Heroes: the Army
"...'At the time your husband was killed, we were fighting an intense action against a brutal attack by two German Divisions in the vicinity of Meijel, Holland. Naturally, in the face of such an assault, we were forced to give some ground..."
Robert Lee Rutledge.
Image taken approximately 1944
Robert Lee Rutledge
48th Armored Infantry Battalion
(7th Armored Division)
United States Army
Killed in Action: 29 October 1944
1944-45 -- Newspaper clippings telling the story of the events in Holland with regards to Pvt. Robert Lee Rutledge.
The following is a series of letters received by the wife of Robert Lee Rutledge, Marguerite, following the death of her husband during Allied operations in Holland. Correspondences between Marguerite Rutledge and Gertie Heynen-De Klerk were helpful to the Rutledge family in attempting to cope with the devastating loss of a husband and father during war time.
The letters below are text versions of the original letters received by Marguerite Rutledge from Gertie Heynen-De Klerk, Wuk-Maastricht (Holland), Membredestraat 10.
Dear Mrs. Rutledge,
I received your emotive letter this morning and I thank you that you put your faith in me. I certainly will go to Margraten to the grave of your dear husband. I understand so very well your feelings and I hope that it will afford you some consolation to know that there is a Dutch woman bringing flowers to and praying on the grave of your beloved husband. I will do this will all my love and I will go there as much as possible. So I have now to take care of two graves at Margraten, one for you and one of the brother from a dear American friend of us. It is 45 minutes with the bicycle, high on the top of a hill from where you discover the city of Masstricht. For the moment there is so much snow fallen all around to go there but as soon as the sun shines again I will bring flowers and take a picture. I thank you for your offer to send me films but I can get them very easy in Belgium.
Also I thank you very much for your picture. You know you are looking like my girl friend from Paris. You are French looking indeed! Send me real soon pictures of your dear children. So I send you now two pictures we took with Ben Shadrick and his friend. On one I am with also a Dutch friend of us on the other you see my husband Harry. They are not very well but for us and I hope also for Ben it is a nice souvenir. The other picture represents our home. Maybe your brother-in-law will not recognize it, because when he came here it was already evening and awfully out bombed. Tell him that our home is rebuild and that is as nice as it was before the war. You know we lost many things by 3 different bombardments. One by the Americans and two by the Germans. The other picture show you the same room before bombing in 1944 I have very nice picture of myself and Harry and I will send them to you in my next letter. I want this mail to go fast and I will not make it so heavy . When Ben Shadrick came at home, I had forgotten all my English, because I have been in Paris 7 years where I followed the High Schools and the University. But talking everyday I got it back and tell him that I have been working for the Americans as a Interpreter, French, German, Dutch, English for almost 14 months in different outfits. We had a lovely time and we made very nice friends between them. Harry has been chief cook and pastry baker for them also in that time. You know I have a clever husband. He is not only an excellent cook and baker, but also an artist painter and also he makes very nice things in clay. After being fashioned this clay is baked, then varnished and baked a second time. I hope to send you real soon a nice souvenir from those artistic things.
Here in Europe, but especially in Holland, life is hard and terrible esepensif. All the things you really need you can't get, like wool clothes, shoes and also the food. For example: we get only 100 gr of coffee every 3 months; 100 gr of meat every 14 days. There's no butter only margarine. Children get some butter but really not enough. Never eggs and that in Holland before the war, a country so rich on butter, meat and eggs and milk. But we don't despair, the Dutch people always see the sun shining between the clouds.
I really hope that you will visit us once. You know my home is large enough and there will always be a place for you. You will be very welcome. I wish I knew you. The time I write this letter, your picture is placed before me and sometimes, I look at it. But even if you are unhappy, dear unknown friend, think about your children. Try to smile even if your are unhappy, dear unknown friend, think about your children. Try to smile even if your hearting is broken. They need you more than before, because you are father and mother together now. We don't have children and we are married 7 years now in September 1946. We just married in September 1939. The war came over Europe. We started to go to Maroc in Africa for our honeymoon but Hitler came between our plans. And so we hope to come real soon to the United States. I traveled through Europe and Africa and I want to see America and my friends up there.
