Heroes: the Army
"... I am, as you know, a battalion surgeon and have a little section of 21 men who work with me. Our works consists of treating the wounded man as soon as possible, fixing him up for transportation and then getting him back to where he can be properly cared for...."
William Hugh Hall
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Med. Btn., 406th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945 (Uncertain of These Dates)
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: Capt., Bronze Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1919, Great Falls, SC
- Entered Service: Uncertain
Capt. William Hugh Hall, Battalion Surgeon, 406th Regiment somewhere in
Europe with the 102nd Division.
William Hugh Hall on his wedding day with his new wife ----------------.
The photo above appeared in the local newspaper and the caption
read: "Lt Hall was stationed at Carlisle Barracks, PA." The Halls were
married just prior to William heading overseas with the 102nd Division.
Letters Home: William Hugh Hall, Battalion Surgeon, 406th Infantry
Recently, we at World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words were contacted by the daughter of a former member of the 102nd Division who had served as Battalion Surgeon with the Ozark Division during their campaign through Europe.
Mrs. Nancy McCoy was looking for information regarding her late Dad's experiences with the 102nd Division. As many men who had served during World War II, he had not talked about what happened during his time in combat and kept his silence for the most part after returning home after the war.
During his time with the 102nd Division, he did write letters to his Mother. The letters were usually upbeat and did not tell of the day to day horrors of the war. This was a common practice, for these men in combat did not want to worry their families back home. Additionally, the strict censorship codes would have prevented much of this type of information from every reaching home.
However reading through the following letter exerpts, one can read between the lines and get a glimps of day to day life of a soldier who was touched by combat on almost a daily basis.
Letter #1: Chicago, May, 1944.
We both shall miss being with our Mothers on Mother's Day or for that matter, on any day, but I will be thinking of you. Many times I realize just how fortunate I have been having the parents I had to guide me. I pray for the day when we can see you more often.
I have now received my orders to go to Camp Swift, Texas, where I will be assigned to the 102nd Infantry Division. I don't know yet just what my assignment will be and won't until I get there. We leave here on May 22. C. Swift is in (or near) Bastrop, a town of about 2-3000 people. We will probably have a time getting a place to stay. Austin, the nearest city is about 30 miles away.
Our stay in Chicago has been pleasant and we "sort of" regret leaving, especially since we had our little apartment. Patti has been learning to cook with surprising ease and rapidity. We have been eating breakfast and supper at home and I take lunch at the hospital.
Last Sat. evening we went to the Officer's Club dance and enjoyed our first dance since we were married.
We usually go out one night a week to a movie downtown and eat out. The last two times we ate at a Chinese place and had some Chow Mein and eggs Foo Young.
My pictures will be ready this Sat. and I will send you one soon. I am also getting enough for Elliot, Shockley, Uncle Hugh, Mrs. Dickinson and naturally, one for Patti.
Write us soon. Patti sends lots of love.
Letter #2: Camp Swift, May 25, 1944.
The following letter is a postcard from my Mother, who evidently was with my Dad when he went to Camp Swift. It is a color postcard from Camp Swift Texas and on the front is has a picture and states it is "Presenting Colors".
May 25 1944
We arrived here yesterday morning and are staying in Smithville. We have a nice room and Camp Swift is only 3 miles from here.
Everyone is so nice here. I think our stay shall be very pleasant. We'll write a letter as soon as we're settled.
Letter #3: Camp Swift, June 2, 1944.
June 2, 1944
Coming to this place has been a radical change of life. Gone are my hours of freedom and living at home. So far I have been into town (Smithville) only three nights since being here. However, I hope to get in more often from now on.
This is really the army. We have been out in the great open spaces most of the time on tactical problems. My position now is battalion surgeon, meaning I am the only doctor for about 900 men. I have in my command a second Lt. (not a doctor) and about 30 enlisted men, also two "jeeps" with trailers. We carry our aid station in these. There is certainly a lot for me to learn about this game that is not medicine. We were taught the theory at Carlisle B. but so much has slipped me, we got it all so fast.
Patti is being a good sport about having to be without me a lot but we try to make the most of what we have. It could be less. I have no idea when or if this Div. will move out but it has had a long training program so such a thing is of course possible.
We have a nice room with one of the very nicest families in this little town. Allen Wise is in the Div. also. You may remember him as one of my early roommates in med. School. His (Allen's) wife also stays here so Patti does have some company. Also there is Lt Harden who was in my class and his wife is here (in town). Patti knew her when she was in training.
I will try to work my correspondence back up. I think I did pretty well in Chicago.
Hope you got the picture "ok".
Write soon and give us all the news.
(p.s. enclosing a check for the deposit.) (Tell bank of my change of address)
Letter #4: Camp Swift, June 22, 1944.
