Note: This is the fourth “circular” letter that Arthur sent out.
Circular Letter #4
In the Office, OMGUS, Berlin, Germ.
Saturday afternoon, 16 March 1946
Just back from a tour through Laender and three weeks since my last “circular” with more to write about than could ever be compressed into one letter. I have returned with so many impressions that it will be difficult to pick and choose, but if you will bear with me, I’ll try to give you a few coherent thoughts – a bit difficult to-day, for last evening we gave Joe Henderson a “going-away” party. Joe is getting out of the army, meeting his Australian wife in San Francisco and spending about a month touring the States before settling down to civilian work. We all hate to see him go,- a splendid chap and loved by everyone here.
Col. Onthank returned from the Riviera, where he had been recovering from a persistent attack of the virus pneumonia, a week ago Monday and immediately shot Wally Dietz and myself out into the field to get a bit acquainted with it and to pave the way for Berlin’s taking over the direct responsibility of the Laender offices from OMG(U.S.Zone) in Frankfurt, which is liquidating as of 1 April. And perhaps a word of explanation of the “Laender” would be appropriate. Germany is divided into Lands (or Laender), equivalent to our States. Those in the U.S.Zone are Bavaria, Greater Hesse and the major parts of Wuertemberg and Baden. The next smaller political sub-division is the Kreis, on par with our Counties. OMG has headquarters for Bavaria in Munich for Wuertemberg-Baden in Stuttgart and for Greater Hesse in Wiesbaden. Two other field offices complete our responsibility, Berlin District and Bremen. The ports of Bremen, although in the British Zone, are under the U. S. Bremen Port Command, for that is our port of entry for all shipping and our Enclave includes several hundred square miles surrounding that city. The Laender offices, each under a Military Governor, handle the direct operational problems, with OMG representatives set up opposite each department of the German Land Government. Everything that is done by the Jerries is subject to their review, suggestion and approval – and often their stimulation. General Clay has ruled that all of the OMG offices should convert from purely mili-personnel to 2/3 civilian personnel. This “civilianization” has progressed very slowly under Frankfurt leadership and as the conversion must be completed by 1 June we are faced in our office with putting a burr under their saddles, setting up Civilian Personnel Offices, instructing them in the ways of Civil Service and its procedure, reviewing their appointments and recruiting personnel for them both in the Zone and in the U. S. Heath plans to swing around the circle in a week or two, and Wally and I were to do a John the Baptist for him.
While describing the Land set-up of Military Government I should add that we have, under the Laender Offices, a detail of one officer and two men hooked up with each Kreis government, with additional Security Detachments strategically scattered through the Land. These latter do a policing job, handle service command functions, etc. but do not meddle with the governmental function. USFET Headquarters is at Frankfurt in the huge office buildings of I. G. Farben, which were left umbombed purposely with this thought in view. From here they control all of the eleven commands in the European Theatre.
Wally (Major Ernst Heinrich Waldemar Dietz – native of St. Louis) and I got our travel orders cut, and checked out on the afternoon duty train a week ago Tuesday and shared a sleeping compartment through a very comfortable night ride, quite a contrast to my arrival in Berlin two months earlier. Old rolling stock, poor roadbed, largely as a result of British and American bombing, and temporary bridges make travel exceedingly slow and it was nine o’clock the next morning before we reached Frankfurt. I might say here that practically all of the bridges on railway and main highways of this section of Germany are kaput, either bombed from the air or blown up by the retreating Germans. Temporary railway bridges have all been erected, at least enough to permit transportation to go thru, but very few of the high way bridges have been replaced, making uncomfortable detours the order of the day on an auto trip through the Zone. Arrangements had been made in advance and in Frankfurt we rated a Chevrolet sedan and corporal chauffeur (general’s accomodations, forsooth, and much to be preferred to the jeeps and c. & r. (command and reconnaissance) cars which poor George was forced to put up with on his trip last January). It pays to rate a lieut. colonel’s travel and billet priorities.
We spent Wednesday and Thursday in the offices in Frankfurt, very busily and profitably engaged, then spent Friday on a daytime ride to and from and visit with the Military Government in Wiesbaden, about 38 km. west of Frankfurt. Saturday morning we left our comfortable quarters in the excellent Carlton Hotel with some regret and sallied forth for Stuttgart, about 120 miles (I won’t annoy you with kilometers) south and east of Frankfurt. We took the Autobahn to Mannheim, then detoured for a good look at Heidelberg, and finished the trip on secondary roads. The Reichsautobahns are the wonderful network of military superhighways which were built or started by the Nazi government, mainly for troop movements. Many of them remain unfinished, but those which are usable are a wonderful boon to the traveler, for they cut off miles, permit an even sixty miles an hour speed (tho 50 is the present legal limit) and avoid all towns and cities. Use of them permits a wonderful view of the country, but intimate acquaintance with the quaint old towns can only be gained through use of the secondary highways. These are narrow, crooked and in horrible condition, slowing up motorists in their efforts to maintain a schedule.
