The Lavigne Letters
Chapter 4   

This was a hard chapter to write because much of the letters my Dad wrote home during this time were heavily censored because of the war.  So most of my Dad’s letters home during this time were about food he ate, or movies he saw,  just ordinary every day things that would probably be boring to most readers.   He was not allowed to write about special events, locations, etc, as they were preparing for the D Day.

Fortunately Lt. C.T. McEniry writings fill the gaps that are missing from some of my father’s letters,  for instance the gap between my Dad’s December 27th 1943 and his first letter of January 1944.  

 Lt. C.T. McEniry writes:   
“New Years Day 1944 found the battalion once again moving to Pier 90, where this time it boarded the world's largest ship, Britain's Queen Elizabeth. And at noon the following day, the Queen Elizabeth -- bearing 15,000 passengers -- sailed past the Statue of Liberty and out into the Atlantic.

 Life aboard ship was new to all, and interesting in spite of extreme congestion. Two meals a day and daily lifeboat drills broke the monotony. Except for one day of heavy seas, the weather was cold but good for the entire crossing. In mid-ocean the ship's course was changed because of reports of enemy submarines in the area.  A detour north of several hundred miles added about 24 hours to the crossing. But there were no attacks.

 About dusk on 8 January, after a voyage of six days, the Queen Elizabeth dropped anchor in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland. The next morning, British and American officials came aboard to welcome the troops, and ship's officers remarked that the debarkation was a "first" in two ways: for the first time there had been no enemy bombing during the unloading; and for the first time there had been no rain.


First letter of 1944
Undated,  January 1944
Dear Claudia,  
Arrived at our new destination, I am fit and well.  I am now somewhere in England.
I know its foolish for me to say not to worry,  cause I know very well how you folks feel.   I’ll be a good soldier, no damm German can scare me.  I would tell you a lot of things but the darn censors just won’t let us. All I saw throughout the trip was women and children.  I never saw so many kids in all my life.  I guess they must have been evacuated from the bombed areas, the poor little fellas look half starved.   I had some candy wafers and gum so I tossed it out to them, you should have seen them dive for that.

I hope I get a chance to visit London,  the people seem very friendly, but very difficult to understand their language.  For instance, instead of bowling alleys they say skittle alleys.
I received your airplane book during the trip across and also some Daily Records from Ralph.  Thanks a lot.

Please keep sending lots of toilet articles,  such as shaving cream, blades, shaving lotion,  try to get Mennens, and especially soap and plenty of it,  it is mighty scarce over here,  also send some gum and candy.  We all had to have our money changed into British currency.  I had fifty one dollars on me and I understand that their paper money is a lot larger than ours,  I am going to have quite a fat wallet.

 You ought to see the mattresses we’ve got,  they don’t remind me of the white cross perfect sleeper or Innersprings,  when you lay down on this one, you just got to stay in that certain spot.   I sure get cramp up.  Send my bed by airmail will you.  Ha ha

The girls are not bad looking but they can’t beat the USA gals.  Have you heard from Calvin or the Plourde boy lately?

I always did want to see the Atlantic Ocean, and boy did it make me sea sick! I threw up once ,  I thought I would heave my heart out.  I was sick only one day though. That was enough. I lost a little bit of weight,  hope I gain it back. 

I sure hope I can get at least one Coca Cola, every gosh darn thing is ration,  you can’t even get a handkerchief unless you’ve got a coupon, will have to let the old nose run I guess.
Have you seen any good movies lately?  Please send me a lot of reading material. Where is Leonard located now? What weather they’ve got here, rain, mud, fog, mist, etc.  What a country.  
Well, I guess that’s all for today, keep your fingers crossed, wish you all the best of luck.   And here’s a big kiss for you.   Good bye,   