Thursday, 22 June
For the past week we have been pretty busy with getting equipment etc. packed and making plans to leave. I am not permitted to say where we are going but will let you know as soon as we get there.
Patti left this morning and will get to Charleston sometime Saturday. As soon as I get settled and find us a place to stay I shall send for her. It made me very sad to see her go, we have been very happy and I believe we will always be thus.
I heard from Elliott a few days back but have not heard from Shockley or Hester lately.
I should be able to have a leave by about the middle of July. I certainly would like to get back in S.C. for a while.
About everybody in this outfit is much better trained than I am but I think I am in pretty good shape and have had no trouble keeping up.
Give my love to the folks when you see them.
* part of the signature is torn from this letter, but I am pretty sure it is signed Love Billie Hugh. Only the "Lov" and the "Hugh" can be seen. This is the first letter that I have seen Dad sign with Love.
Letter #5: Camp (Unstated), July 2, 1944.
Sunday, July 2
You have by now heard from Patti telling you where I am. I have been pretty busy since we came here with a lot of work on the post and hunting a place to stay in Trenton. I found a nice room in a very nice part of town with a Mrs. Anderson. She is widowed, has no children and is quite alone in this country as she came from Denmark about 25 years ago. We have limited cooking privileges which will take care of our needs.
No one knows the full significance of this move but I can tell you that the divisions that have been sent here before stayed about two to six months and then headed for the port of embarkation. Every effort is being made to "whip" our outfit into final shape so if we pass the tests and inspections I guess we will go "over". Keep all this to yourself. I can say this because I have no actual knowledge.
I will get a leave beginning July 20 and we will head for S.C. The fastest train goes through Charleston so we will probably go there first for a few days and spend the rest of the time with you. My leave is only ten days so that does not give me too much time.
You know, you could now visit Shockley and Hester and us all in one trip if you would. Trenton is only an hour from N.Y. City. We have a nice day bed in our room and it is pleasant at night here. If you travel be sure and get reservations all the way and back. I could get your return tickets from here. Be thinking about it. Perhaps you would come back with us, that would give you company one way, at least.
Patti jumped on a bus and got here Friday night after I had wired her I had a place. The bus ride was pretty rough. I would have stopped her if I had known she was going to do this.
Patti joins me in wanting you to visit us so think seriously about the matter.
Write soon and tell us how you are. Give my love to all the folks.
Patti sends love and a "hello"
Letter #6: Philadelphia, August, 1944.
For the past three days my regiment has been camped in the heat of Philadelphia. We were called up Saturday with about two hours notice to come down here to furnish guards in all the cars and stations of Phila. Trans. Co. Perhaps you read something in the papers about the srtike and the Govt's. taking the Co. over. Everything has been peaceful.
I have had nothing to do except sit around here in the park where we are encamped.
I saw Patti the night she arrived and have not seen her since. I sure hope we go back soon because I don't like this set up.
Mother, Patti and I *missing text here* our quiet stay at home with you. It was just the way we wanted it. I am sorry that our stay had to come to such an abrupt end. Apparently Patti's sister will be all right now. I certainly hope so.
Write us soon.
Letter #7: (Location Unstated), Sept 10, 1944.
Today is a day of rest and it has been just that for me. No duties have concerned me except sick call which was very light this morning.
I certainly enjoyed my talk with you the other night and my visit with Shockley and Hester. Hester seems to be much the same as she has been all along. I hope you can get up to visit them before it turns too cold. They say New York can be very disagreeable in the winter. In all my traveling around I have yet to find a spot like S.C. Some day I certainly want to get back there and I don't care if I never leave it again.
Mother, speaking of winter please take care of yourself this winter. I don't want you having those attacks of flu like you had last winter. If you develop a cold go straight to the hospital and take a few days off. You simply can't fight a cold and keep going. There is no reason why you should so just don't do it.
What are Uncle Hugh's and Aunt Corries' plans? I just can't imagine Uncle Hugh leaving the old home so I presume he will stay on there.
You know, Mother, I feel so thankful every day for the many things I have had. My parents, my training my wife, a healthy body, and a Christian background. If I should ever fail in anything it will certainly not be the fault of those who showed me the way. I pray not for my life but that I may have the courage to do the utmost for others.
Write soon and lots
Letter #8: Location Not Stated, Date Unknown.
Last night I saw Patti off and it made me feel pretty low to see her go. Our marriage has been such a happy one that I don't think it will ever be any different.
Patti could and would have stayed on until the departure but I persuaded her, finally, to go home where she would be safe and settled and could have time to become adapted to our separation before I left. It has been a strain on her the past few months because my hours of getting home have been so uncertain. Then, too, there is nothing for her to do during the daytime.