So I hope to hear from you again as soon as possible. Will you call me Gertie next time, please? My name is Gertrude. So you and me we both have french names because Marguerite is really French.
Tell hello for us to Ben and ask him to write us.
So goodbye now Mrs. Rutledge, until the next time.
Your Dutch friend,
I join two pictures from the Cemetery so you get a look at this very big place.
P.S. I'll send tomorrow this letter from out of Belgium, it seems to go faster. Please write how long time it took before reaching the U.S.A.
G. Heyne-de Klerk
Maastricht, April 16, 1946
I received your fine letter a couple of days ago and I can't tell you how happy I am with the nice picture. What a fine kids you have, real good looking nice children. And looking at your dear and regretted husband, I can imagine that you miss him so very much. Even that the picture is not so good, I can see what a fine looking fellow he was. But you see, and we don't know why, God takes always the finest flowers from his garden, first. But if your dear Robert could tell you, I'm sure that he should tell you to make the best of your life here, for yourself and your children. So keep smiling, like on your photo and God will help you. I send you a picture of myself made last year and also one from Harry. I hope you'll like them.
Till now I've not been up to Margraten due to many reasons.
First the weather and then I've been around 3 weeks in Amsterdam and den Haag, two big cities of Holland. I told you I mean, that we want to open a pastry store and that keeps us awfully busy. It is so hard to get anything and it cost so terrible much money, really I could not imagine before we started. I tried to send you some postcards from the other parts of the Netherlands but there are none. I'll mail you together with this letter, but not by airmail of course, some cards of Maastricht how it was before the war. Maastricht is the oldest town of the Netherlands and the first liberated city of the Netherlands. The American Army liberated us September 13, 1944.
Our nice bridges are blowed up first in 1940 by the Dutch Army and later in 1944 by the Germans again. The Americans and English bombed several times our city and so it reaches, or better, it has happen to us 3 times. But I told you already. Further we got some V I and V II around the city. But enough about the war!
We have since a week a wonderfull weather, real summer. So I hope to go one of this days to the cemetery. Some days after I got your first letter, I received a letter from a mother. She loosed her son also here in Holland and he is also at Margraten. She got my address from the buddies of her dear son and I take care of the grave of the brother of that buddie. So when I go up there I will have to walk all over this big place and I'll give work to the P.W. who are serving there. The crosses on the graves having only the dog tags. You can't read the names on a picture so the guards let make for each grave you want a cross with the name on. I hope you'll be able to come over here and see yourself. I saw in French, the American Cemeteries of the other war but none is so large as this one. But even if I don't go there, they put every week fresh flowers on your husband's grave.
There is a flower shop around Margraten and you can command as much flowers as you want. They bring it and take care of the grave and we pay every month for that. That service is really easy. And every evening before I go to sleep, I pray for your Robert like I pray for you. I'm Roman Catholic. And you? Tell me please because they organize special services from the different churches for our allied dead friends. You see, you Americans, are close to our hearts.
Dearest Marguerite, I close this letter wishing you all the best. To Ginger and Leron a big smile from Holland. Tell them that we don't wear wooden shoes over here!
August 2, 1946
I hope you will not be angry that I did not write such a long time, but I'm so busy with my store . And even this letter will be very short for the same reason. Just I want to send you some pictures. I made them when it was forbidden to put flowers on the grave and another one, my husband has made. I hope you will like them and I'll try to make some better. But you have already something and you can be sure that there are everyday flowers on his grave even if I don't go up there.
I hope you will write me real soon. I enjoy so much your fine letters
Excuse me for what I ask you now. Would it be possible for you to send me a real good lipstick in a dark colour. Here is nothing good to buy. Because I can't send you money, will you please tell me what I can send to you from Holland? There is not much over here but maybe can I find a real nice souvenir for you.
Will you write me what kind of things you like?
Don't be angry dear friend for this short letter. Next time I hope to write you much more.
Everything being the same there is not much to tell. My pastry store is a success and I'm happy and thankfull.
Well so long for this time. Tell hello from Holland to your dear children.