January 30, 1944
Dear Claudia,  Got a letter from you today, mail is sure coming slow.  I received a letter from Calvin a few days ago, he’s still somewhere in Italy.  
 Gee, Leonard is lucky to be stationed Boston seems like he’ll be there the duration.  A feller gets mighty nice dreams here of home almost every nite.  I’m catching on the English money now, their paper money looks like a bunch of cigar coupons.
Ice cream is something of the past here, we walked into a cafe the other day and asked the waitress if they had any ice cream , sure she said, come in after the war.  While we were there, we had a piece of cake,  that cake had more salt than sugar, it had an awful taste.  I guess this place would be alright if it would only stop raining.
I am anxious to learn which camp Woodrow has been sent to.  I was hoping so much he would not have to go into the service, hope when he gets through with his training the war will be over.
I haven’t heard from Gene for a long, long time, when you see him tell him to write.  
Guess that’s all for today, goodbye and good luck.   Valmore


February, 1944
This was my Dad’s first V- mail letter.
Dear Claudia,  
I’m in the hospital writing this letter, I’ve been in here three weeks now.  I had an attack of rheumatism in both legs and arms,  don’t worry,  I feel all right now.  Their still trying to find out what caused it.  I think it is the weather.  I’ve been in bed all this while.  I doubt very much I will be with the 197th any more.  I think I will be transferred to some other outfit until further notice.  Use my same address,  I am going to miss those boys, to think I have been with them for fourteen months. God I don’t know what is the matter.  I haven’t received a letter from you since I left the states,  don’t go worrying now.  I’ll be ok in a few days.  Good Bye,   

**My father did not have rheumatism,  as he wrote in his letter.  He had Rhuematic Fever,  which affects the joints like rheumatism but also damages the heart.  The doctors told him that his heart was probably damaged because of the disease and he would probably not live to see age 40.  Therefore they told my Dad he could go back home if he wanted to.  But my father did not want to go back home and leave his buddies behind so he asked to stay and rejoin the 197th.  Want to know why I think my dad is a hero?  This is why,  he was homesick,  he could have gone home but he choose to stay and fight a horrific war.  


March 23, 1944
Dear Claudia, Today I received a load of letters from you,  haven’t got the packages yet.  Boy I sure would love to see Woodrow in his sailor uniforms, why is he so shy?

Say,  what is this I hear of you folks getting and envelope containing pictures of myself?  Someone must have sent them cause I sure didn’t.  What do they look like anyways?  Looks like Leonard will always stay in Boston, the lucky stiff. How is Muriel enjoying married life?
Every letter I get from you mentions snow, gosh, there must be piles of it back home.  
Please tell Yolanda the next time she writes V mail not to write in pig Latin, boy, I needed a magnifying glass to be able to read it. Ha ha
I’ve seen some pretty good shows lately .  I saw Mr. Big, Lucky Jordan and the More The Merrier.  
I see that Julien is going to sell some more ice this year,  how in the world can he manage to do both?   Good bye,  lots of luck,  



 Lt. C.T. McEniry writes:  “ON 27 March, came the "baptism of fire." German bombers attacked the city during the night and, although the battalion suffered no casualties, it began to realize with greater force that the war was close at hand.”


April 22, 1944
Dear Claudia,  
Here I am again,   Glad to hear that everything is fine.  I am out of the hospital now.  I’ve been out for about a month and I feel fine and I am back on a gun crew.
I’ve made my Easter duties so don’t worry about that!  I received Holy Communion Thursday, the mission lasted two hours every night, it consisted of the Rosary, a sermon by our chaplain and the benediction of the most blessed sacrament. On Good Friday we had off so we could attend the Way of the Cross.  
Received another box from you,  thanks for everything.
I also got my first subscription of the Brunswick Record, it had the picture of the firebug on it.  Boy Woody looks nice in Navy blue.  Thanks ever so much for sending those pictures, gee I wish he was here with me.  The snapshots you sent of me,  Ginger and little Marilyn are very nice but I’m sure a sight for sore eyes and look like hell.
We received our good conduct ribbon the other day and I am sending my certificate home for you to take care of.  Guess that is all for today,  goodbye and good luck,          Valmore