Things are still the same with my activity. Our leaving is a certainty and it will come about very soon. I will certainly call you before I leave if it is any way possible.
I was saddened to learn of Uncle Ben's passing, but, like the rest of you, I feel that his suffering is over. I wonder what Uncle Hugh will do now. I wrote Aunt ?Corrie? as soon as I got your telegram.
I got a long letter from Bob McCord (Wofford) the other day. He is now in the 78th Div. at Camp Pickett Va. and he says they are about in our shape. Maybe we will meet again on another shore.
I'll write often and you do the same and if anything comes up I'll call you for a farewell talk.
Letter #9: Somewhere At Sea, Date Unknown.
This is being written "somewhere at sea" and beyond that you will just have to guess. I'm thankful to say that I have not been the least seasick though I guess I'm very much "homesick".
Things are for the most part pleasant. I have been reading, playing bridge and of course performing my necessary duties en voyage.
I certainly miss my daily mail with news of home. I guess I will get a stack of letters soon, though, as Patti writes me every day,
By the time this reaches you perhaps you will have been to see Shockley and Hester. I hope you did or will before it gets too cold.
I think of all of you every day and look forward to the time we can all be together again.
Letter #10: Somewhere in France, Oct 3, 1944.
Oct 3, 1944
Today has been a rather easy one with little to do so I am catching up on my writing. I try to get out a letter to Patti every day and usually do so but I guess they get to her in bunches rather than one a day. That is the way mine have come. I got two from her soon after we arrived and two more day before yesterday. As yet I have not heard from anybody else but I feel sure letters are on the way. It is a difficult problem getting mail and supplies over here but all in all the army seems to be doing a good job. We have had no lack of food so far.
I am getting pretty used to the outdoor life and find it agrees with me pretty well. The main thing I dislike is crawling out of my "sack" in the early morning. "Sack" is the term for anything in which one sleeps whether it be a bed or a sleeping bag or what not.
The other day we got a close look at some German fortifications which fell earlier in the war. They were indeed formidable looking affairs. Plenty of concrete and steel went into their making but nevertheless, our boys took them.
We still can't get to do much sightseeing so I know very little about the country. I stay pretty busy with my duties and come night I am usually ready for some sleep. Perhaps later on I will get some chance to look around. As a rule, though, Infantry outfits do not get many "breaks" It is we who do most of the dirty work, so naturally our discipline has to be more rigid.
Wish I could drop in for a while and see all of you. It gets pretty lonesome over here but that is partly made up for in the comradeship with the other officers. There is a Capt Stills here who is from S.C. and several others in the regiment whom I do not know so well. Take good care of yourself-
Lots of Love
Letter #11: Somewhere in France, Oct 8, 1944.
Sunday Oct 8 1944
You letter came the other day and was very very welcome indeed. It is mail that keeps me smiling because it brings in a little touch of home.
Today has been a pretty one happily because most of the French weather has proved very disagreeable. I had a cold when we debarked but I have since overcome it and am now in the best of health.
I cannot describe any of our training but I can give you a few little pointers on my present life. I am tenting with Jim Bowman, my assistant battalion surgeon. We live in two pup tents which are placed end to end. This makes a tent about 10 feet long and 3 feet high. Not much head room, eh? We have to dress lying down or else get out in the cold. (I usually lie down & dress.)
About the country and people I still know almost nothing. We are restricted to our division area which includes no towns, only a few farm houses and country stores.
Patti has kept a steady stream of letters to me. They come in bunches but they are spread out enough to give me a few every 3 or 4 days. Apparently Patti is doing a grand job at Roper. She can't help but be the best nurse there. I can never thank God enough for giving her to me. I hope you two can get together sometime.
I don't blame you at all for not wanting to travel. We had a lot of it to do and it was never any pleasure because of the crowds coming and going.
My commanding officer said that I had the best aid station of the four in the regiment and seems pleased with my works to date. I will become eligible for a Captaincy in Nov. but promotions are slow over here so I am not counting on anything in a hurry.
Take care of yourself and give my love to the Jacobs' & any others you may see.
Letter #12: Somewhere in France, Oct 15, 1944.
Sunday Oct 15, 1944
I enjoyed enormously your two newsy letters earlier this week. At the same times they came, there was one from Elliot. Between you two and Patti I am insured of getting plenty mail and believe me it makes a big difference in the daily routine. Keep up the writing and I will always write when I can.
There is no more news from me except that I got to visit a general hospital on two different days for an 8 hr. period each day. I saw some interesting work and medical cases and enjoyed being under a roof and getting the good meals there. It's surely a better life than ours, but then I must not complain because there are so many whose lot is worse.
France is the wettest land in the world, I am convinced. We are all wet and it looks as though we will stay that way. That is just another one of my little grudges against Der Fuhrer, and there are quite a few who share my sentiments.
