To date this letter in history, it was written three days after the German surrender on May 7, 1945.
It is an outline of the six months and seven days of Nevelle McKinney’s duty in combat in Europe, including time from when he left Camp Maxey TX, until May 10, two days after the European Theater was secured.
The letter included details of the war that he could not communicate to family. Excerpts tell of his experiences:
The day I left Camp Maxey — I shall never forget that first day. We left by train at 12:27. It wasn’t much of a send-off. No bands, no people except a general. No Fran …
I looked out the window and at the sight of just anyone, tears came to my eyes. It was a hard thing to do, leaving. I am sure it was my worst experience, or rather it hurt me more.
New Year’s Day found me busy trying to get equipment. We had lost plenty. The Old Man sent a few of us back to Verviers for the night. He had arranged a good dinner, hotel, etc. I got a guilty feeling and left the place and slept in an aid station and got back to the lines early the next day.
We crossed the Ruhr River and Erft Canal and were the first infantry division to hit the Rhine on March 6. I was in Cologne the day it fell. We started south and crossed the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen on the night of the [March] 8 or 9, 1945. I never say I was scared till I hit that damn Remagen Bridge. Shells all around it and some hit it as I went over. Planes were coming in on a bomb run that was short.
(The Remagen Bridge was the last ditch for the defense of Hitler’s Germany. It was more than one kilometer long.)
This is a screwy story and doesn’t make much sense. But it didn’t at the time it happened either …
It might be interesting to know what a guy thinks of when he is hit. I was with Col. Miller and my driver, Cpl. Ace. We ran into a barrage and hit the dirt.
I was hit on the fourth or fifth shell. Mill was hit a shell or two later. I was down for 20 minutes before I could get to good cover where Miller and the driver had gone.
I wondered about each of you and what Fran would think. I had no idea how much I was hurt.
I also hated to leave the jeep and wondered about the others, too. I was so mad I didn’t pray, only cussed the Gerries and myself for being there. We were in (the line) of fire.
Ace wasn’t hit at all. I think a lot of the boy and he takes good care of me as my orderly driver and we have been in some tough spots together.
I don’t want another war, but will do it all over again for the people I love.