06/08/2015 11:55 AM

 

Xxx xx.

William Vermily Toffey III, Army! my!, Army!,

 

 

Learning more..""Ludwig Castle and Hitler Estate"

Outside of Munich

Outside of Munich some miles along the autobahn toward Salzburg a large beautiful bridge had been blown into just a mass of twisted steel and concrete dust. We traveled the autobahn all the way from Nurnberg. It is a wonderful highway, two lanes each way with a center island, but every bridge, and there are many little ones across streams or underpasses, were blown -- that is, with a few exceptions.  You would barrel along for a mile or so, and then have to slow down over a wooden Army engineer bridge or a spot filled in with gravel.  But to get back to my story, we reached one blown bridge, and had to turn off down into a little valley.  We were just going up the other side when suddenly I noticed for the first time that the houses were all of the Swiss chalet style -- with wide, overhanging roofs, pieces of trim at the end of the five roof beams, second-story porches and some with elaborate painted trimmings in pastel shades. I had once thought that this style of architecture was peculiar to Switzerland, but I was told that it is used throughout the Alpine area. And one older man was working on his garden, dressed in green embroidered shorts held up by leather suspenders with the characteristic horizontal piece of leather across the chest, and had a  green coast to match, and green Tyrolian hat with a feather in it. From there on in, the architecture was the same, and many of the men were wearing the same sort of costume as this first man I saw. As we hit the top of the rise and got back on the autobahn, we saw the Bavarian Alps for the first time. We traveled on down the autobahn, with high, rugged mountains on one side of us, past the Chiem See and about 20 miles from Salzburg, the Austrian border town, we turned off and went 10 miles to the Tachinger See, a lake about the size of Big Moose. It was quite a shock to discover that it was a tent camp, because I had sworn I would never again voluntarily live under canvas. We were pretty late, but had a good dinner, and then just sat around in the one little room they had as a recreation hall. (The camp is maintained by the division, with men from the division running it.

Next morning  I had  decided  to run  out  for  a  dip. I rolled over on my cot, stuck one arm out, decided it was too cold, and waited for breakfast. After breakfast, however, I went out paddling in a kayak and got a good look at the lake, went for a ride in one of the two motor boats (They have a German Army heavy duty launch and a "storm boat", German also, with a 50 horsepowered outboard motor), had a couple of dips in the lake and enjoyed myself thoroughly. That afternoon there was a trip scheduled to see King Ludwig II's palace in the Chiem See.

I had been told by the men there that the palace was an amazing place, but I wasn't prepared for what I found there. The Chiem See is a large lake north of the camp, a middle class resort place, but on one island in the middle of the place the mad King Ludwig (one of 22 mad kings that Bavaria  had, according to the New Yorker), set out to duplicate the palace at Versailles. He built the building, and completed 14 rooms at a cost of $40,000,000, but ran out of money, went completely mad, and died, apparently a suicide, in a sanitarium in Munich. His reign was 1860 to 1880 or thereabouts, but I never can remember dates.

We crossed the lake in a motor excursion boat, but the island has been taken over by the Army as a showplace for GI's only.  We walked across half the island before we came to the palace, nestled in the woods. A T/5 met us at the entrance, told us not to smoke and to walk only on the mat carpets laid out on the inlaid floors, then guided us through. Never before in my life have I seen such lavish splendor.

Ludwig was quite infatuated with the lives of Louis XIV and XV, and the motif of the entire palace is built around their lives. The walls and doors are trimmed with elaborate, hand caned wood in various floral designs, and covered with gold leaf, the trim around the edges of the ceiling are gold leaf, paintings on the walls and ceilings were painted for the palace and not just collector's items, but fitted with the scheme. The marble statuary and fire places, crystal and Dresden china chandeliers, brocaded hangings and inlaid floors just defy description. You would have to go through it and describe each room in order to give any clear idea of the splendor of the place. Major Sampier, a MG officer with us, said that Versailles is rich in tradition, has beautiful grounds and some of the original paintings, but is stripped of most of its decorations. This palace had been used by Ludwig for only a few days, and looked as new as when it was built.

It is lunch time now, and I have to go out this afternoon, so I'll make this a continued story, and pick up the rest of it later. 

Thanks to everyone for the birthday presents, and my love to you all --

Bill

PS-- Nothing new on when I might be coming home, and don't watch for the division's return, because there is no guarantee that I would return with it.  My extra 10 pints are now official, so I have 78.
2nd PS-- I still like snacks, and can always use more.

July 17

Dear Family:

I have about 50 minutes before supper and nothing to do, so maybe I can finish the letter I started this morning. In case you should receive this first, it was telling about my trip to Bavaria, and I was raving about the splendor of King Ludwig's palace in the Chiem See in Bavaria. I mailed it this morning, because I wasn't sure when I would get a chance to write again.

I got back to the rest camp (which is located about 20 miles north of Salzburg) in time for a swim before dinner, and after dinner I tried out a homemade aquaplane --just a couple of boards and some rope, hitched behind a launch and I got quite a kick out of it.   It was the first time I've ever tried an aquaplane. I can imagine that a good board behind a faster boat would be quite a thrill.

