them all). He and Phyllis got married on April 23, 1946, at First English Lutheran Church in Los Angeles.
            He was officially on active duty until he was formally discharged on May 18, 1946, as a Captain in the United States Army. His term of service during World War II lasted for four years and two months—from March 17, 1942, to May 18, 1946.
            He and Phyllis were married for 54 years before he passed away at the age of 89 in 2000.