I have made up my mind that we will be here quite a while. The newspapers at home are much more optimistic than is my inclination.
Apparently William Jr is quite happily married. I certainly hope he will get to stay with his wife for a while longer. I would not take anything for just one hour that I was able to spend with Patti. The men who seem so anxious to get across change their tones pretty quickly. I was never one of those, however.
I'm glad that nearly all of the family are well. I surely wish that Hester could get a turn for the better.
Take care of yourself and write soon.
Anytime you like you can send some non-perishable edibles.
Letter #13: Somewhere in Germany, Oct 30, 1944.
Oct 30 1944
Things over here happen pretty fast and without warning, as you can readily see by the heading on this letter. We could not see enough back where we were so we got us a seat in the orchestra.
It's true there are many things happening here that make the pulse beat faster but please don't worry about me because most of the time I am fairly safe. I have not met up with any situation I could not take yet and I am in good shape mentally & physically.
While in France we were down near Cherbourg. I visited there several times. By now I have seen St Jo, St Eyr, Versailles, and places in Belgium, Holland, and of course the Reich. France is poor and devastated, at least the places I saw gave that impression. With Belgium and Holland things look better, and in Germany the people have all the conviences, almost, that we have in America.
It is hard to know how to treat these people (civilians). They seem friendly but if one treats them with friendliness they usually will take advantage of you. I like Gen. Eisenhower's policy which is that "We come not to fraternize with the conquered nor to oppress them." The ones in this region have little concern for their health as they stay right in the combat zone and get wounded and even killed. Most of the civilians we see claim to be against Hitler but the sincerity of most of them is to be doubted.
I had some ride through France. It was on a boxcar (small at that) which carried 35 men. Four days of that and we could hardly get the kinks out of us where we had been doubled up. At present we are faring well, getting our three K rations each day. It's not much variety but is an adequate diet.
Have not gotten any mail lately but I'm looking forward to a batch soon. Hope you are well. Lots of love.
Letter #14: Somewhere in Holland, Nov 12, 1944.
This letter is on a tiny sheet of paper that says V-Mail on the bottom. It appears to be a copy of the actual letter.
W.H. Hall 1st Lt
1st Bn Hq 406 1nf
APO #102 c/o P.M.
New York, N.Y.
Nov 12, 1944
As you can see I am in the lowlands and taking life easy at present. I found me a nice room with bed in a Dutch farmhouse. The people are nice, clean and friendly. They won't accept money but I have given them soap, cigarettes and candy for the children. These things are all rarities for them. The war has hit them rather hard but not as hard as the French. I wish those "Krauts" about ten years of this so they can see what they have done to the rest of Europe. Perhaps not all of them are at fault but enough of them must be.
I am still in best of health and have not had too hard a time of it. Hope you are well. A heart full of love,
Letter #15: Somewhere in Holland, Nov 15, 1944.
Nov 15, 1944
Guess this will get to you around Thanksgiving or a little after. While we are resting I will try to write you more often than I have.
You asked me what I did. I am, as you know, a battalion surgeon and have a little section of 21 men who work with me. Our works consists of treating the wounded man as soon as possible, fixing him up for transportation and then getting him back to where he can be properly cared for. The actual treatment is carried on way back of the lines so we actually are an evacuation unit rather than a treatment unit. Of course there are a lot of little things that I can do for men and not have to send them back. With the wounded we stop bleeding, give the first dose of sulfadiazine and often start plasma when the condition warrants it. Don't get the impression that I run around the battlefield picking up wounded because that is done by the litter bearers in my group. They, along with the company aid men, deserve a world of credit because their work is just as hazardous as that of the fighting men. One of my aid men has already been recommended for the bronze star award.
I don't savor this life at all but somehow I feel better about being up where we are doing something toward putting an end to the war. I got very restless and blue back in Normandy. We stayed there about a month doing nothing but tramp around in the mud all day inspecting. (Whenever the army has nothing else to do it holds inspections). If there is such a thing as "Sunny France" I never saw it. It rained every single day we were there.
I'm still well and thriving well. I hope you will stay well this winter.
Lots of love
Letter #16: Somewhere in Germany, Nov 20, 1944.
This one is also a tiny paper that says V-MAIL. The info on the top is the same as the Nov 12 letter.
Nov 20, 1944
Some little time has lapsed since my last letter. It's just another one of those things. I have a little cold but have been well otherwise.
Shockley wrote you were coming to visit them. I hope you had a nice trip and did not suffer any discomfort as a result of the long ride.
I am resting at present. We have seen some pretty rough times and some hard times but I'll have to save the details for later. You should be able to guess pretty well where I am. Elliot hit pretty close.
I got a fruit cake yesterday from Mrs Dickinson and all the boys are getting Christmas packages now. Heard from Elliot, Shockley, & Patti yesterday. More soon.
