Circular Letter No. (what is it?
12 Or 13?)
Bachstelzenweg 11, Dahlem, Berlin, Germany.
9 November 1946
Dear Stateside Friends:
It’s typical weather for this time of year – raw and drizzling, but what care I? For this evening I’m leaving Berlin for two weeks for my first vacation since I reached the European Theater. For two blissful weeks I can forget frustration, SNAFU, Military Government, personnel an’ever’thing. My itinerary will take me to Frankfurt (Germany), Strassbourg and Mulhouse (France), Basle, Lugano and Lucerne (Switzerland), and Chiasso, Milan and Rome (Italy) – just a tantalizing taste of what is here to be seen but a worthwhile “half loaf” any way that you look at it. It is far from the best time of year to take such a trip but better in that direction than Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden or the United Kingdom. One of the boys who just returned from the Swiss-Rome tour said that he struck clear, warm weather – possibly I’ll get in on the tail end of the good luck. This is a regular tour, run by the Special Services Division of the Army and is by far the most popular with our American travelers. I kissed the office good-bye last evening and am taking to-day writing, packing, and doing other odd jobs which have waited for some time to be done. I’m leaving Ahyaks with some OMGUS friends who are thrilled at the thought of having him for two weeks. I hope they don’t repent of their offer before the time is up.
I understand that the trip is a bit rugged, with six nights on the train (sleepers, I hope), but everyone returns enthusiastic about the sights and experiences. Possibly this will be my only opportunity to get away for – unless something unexpected turns up while I am away, I plan to end my tour of duty in Europe with the termination of my contract, 28 December. I’m going to make every effort to beat that deadline by about four days, so that I may have Christmas in the family circle, but, even tho the best plans are laid over here, the uncertainties of transportation are so great I may miss the holidays in the U. S. completely. Most of the boats provided by the government are Liberty ships which take a full ten days from Bremerhaven to New York, and there is a good possibility that I will be held up from three days to a week or more at the port waiting for my turn. Some of the ships are slower – as much as two and a half weeks on the water, and I may draw one of the tubs. If I find that there is little chance of making it by Christmas I may take “delay en route”, that is, a few days leave in one of the nearby countries, while I am awaiting my turn at Bremerhaven.
Eager as I am to see home again, I should be very happy to put in another year or two over here, and George Vadney is exploring the possibilities. But my highly specialized experience and training fits into very few of the openings in the theater, particularly as most of the military government shops are retrenching heavily in the matter of budget and are slashing personnel rather than taking them on – the one big exception being in clericals, of which we are in very short supply. My work in the Personnel Office is really finished and even if Col. Duke had not reorganized the office so completely that my functions are now spread out among several folks, as responsibilities incidental to their other chores, the initial task of setting up a civilian personnel structure in this army installation is over. The task now is to keep procedures up to date, to develop programs and then operate them. A very good and experienced procedural analyst, several grades lower than I in the salary scale, has come over and can carry on very capably – provided they let her, which is definitely the $64 question in the minds of all of us civilians. My friend George Vadney, who got me over here is leaving very shortly for another job and the office is in the hands of five colonels none of whom know anything about personnel work, and the good old days under Col. Onthank are no more.
So it is quite probable that I shall be leaving Berlin around the middle of December and I suggest that no packages be sent me after you receive this letter. Letters, yes – until about the seventh of December, unless I report a change of plans in a later communication. I shall try to get off one more circular letter, telling of my vacation trip and possibly giving you more definite news regarding my plans.
In recapitulation, I feel that this has been a rare and valuable experience, and 1946 will always impress me as the most interesting one in my life’s explorations- it has broadened my horizon and trained me toward an appreciation of the new problems which we, as world citizens, must face in the future. And I shall always have a nostalgic longing to get back here again when things have settled down and Europe is living a more normal life. I have learned to love this place, even in its distressed and war torn state. I have gained a bit of the viewpoint of the European as only one who has lived here can gain it, for one must have an understanding and sympathetic realization of the backgrounds which formulate the habits and thinking and psychology of the people, an understanding which can never be gained from books and newspapers, in order to know what makes them tick. He learns that American desires and solutions of international impasses may not always be correct and good – that we are, after all, just one of many countries whose rights must be considered.
I’ve made some grand friends (not all Americans by any means), I’ve had some happy highlights and experiences, I’ve worked hard and I feel that I have accomplished something – tho far from what I had hoped-, I’ve been driven frantic by frustration, and I’ve had some bitterness. But, all in all, it has been a perfectly grand year, the memories of which will always be fresh in my mind and carefully nurtured. If only more Americans could have the same opportunity – and if only our foreign cousins could get to America and learn it from the human side – how much happier and more tolerant this shrinking world would be. I had a most interesting talk the other evening with Maja Purvis, Austrian born and bred, and British by adoption. She has never been to America and, despite intelligence and excellent education, her whole concept of the nature and motivating impulses of the Americans is completely cockeyed. But the number of our countrymen, civilians and military who have been and are here are, in a small way, helping in the task of selling the U. S. to those whom they meet. It would be foolish to say that the teaching of the Americans or the education of the Europeans has all been beneficial, but in the main I believe it has been helpful to all concerned.
My extra-curricular life during the past month or two has pretty well followed the pattern of previous weeks, although there is a continuous trend here toward building a small American city in Berlin within the European city, with most of the characteristics of suburban life at home cropping up in growing measure. I don’t get to Harnack House more than once a month, I rarely eat out, except at the family billets of my friends, after a strong flare up a month or so ago, cocktail parties seem to be on the wane. Mebbe it’s partly seasonal, mebbe it’s a reaction, mebbe it’s just a phase in the fluctuating curve of life. There are going to be a lot of changes over here in the next four months, for during that time the contracts of a large proportion of the civilian employees terminate. Many will want to go home, many must be slashed from the payrolls and many will gird their loins for another tour of duty. If I could find the proper niche I’d frankly like to be in the latter category. Ho hum. I wonder what last Tuesday’s Republican landslide will do to the United States. There is certainly lots of room for improvement. I wonder whether the post-war madness doesn’t just have to run its course whatever the political picture may be. I’m afraid that poor Truman is the unwitting scapegoat, inevitable with the fall of the Roosevelt powerhouse and the reaction following the war. Somehow I can’t agree that he has been such a personal failure many people like to believe he is.
And now to mending my gloves and packing. The drizzle continues and at times seems to be veering into a light sleet storm, but tomorrow and the succeeding days may be different in Switzerland and Italy. And with that hope I’ll leave you. Best regards to you all, and don’t forget that letters will still be most welcome for several weeks.
Please show this to Ade. I have no extra copy for her. Lots of love. Can you take care of me at Xmas if I can make it?