Note: Not all the places are or will be marked on the map in the sidebar. Some of the hotels and other locations are no longer in existence.
Bohy Hotel, Paris, France
January 6, 1946
Air travel is so quick! A week to-morrow morning since we lost sight of the Washington Airport in the overcast – and the end of the trip to Berlin is not yet. We were booked for yesterday’s flight, but for two days now the field has been closed in with fog and there is considerable question as to whether it will open by to-morrow. In case it doesn’t we have placed a reservation for to-morrow night’s R.R. train, – a two nights’ journey via Frankfort. Paris is the grandest spot in Europe to be stuck in, but it is rapidly depleting our ready funds and we are chafing sorely at the inaction. At the moment Hal is out converting more money into francs (I say that advisedly) and the girls are at noon mass at the Madelaine, so as I wait for them to return for lunch, I’ll start my weekly, bringing you up to date from where I left you in the plane approaching the Azores on New Year’s Day.
We came down on Santa Maria Field, Azores in a brisk rain and strong wind after an almost perfect flight from Bermuda. An eighty mile wind was expected for that night and we were told that we would probably not go out for 48 hours but were warned not to go off the post as transportation would be suspended and we might get stuck. So, after dinner at the officers’ mess we three men went right to bed in our barracks to try to catch up on loss of sleep the previous night. But our gals did some stepping out on Portuguese champagne with some ATC & AAF officers on the post – rather starved for an opportunity to step out with a rare companion – an American girl.
The excessive blow didn’t materialize and at midnight we were alerted for a 3:00 AM departure. But they had a bit of trouble finding some of our girls – and the take off was delayed until after four.
The trip was smooth and we again curled up on the floor, where some slept, largely due to sleeping pills administered by our medical companion, Howard Engle. I slept not a wink and was thankful for the four hours of slumber in Barracks. One of the girls had to be left behind in hospital for she had hurt herself in a fall getting out of a jeep – it was rumored that she had cracked four ribs, but this was not confirmed by X-ray, and after a rest of several days she joined us again here last evening.
The trip to Paris was a thrill to us all, as we flew through splendid visibility over Normandy. I was up in the captain’s seat in the pilot’s cabin when we first sighted the French coast at Brest and stayed there until we were rather near our destination. It was a fascinating sight to fly over that lovely country, showing, from that height, little evidence of being war-swept. But the great thrill came when, on my expressing a great interest in Mont St. Michel, they detoured a bit, dropped 2000 feet, and completely circled that grand old historic and architectural gem so I could really get a good look at it through the captain’s binoculars.
And, in passing, let me say that we have run into and played around with quite a number of the AAF & ATC men and, almost without exception, they are the grandest bunch of guys I’ve ever met, man for man.
We approached Orly Airport on the west outskirts of Paris through a bit of an overcast, so saw little at that point. We grounded at 2:00 P.M. and collected our duffle, converted to francs and were bussed into ATC terminal headquarters at 3 Rue Vendome. Here we checked in and were assigned billets at the Bohy Hotel, a quiet, old fashioned, but exceedingly comfortable little hotel which ATC has taken over. Meals are simple but surprisingly good for Paris under present conditions, prepared by the French staff under the directions of a US mess sergeant. Heat is not quite up to US standards, but rarely good compared with what we find elsewhere in the city. Accommodations are 360 fr. ($3.00) a night and meals total 100 fr. ($.83) a day.
The gang, mainly young, has sort of accepted me as a dad to run things for them, and, generally speaking, a swell gang it has proved to be. Howard left us immediately so I was leader of a flock consisting of two fellows and seven girls when we first arrived, but now reduced to two men and four girls. With the exception of one girl, a somewhat objectionable Jewess, we have “clicked” from the start. My present companions are Halvor Garros, my roommate (45), a Swede, former glider test pilot (he holds international glider pilot license #23), and an exceptional skier, who recalls Loraine Walter from ski meets in which they have both participated; Edith Larendine (37), from Mobile, former teacher and medical secretary; Betty Heikkenin (25) a vivacious Finn from Maine, attractive and the life of the party; Willa Lang (27) from the Michigan area, bubbling, naive and lovable; and Kay Daleoke (circa 25), whose soldier husband, a Polish American, was killed in the Pacific. She’s a good kid, but least compatible of our little family, – the one, incidentally, who had the escapade in the Azores. Hal, Edie, Kay and I are bound for Berlin, the others for Frankfort.
Our stay (enforced) in Paris has been delightful – as has been the entire week, despite raw cold weather, overcast skies and the handicaps of post war conditions. The first evening I shepherded the entire gang of nine to the Folies Bergeres – an interesting experience but the anatomical exposure of the ladies in the show and the sometimes vulgar character of the humor quite mortified one of the girls who found it most foreign to her upbringing and constricted experience. But she was a good sport about it and loosened up considerably before she left us a couple of days later.
The next morning was spent fruitlessly trying to get EATS (European Air Transport Service to you) to book us to Berlin, and, when they refused because our orders from Washington gave a coded destination instead of saying Berlin or Frankfort, trotting way across the city to ETO HQ to get a confirmation. But ETO HQ, being government, couldn’t be so direct and required us to return the next day for their supplementary orders. Hence, one day wasted in Paris in so far as reaching our destination. That brings us to Friday. We spent Thursday afternoon on a sightseeing bus in a general tour of the city, and most interesting it was, too, despite the raw chill of the day and the fact that winter shows off Paris in its least appealing mood.
Come evening, after dinner, there being no other place to foregather, we rallied to the small but cozy bar of the hotel, rubbing shoulders with soldiers, local citizens and ladies of the evening whose established post each evening is this particular spot. These latter are accepted by one and all of the little bar family, men and women, as part of the regular accessories of the place and are courteously accepted into the family. In our party were three members of the ATC crew who brought us in from the Azores. We visited and sipped our cognac, B&B or Cointreau until the bar closed at midnight, when we adjourned to the room of one of our party with a fresh bottle of cognac where the party continued until about 4:30. Nice party, too.
Friday morning, not too early, we returned to ETO HQ at 30 Avenue Kléber and picked up our supplementary orders. After lunch at HQ cafeteria we returned (across the city) to EATS and got our priorities and bookings for the plane for the following morning.
The rest of the letter was written on the 7th and will be run that day.