Foreign Correspondence

Page 11 of 12

"Conditions are almost frightening in places like Vienna," he wrote home in October 1945. "There is so little of everything that people will give anything for food. Black market prices are fantastic. I know people who are getting rich right today -- Army people -- simply by making a business out of selling soap, cigarettes, candy, cloth, shoes, and Scotch in Vienna. Some people are having their families mail them Crisco and cooking oil. These items bring about 35 dollars a pound. Cigarettes sell for 10 dollars a package. You can just about name your own price for a yard of cloth or a new pair of shoes. Some people have recently told me they have cleared 1,500 and as much as 3,000 dollars off of this traffic in the past few weeks. Some of the soldiers stationed in Vienna are carrying 5, 10 and 15 thousand dollars on their person. Restrictions have been placed on the amount anyone can send home from Europe, but men are bribing Army postal officials, sometimes splitting their wad 50-50 with them in order to get their money orders passed, I hear...

"Coupled with this economic unrest and instability is the frightful distrust which the Viennese have for the Russians.... The smart Austrians fill the easy-going dumb Americans with horror stories about the Russians (which all our boys believe). And then they also tell the Russians horror stories about the Americans. Play both sides against the middle. It's amazing how many of our officers and men fear the Russians.... I'm afraid the net result of this war is that most American soldiers now say that the Germans and Austrians are the finest, cleanest, prettiest, sweetest people they have seen anywhere outside the U.S. Also that the Russians are swine, and the Displaced Persons are dirty, undesireable [sic], unambitious, and deserve to be outcasts. In other words, they like their former enemies and hate their allies and the poor enslaved people we were supposed to be 'liberating.'

"Have you read the stories about the furor caused about the Jews here? We 'liberated' them. Yet up until a week or so ago they were being treated almost as badly as they were under the Nazis. It took a personal visit from General Eisenhower and several scorching directives from him to get anything done. Now that we're at least trying to get them decent places to live, about 500 of them are being sent to Salzburg and we have been ordered to find them billets 'at least as good as those occupied by American troops.' I've heard quite a bit of squawking about that already. In other words, we aren't living up to all that we preached while we were fighting...

"The crux of the matter is this: no people on earth are as inexperienced and untrained to govern anybody as the American Army. We just ain't got it.... Every day I hear men in our own Headquarters say, shaking their heads, 'We might be trained to fight a war, but I'll be g--------d if we can run a country.'

"However, I shouldn't be too harsh. Never in history has any Army tackled a problem as big as ours.... It's colossal. And I see signs that in spite of our inefficiency and confusion, we're pulling through.... We're at least TRYING to be fair.... We are not being cruel...

"Europe is sick unto death. I sometimes despair of ever seeing it otherwise. And this despair is deepened when I realize that Europe's sickness is catching.

"...Please forgive the doleful dismal note upon which I end this. Things may not be as bad as all that. Darling, please show this letter to Mom and Dad. You are the only link they have had with me for a long time...."

By the time Jimmy Creasman came home in the summer of 1946, his daughter, Martha Dee, had lived longer without him than with him. He landed in New York and caught a train to Phoenix. The family legend about his return to Litchfield Park has it that when his daughter laid eyes on him, she insisted, 'You're not my Daddy. You're just a funny little man. That's my Daddy,' she said, pointing to the photographs Creasman's wife had placed around the living room.

She quickly got over it.

Creasman moved his family to New York that year, and resumed working for Voice of America. In 1947, Grady Gammage, then-president of Arizona State College, offered Creasman the job as the school's first full-time alumni director. Dorothy Creasman recalls sitting at the kitchen table in New York and drawing up a list of pros and cons. The pros won, so back they came.

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Edward Lebow
Contact: Edward Lebow