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World War II letters, 1944-1946
MANUSCRIPT 2443-2444
Collection Overview


World War II letters, 1944-1946
Charlie Widbin World War II letters, 1944-1946


Widbin, Charlie, 1916-1974, creator


This collection consists of 181 holograph letters, 28 typewritten letters, 4 greeting cards and 1 telegram sent by Charlie Widbin to his parents, Elmer and Blanche Widbin in Los Angeles, California. Correspondence from Sept. 14, 1944 through Nov. 15, 1944 was sent from various staging areas en route to Germany and from Nov. 23, 1944 to Dec. 16, 1944 from the German front. Letters from Jan. 2, 1945 through Apr. 9, 1945 were sent from an American Red Cross hospital in England and letters between April 23, 1945 and April 29, 1946 were from Compiegne, France. Two letters dated May 3 and May 6, 1946 were sent from Bremerhaven, Germany and a telegram was sent from New York City on May 27, 1946. Some letters are on Red Cross letterhead; four are V-mail. Letters prior to May of 1945 were censored.
In addition, there are 19 letters from Anny Widbin written in Paris during March - July 1946 and sent to her husband and his family in Los Angeles. A final letter from her is dated Dec. 13, 1948. Miscellaneous letters include a letter and greeting card sent to Charlie's mother and a letter to Charlie from an army buddy. There are 6 photographs of Charlie and Anny and a pencil sketch of Charlie. Ephemera includes currency (German and Belgian), a lock of hair, a few dried flowers, a London Red Cross entertainment sheet and tour card, inspirational booklets, and a military authorization certificate for one German helmet. Some ephemera is with associated correspondence.
Charlie Widbin writes home regularly throughout his wartime service in the European Theater. Early letters from 1944 were written while he was involved in active fighting thus they were subject to censorship and he is careful not to supply any detailed information about his whereabouts or activities. Yet his comments on daily living conditions provide some insight into life at the front. On Dec. 14, 1944, he writes: "The chow hasn't been so hot lately as we have run out of cows & chickens around here to kill & we have to depend strickly on the kitchen." The next day, he mentions the cold weather: "It is getting pretty cold now & the frost that was on the ground this morning has stayed there all day. It has frozen most of the thick mud around here which is a good thing & will help to keep our feet dry."
After he is wounded by a prematurely exploding grenade, Charlie is sent to England for medical treatment. His letters during this period discuss his recovery and his concern about the course of the war: "The news still sounds good & I sure am praying that it will be over very soon. I certainly hate to think of going back to the front lines. After you have been hurt once it seems to take away some of your nerve & confidence." He finds wartime England somewhat dull: "I took my twelve hour pass Friday & went to town, but as I have said before, there isn't much to do there except have the girls chase you around & that gets monotonous. I took in a movie, had a couple of bitters & came back."
Assigned to limited duty in April of 1945, Charlie is transferred to the Army Air Corps and sent to Compiegne, France, where he stayed for the remaining year of his military service. His letters during this period provide a provocative description of post-war France as he talks of his involvement in the black market, furloughs to Nice and Switzerland, and weekends in Paris where he attends nightclubs and meets the woman he will marry before returning home.
After VE Day censorship is relaxed and Charlie is able to tell his parents about his experience during the Battle of the Bulge. In a letter dated May 21, 1945, he describes his participation in taking the town of Stavelot, concluding with: "When we started into town we had thirteen men in my squad & when I left there was only four." In subsequent letters, he provides more detail about the infantry experience and expresses his conflicted feelings. "Also, I remember reading once in a murder story where it said that the first man you kill is the hardest. Well, that is right. After that you get a little 'kill happy'. You begin to understand why some of these guys get power crazy. When you can take men prisoners & it rests in your hands whether they are either going to live or die! Then all you have to do is pull your finger a little & they are dead, -- well you figure it out. I did it plenty & still I can remember the time when you couldn t even get me to kill a chicken."
In January of 1946, Charlie met Anny Pousse and thereafter his letters trace their evolving relationship; they are married on May 1, the day he leaves to return home. Charlie arrived in Los Angeles in late May and Anny wrote to him while they were separated, including a letter the night he left. "Sweetheart I am very sad, I see all time the train leave. To night I cannot sleep, I am too much nerves. Charlie the first night from married and stay alone." Her letters recount her efforts to take care of the paperwork needed before she could leave France; finally on June 19th she sends a lock of hair and the news that she will be sailing on June 29th.


1944 (issued)


2443: 1944-July 1945. -- 2444: Aug. 1945-1946; Anny's correspondence; Misc. correspondence; photographs; ephemera.


n-us-ca -- e-fr---
Widbin, Charlie -- 1916-1974 -- Correspondence
Soldiers -- California -- Correspondence
War brides -- France -- Correspondence
World War, 1939-1945 -- Europe -- Personal narratives, American
World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American
Ardennes, Battle of the, 1944-1945 -- Personal narratives, American
United States. -- Army. -- Infantry Regiment, 117th. -- Battalion, 1st. -- Company A -- Biography


Charles (Charlie) Widbin was born on Aug. 21, 1916 in St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to 1930, the Widbin family -- parents, Elmer and Blanche, and children, Lucille, Charlie and Dorothy -- moved to California. They lived first in San Diego then near Glendale in Los Angeles where the family home was established at 2691 Waverly Drive. Charlie grew up there and began working (for the Union Pacific?); he was also briefly married to, and then divorced from, Betty (?).
In April of 1944, Charlie entered military service and was sent to the European front after training. There he was assigned to Company A in the 1st Battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Division which was fighting in Germany. He was wounded on Dec. 22 during the Battle of the Bulge and sent to England to recuperate. Declared unfit for combat, Charlie was assigned to a U.S. Air Force unit stationed near Compiegne, France, where he finished out his service as a mail clerk, moving up in rank to Tech. Sergeant. While on leave in Paris he met Anny Pousse; they were married in May of 1946 and she followed him to California in July of that year.
After the war, Charlie worked as a clerk at the Greyhound Bus Depot in Glendale and later owned a gas station, 'Charlie's Mobile Service'. He and Anny evidently separated around 1948. Charlie died in Los Angeles on Aug. 18, 1974 and is buried in Forest Lawn in Glendale.
Charlie Widbin World War II letters, 1944-1946
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.



Physical Description:

2 ms. boxes (ca. 247 items) : ill., ports.




MANUSCRIPT 2443-2444



Copyright Note:

Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.