Note: This is the second “circular” letter that Arthur sent out. This one is in one piece.
Circular Letter #2 Berlin, Germany, 10 Feb ’46.
Another Sunday afternoon, with a committee meeting cutting thru the middle of it, thereby spoiling the entire afternoon for any continued recreation. But for letter writing it works out admirably. I have yet to have a full Sunday to myself since reaching Berlin and Saturday afternoons are usually broken into by work. But you don’t mind it so much here – at least at this time of year, for there is little else to do but read, visit and catch up on home chores. I understand that George, Harold and I have been awarded our “B” mess, to start sometime shortly. Then work on Sunday will be a bit less welcome, for it will mean coming in from our billet instead of just necessitating the quarter mile stroll over from Harnack Haus. A “B” mess, by the way, is a mess at one’s billet, a great convenience for breakfast (particularly Sundays), and opens up the possibility of home entertainment. It also means that if one is laid by the hells for a day or two with cold or other indisposition, he is not forced to drag himself out of bed to go to officers’ mess if his stomach cries for attention – a rather important feature, as George and I have already learned. I was out one day early this past week with cold and sore throat and he has been under the weather for the past four days. “B” messes are much sought after and not too freely granted, because they mean an added drain on the Commisary and food supply is quite a problem here.
Which leads to another comment. I’m realizing to the full how fortunate we are at home to be able to run to the nearest drug, hardware or food store in the neighborhood when a necessary little item is needed. The only source of supply here is the three government purveyors, – the PX, the Quartermaster Store and the Commissary. And their inventory is pitifully limited and inadequate and most of the few articles they carry are rationed. A very few basic medicines can be had at the Dispensary, but you have to be practically at death’s door to get them – and then you take what they choose to give you, not what you want. One learns to live very simply and get along without many things which are considered necessities at home. Many of the items I want most and packed for shipment before I left the States are in my foot locker – and where that is or when it will arrive is anyone’s guess. We are told that if our water-borne baggage arrives within four months we are fortunate. Such is life in Berlin.
But there are other sides to the picture. Last evening’s dance, for instance, at Harnack Haus. A 22 piece orchestra which played American dance music in a way which would have done credit to the big name bands in the States, and a conductor who was a born showman. Remy Martin cognac at 3 marks for a liberal drink and other drinks equally low priced. A floor show which would have been enjoyed at El Morocco, the Stork Club or “21”. An interesting and happy group of companions, men and women, – all in uniforms of the U. S. Services, U. S. civilians, or of our several allies, of UNRRA or the Red Cross. Yesterday afternoon at the Onkel Tom Theatre, where the OMGUS Dramatic Club gave a most credible showing of “The Male Animal”. And by the way, Blanche and Rog, one of the parts was played by Dick Simpson (or Simkins), formerly of the Oberlin Dramatic Club. Do you know him? He looked as though he might have been after your time. And Friday evening, again at Harnack Haus, the movie “Our Vines have Tender Grapes”, which I thought was delightful. Yes, added up, the life is far from unpleasant, but it does require considerable orientation and readjustment. My work is most interesting and all-absorbing and, after groping for the first few weeks I’m finally developing a picture of what the job is and how to attack it. Heath (Col.) Onthank set up my job as Chief of Regulations and Procedures, Office of the Personnel Officer (G-1), OMGUS, because the title sounded good and left a wide opportunity for interpretation. Now I’m trying to find its limitations within my working capacity. The Personnel Office contains four branches, Civilian Personnel, Military Personnel, German Civilian Personnel and Administration. I’m in a little unrelated box right beside the Personnel Officer, free to mess into anything which seems to need attention. At present I’m mainly focussing my interest on personnel orientation, travel control in Paris, and setting up forms and procedure for the civilian payroll and leave section, the most badly SNAFUed part of the office. I’m also sitting with a special board established by General Clay to consider military and civilian relations