Circular Letter #10
Office of the Personnel Officer,
OMGUS, APO 742, c/o Postmaster,
20 July 1946.
I’m stuck for the afternoon pulling duty – the most beautiful Saturday afternoon of the summer, when everyone else is out at Wannsee sailing or swimming, or just lying in the sun kicking up their heels – so I might as well stick you too. General Clay has just announced that it is not sufficient for the Personnel Office to have a Duty Officer and a duty clerk on the job Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday, we must also have a Senior Duty Officer. And I’m the first one. We shall break it up into three shifts, and as there are only about six or seven senior executives in the P. O. it means half a day about every other week end. Not that there is enough to do to keep one able bodied person busy – answering calls, both ‘phoned and personal, accepting cables and expediting replies when they are “hot” and running up to the office of the Chief of Staff with The Answer when the call comes. However, such is life when you cast your lot with the Army.
For those not familiar with Stars and Stripes, the overseas Army daily, that paper features a column each day entitled “The B-Bag” – if you are unfamiliar with Army slang the “B” may puzzle you – and I had best leave you bemused, for there are sensitive souls among those who peruse this letter. ‘Tany rate, the column is devoted to unexpurgated gripes, suggestions and infrequent commendations from anyone of its readers who cares to contribute. It has all of the heart interests of the Personal Column of the London Times or Advice to the Lovelorn. Which is simply prefatory to saying that my home public’s B-Bag recently contained the remark that my letters were too impersonal and told too little about my own doings and affairs. Possibly a just criticism, but I have felt that my reaction to the German scene was more interesting than my own puny affairs (please note the purposeful omission of an “e” on the end of that word). However, once in a while I’ll throw in a purely personal letter, later returning to the bigger interest – to us, at least. And this will be the first of the new series.
To start with, I’m disgustingly well and healthy, barring an occasional twinge of arthritis or neuralgia in or about my joints, quite normal, I believe, for one of my advanced years. I’m eating with too much gusto and am determined to moderate my appitite but haven’t yet started the new and more restrained diet. I get pretty close to eight hours sleep most nights and wake up in a fine fettle most of the mornings. I wear my civilian uniform consistently, and am a bit tired of the monotony of it, but expect to break out in “civies” on frequent occasions, starting in another week or so, for Edith Vadney arrives this coming Wednesday and is bringing with her my trunk full of clothes from my previous existence. George can hardly wait for her arrival – nor can I! This heavy winter uniform gets a bit irksome some of the warmer summer days, particularly when one tries to dance in it. We are permitted to omit our blouse or ETO jacket in favor of a wool shirt during duty hours, but Harnack Haus is more formal and demands the full uniform. Under normal conditions I prefer the uniform, but there are times when one wants to get some relief from it. More and more, the OMGUS girls are appearing in fresh wash dresses and they certainly add color and variety to the scene on the Campus.
That word is one which is being used more and more here as the Compound and its environs are beautified and facilities amplified, but one friend of mine recently remarked, “Yeah, but some of the people on it act more like prep school kids than college folks.” But it really is lovely, attractive buildings spread out over a considerable area so that there is plenty of room between for broad, lush lawns and flower beds sparkling with color under the tall pines of Grünewald Forest. Truman Hall, the new mess hall, across the street from the Compound, is most attractive in appearance and adds considerably to the perspective and the campus look of our headquarters. As atmosphere in which to work it is delightful – at least at this time of year. Behind Truman Hall is the Berliner Hockey Club, with baseball diamond, tennis courts, etc. It is here that military formations and events are held on the occasion of holidays.
Yesterday noon we had a colorful event take place just fifty feet from my office in the entrance courtyard to the main entrance of the Director’s Building. General Clay awarded the medal of the Legion of Merit to the French general who is his opposite in the French section of military government in Germany. Across the front of the building were higher dignitaries of our shop and across from them was a detachment of soldiers with their helmets and rifle stocks highly polished and standing in perfect formation. On one side was a platoon of cavalry, beautiful matched horses and everything “spit and polish”. On the other side, directly in front of me was the OMGUS Headquarters Band. And from the white staff in the middle of the courtyard hung the garrison flag, fully thirty feet long, lazily swinging against the deep blue and cumulus clouds of a perfect summer sky. After the presentation, while the French brass stood at salute facing our officers also frozen at attention, the band struck up the Star Spangled Banner and La Marsellaise in most spirited fashion. But in the midst of it I was forced to create what was almost an International Incident, for Ahyaks, whom I had on leash, reacted most unpleasantly to the strains of martial music and he and I were forced to decamp suddenly.