Sunday Morning, October 26, 1946
I received your wonderfull packet yesterday and I want you to know how happy we are with all those nice things. The lipstick is just the colour and the mark "Coty" I bought always in Paris and also here before the war. However my friends from Paris may not send it because here in Europe everything is forbidden. So you can guess how glad I'm receiving it. For the stockings, there are simply no words to tell you how I like them and needed them. There are none over here. Sometimes those big hose in awfull colours which my housemaid would not wear to work, so you can think and imagine what it is. Last year I've bought some in Belgium but having no francs I can't go there. Francs are black-marked in such a way that I can't pay it. Really it's so crazy. I'll wear the scarf this afternoon going to a show and I'm quite sure that everybody will look at it. We don't have them like that. Harry is so proud of his neck-cloth that he shows it on every body and also the socks because we don't have or had them like that here. So I thank you very much. I'm ashamed that I asked for lipstick because you are sending so much. The size of the stockings is allright, I'm tall, and the powder smells my good old Coty. I'm trying to send to you since a couple of weeks all kinds of things and every time the official office from the Hague, refused the exportation. So today I'll fill in another paper (that's what we do here most of the time) and I hope they will not refuse it again. It's so crazy I asked to send to you a bracelet made of Dutch silver coins; it is forbidden. I wanted to send to a friend of us in New York, (because he's always sending cigarettes) a pair of sleeve buttons also from coins; forbidden. Tulip bulbs, forbidden, only to send by dealers in a big quantite. And so I could continue a long time. But still I hope to send you something for Christmas. Your fine letter from August I received only a few days ago. Better send them by airmail. How is Ginger now? I hope better. Well, I wish I could meet you all! On the pictures you're looking such a fine family. Here I've still Papa with me. My mother died in 1942 and Papa stays with us. Sometimes he goes to my sister living 250 k.m. from here, but he likes most of all to be home. He was a Captain of the Dutch police and a fine fellow. He had always fine horses to ride on. I was and I'm still proud of him. He has 71 years now but he's looking like 60. He is such a fine dadd.
I wanted to go this afternoon to Margraten but the weather is so stormy and it's raining all the time. There is an Autobus going to the German border but the cemetery is between the fields and there is no house and no place to wait for the bus. When they pass, most of the time, they don't stop being filled up and so I like more to take the bicycle. But sure I go the first of November the day of the dead here. I go as much as possible there mostly on Sunday afternoon. I like to be there it's so peacefull. I wish you could come. Did you hear about some people who adopted your grave? There must be somebody they told us in the newspapers that every grave was adopted by someone, but I never found flowers except mine. I did not adopt any grave, I don't like to do things written on a paper, I do it with all my heart. The whole summer I brought the flowers of my garden. Last Sunday I brought chrysanthemums (little whites) and for Friday I have some mauves. That will be the last. After that I will command it again on the flower shop from Margraten village.
What about your brother in law? Tell him that we are very angry because he did not write.
Well dearest friend, I will close this for the moment. Say hello to Ginger and Leron and to you all our love.
Gertie and Harry
November 19, 1946
Thank you so much for your fine letter I received today. I'm always very happy hearing from you and your children. I've not much to tell you for the moment but I want to send you included some grass I took on the grave of your husband. It is a little souvenir and I think it will bring you a little bit closer to him. Yesterday the policemen of Amsterdam visited the cemetery and they played there some good music to honor the deads of our liberators dear to all of us in Holland. Also yesterday I've met a young Paris lady who come to visit the grave of a friend of her. I promised her to take care also of that grave because she can't come of course, it is so far away from here. Today I brought her to _____ in Belgium where she got her train back to Paris. I'll send you tomorrow a little packet containing some little things I got the permission for to mail to U.S.A. I hope it will not be broken before it reach you. You'll get your bracelet as soon as I can and may send it to you. I'm sitting in my bed to write this. We have so much to do now. The 6 of December we have St. Nicolas over here that's for the children mostly and that with Christmas and New Year are the days for the pastry stores. So every body command and buys things made from sugar and chocolate and sweet things in pastry.
