Friday, May 08, 2015

Capt. Phil Kroon’s V-E Day letter

[pwrite%255B4%255D.jpg]Seventy years ago today, Capt. Philip C. Kroon, an artillery officer with the U.S. Army's 144th Field Artillery Group, took pen in hand in the garden outside an Austrian hotel and wrote a letter to his young bride in Redlands, Calif.
It was V-E Day - Victory in Europe Day - and the young captain from Grand Rapids, Mich., had been in combat since his unit came ashore in Normandy a few weeks after the June 6, 1944, invasion. He was looking forward to coming home, but mindful that the war against Japan seemed far from finished and that he might be needed in the Pacific Theatre.
Here is what he wrote on a sheet of Adolf Hitler's personal letterhead, liberated a day or two earlier from the Führer's Berghof retreat at nearby Berchtesgaden:

My adored wife,
Finally the work of the past year for me and over three years for the nation is completed. The war here is over completely. Of course, we are glad it is over, but to us it is sort of an anti-climax. For nearly two months now, we have completely routed the Germans. During the past few days we have seen steady streams of German soldiers marching to the rear. At some places, even the super-highway is jammed. It was a sight never to forget and one that only happens once in a lifetime. I wanted to get some pictures of it, but my camera was stolen some time ago. I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to worry. I now have another very good German camera that I took from a German soldier, so am better equipped than before.
Now that we are no longer at war here, I should have more time to write you and expect to get off better than one letter every five or six days. In fact, it's now been seven days this time. I'm sorry, darling. I'll try to make it up to you.
About a week ago I went through the Dachau concentration camp. Any pictures you see or stories you hear are only a small part of the picture. The stench was indescribable as well as the actual scenes. I saw some of the toughest soldiers nauseated. I won't tell you any details for they shouldn't be put on paper. It was the most terrible thing I have ever seen.
In contrast, a couple of days ago I went through one of Hitler's palaces -not the one at Berchtesgaden, but an old Hapsburg palace that he took over. It was a paragon of beauty and symmetry. In the two main floors was not a sign of Nazi Occupation except that most of the furnishings had been looted, mainly from France.
The walls were covered with priceless tapestries, the floors with thick pile rugs. We were nearly the first soldiers in the place and looked through it by ourselves. We went snooping in the cellar and came across two storage rooms. One was nearly filled with medals, of which I have a few choice ones. I also found one silver knife (not table) in the house - the only one there, so I suppose it belonged to Hitler. In another room, we found some stationery, of which this is the choicest. His personal. I have quite a bit of it and will send it home. You can give a sheet to various people, but save some of each kind, especially this with just "Der Führer" on it. I also came across some other excellent souvenirs - Onep&j pair of field glasses - the best I have ever seen - fifteen power - this may not mean much to you, but they are two and ½ times as powerful as the ones I and Pop used to have The must be worth three or four hundred dollars. I also have a pair of Luftwaffe swords that are not in the best of shape but will look good fixed up and crossed in my den if I ever have one.
Guess what, Sweets. I shaved off my mustache today - because the war is over. No one noticed it so I guess it couldn't have been so good. I'm not making any plans for a quick return home, beloved, nor am I getting any fancy ideas about it. I would give anything just to spend a few weeks with you, but there is much to be done, both here and in the Orient and I'm sure I'll be one place or the other.
Some will get to go home on their way to the Pacific and rumors are already afloat, but I'm not counting on anything - then we won't have the disappointment.
These Bavarian Alps are really beautiful, dearest mine. They are all snow covered yet, although we are not very high and last week we had snow in Munich. Today was marvelous. The view of the mountains is similar to that from our front yard, though the mountains are much closer and not as high.
During the last mad rush we have been getting practically no mail and I'm way behind, although today I got the letter you wrote on the eve of our anniversary. Sweet - just as they all are - but why not, with the sweetest wife in the world writing them. I wish my letters would get there more regularly. You probably have had a batch since that time, but it is nicer when they come spread over a long time.
Darling, I adore you completely. I don't dream of you often, but that isn't my fault. When I'm awake I can control my thoughts and they always include you. Always I wish you could share the beautiful scenery and the old German cities - Worms, Nurnberg, Augsberg, Munich, Saltzburg and the rest with me. Maybe, in future years, after they are rebuilt we will see them together. Anything we could do together would be wonderful. One thing in particular - I miss you so, Jeanie. I'll always adore you.
Your only Phil
A little picture of you know who.
Capt. Kroon came home six months later. He made a career of the army, taking a reduction in rank to sergeant in order to remain in a downsized postwar military. His last duty post was as an instructor in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Purdue University. Following his retirement, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service. He died of cancer in 1988. Diane, the first of his three daughters, was born Oct. 30, 1946, and grew up to be my first wife.

Diane offered this correction today: Just a couple of clarifications, maybe. He was an officer in the Reserves on active duty until about the late ‘50s, then refused his majority because it meant another 2 year extension on his present overseas tour. Joined the regular army as a master sergeant then. His last tour of duty was actually in Panama for a year. He loved Purdue, hated Panama so he hung it up.

No comments: