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November 9, 1944

Letters from Theodore Katz

four uniformed men sitting on a jeep

Group of men on a jeep

Nov. 9, 1944

Dearest Helen,

The jeep has probably been the most widely publicized mechanical instrument of the war – a glamorous little vehicle that overcomes all obstacles at high speeds, regardless of terrain. Today, however, I made an interesting discovery. It is strictly a one season vehicle – namely summer, and as it is now winter (snow today), I found myself cursing the mind that dreamed it up, as I rode a mere hundred miles or so, with the top down and the all-draft ventilation working perfectly – the wind strong enough to almost lift the heavy steel helmet from your head, and the wind cutting through an overcoat as thought it were cheesecloth, the mud playfully splashing and coating the vehicle, inside as well as out. All in all, such a pleasant ride. The scene changes swiftly – woods, fields – broad, sweeping valleys – clean and peaceful looking – then suddenly through a heap of rubble that had once been a town. Looking up you can see the planes – big formations looking like silver pin-points. Anti-aircraft fire, a sharp coughing sound, little black puffs of smoke in the sky –

And now I sit here slowly thawing out as I write to you – and thinking how much quicker the process of thawing would be if I were sitting in the parlor of 3619 with the Model A-1 Galai Magic Heater to envelop me with its own brand of warmth. If I tear off the top of my 1st SGT and send it in together with a testimonial of 25 words or more on why I prefer the Galai Magic Heater to all others, could you send me one F.O.B. [freight on board] – please, yes?

Now, if you will stop distracting me for a moment, I will continue with my story. Having given you a brief summary of today’s doings, I shall now back-pedal to last night, from the ridiculous to the sublime (to coin a phrase). Let me see – How to begin? First of all there is a Dr. & Mrs. Thys whom I met. (the meeting being a story in itself, so I’ll save it for later). Anyway, they are two wonderful people, between 35 and 40 years of age. Dr. Thys is Gentile, Mrs. Thys, Jewish, and for this reason Dr. Thys was taken away by the Nazis to Germany, leaving his wife and children (3) behind. There he was given the usual Nazi “indoctrination course,” but he escaped and arrived home by devious routes, where he hid in his cellar for a couple of weeks until the Americans came.

Last night, they gave a party in honor of Roosevelt’s re-election, inviting some soldiers and civilian friends. They have a beautiful home – very modern and furnished appropriately in consistent good taste. So we arrived to find ourselves suddenly thrust into a smart, sophisticated atmosphere, intelligent people, well dressed and well-informed, we arriving with rifles on our backs and suddenly self-conscious of our muddy shoes and clothing slightly the worse for wear, standing in the midst of this beautifully appointed room with servants passing amongst the guests laden with trays of cocktails, apertifs, champagne, pastries, hors d’oeuvres, etc. Mrs. Thys had been careful to choose as guests, friends who spoke English, so the party gathered momentum immediately. It was such a strange and beautiful feeling to feel civilized again – to eat from exquisite porcelain dishes, drink from fragile tinkling goblets, to dance (I thought I’d forgotten how) to a phonograph playing American records (God knows where they got them) – all the time wishing you were there. You were the only thing lacking to make the evening perfect, perfect to the very end – the piece de resistance being driven “home” in the back seat of a civilian car!

And now that the story is ended, you can start distracting me again. Did I ever tell you what a wonderful distracter you are? And never mind the windows. I nailed them all shut.

All my love,

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