April  ?  1944
Dear Claudia,
Well today is Saturday the big day in stores back home.  Last night I went to the Stations Of The Cross,  they have a nice little chapel here.  I just come back from chow,  I didn’t eat much, wasn’t very hungry.  Ice cream is something of the past for me now, I walked into a soda fountain a month ago and asked a waitress if they had any ice cream,  sure she said,  come in after the war and we’ll have some.  Incidentally,  a soda fountain is a milk bar for them.  I’m feeling better every day.  Please tell Dad and Ralph to write as often as they can.  I got a letter from Nellie the other
day.   Good bye.       Valmore


April 29, 1944 (V MAIL Letter)
Dear Claudia,  
 In three days I will be twenty two years old,  I’m still wondering where I will be on that day.  I’m always thinking about Raymond Lavigne and I wonder what the future holds for me.  Remember the very first letter I wrote in the Army,  I promised to do my best, well that promise still holds.  If something should happen to me, I want you to remember that for a sister you have always been my best girl and always will be.  We had our quarrels, but that’s only natural, you were like a mother after mama’s death and you did a splendid job for me.  I don’t think I ever did much for you and did so much for me, as I told you before, everything I do is for you and Daddy.  Please send packages often and tell Dad to write more often too,  if only a postcard.  As long as I hear from him that’s all I care.
Does Yolande still hear from Henry very often?  I sure miss him too.  I sure wish Woodrow lots of luck in his radio work,  he sure looks swell in his Navy uniform.
Tell Dad not to work too hard, to take a good vacation once in a while.  Well, kid, got to leave you now,  good bye and good luck,  keep your fingers crossed.      Valmore


In May of 1944 Dad wrote several letters home,  most were V MAIL and heavily censored so nothing much of great interest in them.  During this time I imagine they were preparing for the D Day invasion so no one could say much of anything about where they were or what they were doing.  


Lt. C.T. McEniry writes:  on 4 May, the practice operation was concluded and the 16th Infantry departed, the battalion units were given the mission of remaining on the beach for several days to provide AA defense while other troops moved inland. This was the first real tactical mission of the 197th.



A letter dated May 21,1944 from Capt. T.C. Chappell to Albert Lavigne,  my dad’s father, came a couple of weeks prior to the invasion.

Sunday,  May 21st
My Dear Mr. Lavigne,
May I express how proud I am to have your son, Valmore, serving with me.  He is doing a fine job and in him we both have something to be proud of.  
Perhaps he has hinted although none of us can be too sure about our present task,  that there will be times when he will not be able to write as often as he would like and that mail will be slower.   This is all too true.  Take it in stride,  keep the letters he treasures so highly flowing steadily.  
                                                        Kindest Regards,   T.C. Chappell



My dad’s last letter home before D Day was dated May 27, 1944,  his battalion had to have been preparing for the invasion at that time yet not a hint as to what was happening appeared in the letter.  And it was not a V MAIL.   

May 27,  1944
Dear Claudia,
Todays Sunday,  I attended mass and received holy communion this was Pentecost Sunday too.
I finally got a letter from Ginger,  he said he sent me a whole carton of gum and some candy.  I ought to be getting his pack soon cause he mailed it May the 5th.  He says the twins are getting along fine.  He says little Shirley doesn’t mind getting on the pot chair in the morning but little Johnnie is afraid of his,  he cries when they set him on it.  
The movie today is “Lets Face It” Bod Hope and Betty Hutton,  I’m not going to see it cause I saw it in Richmond, Virginia.  
Are they still enlarging the airport?  How’s Yolanda these days,  she sure does miss her Henry.  
It’s pretty hard for me to write long letters, every day is the same old routine.  Boy, won’t it be swell to get back to civilian life again.  
The fellers on the other side of the street have a phonograph and boy, they sure have some pretty good records.  And that reminds me, have you bought any new records yet?
Here’s what you can send me,  a scapular medal and a chain and a pocket knife.  Have the medal blessed for me.  
Well, guess that’s all for today,  good bye and good luck.        Valmore




After the May 27th letter,  there were no more letters from my Dad until the end of June,  so I am using Lt. C.T. McEniry writings to fill in the gap and provide a glimpse into what the 197th experienced that day.

