An excerpt from Letters From the Front, 1898-1945
Voices of the Wisconsin Past
Edited by Michael E. Stevens
Germany, January 20, 1945
Having entered Germany a while ago, I feel something like the coast-to-coast marathon runner must as he crosses the New York State line.
In 28 months, I've journeyed through 11 countries to get here. It was a rather roundabout route, but there's never been any doubt about where we were headed. I hope I shall travel right to Berlin--and then home.
So far, it has been an interesting, if unpleasant experience. I could certainly have done nicely without it; but since it has been necessary, I'm glad to be one of those taking a share in it.
There have been a few outstanding impressions. Obvious though they may be, they are none-the-less vivid.
First is the absolute futility of war. Seen at close range, it becomes so brutal and stupid that we have to rub our eyes to believe the world is capable of it. It can't be written; sample of the death, poverty, and destruction in war's wake must be seen to be appreciated.
In a Lyons café, a French journalist asked me,
"Why is it you Americans refuse to believe the Germans really tortured and killed so many innocent people in France?"
I couldn't answer. I guess it's because we live so far from such things and we must see to believe. Words fail to make such things real.
A second impression is the fundamental similarity of the peoples of the United Nations. I've lived and worked with British, French, Australian, South African, New Zealand, Polish, and Belgian soldiers to name a few. I'm convinced that we all seek the same general sort of life. We criticize one another for our little individual eccentricities; each of us thinks his is the best nation; but fundamentally we differ little. When this war is won, we must remember only the fundamentals and get together in a big way.
A third impression is that of America's own capabilities. London, Algiers, Paris, Rome, Florence, Marseilles, and every other city and town in every liberated country teeming with American traffic. Huge depots of American supplies, throngs of American men everywhere. If we can put forth one half the effort for peace that we've extended in this war, because it was necessary, there should never be need for another war. We must realize that peace, now, is just as necessary as the war has been.
I'm now living in a half-wrecked miner's house. There's snow and there's cold in addition to other little worrisome things. I and millions of others like me aren't enjoying ourselves at the moment, but we're perfectly willing to live this way because we have faith that the peoples of the world involved this time are going to do a better job in fashioning the peace. . .
I've ramble on at some length and must now get a bit of shut-eye. The lessons to be learned from war are so simple and so obvious, that they have to come out. This time, dammit, we've got to remember them.
My best to the gang!
Other letters from Roy F. Bergengren, Jr. to Don Anderson and other co-workers at the Wisconsin State Journal: