Memorial Day and WW2's Melvin Love
Posted by Terry Love on May 27, 2001
 

 

 

 

 

   Since it is Memorial day weekend, 
I thought I would share some letters my father
 sent to my mother while he was serving in the army.  
Terry Love

Fort Benning, Georgia
Infantry School
November 2, 1942

Dear Pamela,

Just a line a bedtime. The squad room has only 6 of us at home this evening which is a large number considering payday week. Twenty five of us live up here now, the rest of them are out tanking up. Some of the six that are here now would be out except for minor ailments such as poison oak, boils and such.

One would normally expect to find an army of courageous men in a place like this. We have some good men in the army.

In making an army that will fight it is necessary to build courage into the men. Courage is not always a born trait as some may believe. The essence of courage in a fighting man is competence in his profession, the knowledge of his weapons and seasoned ability to use them. The confidence gives the final outward manifestation of courage. To be good as a fighter a man must really know his stuff. If a man is merely bluffing he is apt to break down when the shellfire cracks his veneer.

When a man is regarded in civilian life as a fighter, it usually means that he is competent at fighting other men. That is the definition Hitler places on the "fighting" man. He says a man must fight.

The theory we hold to says that a man must fight also, but he doesn't have to fight other men. He can fight disease, nature, flood, fire, and famine. This kind of fighting is the real thing. It is the kind of fighting engineers do when working out a mighty project. That is the American philosophy of democracy. Often men are called sissies because they lack the physical vigor to engage in human contests, but they may be the most proficient fighters of all were the facts known.

It is this silent kind of fighting that a man has to do in a competitive world to supply the need for his family. It is the kind of fighting I like to do the best. The opponent is sometimes intangible and has the odds in his favor, but that is the way life is set up.

I have a lot to fight for, the finest family any man ever had, an understanding with my wife that makes life really worth living. Carrying on research while attending the Infantry School has the effect of giving us a private fight on two fronts--one military and one economic.

Your letters of cheer and assurance, darling, are wonderful morale builders. You will probably never know all that goes on in the mind of a man when he receives a cheering letter from loved ones at home, but the part you play in my happiness is beyond measure. Keep up the good work, sweetheart.
Goodnite my love,
Mel


Lt. M.V. Love
August 14, 1944

Dearest Darling,

I presume that this is the 15th of August or there about. It has been a week since I came over the Beachhead and into France. It was thrilling to crawl over the side into the landing boat and sped away towards shore. When the bow hit the sand and the ramp dropped, we came out on the beach that will mean so much in history. Despite the seriousness of the occasion, I felt somewhat exhalted just to be a part of this tremendous drama.

We have lots to do and are busy doing it as rapidly as we can. So far, the weather has been good.

By now,
With all my love,
Mel


Sept. 28, 1944
Dearest Pam,

Today I have a few minutes to spare for a change. We have been and are extremely busy.

I can't tell you a great deal about how I feel as there are no words that can describe the terror of the battlefield. When we lay on the ground with the shells falling thick and fast, 150 MM - and larger, the world seems to be coming to an end. Each moment of waiting while the sound of the projectile is warning of its approach, seems an eternity. We can tell it is coming in close and bury our faces in the mud. There is nothing we can do to get out of the way, Just lay there and be pounded.

Once during a heavy shelling, I had to move the platoon through open fields. When a shell came we would hit the ground. This type of thing goes on for hours.

At nite when we lay down or sit about and the shells scream around us there is no real out. One subconsciously picks up the sound and notes where it is going.

My men are good. They have fought the Germans to a standstill. Many of them have had their clothes shot off their backs and lost all their equipment. I see them standing in the rain in shirt sleeves, shivering, but not complaining. The other night on outpost we lay across a valley from an advancing German army. All the armor had pulled out and all that was left between this force and ours was my platoon and me. Since then we have been extremely busy. Not only are we alert for the Germans, but these fierce tank battles are fought right through us. Of these I can describe little. Again, there are things indescribable. How I feel inside of me with all tensions and fatigue is a strange sensation. I guess that is all a part of the horror of war.

The weather has been so extremely bad that it is a struggle just to keep alive. In the States a soldier could go on sick call when he felt ill. Here a man goes until he drops. That is asking a lot for love of country, but that's the way it is. We do not always eat. So far I've had only two warm meals since being up here. The usual diet is cold K-rations which is tiresome to say the least. However, we are happy to get it and after laying all night in a pool of muddy water, shivering so hard one cannot talk, anything is welcome.

I think of you often, Darling, it is the one thing that helps me pull through. I lay on the ground and pray and ask for strength to stand the bombardment and think of you and what we will talk about when we get together.

I love you sweetheart,
Bye now
Mel


Excerpts from an interview in the Bellevue American by Laura Parker.

The wind rustles quickly thru the rural pastures. It ripples across grassy fields, sweeping thru trees and rattling braches as it protects the enemy in his silent advance.

For four days, 44 men hole up - isolated, watching but not seeing, listening but not hearing, save for the sound of the wind.

Then an enemy mortar hits.

On the morning of the fifth day, only 16 men remain. The others are dead. Food gone. Supplies gone. No first aid.

Like an enemy from within, the pain of physical shock, stress and anxiety unleashes a paralyzing attack. Men who are rational cannot talk. Men who are uninjured cannot walk.

"You've got to get down, you've got to get down below the surface, the platoon leader cries."

He digs furiously thru the wet earth with his trench knife, deepening a muddy ditch with long powerful strokes.

"...and sometimes ----you don't make it" he chokes. His voice breaks and he stares straight ahead as he digs deeper and deeper."

It has been 33 years since Melvin Love, lay in the muddy trenches South of Metz, in Alsace Lorraine in Eastern France.

But when he talks about it, he returns to the rain-soaked encampment deep in enemy territory. He was with Patton's 3rd army. The mission was to bridge the Saar into Germany.

"I'm hit. A mortar fragment goes under his left arm and comes out my chest. I am bleeding. First I feel cold. Then I feel so warm and toasty. I'm drowsy. I know what is happening to me and I know I have to do something. I was dragged back to the turn around, and they lay me down in the mud."

It was raining. The nearest aid came from the battalion aid station, a clearing in the road behind the line.

"I knew I had to stay conscious. I kept my head down in the mud. Twenty to 30 minutes later, a jeep took me on a stretcher to the battalion aid station."

After the battalion station is the clearing station, where he is tagged by a doctor.

"The field hospital is at Nancy, France. I am wounded about 8 or 9 in the morning and that night I get in the field hospital. They look to see if you're going to live and if you are, you're no biggie. If you're still breathing, you're okay."

At midnight Love was looked at for the first time, in a cold windowless house full of men on stretchers. It is the first of dozens of times Love will be examined and until he is discharged three years later, he will spend the reminder of his army career in and out of hospitals, enduring 14 separate operations. The war ended Aug. 1945, claiming 55 million human lives.

From the army, Love step-stones in 1948 into law school; in 1952 into law practice; in 1953 - the year Bellevue incorporated - onto the city's first council, in 1954 into the mayor's chair, and in 1959 into court as Bellevue's first justice of the peace, which later evolved into the job as district court judge.



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