and relative priorities in travel, billets, etc., and to consider the very active question of uniform regulations for civilians. Last Sunday while I was spending nine hours as duty officer I designed and drew up a new type of attendance reporting form and writing a Personnel Bulletin on its use. To-morrow I am bringing together all of the office and divisional administrative officers to explain its use. And at the same time I’m setting up a play-by-play internal procedure for the Pay Roll Section which should greatly reduce their work load and get civilians paid about one week sooner after the end of the pay period than has been possible in the past. And so it goes. At present I’m alone in the work, except for my secretary, but a procedures analyst has been recruited in the States and I’m hoping that she arrives soon to take the routine procedure writing off of my shoulders and let me do a bit more planning and study. OMGUS, in its short life of a few months has outgrown its breeches and I’m trying to tailor a new pair to fit. And, at the same time, the organization is rapidly changing from a military to a civilian order, and that means totally different operation within the prescribed Civil Service pattern. My main handicap is that I have but a few of the basic Civil Service ground rules, and so must draw on what I have here of the WPB pattern, my memory and my imagination. Which means that my chin is continuously out. To date it is scarless, but I fear that any day I’ll have a large black and blue spot on it. But enough of that. Suppose I tell you a bit about the neighborhood in which we work and live.
As I said in my last letter, the OMGUS offices are in the attractive modern buildings designed for and formerly occupied by the Luftwaffe, and in smaller buildings grouped around the walled compound in which the main buildings stand. The billet area reaches north about a mile and a half and a lesser distance in the other three directions. It is a rather typical suburban area, though most of it is better than average and includes the former homes of many of the big shot Nazis. To the northwest stretches the Grunwald Forest and beyond it, a couple of miles from here is Wannsee, a lovely lake about 14 miles long, which offers superior opportunities for recreation, skating in winter and swimming and boating in the summer. The Special Services Division has taken over (“Liberated” is the term we use) hundreds of sail, motor and row boats and has most of them well reconditioned. These are available without charge to all OMGUS employees. George, Harold and I live in the former home of Freidrich Freiherr von Elverfelt. The Baron and his wife occupy an apartment in the house next door and they and we share the maid who has served them for the past ten years. We don’t feel entirely happy about the arrangement for it gives us all of the home privacy of the goldfish, but the Baron and Baroness are most gracious and Else has given us no cause for complaint to date. We have sold the von Elverfelts on the fact that we are scrupulously careful in our use of their home. We were invited over to their apartment last Sunday for afternoon tea, but asked for a rain check as I was to be on duty all day. They claim to be violently anti-Nazi (as does everyone, of course), but it is easy to rationalize their claim for the Baroness is of Jewish extraction. To the right of us lived an influencial Nazi party member who got to know so much that he made the big shots restless and they liquidated him. Across the street, in a lovely large home, lived one of the industrial nabobs of pre-war Germany. His wife’s brother was one of those who attempted the purge of Adolph Schickelgruber – and he was liquidated. So you see, it didn’t pay to be too active on either side of the fence.
Our house is not large (three master bedrooms and maid’s room), is about 20 to 30 years old and not particularly attractive in its own right. But there is some lovely antique furniture in it – and we are completely surrounded by large oil paintings of the Baron’s ancestors, dating back to about 1500 – a bit oppressive on the whole. The yard is small and most of the back yard is taken up with a bombproof shelter and strawberry gardens. I think the latter will prove more useful of the two to us. The Baron also uses it as a range for his half dozen or so chickens. The house is kept quite comfortably warm most of the time, and, in the main, furnishes us with a most adequate home. It was severely cracked in places and the plaster has been patched and not redecorated in most of the main rooms. We are going to try to get materials from the Supply Section and redecorate it ourselves, at least that’s our plan now, we may weaken later.