Mannheim is a beautiful example of a completely blitzed industrial city, but Heidelberg was untouched as its destruction had no tactical value. It is now the headquarters of the Seventh Army, which serves Military Government in Greater Hesse, and Wuertemberg-Baden. The Third Army, with Headquarters in Munich takes care of Bayern. Most of the south Germany countryside we covered on our trip is rolling, with occasional high hills working up to the Alps in the extreme southern part. Much of the country is covered by artificially perpetuated forests, mainly pine and (in Bavaria) spruce. They are lovely, abound in game and are jealously guarded by the government as one of the valuable resources of the country. Between the forests the country is almost entirely agricultural, now largely planted in winter grain. As we drove along we watched the farmers and their women getting in their first licks of spreading fertilizer and starting ploughing. In many areas there was still deep snow on the northern faces of hills and banks, and for a number of miles between Stuttgart and Munich the whole ground was still covered. Excessive precipitation this winter throughout the entire area has left the streams badly swollen and much of the lowland completely waterlogged. With normal breaks during the growing season this should be a good agricultural year for Germany, as fortunate as has been the unusually mild winter. The extreme dampness resulted in fog and haze nearly everywhere we went, and this, combined with two days of rain, greatly reduced our enjoyment of the lovely scenery – for it is all very beautiful country. But we shall return and see it in all of its seasonal phases before our tour of duty in the ET is completed.
The little towns of southern Germany are delightfully picturesque. Narrow streets which zig-zag through the community, story book houses built right out to the street line, of all colors but almost invariably with red tile roofs, some of which are so weathered and covered with moss that the color variety is charming. Signs painted on the walls in black letter, the hanging metal signs of craftsmen and merchants which jut out over the streets and occasional crucifixes or shrines on the house walls (for southern Germany is predominantly Catholic) add greatly to the effect. And every once in a while a farm courtyard, with the ubiquitous manure pile, opens out onto the main streets. For German farmers mainly live in tight little communities, cheek and jowl with each other, leaving the countryside unmarked for miles at a stretch by buildings of any kind. One’s auto horn is sounding most of the time while passing through a town, for the Germans, adults and children alike, flutter aimlessly all over the streets like so many chickens.
Stuttgart must have been a charming city architecturally before the war, but to-day it is one ghastly reminder of the destruction which comes from the air. It was a prosperous manufacturing center and also popular with the tourist trade, for it is on the main entrance route to the Black Forest, which lies to the west of the city, spread out along the French border for a hundred miles or more. The city is built in the valley and up the sides of the steep hills which bound it to the south. On these hills are most of the better residential areas, many of which were touched lightly by the bombing, and here live most of the OMG workers, and here is the rather sumptious Military Government Officers’ Club where Wally and I were delightfully entertained Saturday evening by Col. Dawson, Military Governor, and members of his staff, including Lt. Col. Richardson, Civilian Personnel Officer. Sunday was a delightful day. We met at the OMG offices at eleven o’clock and six of us, plus drivers, motored in three cars 35 miles out into the country to the south to the Sky Lodge, now run by the U.S.Army, in the quaint mountain town of Wiesensteig, for a most delicious dinner – with the best beer I have had since arriving here, for post-war German beer is not what this delicious beverage used to be in the good old days. The views from the sky lodge are reputed to be superb, but we had to take our hosts’ word for it, for that day we were completely hemmed in at that point by a dense fog which cut visibility to about 100 yards. In the afternoon we spent some time at the Officers’ Club, before making our way to Col. Dawson’s home, a sumptious residence which used to be the Peruvian Embassy, for a very good buffet supper and a most entertaining evening. There were about twenty of us present. I understand that it is a weekly custom of the very agreeable old colonel, who, in civil life is a Cleveland lawyer and professor at Western Reserve College.
Monday morning we attended the weekly staff conference, then went into a huddle with “Rich” on the subject of civilian personnel. We lunched back at the transient officers’ hotel in the heart of the shattered city. It was originally one of the newest hotels in Stuttgart and was left in pretty good structural shape, though badly wrecked superficially by fire and concussion. It is now in the process of undergoing a complete remodeling and will eventually be an excellent hostelry, but to-day gives rather sketchy service and accomodations to the traveler. Right after lunch we started for Munich, about 128 miles to the east, through the most interesting country we saw. It was strikingly obvious when we passed from Wuertemberg into Bavaria, for trees appeared in orderly rows beside all of the roads, the architecture changed, and there was a bustle of repair work going on at every destroyed bridge on the Autobahn, where in Wuertemberg the sense of desolation at such points was profound.
