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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Letter from friend Marie to Catherine Katopes, 1944

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Object ID: WV0122.4.013

Description: Katopes' friend Marie writes from France, but describes her recent stay in England including buzz bombs, daily activities, and sightseeing. Marie describes the more primitive conditions after arriving in France, and talks of learning how to recognize “bed-check Charley.” She writes of her tours in Versailles and Paris, and mentions the Parisians’ eagerness to talk to her and their gratitude for Americans coming over. She mentions a mutual friend who has become engaged, talks of their trying courtship, and friends’ attempts to provide wedding gifts. She mentions several other mutual friends, and says she enjoys being with the Training Branch of G-3 despite harsh conditions.


Biographical Info:

Collection: Catherine G. Katopes 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 Catherine,

I have been carrying a letter of yours around with me for a very long time and as this morning holds promise of being a not too busy one, I am going to try to write you. First of all, let me say it was grand to get your letter. When you wrote, July 16th, I was still in England, but shortly after getting your letter we were off to France. Perhaps I'd better start by telling you a little about England, first.

To begin with, we were most fortunate in our ocean trip. The weather was calm and beautiful and it was almost like a pleasure cruise - well, almost! We were pretty crowded in our rooms but were permitted up on deck from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first part of the trip and the last part we took the 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. shift. We had two meals a day - breakfast at 8. Dinner at 5. Those were our particular hours for those meals, but they fed other groups all day long. Some had earlier breakfasts - some much later, etc. I wish I could tell you the name of the ship, where we landed, when, etc. but that will have to wait. We were stationed in the southern part of England - and plagued from the third day of our arrival there with the buzz bombs. They really were awful things and frightened me -and the rest too- nearly to death. We knew, from the time of our arrival there that we would leave some time or other for France and we felt we were using up our chances of longevity fast as long as we remained in England. While we were there, they had long daylight hours. It did not grow dark until after 11 p.m. We had a fine setup. Lived in nice billets in a nice location. We had only to keep our own rooms in order. Charwomen did the rest of the cleaning. For the first week or so, we stood reveille, took PT etc. but then the buzz bomb menace was too great to take chances with formations - so, no reveille. Which meant that I, for one, selpt [sic] until nearly 8 and grabbed a cup of tea and a bun for breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Our office hours since we have been in the ETO are 8:30 to 5:30.

The long daylight hours gave us plenty of time for sightseeing. And there was a great deal to be seen. I was in London frequently, on pass, and saw all the sights of "London town". The cousin of a friend of mine from home, a Londoner, entertained me there a couple of week-ends, the highlight of which was dinner at Claridge's. I was very interested in visiting and revisiting Westminster Abbey, St. Pauls, watching the of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, listening to the orators in Hyde Park, attending Mass at Brompton Oratory and at Westminster Cathedral. One Sunday I took a boat trip up the Thames to Richmond, where we saw Hampton Court, the home of Henry VIII. Kew Gardens was most interesting and beautiful too. The weather, as far as I was concerned, was ideal. It was cool, sometimes even a little cold. We always wore our wool shirts and blouses in the office. It was an "unusual" summer for them. In fact, both England and the northern part of France had cool summers, while in the States it was blistering. I enjoyed the cool weather after a summer at Ft. Oglethorpe. Even while we were at EFS in May it was unbearably hot.

So you have no doubt inferred, and correctly, that I enjoyed my stay in England. Except for the buzz-bombs, I was unhappy at leaving.

Once again, we were fortunate in our channel crossing. The weather was calm and lovely. We disembarked from the ship via landing boats lowered from the ship's side - and from there onto the beach in France. Our first home was an apple orchard, where we lived in tent - three to a tent, sleeping on canvas cots, washing and bathing out of helmets (when there was sufficient water for these purposes) eating our of mess kits, sitting on the grass, or standing up when it was too wet. Right in back of my tent was a German pillbox. Also, we had "bed-check Charley" over at nite [sic]. Don't know what for. Thank goodness he never dropped anything - but we began to know the sound of his motor. It was somewhat like the intermittent buzz of the robot planes.

We moved from the orchard into buildings, which were somewhat of an improvement, although my room, being a garret, with little windows in the ceiling, minus glass, we had running water when it rained. The name of the hun who used the clothes closet (a crude wooden home-made job) before me, was still tacked up on the door. I have sent it home for my scrap-book. Our office was in an old orphanage.

I was able to visit Versailles and Paris on pass recently. That rather made up for some of the inconveniences, etc. While I had but a short time in Paris, I was able to take a Red Cross Tour of the City and managed to at least glimpse most of the interesting sights. It was very thrilling - especially the wonderful welcome which we received from the Parisians. Every time we stopped, either in a vehicle or on foot, we were surrounded by a crowd - eager to talk to you if they knew any English, or else just to shake your hand. They are so grateful to the Americans for coming and said they had waited so long and often wondered whether "they will really come - the Americans". Managed a few minutes for a glass of wine at the Cafe de la Paix. Versailles was most interesting too. We went thru the Palace there and saw the room, the Hall of Mirrors, in which the Treaty was signed in 1919. The gardens are really out-of-this-world.

Before I go further, I must tell you, in reply to your question that Anderson is here too. She has met THE man - a soldier in this HQ. They met in London, and became engaged almost on sight. They have applied for permission to marry and are now just waiting for the two months period to elapse before the U.S.A. will permit them to take their vows. Wini was with me on the visit to Paris and bought trousseau there - a sheer crepe nitie, and some other underthings. A couple of us have written home to get her a couple of additional nities and a slip, etc. She is having a rather trying courtship - as you can imagine. They can seldom be alone.

In your letter you asked if we had been issued the new summer

uniform. We have never even seen it. Since we left England, we have been in field uniform - field shoes, leggings, combat trousers and blouse, woolen shirts and helmets. We certainly are a fascinating looking bunch.

We must have about ten or twelve girls in this Det. who were stationed at Ft. Oglethorpe - mostly in the WAC Det, S.C. However, there is one, at least from Hq Co. - named Kintas. You will probably remember her. She has a laugh like a hyena.

Incidentally, in London, I ran into Sgt. Noble (Alfreda) at the Red Cross. I saw her a couple of times there. She was with the ETOUSA Detachment (European Theatre of Operation U.S. Army). She was working hard - in transportation, and I don't think liked her job much.

I had better say something about my assignment. Originally I was assigned to the Plans and Operations Branch of the G-3 Section. I was with the Deputy Chief of Staff and enjoyed the work immensely. Then, when we came to France, that Branch was not with us. I am now with the Training Branch of G-3 and like it equally as well. It is exceedingly interesting, as you can imagine. Recently I received a promotion.

Really, life in the ETO is not any harder than by best considered judgment told me it would be - and I volunteered for it. Under those circumstances, I have no cause to grouse and complain - but I do my share of it. I don't know why. I know conditions cannot be helped, but perhaps it's a healthy escape of emotion. I know one thing. If they told me I could go back now if I felt I could not take any more - I'd refuse. So that ought to tell me something.

I hope you will write me soon again and tell me what you are doing, and where. Glad you liked Kennedy General. Best regards.

Sincerely, Marie