When the Russians did a General Sherman through Berlin they came charging through a number of the main streets of the billet area and left their calling cards in the form of ruined buildings where last stands were made by the Germans, walls peppered with tank, anti-tank and machine gun fire, and so forth. There was very little direct bombing in our billet area, the destruction having resulted from artillery and bazooka fire and from incendiaries. But many windows, even in homes occupied by the Americans, are still boarded up, and almost every roof shows signs of having been repaired with the tile of any shape and color which came to hand. Houses still occupied by the Germans, – and it is amazing how many of them exist in the ruins which they call home, – are heated – if heated – with stoves in rooms, with the stove pipes protruding from the windows. The fuel problem is an exceedingly serious one – even the Americans are supposed to be rationed to 8 lbs. per person per day – and the poor Krauts are in desperate condition. Even the women, obviously of the better classes, carry little bags in which they place and twigs or sprigs of pine needles they can find as they trudge along the streets. Of course, the natives have been restricted on new clothing for many years and to-day anything which provides a vestige of warmth is worn with no thought to appearance. Most of the women wear slacks or ski pants, and it is not at all unusual to see a Fräulein in a zazzy fur coat, a felt hat with a jaunty feather in it over her flowing blond hair, while below the fur coat protrude legs clad in ski pants and feet in G. I. boots.
The two subjects which are receiving the greatest attention in the Berlin American colony these days are, in a sense related, though superficially they seem to be quite divergent, – families and uniforms. In order to keep the men happy plans are now underway to bring over wives and families of both service men and civilians. But the problems which arise in this connection are legion. Who shall have priority and in what order will they be permitted to come? What will be done about the matter of quarters, when there is already a great stringency in housing of a standard which the Americans will accept. What will be charged for houses and again, how determine priority of selection? And these bigger questions split up into detailed ones which lead one to the squirrel cage trying to figure them out. Then the other subject, uniforms. A great deal of controversy has been going on about civilian dress. Different factions in the military fraternity gripe about any uniforms at all for civilians, and if they have them strip ‘em of every vestige of detail which will give them eye appeal. Keep ‘em down to one single uniform – no battle jackets, no pink pants, no tailored overcoats, no visored caps. And the WACs gripe even more about the uniforms which the civilian gals wear, even though their attire is definitely distinctive, – green tops to their garrison caps, green shoulder straps and green braid around the sleeve. And the civilian gals appear to resent regimentation. Hardly a girl who is not out of uniform in some detail, – bobby socks, black shoes, blouse unbuttoned, brass buttons when they should be plain, insignia incorrectly worn, shoulder patch wrongly placed if worn at all, and all types of jewelry being hung on wrist, neck or lapel. Occasionally a bright green or red sweater showing above the coat. New regulations came out this past week which set a definite pattern and we’ve been working to have certain amendments made in these. And now comes the bombshell, an order which has not yet been received but of which I have advance notice, – after the first of March the use of any uniforms by civilians will be optional, with all uniforms washed up by the middle of summer. This is occasioned by the expected influx of families who will be in ordinary civilian clothes, hence, why keep the employees in uniform. So goes the tempest in a teapot, with advocates for all schools of thought stoutly supporting their viewpoint.
It is difficult enough trying to preserve homogeneity in an organization which is part military and part civilian; part operating under military discipline and part under established Civil Service rules; part on duty on call 24 hours a day and the other part working its 44 hours a week and crying for time and a half overtime if they stay one hour longer. But when the civilians go out of uniform the cleavage will be more apparent. The military personnel who convert to civilian, – and a large part of OMGUS is in this category, offer added problems. It’s a great life, that of a personnel officer. I’m doing most of the work of orientation right now, inasmuch as our Employee Relations Branch hasn’t yet been staffed, and it’s a continuous headache trying to keep everyone straight. I’m finishing this Tuesday morning before work. The meeting Sunday afternoon was on some of the employee problems as they involved military vs. civilian. We wrestled for four straight hours, quitting at 7:30 only so we could get into the dining room before it closed. Well, time to go to work, – I’ll tackle this again sometime later.