Yes, Ahyaks accompanies me very frequently to work and acts like a perfect gentleman at all times, accompanying me as I roam around and making friends with everyone. The other day I left the office for a few minutes without him. While I was out someone opened my office door and he was out like a streak of lightning in search of me. Dot Saunders, my secretary, pursued him and looked all over the building for him, finally locating him curled up, perfectly at home, at the feet of the Chief of Staff. He’s a grand companion and we are devoted to each other. He is extremely gregarious and tries to make friends with other dogs, but if they want to fight he puts everything he has into obliging them. The other evening I had him for a walk, off the leash, when we met up with General Clay’s Boxer, about 20 lbs. heavier and much less friendly. Ahyaks immediately waltzed up to him and went through the amenities demanded by dog etiquette. But friendship was not in the book and the Clay dog went at him. Immediately I had a real fight on my hands – two full grown, muscular Boxers who were out for blood. I got my left hand under Ahyaks collar, hoisted his forty pounds arm’s length over my head and proceeded to whip the Clay hound with the leash. Fortunately, his antagonism apparently extended only to canine opponents, for he turned tail and ran. It was the only serious incident of that sort I’ve had – and I want no more.
My billet has turned out to be most enjoyable. John Watson and I (it was just the other day that the combination of names occurred to us) hit it off very happily and I shall regret losing him when his family arrives in September. He’s about ten years younger than I, a lawyer, schooled at the University of Michigan, and possessed of a dry and rather elfish sense of humor. Our other mate, replacing Charlie Baldwin, has just come back from the States where he has been on leave after two years in the Anti-aircraft department of the American Forces in the ETO. Name, Major Lester Born, in his early forties, now an archivist with the Economics Division of OMGUS. He seems agreeable, but has not been with us long enough to have really impressed himself on the scene. Erika continues to be her irrepressible self, full of zip, completely uninhibited, a complete clown, and full of fun. Hans, her husband, seventy years old, has been sick in his basement room for the past five weeks with a combination of ailments, and can’t seem to find his way out of his troubles. He’s a very fine chap and we are quite concerned about him.
Completing the household are Hilda, the scullery maid, and Schnappsie, the daschshound. Hilda is typically German peasant, short, fat, and eternally giggling. Schnappsie is as much of a clown as is his mistress and is completely devoted to Ahyaks, with the result that wherever I go around the house or for a walk I have two dogs at my heels. The two dogs horse around together, giving each other plenty of exercise. Ahyaks is very gentle with the kleine pooch, but occasionally gets unintentionally rough, at which Schnappsie yelps, takes a nip at his big friend – and the play starts all over again. All in all, a delightful environment in which to live.
As soon as I can get some supplies from the States I expect to start doing photo processing and enlarging – something I’m keen to get at. I’ve developed my films taken to date, but haven’t trusted them to the PX for printing. The dressing room between my bedroom and the bath is an ideal dark room and in the bathroom are two large basins with a small dental bowl between – ideal for photographic work. John is quite a photo bug, too, and I expect we’ll do quite a bit of work together.
The rather hectic pace with which I started my sojourn in Berlin has been ended, due to exhaustion, the change in physical arrangements for entertainment here and the dissipation of my old circle of friends, some to the States, some to other parts of the Theater and others settled in other ways of life here. We eat at home almost every evening and spend our time quietly there, alone or with friends. Occasionally I step out, usually on a weekend – Saturday evening when I can sleep late the next morning. Last Saturday Gen Sullivan, Boston Irish and an old WPBer, entertained for cocktails, this evening I’m going to a similar party given by Gen Plagman and Mary Lamore, two girls in the Personnel shop, both members of the first commissioned class of the Waves and both discharged as full lieutenants – and two swell girls. Monday George and I are to be dinner guests of Beryl McClaskey (old friend of WPB days) and her charming billetmate, Mildren Beklen. And so it goes. When the wives of my best friends here arrive I expect I’ll live an almost perfect American suburban life, quite a change from the days of last winter and the spring.
Col. Duke, our new Personnel Officer, has infused the Personnel Office with new life. He is a Regular Army man, former Brigadier General, with service in Japan and several stations in the States behind him as a war record. He’s about my age, a firey bantam cock with a picturesque speech and lots of bustle. We are having a complete survey made of the office, in which I’m participating, as a result of which will come something of a reorganization of function and operation – and possibly of personnel. I’m pleased to find out that he intends to throw most of my routine reporting functions to the Administrative Officer or possibly the Adjutant General and use me more fully as a planning and research assistant – work which I should have been doing all along but from which I was detoured by force of necessity. I’m putting from 44 to 50 hours of intensive work into my job each week and liking it very well, but terrifically handicapped by lack of help in my sector of the operation.
And there you have it, my friends, not very exciting or unusual, the saga of a perfectly normal life. I was delighted several days ago to have my friend, Major Cece Hightower, call me up from Casserta, Italy, and we had about five minutes conversation. I’m hoping that we can get together one of these days, either in Berlin or Rome for a bit of a visit. Our work is quite similar, he in Military Government in Italy and I here. How little we could have predicted it last summer when we lay on the lawn at Clamor Court and chinned together.
It’s now five o’clock, 1700 hours in military language, and I have but an hour to go before I’m relieved. So far the afternoon has produced two inconsequential ‘phone calls – hardly a busy four hours. Best regards to you alllll.