Dear friend I have to close because I'm very sleepy. Say hello to Ben and his wife and congratulate him with his kid from Harry and me.
We all say hello to you and the children.
Your Dutch friends,
Gertie, Harry and Papa
P.S. You ask me what to send to me next time. Well just send nothing but I'm very thankfull for the idea. You are a very fine woman and I only want to meet you once and to keep your friendship!
Bye until the next time.
G. Heynen-De Klerk
Wuk-Maastricht (Holland)\ Membredestraat 10
November 25, 1947
Thank you very much for your fine and long letter and I should like to read you much more, I mean to receive more letters from you. It is too sorry that I don't have myself much time to write. Right now we are very busy with Christmas time and New Year and our store is filled with people the whole day.
It is wonderfull nice all you have written about your dear husband. I can understand it so very well. And I feel the same way, for not bringing the body over to the States. They are so peaceful up there. I really want you to see it. Why not coming next year? I know travel must cost much money but that is the only thing you have to spend. For the rest you don't need any money at all. I will come on the Harbour and you don't have to worry about anything after that. Think it over, you would do us such a great pleasure and I'm sure you will like it here in Holland. I have place enough in my house and I'm also sure it will change your mind. After seeing Margraten Cemetery you will feel better. Of course you will always miss your beloved husband but you can't continue that way you know. It is terrible that this has happen to you, but life is going on and you have to look forwards. You have your dear children and your mother and time will h help you. And also, therefore, you have to come over as soon as possible.
After visiting the place where he has been there will be peace in your heart. Maybe it is not easy for you to spend that much money, I can pretty well understand, that if you are not really rich, life is hard for a widow of a soldier. I see them around me and American or Dutch army it seems to be all the same. And life is so terrible esepensif. But anyhow think about and talk it over with your mother and if possible come next summer. We will be very happy to receive you.
This letter was also to tell you that I've sent to you a little box containing 3 teaspoons of Dutch silver because you did not receive them last year as you wrote to me. I filled 2 Dutch farmers with chocolate for the children and some for you. I hope you will like those little things because there is nothing else to send. You have more things than we have here.
You asked me for sending some food. Well, I thank you very much for your offer, but this is not necessary. We here in the pastry job, as I can explain it like that, we have really enough to eat. I mean not always what we should like but really enough. You know we can get many things black-marked. I don't like it but I have to. The only things we can hardly buy are good clothes and stockings. For a winter coat I bought a very fine fur coat because wool is not good here. If you could send me some nylons no. 10 or 10 * and 1 underskirt like I got from you last year (I still have it and wear it only when I dress up). I would be very happy with it, if it is not too much trouble for you. I have an American family across the street I told you about; well they are so black-marketed as hell. They are selling cigarettes each packet a dollar.
November 28, 1947
I can only finish this today; we are getting crazy for work here. So excuse me dear friend and write real soon. Happy Christmas to you and your dear children also your mother.
From Papa, Harry & Gertie
Below and right:
Newspaper clippings dedicated to the Memory of Robert L. Rutledge and a map of the Holland area where the American Cemetery is located near the village of Margraten.
Click on the map image to see a larger version of the American Cemetery in Holland.
Original Story from messages received on 12 June 2002.
Story originally submitted on: 2 July 2002.
The material depicted above, The Search for Pfc Robert Lee Rutledge, was contributed by Mrs. Ginger Rutledge Gregory , who is the daughter of our subject depicted in this series of documents.
We wish to express our sincerest THANK YOU for the outstanding effort required to assist us in bringing the story of Robert Lee Rutledge forward for all to read and appreciate. Tireless dedication by wonderful folks such as Ms. Gregory will forever help in keeping THEIR memory alive -- the fine folks of America's Greatest Generation.
Should you care to look at additional material relating to this subject, you may do so by choosing the following links:
The Legacy of Pvt. Rutledge
The Search for Pvt. Rutledge
The Search for Pvt. Rutledge, Pt.3
A Daughter Lovingly Remembers Her Dad
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
We at World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words wish to offer our profound "Thanks" for the excellent material contributed by Mrs. Ginger Rutledge Gregory.
September 5, 2002.
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