Foreign Correspondence

More letters from the battlefield: A Phoenix soldier witnesses the destruction of Europe in 1945

"Germany is a beautiful country, and in spite of awful destruction to such places as Darmstadt which I saw yesterday, the people are well dressed and seem well fed and much more prosperous than the French. I watched the Easter Parade in Kaiserslautern Sunday, and if one overlooked wrecked buildings and white flags it didn't seem that a war was going on. People in very good, stylish clothes were going to church, not looking war weary or particularly angry, although they carefully tried to ignore us and of course we are not fraternizing. I thought they had put on every stitch of finery in an effort to show defiance. German lights still burn and there's running water in taps and toilets. In France, outside Paris, this was not the case. Is this 'German efficiency,' or is it merely because they have been able to benefit from looting and plundering all of Europe? I'm inclined to think the latter.

"White flags flutter from nearly every building. American trucks thunder thru the streets 24 hours a day and Germans timidly wait for a chance to cross the street, scurrying like rabbits when an opening comes. In Bürstadt, I stood at the corner of Adolf Hitlerstrasse and Bielungstrasse and saw more people going to church. Suddenly 13 big trucks went by loaded with German prisoners. Some prisoners waved and the people flickered a few hands in response (the women held their hands to their mouths, as about to cry), and in the next to the last truck they caught sight of a little boy still in short trousers and wearing a civilian shirt & tie, and they stifled a little exclamation of shock. He evidently had been captured with the rest -- a fanatic member of the Hitler Jugend.

"I have seen bombed towns, but never have I seen anything like Darmstadt. It must be larger than Phoenix, and I drove all thru it, but I did not see more than about three buildings still usable. Block after block of walls with no roofs or floors, just skeletons. Many of them 4 and 5 story buildings. UNBELIEVABLE destruction. Utterly gutted, smashed, crumbled.

Creasman wrote dozens of letters home from World War II.
courtesy of Dorothy Creasman
Creasman wrote dozens of letters home from World War II.
Creasman trained in Texas, then joined the Army's Rainbow Division in Oklahoma.
courtesy of Dorothy Creasman
Creasman trained in Texas, then joined the Army's Rainbow Division in Oklahoma.

"So far I have not seen any examples of Nazi hatred. It's just like the training films told us -- Nazi flags gone; Hitler, just pictures left here and there on the walls of official buildings; and the army, in our trucks going back to the rear. But the Nazi system has only disappeared from the surface. Just before crossing the Rhine I saw a sign in big white letters on an underpass 'You Go to Berlin and Moscow Gets You.' So you see they're up to the old trick of trying to spread suspicion between the allies. And the little boys seem harmless, but they have a funny look, sort of like they were trying to hide a secret, or am I just reading my own suspicion into their look? And of course we run into such things as time bombs in buildings and armed resistance at the front to remind us of the Nazi regime...

"We see hundreds of Poles, Russians, Italians & French straggling down the roads, after our troops liberated them from the Germans who had forced them to fight and work for them. Each has a pack and all seem to be hungry. The movement is so fast and so great that there simply hasn't been time to organize everything. Even some of the German army has been by-passed, particularly service troops, and we don't seem to have room for all of them in the PW enclosures.

"Here in Germany the GI is picking up plenty of 'souvenirs.' Whenever they see something attractive and have room for it in the truck, they 'liberate' it. I have seen them go through a marble works (where headstones were made) and they carried off arm-loads of paper, light bulbs, chinaware, electrical fixtures -- even a fancy telephone. Nearly every truck has a German motorbike and a bicycle or two tied onto the side. Mattresses, typewriters, brief cases, cars, trailers -- nearly everything you can imagine, all being liberated...."

He wrote home the next day: "Still trying to size up these Germans. Saw one old man run over to a jeep load of German prisoners this afternoon and shake hands with one of them. An officer pushed him away. The people seem docile, though. One woman came by and asked if it was all right for the butcher to slaughter a beef. We sent her to the Military Government office. We do not fraternize, but do try to help things keep running. For example, we heard a cow mooing in the barn behind the house and, figuring that she was hungry or needed milking, we induced a couple of Germans to take care of her. They had been afraid to go into the barn and seemed very grateful that we took an interest.

"Tonight a Lutheran Chaplain held a service at the local Lutheran Church. I attended. There were only a few of us. The organ has a beautiful tone and the church is also beautiful in an austere Lutheran way. There's a picture -- American soldiers worshipping in a church built by the enemy. It was for soldiers only, but the civilians must have heard the music...."

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