Longform

Foreign Correspondence

Page 4 of 12

"At night... French villages are closed up tight; not a light shows. The people simply vanish from the streets and close their shutters. The only people moving about are American soldiers, in black villages...

"Most of the boucheries (butcher shops) are closed, with signs telling when they are to be open for business, a few hours each day or week. Often there are knots of people with their milk cans waiting outside a dairy shop.... The only place I saw fresh meat for sale was in Lyon, large silk industry city. In most other places, the people seem to exist on bread and wine. We did see a few bunches of celery being carried home from market, and some huge green onions.

"Everywhere the children call to us and wave, then stick out their hands and ask for 'shoong gawm.' That's about the way Martha Dee [his daughter] says it, and I always think of her when I hear them say it.

"One woman innkeeper was talking and gesturing about how hard it is for her to change her language so often. She said she speaks 'half German, half French and half English!' All of these different troops have stopped at her inn and ordered service. She has to stop to think which language to use! Where we spent the night once there was a sign Brot ausgabe... German for 'bread is given out.' And just a few feet away there was a new sign reading 'Bread issued today.' Today I passed thru a little town that now has a French name. A short time ago it had a German name. And so it goes."


The second week of February, Creasman was reassigned from the ordinance company to the headquarters of the Rainbow Division, where he put his writing skills to use banging out citations, reports and press releases about the division's fighting. As the Allies moved closer to victory, he prepared information about what troops should expect as the occupying force in Germany.

In the weeks prior to his transfer, the front lines of the Rainbow Division had repelled the last major German offensive in southern France, and regrouped near Nancy. The intense fighting had resulted in heavy casualties and crumpled French towns.

"We have taken over an entire 3-story house," he wrote in mid-February. "...Apparently a fairly well-to-do family lived here. Upstairs there are rooms with huge mirrors on every wall. What's left of the furniture is comfortable, and the photographer has 'scrounged' (a nice word for stealing...) a feather mattress from a ruined hotel across the street. This town was badly damaged. Hardly a building escaped being hit, and in every street are shops with fronts bashed in, counters looted. The wreckage is heartbreaking, appalling, depressing. Apartment house close by has several floors visible from the front, just hanging with the whole wall gone on two sides, and one can see divans, etc., ripped and torn among the debris. All around us are villages in much worse shape even than this one. I wonder how life can ever be resumed on a normal basis.

"But we are enjoying a close comradeship here.... We have electric lights from our portable gasoline generator. I am dashing all over the countryside, contacting various units of the Division. Today I found the... platoon to which I was assigned for several months in the States, and had a warm reunion with men who have gone thru a lot since I last saw them.... My work here is not dangerous. So far I have not been under fire. Please tell this to Mother so she won't be worrying...."

It was music to ears on the home front. Creasman's wife, Dorothy, recalled recently that the arrival of letters from Jimmy and other family soldiers overseas were no small thing. "Everyone would always ask, 'Did you get a letter today?'" she said. "And then they'd want to know if they could read it. Of course, I'd always say, 'Well, I don't know, I'm going to have to look it over first and weed out a few things before I let you have it.'"

From the last weeks of February through the early weeks of March 1944, Creasman's division patrolled the front lines along the Hardt Mountains northwest of Haguenau, gearing up for the final thrust into Germany.

"I have mentioned the fact that Alsace has been fought over so many times," Creasman wrote during the lull, "and today... I learned of a woman 92 years old who has changed her nationality four times without ever leaving this vicinity. As one interpreter put it, these people are afraid to express their opinions, afraid to build up much of anything, because they have always been subject to upheavals which take everything away, and which have made opinions dangerous. This interpreter said that most of these people have German sympathies, but are anti-Nazi."

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Edward Lebow
Contact: Edward Lebow