Letter #17: Somewhere in Germany, Dec 5, 1944.
Dec 5, 1944
It's almost time to wish you a Merry Christmas so I will begin now. I am so thankful that all my folks can have a nice peaceful Christmas. I hope it will always be thus in our land.
I'm getting along very well in spite of it all. Every day I accumulate more materials which I will tell you all later.
From time to time we find German medical equipment some of which is useful to us. I have a few German instruments which I hope to hang on to even though they were slightly "looted".
Yours, Patti's & Elliot's letters came in yesterday and I had one from Shockley not long ago. I do hope you are getting my letters regularly because I write you every week with few exceptions.
Elliot tells me you were looking and feeling well when he saw you at G.F. I am glad and hope you will stay that way. It's interesting to hear about all your activities and those of the rest of the family.
I heard from Bob McCord the other day. He is in England, or was when he wrote. I hope he doesn't have to get into this. Will write more soon.
Devotedly & with Love
Letter #18: Somewhere in Germany, Dec 7, 1944.
Dec 7, 1944
We are out of the line getting a little rest at present. I was very much pleased and thrilled to get three boxes today, one of which was from you. Thanks a million, Mother, every thing in the box will be used and needed. I also got a letter from Patti with a letter she enclosed from you. I'm sorry you are not hearing from me regularly, because I have written you more than you received. I hope by now you will have gotten all my letters.
I never cease to be thankful for the beautiful life that lies behind me and for you all who have made it possible. This thing over here has very little beauty attached to it, and it is, therefore, necessary to live in the past and future at times, to be able to stand it all. Believe me, the love that comes from you all can be warmly felt even at so great a distance through your letters and boxes.
I had a nice shave and wash up today and am enjoying the mental relaxation that comes with a rest.
Please give my regards to all whom I know and my love to the family.
A heart full of love to you.
Letter #19: Somewhere in Germany, Dec 9, 1944.
Dec 9 1944
Things are pretty quiet with us at present and I'm enjoying something of a rest.
The red cross man was reported bringing up some stationary but it didn't reach us so I'm using a notebook. We will have plenty stationary in a few days, however.
I do so appreciate everything you sent me and the Christmas sentiment with it. Those thick sox are just the thing now, and I wear the sweater under my jacket.
The boys in my section are certainly doing well, nine of them have received bronze stars and one of them a silver star for their action. They earned them, too.
We have a piano and a heater in our present cellar making life a little fuller for all concerned. We also have some coffee for brewing and it tastes mighty good.
Well, it looks like winter with all its discomforts is nearly here. I had hopes to see this conflict over before the bad weather came but from where I am sitting I can't see the end to this. Perhaps the boys in the armchairs can predict but none of us up here can.
I'm still in as good condition as ever and am much more accustomed to things than I was earlier. There are some things, however, that one never becomes accustomed to.
If you go to New York I hope you have a nice trip up and back. I know S&H will be so glad to see you. Hope Hester was able to benefit by her trip to the Hannover Dr. She has suffered so long.
Incidently I can now tell you I am and have been in the 9th army. Perhaps you have read about the 102nd by now.
Lots of love and Christmas cheer.
Letter #20: Somewhere in Germany, Dec 15, 1944.
Dec 15 1944
This will probably get to you about the time to greet you with "A Happy New Year!" I do hope that it will bring greater joy and comfort than the old one has.
I am in a rearward rest area and the relaxation is great. We have houses with stoves and some beds one of which, I was lucky enough to get. Whenever we are pulled out of the line I'm usually busy for a couple of days but then it slacks off.
Today I washed me some clothes to put on next time I changed. I had a shower & clean clothes yesterday as well as a shave. It's a grand feeling to get cleaned up. My little group received ten bronze star awards and one silver star award today. These are given for meritorious and exceptionally good service in combat, and the boys have really rendered such. I received a back letter from you today and it was very newsy and interesting. Some of the airmail letters come by boat because of the bad flying weather in winter so they don't come in consecutive order. I guess mine do the same way.
I'm glad to note that Wm & Hugh met in Italy and that Hugh will get home soon. He certainly has earned it.
By now, I guess, you will have returned from N.Y. I do hope you enjoyed the trip and took Elliott's advice to get Pullman reservation. I know from my experiences that it is well worth the cost.
I am still well and managing to keep my spirits even if not high. They'll never be high until I get some U.S. under my feet again. That is a mighty, mighty fine country.
Give my love to the Jacobs and my regards to the friends who ask about me, especially Mrs Bailey.
Devotedly & with love,
Letter #21: Somewhere in Germany, Jan 1, 1945.
