Carolyn’s Online Magazine
A CIVILIAN WOMAN TRAVELS TO
WIESBADEN GERMANY ON JANUARY 8, 1946
TO WORK WITH THE MILITARY
In going through the boxes in my garage I discovered a set of letters mailed from Kitty to Dot after World War II. Kitty was a civilian who traveled to Wiesbaden, Germany, to work for the Prosecution Sub-section of War Crimes Branch of the military. Dot was serving in the military, stationed in Washington, D. C.
Below is the first article in a series I plan to post. This post tells of her traveling to and getting settled in Wiesbaden.
8 January 1946
At last I have settled down enough to begin for you an account of my activities to date. I laugh now when I remember that I once thought Germany would be a place where I could get lots of sleep and rest and get many letters written because there would be nothing better to do. So far I have found so much to do that I am ashamed to say that I have written practically no letters and see no prospect of ever keeping ahead on them.
The trip over was something I shall never forget. It was my first plane ride and I am told it was as smooth a flight as has ever been made. I was too thrilled and excited to think of being sick and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. We saw the Old Navy building and the Pentagon as we left Washington and from there we saw very little except clouds and water until the next afternoon as it began to get dark. We were exactly 24 hours coming from Washington to Orly Field, Paris.
We made one brief stop for supper in Bermuda. Bermuda is lovely, especially from the air. It is rather warm and the air is heavy and sticky but I wouldn’t mind being there for a few days. Our only other stop was on Santa Maria in the Azores and we were all glad our stop was not extended. It is not a very pretty place even from the air and from the airport you can see absolutely nothing. The only thing of interest I remember about Santa Maria is the little jeep painted black-and-white checkerboard style with “Follow Me” on the back, which scooted out and around in front of the plane to guide it to its “parking lot.” The food at both places was fair.
We saw land again just as it began to get dark, since Paris time is six hours ahead of ours. It is a very beautiful city and much larger than I thought it was. Coming in at night with all the lights shining up at you it looks very large. We were there for only two nights and one day, leaving on New Year’s Day. While there we were billeted at the California Hotel and had a very nice time. Of course, I didn’t see much of the city but I think I would like it very much. I hope I can go back some time and see more of it. Most of our people were still in Paris but four of the men on our plane and I were lucky enough to get the ATC reservations and by some miracle the plane left on schedule so here we are. Quite a lot of people have bee stuck in Paris for as long as two weeks before they could get transportation out.
It took us two hours to fly from Orly to Hanau, which is about 15 miles out of Frankfurt. France is a very beautiful land, much more so than Germany. As soon as you cross the border the change becomes noticeable. Germany is marked with shell holes, trenches, half-destroyed villages and rivers without bridges. It appears much more mountainous than France. Frankfurt was probably a very nice town before the bar but the stories you hear of her devastation are not in the least exaggerated. It is a very terrible sight. We were there for a day and a night and during that time we saw quite a bit of what little there was to see. The most interesting thing was the old Farben plant, which now houses most of the Military Government. It is a very large, modern building set in lovely grounds and with a wonderful officers’ mess and recreation hall behind it. It is called the “German Pentagon” and the name fits very well. The mess is the best I’ve eaten in since I left the States. I’m sure it is more than chance that those buildings were not touched while the rest of the city was ruined.
We (a lawyer who was on the same plane from Washington) had a very cold uncomfortable ride from Frankfurt to Wiesbaden – about 40 miles and certainly were not impressed with the place when we got there. I wish you could have seen me that night. I was almost frozen and dead tired and after hunting the town over it seemed to me, trying to find the right office, I was shown into a large room containing eleven beds, four chairs and one 15-watt light bulb. I was so tired that even that didn’t completely discourage me, but when I finally crawled into the cot I received the shock of my life. Never had I heard of three-piece mattresses but there I was trying to sleep on one. It was very flat and hard and the pillow was of straw and the mattress kept coming apart and the cold air shot up onto my back. Jeeps roared by the window and a radio, two soldiers and a fraulein had a wonderful time in the next room, What a night!
The next day things began to pick up a little. We received permanent billets and mess cards and found our office. I now have a rather large single room in the Brusseler Hof Hotel and it isn’t at all bad except it isn’t any too warm. However, I figure that we will never find any place that suits us exactly so we might as well keep what we have. My mess isn’t too god but I’ll try it out for a while longer. The food is pretty good as a general rule but the place is crowded and I don’t know many people over there.
I like the office very much. Of course our equipment is very poor and very limited but the work is interesting and the people are very, very nice. Of course, we civilian girls are few and far between here and we are quite as much in demand socially as for our work. I am in the Prosecution Sub-section of War Crimes Branch located in the Deutsche Bank Building. So far my work hasn’t been very heavy but they are beginning to break us in and pretty soon I think we will have plenty to do. My work will be mostly typing up form letters and summaries to go with the cases after they have been put together and investigated and are ready to go to trial. The cases are not things you would want to read just before a meal or just before going to bed, I can assure you.
Wiesbaden is a very nice town and there is plenty to do here. I have been told by many people that it is the nicest place in all Europe for a permanent station. The town is run by USAFE, United States Air Forces in Europe, and most of the Americans here are attached to USAFE. There is also the Military Government and then we come under USFET, United States Forces, European Theater. There are quite a lot of UNRRA people here, some Red Cross and some CATS, Civilian Actress Technicians, or something of the sort. There are a few WACS but they are getting fewer all the time, so the girls are almost as much in the minority here as they were in the majority in Washington – just a little propaganda for the girls around there.
There is an officers’ club here – the SCALA – a very nice place with a pretty good floor show and a nice dance floor. That is THE place to go and I have been there once. Since I don’t dance I’m a little out of place around here for that is of course one of the favorite pastimes. Two enlisted men across the hall have volunteered to teach me and improve their own dancing at the same time so maybe I will take them up on it. Then there is the opera house, which was once quite a place, but was damaged and has not been completely respired as yet. Consequently it is rather cold for this time of year. There are two theaters and the Red Cross Eagle Club, which is one of the nicest places in the town. Coffee and doughnuts are served during the day; there is a snack bar and a chapel and a dance floor and I don’t know what else. There is a place to ice skate and there is an ice cream bar up the street. There is a beautiful swimming pool up the mountains and they tell me there are wonderful places for picnics around here.
The first day I was here I ran into a lieutenant I knew back in Washington. He is a Public Safety officer with the Military Government here. I was quite glad to see a familiar face and we have had quite a lot of fun. I went on my first hunt with him Sunday out in the country quite a distance from here. l the country around here is perfectly beautiful. One fellow got a deer and the fellow I was with got a wild pig, so the afternoon was quite successful. The German leader owns a cabin up in the hills so we took along some canned stuff and some bread and had our supper up there. It was rather crudely prepared but we had much fun. I hope to go again sometime.
Everything is interesting and new to me and I’m having a very good time. So far homesickness hasn’t entered my mind and I don’t think it will bother me a great deal during the next year.