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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Letter from Lola H. Ryan to Mother, Dad, and Stub, 1945

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Object ID: WV0362.4.003


Lola H. Ryan writes in great detail about V-E Day celebrations in Marseilles, France, including French revelers swarming the streets, a party at the local T.C. club, multiple guns salutes, and the celebratory artillery salvos that occurred throughout the following night and day. Other topics include Franklin D. Roosevelt's death, and her trip to Cannes, France, with "Lamb" on leave.

Creator: Lola H. Ryan

Biographical Info: Lola H. Ryan of McGraw, New York, worked as an operating room nurse in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II.

Collection: Lola H. Ryan Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Dear Mother, Dad & Stub,

Well, hang on ’cause we’re off to another long run and even I don’t know on what page will be the last lap.

To begin with I’ll answer a few of your questions in past couple of letters. No, it certainly was no military secret over here that our Pres. was dead. Far from it, I thought I had written you about it. I do remember sending the Stars & Stripes. We all felt very bad to think that the end was so near and one who had pushed himself ever forward as Pres. Roosevelt has done to achieve this for us and the world at large, and then not be here to witness it.

You asked about the new APO. Well over here most units of any size usually have their own APO so that no matter where they move their mail comes through faster because they aren’t continually changing APO.

Thanks for sending the card to Theresa for me. I have some perfume I’m sending with a note as soon as possible.

Never mind the Journal of Nursing. I haven’t read 1941 yet.

Well suppose this is really stale news but I know you’d like to know what it was like around here on V-E day. To begin with we’d had rumors every day that this would be the day. By the time the actual news came around we weren’t much concerned. A few went out and “tied one on” as they say in Army lingo or got plain stinko [drunk] but for the most part the French did the celebrating. It seems they had won the war so they were really celebrating. Every thing was quiet around camp until 3:00 PM, 8th May when the whistles began to blow. Then the French women that work in the mess hall & clean out quarters got out in the courtyard and began shouting “Fini la guerre! Viva France! Viva les Americains." They said the streets downtown were jammed full of people, kissing each other on both cheeks, real French stuff, snake dances down the main street and if possible to get a jeep onto the street the Frogs [French] climbed all over it until the poor vehicle was hidden from sight. We celebrated first by going to a special V-E church program in our own chapel and then we went to the movie at the Post Theatre and saw “Rhapsody in Blue.” We had just gotten back from the movie and stood watching the tracer bullets across the sky and listening to the ack-ack guns near by when a couple of the guys from the Transportation Corps came. They wanted us to go to the T.C. club for the V-E celebration. At first Lamb and I said no we had to work the next day so wanted to go to bed but they said they’d give us exactly 5 minutes to get dressed so we finally went. Well it was about 11:00 when we finally got downtown and every Frog in Marseille was out. It took us fully 10 minutes just to cross the intersection. Lamb was sitting in the front seat of the jeep and some Frenchman came up to the jeep and said, “Oh Mademoiselle, please, may I kiss you?” And he took her head in his hands and planted a kiss on both cheeks before she could answer. Oh-la-la!

Finally, after a struggle we finally made if down to the harbor road and to the T.C. club. There it was another bedlam. I think every officer in the Transportation Corps was there and several others besides and each had either an American girl or a Frog with him. The drinks were all free for the night and they had all sorts of paper hats, whistles and razzle dazzles. Bedlam plus! You couldn’t hear someone yelling quietly right beside you. Strangely enough there were only a very few that were really sauced. Guess it was because the waitress couldn’t elbow her way through the mob with the drinks.

I never have been kissed so much before in my life — by majors, full colonels and even a Lt. Commander of the Navy!

However, aside from the American Clubs the Americans for the most part went on working and let the French celebrate. They gave us a half day the 9th and the French declared a week holiday and everything was closed. All day long on the 9th you could hear big guns going off and in the afternoon they had a parade with French, Russian, British and American troops which I didn’t see. Then they had gun salutes to different individuals. I stood up by the O.R. as I was on duty and listened for the guns. First you’d hear the guns go off and then high in the sky, seconds later you’d see a flash, a puff of black smoke and then the report from the shell bursting. Reminded me of when we first arrived and the ack ack guns would shoot at the German reconnaissance planes. We called them “Bed-Check Jennies” because they’d come at about the same time every evening. They had a many gun salute to Pres. Roosevelt.

Well, guess that about covers that subject except now we are training P.O.W.’s to do our wash so they work with us all over the place. Little did I know when I came in I’d be working with those — — — - — -.

Last weekend Lamb and I finally got in our trip to Cannes which is a place for officers only on rest leave. Of course that rest leave for us is a joke seeing as how we’ve only been over here such a short time. However, we enjoyed it even though we had such a short time there. They tell us we’ll probably be getting more leaves soon so maybe we’ll get back.

We left Sat. at 7:00 and took the train to Cannes. Takes 4 hrs. and the country is beautiful. All along we saw huge field[s] red with poppies and gorgeous arbors thick with various colored roses. The mountains through which the train passes, often in tunnels, are solid rock. The rock is very reddish-orange as is the dirt in most of the fields along the way. Most of the farmers apparently spend their time raising grapes because we saw fields & fields with very straight rows of vines. They looked very picturesque standing out such a fresh green in contrast to the rich red earth. In many places we could look straight down and find the Mediterranean within a few feet of the cement supports. In many places the railroad had been wiped out and repaired and maybe that doesn’t give you a queer feeling to see the cement side railings fade away on both sides and all you can see is down—down is a heck of a ways too.

On our way we passed though Toulon and San [sic, Saint] Raphael as you probably know they were places of the Mediterranean invasion.

On the map you can see where we stayed which was about 7 mi. from Cannes—a place called Juan les Pins (pronounced John-lay-Pan).