Jan 1, 1945
I am enjoying a rest spell at present and a very good way it is to start the new year. The artillery for miles around all sent a shell to "Jerry" at midnight to wish "him" "happy new year!"
My mail has not been coming in very fast lately so I haven't much news of any of you except Patti. I got a letter from her dated Dec 21 so it must have been flown over. Only a few letters get to fly now because of the weather. I am still well and in good spirits. The bronze star award was given me for the medical service rendered during our first attack which took place during the 9th army drive which you have no doubt already read about. The news at present is mostly about the 1st army and, I am glad to note, is better every day,
By the time this reaches you I guess you will be back from spending Christmas in New York. I hope the trip was not uncomfortable and that you are safe and sound at home.
It is quite cold here now and there is a little snow on the ground. I don't care to see it get deep, though, because it is not pleasant to work in or go through. We have a nice cellar here with two stoves that keep it very cozy so I am not suffering any cold.
I sent Patti a copy of the citation that I got and she will let you read it. The medal will be delayed but I will send it to her when it comes.
Love to all the folks and a heart full to you.
Letter #22: Somewhere in Holland, Jan 3, 1945.
Jan 3 1945
Yesterday and today I have been in a rearward rest camp enjoying all the relaxation that comes with freedom from cares and responsibilities. There have been movies, music, dancing and other entertainments. Tonight I went to watch a dance for the soldiers. They had many attractive Dutch girls there for partners. They seemed to dance well and some of them even "jitterbug" a la American style. Two of them gave a little Dutch wooden shoe dance which was very good.
The rest camp is in a medium sized town which has not been so badly torn up by the war. The people and the town seem very much like our own except the language.
I still have not heard from anybody but Patti for a couple of weeks. I realize all of you are writing but winter has slowed the mail down.
My quarters here have been very comfortable and I could not ask for a better rest. It is remarkable how this can bring relaxation, laughter, and new life to the boys who come back here from the "Foxholes".
I hope you are well, Mother. I think of you constantly and thank God every night that you are my Mother.
Letter #23: Somewhere in Germany, Jan 15, 1945.
Jan 15 1945
Things at present are very well with me. The news from all directions seems encouraging. I like to hope and think that this part of the war could be ended with a few months of successes.
I am well situated at present and we have many of the comforts of home right up front. All it takes is a good strong cellar, a light strung off of a "jeep" battery, a gasoline mantle lamp, and the furniture through the courtesy of the krauts who had to move out in a hurry.
I had a letter from Elliot recently saying you were in New York and I had the Christmas card you wrote in N.Y. Patti's letters are coming in regularly now. For a while the mail was slowed up but that situation has been relieved.
It's good to know that you have been well this winter and I pray you will continue to have good health.
I guess by the time this letter gets home Hugh will have had his 30 days. I would be happy with three right now.
Give my love to all the folks when you see them. I don't get to wrote everybody in the family but I think about them often. I would like to have Hugh's and Williams addresses so I can write them. Lots of love.
Letter #24: Somewhere in Germany, Feb 5, 1945.
Feb 5, 1945
Both of the fruitcakes came through in fine style. We have been enjoying them by eating a slice along with our evening brew of coffee. I also got a letter from you yesterday dated Jan 9. It was very interesting, newsy, and sweet. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip to visit Shockley and Hester. I had v-mails from both of them lately. Elliott is still very faithful and writes once or twice a week.
Just after I wrote you last I got the package of stationary and chocolates from Mrs. Bailey so I wrote and thanked her.
I'm glad to hear that Hugh Jacobs is in good shape and that he is about to join the "ranks" of us old married men.
The nurse draft business has caused me some concern. I sometimes feel that I am selfish in keeping Patti out. I think she would have volunteered some time ago if I had not discouraged her. I just hate to think of her getting mixed up with some of the people in this world. I'm sure she could meet any situation but I hate to have her take the rough bumps that I know exist under army conditions. Also I would hate to come home and not be able to have her with me every spare minute.
Mother, I'm so glad you have been well and I do hope you will always enjoy good health. I long very much for us to all be near you again. I only hope the next few months will help us see the end of this part of the war. Things on the other side of the globe don't look so bad either.
Give my love to the family
Letter #25: Somewhere in Germany, Feb 18, 1945.
Feb 18 1945
The mail lately has been coming in wonderfully and I believe you are one letter up on me now. In your last letter you had not heard from me and you were afraid I hadn't gotten the fruit cakes. Perhaps by now though you have my letters of praise & thanks for the same.
