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D-day: What It Cost
This is a story of the months prior to June 6,1944, and a few of the days following, told through some of the letters my twenty-three-year-old father, Frank Elliott, wrote my mother, Pauline, while he was with Company A of the 741st Tank Battalion, and some she sent him at the time of the Normandy landings.
May/June 1994 | Volume 45, Issue 3
February 1, 1944
I don’t know about that promised trip to England after the war darling. This consistent murky weather is very depressing. Of course when you come over with me the sun will certainly shine all the time. If not for the benefit of all, certainly in my heart, because your presence will make it so. That would be a good experience for Dee to come over here at about the age of six. It will be a fine contribution to her education so we will set ’49 as the vear when we will make the visit. That is of course unless she is such a prodigy that she will surpass all knowledge that traveling will benefit her little at that time. …
February 4, 1944
Did I ever ask you to send me the words to “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”? That is a beautiful song and properly sung is very moving. You say Dee is walking. Gosh a mighty am I ever out in the cold with my daughter.
February 18, 1944
There has just been a hot crap game reported to me from the next barracks and the fact that I sit down to write my wife a letter is indication of a strong indomitable power of will. Either that or I’m broke. … My “longJohns” which I told you I washed out last night are still decorating the barracks clothesline—My but I’m in a romantic vein tonight. It is just the homing instinct that causes me to mention that darling—I have never seen you as you will be after a hard day’s laundering. Hair disheveled and all tired out with dish-water hands and powderless face. That is when I’ll love you most. …
February 21, 1944
The matter of you accepting work is a decision entirely up to you to make. I can’t say anything pro or con because I have no definitive or construetive thoughts in either direction. …
I love you, Frank
February 28, 1944
Cold and dark is this typical English evening and morning will bring only a change in the latter element. If any of my old football jerseys are laying around anyplace I would like to have them. The blue and gold silk one or any of the green or red ones. Don’t send anything that’s good or buy something new but these would do the trick of warming the blood in the wee small hours.… Keep grinnin’ Irish —
Today was $ day and all the boys are sitting around raising, fading, shooting and anteing. But me, I have waged a bitter yet successful battle against the tempting evil devil of the dice and am nicely penning my darling wife a love note. Was quite closely studying the map of Europe today and it’s a hell of a big place. Where do people get that “small world” routine they pass out. Such is life—
I love you Frank
March 4, 1944
It amazes even your husband that in all my writing to you I have never mentioned the one thing that affects my life most deeply, i.e., the Army chow line. This phenomenon quite resembles a snake. A long, coiling, many vertebraed snake. To the distant observer the rattler is brought to mind due to the continual rattle and hiss coming therefrom. There are in this coiling line every manner of dogface goldbrick (up front) chowhound, and boot polisher in the Army. I know one fellow who has a photo of a chow line with an officer (a 2nd Looey) standing about mid-way through with mess gear in hand. This is such a rarity that he has been offered thousands by the Smithsonian and the London Museum for the negative thereof. Me? I’m just another one of the vertebra previously mentioned. It causes me to say that I’d wait a century just for your burnt biscuits.
March 23, 1944
… The problems of supply are not ones that ordinarily trouble me but today I had reason to be involved on the side lines of a humorous squabble that ended happily for all concerned. It seems that there was an excess of ammunition boxes in the company and that there was an order issued from somewhere that they were to be turned back to the tanks and there placed in the best available space. This was carried out from supply and it was a matter of time (and very little time at that) before every member of every victimized tank crew was storming the doors of the supply room with obvious intentions of manslaughter in mind. The sergeant of supply beat a hasty and not too well ordered retreat to more peaceful surroundings leaving the henchmen in charge to care for the irate crews. It all ended happily for all concerned when some Samaritan brought order out of chaos when he investigated and had the order rescinded and the little ugly boxes (which incidentally may someday be the cause of saving a life or two of the protesting group) removed. All of which has little to do with the way I miss Hamburgers à la Coney Island, American beer à la Duquesne, American shows à la Penn Theatre and American girls à la YOU. I love you.
March 27, 1944