And in Munich, which, as you know, took an awful shellacking, there was quite a bustle of construction work, repairing such structures as were not beyond reclamation and even some new building. I am not sure whether this typifies the greater industry and resiliency of the Bavarians or whether it is the result of more vigorous leadership by both the Military and civil Governments – possibly a bit of both. Here, in the city of appeasement, we had our first tire trouble, picking up a flat on the right rear wheel right in the shadow of the old Brandenburg Thor, one of the ancient gates of the old city. Our bumper jack refused to work, but the large crowd of spectators which immediately gathered took things in their own hands, literally and figuratively, for about eight huskies picked up the whole jack of the car while another took off the old wheel and replaced it with our spare, the corporal watching the proceedings with anxious speculation for fear they would drop the darned thing and really leave us in a hole. A tip of a couple of packs of cigarettes pleased our human jacks enormously and they sped us on our way in a very pleasant spirit. And here I want to digress for a moment to note the difference between these people and the Berliners, for the south Germans laughed among themselves, the children seemed really happy, none of the population had the pinched look of the Berliners with their frequent sullenness and veiled hostility. Again, this was probably accounted for by several causes. They were better fed, living in a rich agricultural center, and they were under the yoke of Americans, while the Berliner must suffer under the Russian yoke to a large degree. And by nature the south Germans are, I believe, a happier, better adjusted group. — It was late this afternoon and during the evening that we saw, for the only time on the trip, blue sky, the sun and the moon.
Our hotel in Munich was the worst yet and the room which we shared had apparently just been put in commission, for it was pervaded by the dank order of wet plaster, had not a vestige of heat, had no water running in the basin in the room and only hot water in the bathroom. Its main door was locked, for it opened from a hallway which had not been repaired, and we entered through an emergency door, through the bathroom, with no key provided to give us and our possessions any degree of security. The meals were the worst on the trip and the only thing we get to drink, other than a foul concoction which appeared as coffee on the menu, was a weak sour wine, neither sweet nor dry, and with no apparent alcoholic content whatsoever. In the evening we went to one of the movie theatres set up by OMG for its personnel, a dingy place where we saw “Too Young to Learn”, neither a bad picture nor a prize winner. Of entertainment or social graciousness by the men on whom we were calling there was not a vestige. OMG is set up in the large group of buildings designed for and originally occupied by the Wehrmacht, – office buildings, officer and EM barracks, shops and storage buildings, excellent accomodations for our purposes. In the late afternoon Monday and for several hours Tuesday morning we talked shop, got what we were after, and then shook the dust of Munich from our tires and headed north for Nurnberg, about 100 miles away.
Rurally and architecturally this was the most interesting part of our trip, despite the intermittent rain through which we rode, and I longed for an opportunity to get at some of the charming little towns with camera and paint brush. Yes, sir, Bavaria for my money any day, but not any of it connected with Munich – including the Office of Military Government. We had planned to spend a night in Nurnberg (Nuremberg), looking over the sights and trying to get in to a session of the Nazi trials, but a paucity of livable accomodations for us both and our driver, difficulty of establishing contacts to get us into the Trials, satiation in viewing ruins and general fatigue decided us in favor of pushing on to Frankfurt for the night, an added drive of about 120 odd miles, through Wurtsburg, a city notable for the huge ruined castle and fortifications on the large hill overlooking the city. In the morning we had crossed the Danube River, or Donau, as the Germans call it, and in the afternoon we went for miles with intermittent views of other rivers or winding around the steep curves in the thick forests which covered many square miles of our route. We hit Frankfurt at 6:45, just at twilight, got our billets at the Excelsior Hotel, as the Carlton was chuck-a-block, and made an evening of it with an old army friend of Wally’s and his wife. The next day I spent almost entirely in my hotel room, writing letters, reading and roughing out my report to the Boss, getting to bed early and continuing with the same pursuits until 2:30, when it was time for us to pick up our train reservations and climb aboard. The trip to Berlin was marred by the feeble light in my car, which finally completely gave up the ghost about nine o’clock. We reached Berlin about an hour ahead of schedule, which permitted me to have two breakfasts, one on the train and one at 7 In der Halde, where I went for a bath and complete change before reporting in at the office.
And there, mes amis, is the sketchy outline of the trip, a bare structure which I could pad for pages if time and your patience permitted. We both returned with a much clearer and more comprehensive picture of what Military Government is doing, how it functions at the grass roots level, some of its local problems and the people and the economy with which it has to deal. The value of the trip was enormous and, in most ways, its enjoyment was in proportion. And, even more important, we are able to give Col. Onthank a spate of advance dope, recommendations and problems which will make his trip of greater value than it might have been otherwise.
Spring has not yet come to Berlin and we have had none of those warm limpid days which you are so apt to have at this time of year in the States. It stays raw and forbidding, day after day, but the middle of March is the middle of March, and it can’t last much longer. And rumor has it that spring and summer here are quite delightful. Things are going smoothly in office and billet and the social life continues to be most agreeable. All in all, it adds up to a pretty pleasant existence, which would be made as nearly perfect as possible if I could get my baggage. We are making special efforts now to get this through, for we have some reason to believe that all water-borne luggage is piled in the warehouses on the Bremen docks. But to date there have been no favorable results. Mail has been coming through pretty well lately, although, in the same mail delivery yesterday I got one letter from the States postmarked Feb. 14 and another which left Alexandria on March 9! However, none of my mail addressed to the phoney APO has ever reared its welcome neck.
Best regards to all of you.