D DAY  June 6, 1944

Lt. C.T. McEniry writes:
     “During the night of 4 June, the invasion fleet put out to sea, but bad weather forced a 24-hour postponement and they turned the craft back to Portland.  Then, early on 5 June, they took off again.  At 0600, the huge fleet assembled off the coast of Normandy.  H-hour was 0630.  And H-hour was on the "nose."
     They went in -- elements of the 197th did -- at H plus 120 minutes. That was after the preliminary naval shelling and the landing of the assault infantry waves. And they learned a few more things about Omaha Beach. They learned that, half in, half out of the water were hundreds of obstacles -- pilings, hedgehogs, tetrahedra, most of them mined. They learned that the passages through these obstacles were narrow and too often clogged with wrecked landing craft. They learned that they must debark with all their vehicles in deep water -- that many of their vehicles drowned out.
     They learned that maybe you didn't make it in your first try, and so you tried again. And they learned that if an 88 round landed in your LCT you didn't make it at all. They learned that if you reached the beach, you were pinned down at the water's edge.  They learned that the beach and the beach exits were heavily mined. They learned that about midway between the water's edge and the cliffs ran a deep anti-tank ditch filled with water. All this they learned -- at a price:
Killed: 1 officer, 4 enlisted men.
Seriously wounded: 1 officer, 11 enlisted men.
Lost material: 6 M-15 halftracks, 7 M-16 halftracks.
1 M-2 halftrack, 3 Jeeps, 1 trailer.

Approximately 60 men lost all their personal belongings and equipment. The majority of them were in the First Platoon of B Battery, which lost all its vehicles when LCT No. 25 was hit by heavy artillery and burned.
 The Second Platoon of A Battery was the first unit of the battalion to land successfully, coming onto Easy Red at 0835. Other elements followed during the ensuing hours. Many gun crews, unable to bring their weapons to bear on German positions because of' the slope of the beach at the water's edge, gave small arms support to infantry and engineers. Others helped clear mines from the beach exists. Medics worked long hours under direct fire, aiding the wounded.
 After many strenuous hours it became possible to move most of the men and vehicles off the beach and up onto the plateau above. Crews from disabled tracks dug in on infantry missions. Operational crews set up tactically. The first night was a tough one.


No date,  sometime in June.
Dear Daddy,
Here we are in the merry month of June, the month of brides.  I have been in the service a year and a half, a bit too long to suit me.
As far back as eight months ago we started betting among each other as to what day the invasion would occur,  one feller said , I set my dat on June seventh, well he almost hit the nail on the head, cause it happened to be the sixth.  All the fourth of July’s we ever had in the states and fires couldn’t have been any worst.  Oh incidentally,  I am now somewhere in France.   I have seen combat and it is pretty rugged, but hell, we are a bunch of rugged boys too.  
As for eats, this army couldn’t be better fed, each gun section has its own cooking unit, so we can afford many a hot meal.  
Are you still working for Julien these days?  How’s business at his parlor?
We haven’t any difficulty whatsoever in obtaining eggs, just a short while ago I manage to get a dozen for the boys.  
You’d be surprise how we can make water last us.  I’ve seen times when I’ve filled my steel helmet of water and shave and also took a bath, no kidding, we haven’t got those modern conveniences, but we manage to keep ourselves pretty clean.
I hear they started a baseball team in town, have you had a chance to see a game yet?
I haven’t heard from Woodrow for a long time, don’t know what’s the matter,  he promised me he’d write every other day.  
I suppose Ginger is very busy at the store these days, how are the little twins?
I don’t know how much they pay for butter at the First National Store but here these Frenchmen sometimes charge as much as ninety cents a pound.  
Well guess that’s all for today, keep your fingers cross and you can bet your boots that I’m coming back home.   Good luck.


My Dad’s next letter is not until the end of June so I’ll end chapter 4 at this point.  There will be several more battles before this is over with and my Dad is finally able to go back home.