Letter Home from Lt. Bob Welty
December 20-21, 1944
Dec. 20, 1944
Herman’s goin’ nuts. Mad, positive. Positive mad! “Paris by Christmas” that’s the word among the junior supermen of Deutschland. Yousah!
The whole thing makes me mad! Where were the characters with the photo recon.? Nuts! Well, it’s one of those things ~ can’t tell me ol’ Jerry didn’t have this thing planned down to a T. Caught us with our planes down. “Paris by Xmas.” NUTS!
I’ve got my enlarger made now & I’m printing up a mess of shots I’ve taken here abouts. I’m learning to use the camera now. I got a wonderful batch of shots from the roll I just developed & now have hanging up to dry. I’ll send you a couple of prints from this latest roll. It was taken before we took off for a recent raid.
I’m sending along a shot I had taken a while ago of me and my model B-17. I sent you a contact print of it. [See photo below.]
The pictures are a little dense in the center, you’ll notice. That is because I don’t have a suitable way of diffusing the light enough. I have a frosted piece of plexiglass to diffuse light now. I’ll have to get something better.
I had the developer a little too warm in the latest film – I put scratches all over it. That really makes me sore. Pure carelessness on my part – It has a lot of unruined pictures, tho. Best roll I’ve made thus far.
We went up the other day & there were lots of beautiful vapor trails. I shot a lot of pictures with kodachrome. Blue sky – white vapor trails. Beautiful. I shot a few pictures up when we landed too. I’ve got the other roll to expose & then I’ll mail them to Eastman to be developed & then sent to you.
I want you to take the money necessary for Kodachrome rolls from that money you get for in allotment. That is fair enough, for the rolls are sure expensive.
Dec. 21, 1944
The German Radio is giving us the old needle tonite. “We can advance in bad weather, but the Americans can’t,” sez they. Aw Nuts.
The two pictures of me under the wing waiting for the mission to start came out good, especially on of them, except for the stupid scratches. Anyway, that’s me at the latest – complete with hair comb. I guess I sure have gone to the dogs without my mamma to keep after me!
Notice the difference in the picture taken of me with the model B-17 before I figured out how to use the camera & the one taken less than a week ago before take-off time. I think I’ve figured it out now – camera, I mean. I’ll make up a few extra of the good ones & mail ‘em to you later.
The group picture – all scratched up – is the guys standing around shootin’ the breeze before the same raid. From Left to Right is: Joe Tarr; Al Dougherty; Russ Currier [back to camera]; Art Jones. The guy in the background is Flemming, but he’s behind Currier, so ya can’t see him!
Answers to Questions from
1) Joe Tarr is 22. He’s about 7 or 8 months older than I am. Several of the guys are older than he. Dougherty is the old man at 26. Currier is 19, the youngest. Tho Jones is 19 too.
2) Mr. Erikson, I’m sorry to say is way off. If he was right I’d almost be home now!
3) Bugs flew over when we did. If was just luck that we are at the same base, tho.
4) I’m not thinner, I think. I still weigh 135.
5) English are friendly enough & the Americans are quite popular. But you have to break the ice with them.
6) “TIME” that Rete & Paul sent hasn’t arrived. I’ll write them when it comes.
7) Red had 35 combat hours. I have 3 or 4 times as much now.
8) No, we haven’t had a moustache contest. It’s a good idea.
9) Packages arrive in A-1 condition. One had a squashed tube of toothpaste shave cream in it, that was all.
10) I’m working on the Scottish plaid shawl. I’ll get one when and if I go to Scotland in a couple of weeks.
11) I have about 5 pairs of “Long John” underwear. I’d die of cold & damp if I ever took ‘em off. I sleep in them & they’re much warmer than pyjamas.
Ahah! I should pick one of these sweet little hi school girls for a wife! I hadn’t thought of those tender young characters. I could abscond with all their money, being so unworldly as they are. Huh!
The Stars & Stripes printed an article by some doctor who claimed hi altitude combat flying produced temporary sterilness. That worried Wally, who expects to accomplish great things when we get home. Wally was relieved to read the next day’s issue. Some flight surgeon said it was all a horrible lie. Gave us something to kid him about.
Wally’s a cocksure little guy – a lot like Whitey.
Saw today in the Stars & Stripes that certain universities will have various programs to assist returning vets. One will assign a faculty member to act as counselor & guide to returning student servicemen. That would be nice, except that most soldiers I’ve known could tell most college profs I’ve known quite a few things about life in general!
What’s this stuff, Dave, about mailing records? I don’t mean that. I just want you to buy them & put ‘em in my collection. You wrote something about not being able to get one in the mail.
Incidentally, I wonder if you could send me a few old magazines – Lifes, Sat. Eve. Posts, Colliers, etc. There was a Life out recently as a letter to G.I.’s that was very interesting.
Well, it’s very late & I want very much to fly tomorrow. I get mad every time I think of those German characters pushing American characters around.
The Germans in their English broadcast always sign off with: “This is ‘Jerry calling’ [name of program] signing off & to all you Tommies & Yanks we wish the best of luck. Good nite.” Boy oh boy, what gall!
Well, good night
Interpretive Comments by Scott Welty
The Army postmark on the envelope is December 24, 1944. The last page of the letter is Lakewood, Ohio postmarked January 20, 1945. The envelope is repeatedly rubber stamped January 17, 1945. And Bob’s father Harry has incorrectly written “1-20-1944” on the envelope. He either meant “12-20-44” when the letter was written or “1-20-1945” about the time the letter finally arrived home.
Bob’s paragraphs alternate between informative, funny and angry in this letter. The angering event is never mentioned but you can guess by the date and his comments that he is referring to the beginning or the Battle of the Bulge. He’s angry at the Germans and he’s angry at the Allies’ reconnaissance for not discovering German movements.
Bob’s twice used exclamation “Nuts!” interests me. I immediately thought of General Anthony C. McAuliffe’s use of the word during the Battle of the Bulge. McAuliffe was with the 101st Airborne. The Germans under white flag crossed into American territory and said to the Americans we have you surrounded. You have two hours to surrender or else we will shell you into annihilation. General McAuliffe exclaimed “Aww, nuts” and then used “NUTS” as his written one word reply to the Germans. At first I thought Bob was reiterating McAuliffe. However, Bob wrote this letter over December 20 and 21. McAuliffe’s famous reply (according to Wikipedia) occurred on December 22. So one can either conclude great minds think alike or “nuts” was very prevalent American slang in 1944. As Bob’s son I’ll conclude both.
The letter refers to the bad weather – “They caught us with our planes down” and what the Germans are telling them over the radio. Bob’s brother Dave interviewed him after Thanksgiving 1997 and they talk of the Bulge. The battle started around the 16th and horrible weather kept the planes on the ground until Christmas eve. Bob related the moment they could get planes off they sent everything they had. The 398th’s mission was to bomb railroad yards in Koblenz where the Germans were marshalling their supplies and troops for the Battle. Bob said they were ordered to fly directly down the middle of the Bulge even though they could have avoided it and still gotten to their target. The reason was they wanted the Americans on the ground to see the thousands of planes flying overhead wave after wave. It was both a morale booster and to say the cavalry had arrived.
The people mentioned in the Answers section of the letter:
- Question 1 is about his crewmates. Joe Tarr is the pilot. Al Dougherty is a waist gunner. Russ Currier is the engineer. Art Jones is the radio operator.
- I don’t know who Mr. Erikson is. Does anyone know?
- Rete and Paul Welty, of course, are Bob’s aunt and uncle.
- Red is Dad’s high school best friend, Lee Trivison who was a sailor in the South Pacific.
- Wally is the navigator, Wally Small.
- Whitey is Dad’s high school chum Carl Wallander.
The letter is also of interest because it talks of Bob’s photography and how he developed the film. It sounds like taking photos with this camera was still a learning experience and developing was very make shift.
If anyone has comments I’d love to hear them.
- Scott Welty
- December 20-21, 1944 Letter (in pdf)
- Return to Lt. Bob Welty's Letters, Interviews and Photos Page
- Lt. Bob Welty was the Co-Pilot for the Joe Tarr Crew 603rd crew.
- The above transcription was provided by his son, Scott Welty in 2009.
- This transcription is a reproduction of the original. Spelling and punctuation changes have been made to improve readability, though in some cases original spelling was preservered. In some circumstances, material may not have been transcribed or was rewritten.
- Clarification of acronyms or special words or guesses of certain words are shown in brackets [ ].
Photo was referred to in letter above. This is a model Bob built.
Note also the tents where the men lived and various bicycles for getting around.
Bob Welty - 18 December 1944
The group picture – all scratched up – is the guys standing around shootin’ the breeze before the same raid. [excerpt from letter above]
From Left to Right is: