January 27, 1946 – Circular #1 (Part Two)

Note: This continues the first circular letter started on 19 January.

One week later – Sunday, 27 Jan ‘46

There has been little opportunity to work on personal correspondence during the past week. Our regular schedule for the typical day is something as follows:  Crawl out from under the warm covers when the raucous voice of chanticleer, personified by the alarm clock, calls your attention to the fact that a new day has dawned. The house is at a temperature of about 50, having lost nearly ten degrees during the night, and you waste no time with morning baths and luxurious stretches. Out into the frosty morning and walk briskly to the nearest corner on the bus line. About every ten minutes the rattly, two decker bus picks up our OMGUS workers – Americans on the lower deck, German civilians upstairs – and deposits them eventually at office, mess hall or other destination. There are four or five officers’ messes in the area which also cater to the American civilians. I’ll tell you more about them later. After a good breakfast of fruit, hot or cold cereal, powdered egg omelet (between ourselves, I believe they use a Buna-S instead of egg sometimes) toast, jam and coffee, we are off to the office for eight hours of intensive work, broken only by a satisfying lunch at the mess.

At six o’clock we are through, if we are through, for we are not dependent on bus, train or car club schedules here and can work for another half hour or hour without upsetting any rigid schedules. Then back to the mess where we loll around in a completely clubby atmosphere, smoke, sip our scotch or cognac, listen to the music of the excellent orchestra or try our hand at dancing for a turn or two. It is delightful. Every one of colonel to civilian, men and girls, mix in an easy intimacy for a relaxing period before dinner, while pleasant Fräuleins scurry around and serve drinks with true German efficiency. Then for a good dinner, and back to the bar and lounge for cordial and cigarette before attending the movies, or the formal dance – or before girding their loins and returning to the office for another tour of duty or going home to billets. But, as most of the billets are not too warm we usually postpone the latter alternative until we are ready to turn in for another sleep. One is seldom alone, – ours is a group which is thrown together pretty closely and we work and play with the same companions pretty consistently. Which means that much of the lounge conversation is an interesting mixture of frothy persiflage and shop talk. Our Personnel Office group sticks quite closely together – and I know no better time than this to introduce them to you.

The OMGUS Personnel Officer, working directly under General Milburn, Chief of Staff, is Col. Arthur Heath Onthank, variously known as Colonel, Boss, Art, Heath. He is a reserve officer, in his middle fifties, human, picturesque, and in every way a swell chap. He has been in the military government game ever since the first plans were laid. He was in the first plane which brought Americans into Berlin and has been here ever since. Second in command is Lt. Col. J. S. Henderson, Joe to his friends, a very intelligent chap in his middle thirties who has seven “Hershey Bars” on his left sleeve and who has served in both the Pacific and European Theatres. He is a product of the graduate School of Public Administration at Syracuse University, is quiet, pleasant and capable. Our Executive and Administrative Officer is Major Waldemar Dietz, a colorful chap of the Errol Flyn type, – dashing, debonair and efficient. Wally trained for the paratroops and has four jumps to his credit, then was transferred to the infantry, saw service in that arm and is now sweating it out in Military Government. The other two in the top-side gang which travels together are George Vadney and myself. George was a close associate of mine for three years in WPB, is quiet, enormously hard-working, capable and fundamentally sound in every particular. He has the staggering job of starting from scratch and classifying every position in OMGUS, setting up job descriptions and grades, not only in Berlin but also for the Frankfurt and Laender Offices. He is my billet mate – and one who I believe will wear well.

And speaking about billets, I’ve had quite an experience trying to get settled. Two nights in the regular temporary billets and I was then assigned to a presumably permanent billet at 10 Irmgard Strasse. But the senior officer in that house, a West Point Colonel with a rather Prussian manner, decided that he wanted a classmate in the billet instead of a strange civilian. The atmosphere was not one that I cared to be enveloped in for a year of service here so I applied for transfer and was assigned to 67 Im Dol. It was a delightful house, designed by an architect for his own occupancy. But the furnace was not designed for the poor coke which we now have for fuel – or something – for temperatures there have ranged from 50 to 61 since my arrival, averaging about 56. I’m trying to recover from a persistent chest cold and those conditions just perpetuated it. Moreover, the officer who was supposed to be my billet mate has been in Paris ever since I arrived in Berlin, presumably sick, and I didn’t enjoy coming home to an empty house every evening. So, when George’s billetmate was transferred to active duty with the 7th Army and left Berlin I moved in with him. Harold Sarle, an old WPB buddy of George’s and mine will arrive about the first of February and we propose that he join us. The house, at 7 In Der Halde, is the home of a titled German, rather old fashioned but very comfortable, well furnished and filled with large paintings of ancestors, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries. But best of all the house is warm – according to Berlin standards, which are in the middle sixties – pure luxury to me after the past two weeks. Our pleasant house maid, Ilsa, has been in that position with the Frieherr for about ten years. We plan, as soon as possible, to set up a “B” mess in the house, which will permit us to make purchases of food up to $35 a month per person from the commissary and will add a cook to our menage. When and if we can get this going it will permit us to have breakfasts – and any other meals we wish – in our own home, and will also open to us the opportunity to entertain our friends.

And there, friends, is something of the picture. I can’t attempt to exhibit all of the facets of life and conditions in Berlin in one letter – you probably wouldn’t stand for it, anyway – and I’ll try to give you more in subsequent chapters. My permanent address is

Arthur B. Holmes, D-259, 669
Personnel Office,
Off. Of Mil. Govt., Germany (U.S.),
APO # 742, c/o Postmaster,
New York, N. Y.

Please write when you get a chance. We’re a long way off, and any-word from home sounds mighty good.

(signed) Art.