The philatelists in our audience know well the G.I. stamps issued by the U.S. Post Office in 1945; what they may not know are some of the stories that lay behind them (some stories are sad and some are merely pathetic).
On the evening of March 26, 1944, fifteen O.S.S. agents were executed following a failed raid on Italian soil to blow-up an Axis railroad tunnel. The sabotage mission was in support of the allied attack taking place further south at Monte Cassino (Battle of Monte Cassino, January 17, 1944 – May 19, 1944) and had the tunnel been successfully blown, supplies to the defending Germans would have been cut off.
This YANK article reported on the first war crime trial of the post World War Two era: the trial of German General Anton Dostler (1891 - 1945), who gave the order to execute the O.S.S. prisoners. In his defense, General Dostler insisted that he was acting under the orders of General Gustav von Zangen, who denied the claim.
In late April of 1945, American tank crews south of Torgau (Germany) began to pick up the chattering of Soviet infantry units on their radios - the transmissions were generated by the advanced units of Marshal Konev's (1897 - 1973) First Ukrainian Army and both the allied units were elated to know that the other was nearby, for it meant one thing: the end of the war was at hand.
Thankfully, YANK's correspondent Ed Cummings was with the U.S. First Army when the two groups met at the Elbe River and he filed the attached article.
On January 26, 1942 the long awaited boatload of U.S. troops to Great Britain had finally arrived. The first American G.I. to step off the plank and plant his foot on British soil was Pfc. Milburn H. Henke of the 34th Infantry Division; and as the news spread throughout all of John Bull's island that help had arrived and the first guy had a German surname, the Brits (always big fans of irony) had a good laugh all around.
This article tells the tale of the 1st Battalion, 34th Division which had the distinction of being the longest serving U.S. combat unit in the course of the entire war. It was these men of the Mid-West who took it on the chin that day at Kasserine (America's first W.W. II battle, which was a defeat), avenged their dead at El Guettar, landed at Salerno, Anzio and fought their way up to Bologna. By the time the war ended, there weren't many of the original men left, but what few there were reminisce in this article. Interesting gripes about the problems of American uniforms can be read.
The YANK MAGAZINE editors remarked that this brief column, which was intended to help American G.I.s deal with panic attacks during combat, was written by the National Research Council and appeared in the Infantry Journal of 1943. It is a segment from a longer article titled, "Psychology for the Fighting Man". The psychologists who wrote it presented a number of examples of soldier's panic (mostly from the last war) and illustrate how best the front-line soldier could deal with this stress while the bullets are flying. Happily, they made it sound so easy.
Click here to read about one other effect the stress of combat wrought upon the luckless men of the Forties.
This is yet another excerpt from "Psychology for the Fighting Man" which addresses a grave concern that has been on the mind of all soldiers from time immemorial: "how to be brave and safe?". In simply three paragraphs the psychologists charged with answering this question actually do a pretty feeble job, but they did a fine job summing up the heavy responsibilities that the front-line G.I. had on his mind when great acts of courage were expected of him.
Perhaps one of the most lucid definitions of bravery was uttered by an anonymous soldier from the Second World War who offered that courage is like a bank, with a finite balance; each soldier is allowed to make a small or a large withdrawal from the account and they can do so when ever they wish, but when the account is empty they can't go to the bank any longer.
Click here to read a psychological study of fear in combat.