I am in the usual good health and am very comfortably situated at present. The other day I got back to Holland for a while. I went to visit Hewey Mead, an ex-medical school friend of mine. He is located in an evac. hospital and likes it there. (I don't blame him). The short trip was delightful and the day was a nice one. The country back through there is pretty and it has not been devastated like this part of Germany has been. Don't ever let any body tell you the Germans were starving or hard up. I see many civilians from time to time and none of them are begging or looking to us for anything. Unlike the Italians they are just as proud as ever and they go on about their affairs with almost no concern of the war. If allowed they would make demands of you as if they were the conquerors. Small wonder that they are hard to beat and mark my word, they won't quit until they are beat. The word "mercy" is something that they neither ask nor give. It's just as well, though, because it will be their destruction in the end.
I hope this letter isn't too depressing because I had no intention of doing that to you. I just like to be sure that all of you back home get the facts. I guess, though, now everyone is more acquainted with the truth about the Germans and you realize that it isn't all over.
I had a nice letter and valentine from Isabelle today. She is very excited about going to Junior High this fall. I guess she will be a young lady indeed by the time I get back.
Mother, I'm always so thankful for all the beauty that has been in my life and every day & look forward to returning to that life. At least I have plenty to reminisce about and it means everything during the darker hours.
I hope you are still well and in good spirits. Give my fondest regards to Uncle Hugh and the Jacobs. I always enjoy the news about them through you.
Worlds of love-
Letter #26: Somewhere in Germany, March 4, 1945.
March 4 1945
Doubtless you have followed our activities of late by reading the daily papers. Things have gone very smoothly to date and I hope it will continue thus and the sooner capitulation the better. At present, though, I see no evidence of anybody surrendering.
We are getting some rest and it is delightful. The accommodations here are good. We have running water (hot & cold), central heating, electric lights, and radio. I took me a nice warm tub bath and changed clothes. After sleeping in cellars and stables and whatever you can get for a while it feels good to get a nice place to stay. Our present place is the residence of a Nazi in good standing. There are now many more civilians to deal with and they are just the same. None of them admit having any sympathy with Hitler or the Nazis. Frankly I am more and more in favor of hanging any and everybody who had any large part in initiating or propagating this war. They could have been a great nation had they diverted their talents into peaceful channels because their work is in most instances superior. The furniture, machines, instruments, and fixtures they have are all modern and well ordered.
I am still well and all in one piece, for which I am thankful. I had something like "flu" for a few days but I did not have a chance to humor it and it passed off all right. I do hope you are still well. I guess Spring is just around the corner. It's going to make me mighty homesick when Spring begins over here.
Lots of love to all the family.
Letter #27: Somewhere in Germany, March 16, 1945.
March 16 1945
Things are rather quiet at present and although I have been fairly busy with administrative works I have managed to take life pretty easy lately. We are still well situated having all the conveniences of home, except, of course, a family. Sometimes, though, I feel like a mother with these twenty medical soldiers to handle. When they are not busy they are naturally restless and will get into all sorts of more or less innocent devilment.
I'm enclosing a little photo that one of the boys made and developed of me. He, Pvt. Christie, has a regular developing lab rigged up in one of our rooms. The picture was taken several weeks ago at one of our old aid stations. The old brick and mud thatched structure in the background is a barn such as once sees in all the small towns and farming communities.
I got three letters from Elliott this week and several from Patti. Don't think I've had one from you since I last wrote. I'm glad that all the news from home has been good and I hope you will all stay well.
I see the peace rumors have begun to fly again. Don't take any stock in them just yet because "Jerry" is still fighting as though he meant it.
Hope this finds you well and in good spirits-
Worlds of love and devotion-
Letter #28: Somewhere in Germany, April 16, 1945.
April 16 1945
Lately, I have not been able to keep up my correspondence as I was quite occupied. I did get off a letter to Patti and her folks when I heard about Patti's brother being killed on Iwo. I think he, Jay, was the favorite son. I had met him earlier and he was a very friendly and likeable boy. He looked a lot like his mother. I know this has been a big blow to Mrs. Dickinson.
I am still well and in good condition all around. You can now add Wesel, Munster, and Hannover to my trail. The 102 did not take any of these towns but I have been through them. The Air Force did a very thorough job of tearing Wesel and Munster apart before the "doughs" got there.
I am very sorry to hear of the death of our great President. He has served us long and well. No amount of criticism from the other wing can change my views about Roosevelt. He has done a wonderful job during peace by helping us through a financial, industrial, and social revolution with a minimum of confusion. It is a mistake for people to blame him for changes which were inevitable. He has merely served to control these changes. I am afraid, however, that our social revolution is not over and will take a lot of skillful handling in the future. As a leader in war we could have asked for no better than President Roosevelt. Consider that in the entire war there has never been any conflict between the President and his military leaders. This can not be said of Lincoln, who constantly squabbled with his generals or even of Hitler who presumably had more power over his generals than did Roosevelt. Yes, Roosevelt will go down as one of the great men of all times in spite of the attempts of little people with selfish interests who have tried to belittle him. I did not mean to write a eulogy but perhaps I have. I hope it will give you a little change from what you usually hear about Roosevelt.
We are getting a little rest spell at present. Needless to say, the war is going well in our favor but the "diehards" are still doing just that. Don't look to them for surrender. They are criminals who know they face punishment so they have chosen to die fighting. We have seen much evidence of their crimes. Most striking is the mass of Poles, Russians and other refugees who were forced to live here in Ghettoes and work for small wages. Our own shirts will never be clean until we right this condition in our own country. I certainly don't profess to know the answer to the negro question but it is certainly one that we will have to face in the near future.
Mother, I miss being near where I can see you often. I am so glad that Elliot, Mary and Isabelle are not so far and can exchange visits with you. Please send this letter on to Elliot and Shockley & families. I hear from all of you often and every letter is wonderful. I realize that I probably don't answer all of your questions because I can't keep all the letters and answer them systematically. Tonight we all listened to President Truman speak to the joint congress. His was a good speech and I sincerely hope that he can keep all the factions of our nation working toward our goal of victory and subsequently a sound plan for world peace. Needless to say this plan will have to be well drawn and executed in order for its success. The German does not regret starting this war, he only regrets that he is not winning it.
I miss Spring and everything at home. Hope all of you are feeling well.
Worlds of love and devotion.
Letter #29: Somewhere in France, April 27, 1945.
April 27 1945
Today finds me putting up at the army rest & recreational center on the world famous and beautiful Riviera. The beauty of this place is indescribable and I know you would enjoy every inch of it. From the hotel window here I can see the blue bay below, then the stucco houses and hotels built on the slope which leads up to a mountain in the background which forms a backdrop for the scene. I will send you some views of it.
There are all sorts of things here to enjoy such as swimming, tennis, boating, music, reading and shows at night. A more complete recreation ground could not be found anywhere. The army supervises the center and all the help are French and they are masters at the art of giving the kind of service that millionaires and royalty desire. In normal times that is the "traffic" they cater to. I guess this place represents the last word in European splendor.
I think I shall have no trouble being recreated while here and I only wish Patti could be here with me to enjoy it.
I'll write you again when I have seen more. I hope you are well.
Give my love to the folks and keep plenty for yourself.
Letter #30: Somewhere in France, May 1, 1945.
May 1 1945
Saw where you were deluged with another peace rumor. How I wish it were true.
I'm still enjoying my rest here. The past two days have not been quite right for swimming or sunning but I have enjoyed movies, ping-pong, chess, music by the A E F orchestra (Formerly Glenn Miller's), and just plain relaxation. I'm enclosing some views of Cannes to give you an idea. The war hit here but not enough to make any great change.
Know that my thoughts will be especially of you on Mother's day though my love, admiration, and appreciation of you will be the same on any day in the year. I wish so that I could be with you and go with you to church on that day with my red rose on. I attended church services here yesterday in a beautiful little Anglican chapel near the hotel. An army chaplain conducted the service.
Mother, I hope you are well and enjoying a lovely Spring.
Love and Devotion
Letter #31: Somewhere in Germany, May 12, 1945.
May 12 1945
Well, I got back to the outfit just in time to be greeted with the long awaited unconditional surrender. Naturally it was not as big news with us as it was at the other places. The reason for this was that our army had been at rest for some days on the Elbe. Too we saw the end as a gradual disintegration rather than clean cut surrender. They were beaten and I do mean good! May the "Sons of Heaven" take notice. Incidentally we were perched on the Elbe and were ready to cross & head for Berlin but the order was revoked twelve hours beforehand because by then the Russians had things under control over there.
I enjoyed every moment of my little vacation and we had nice flying down and back. We really covered some distance when one looks at it on a map.
Maybe now Patti will get to see you. She wrote me she had resigned because of an unpleasant reprimanding about something in which she felt that she had been entirely justified. For that I don't blame her and I know that she has "stickability" because she took a much rougher time of it there for three years as a student nurse. I wish so that I could be back there and she could devote all her time to me and a home. I do hope she will pay you a nice long visit.
As yet I have no knowledge of my future though I have some pretty strong "hunches" I'm really hoping that we get to the States if only for a while. Even if we do, though, it may be months.
Hope all is well with you and the others of the family- Love to all-
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "Letters Home: William Hugh Hall, Battalion Surgeon, 406th Infantry", by William H. Hall, Capt., 406th Regiment, is a result of transcription of letter sent home by Dr. Hall to his mother. Additional letters will be added as they become available.
The letters are re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the daughter of the late Dr. William Hugh Hall, Mrs. Nancy McCoy. Our sincerest THANKS to Mrs. McCoy allowing us to share some of these personal letters.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 30 November 2006.
Story added to website on ---------.
September 5, 2002.
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