The second day at the camp it rained, and I spent the morning reading in my tent. That afternoon a group of us decided to visit Salzburg, where we were scheduled to go the next day. It is a very old city, not too badly banged up by the war, and I spent the afternoon prowling around the city, visited the catacombs there which included the oldest church in Germany (so the woman who guided us around claimed, although actually it is again Austria), which was hewn out of the rock on the side of a cliff overlooking the city 1600 years ago.  It was raining again when we started back, but when it stopped I went in for a dip, the only one in camp who tried swimming that day. It was rather cold.

Next morning we made a trip to Berchtesgaden, Hitler's home, on what is probably the highest mountain in the Bavarian Alps, although I am not sure. Anyway, it was cloudy when we started out. We saw some of the most wonderful scenery I have ever encountered as we drove through the mountains. We went through the town of Berchtesgaden, then up the mountain to the place where Hitler's home was located. Everything there is completely battered -- Hitler's home, the SS barracks and a hotel there. Hitler's home was still standing, and all the walls, inside and-out, were intact, but they were just plain burned out brick -- the floors, plaster and everything else gone. I looked out of that large window that Hitler is frequently pictured beside, and roamed around, but there was little to see but destruction.

The trucks -- they use the small 3/4-ton weapons carriers for sightseeing from the camp -- drove us up a steep, winding, four-mile road that practically hung on the sides of the mountain, from Hitler's home almost to the summit where the Eagle's Nest -- Hitler's place of meditation -- is located. You would look over the side of the truck and down and down and down what seemed to be miles to the farmland in the valleys below. Finally, when we got almost to the summit, we reached an open parking spot, then finished the climb on foot. (Only field grade officers, majors and up, are permitted to use Hitler's private elevator). It is a 15-minute walk up a steep, winding path to the house, but was really worth the climb.

The Aerie consists of one large, circular room with large windows around three sides, looking off on the tiny mountains below. On the third side is a fireplace, and a few steps above that a long, narrow room paneled throughout, with a long table to match, and behind that a kitchen and bathrooms. Also approached from the large living room is a small study, also paneled. The clouds started to break while we were up there, and you could see patches of the view -- mountains that had looked huge from below, but which now looked like mere mounds, and small farms and rivers almost beneath your feet, and craggy mountains with snow on them staring up at you. Whatever else I think of Hitler, I like his taste in architecture if it is reflected in the Aerie, and he certainly picked an amazing place for his house. There were no bedrooms on that floor, and I don't know what was in the basement, for it was locked.

We went down the mountain again, and took off for Salzburg where a group of us visited a 400-year-old castle perched high on a cliff overlooking the city. From the top of the castle you could see for countless miles in every direction. I had my fill of scenery that day.

We were scheduled to go home the next day, and I had my fill of swimming and paddling around, and got another aquaplane ride. But General Oliver flew down in one of the L-4 artillery planes, asked how the men liked the camp, and suggested that they stay another day. That seemed to get the general approval of all the men, and a trip to Brenner Pass was planned for the next day.

We started off at 7:45 the next morning, because the trip was about 120 miles each way. That day I think I saw more breathtaking mountain scenery than on all the rest of the trip put together. We drove down a valley between mountain ranges to Innsbruck, then turned up into the hills through the pass. I had thought that Brenner Pass would be a cleft between huge, snow-capped mountains, but it was just a road running through high, wooded hills with farms beside the road, running at 45 degree angles up the mountain side. When we stopped to eat our K-ration lunch, we watched a man and woman cutting hay on a hill so steep that they sort of scrambled up and down -- it was too steep for them to walk.

We were halted at the Italian border and told that we couldn't go on through. We could, however, walk up to a little marble monument which said Deutschland on one side and Italia on the other. So I crossed the line from the German town of Brenner to the Italian town of Brennero. Four feet beyond was a sign "Troops will not pass this point. Provost Marshall."  So I got four feet into Italy, and for the record, I have been to Italy.

Back at Innsbruck we took a cable car part way up one of the mountains overlooking the city, but it turned out that the ride to the top would take about two hours each way, and we didn't have time. We reluctantly took the trip down the mountain and returned to camp. I got in another evening of swimming, and took a long ride in the kayak, and called it a vacation.

The trip back the next day was long and tiresome and rugged. Lacking the enthusiasm we had felt on the way own to the camp, none of really felt too buoyant. Also, we were all pretty tired out from our rest at the rest camp. However, we got back about 10 o'c1ock, and I walked into our rooms to discover that the boys were having a little feed, and had rounded up a bottle of Noilly Pratt vermouth and some German 1iquor, white stuff flavored with anise, from which they were making ersatz martinis. So I finished off the vacation with a party.

Lt. Burns wangled for himself a trip to England by air -- a very pretty piece of finagling of which I believe he is very proud -- and left the same day I did. Lt. McIntire, who was recently assigned to the division and put into the PRO office because of his newspaper background and experience as corps historian, is in charge until he gets back.  But Lt. McIntire doesn't much give a damn (although he did a wonderful job on the makeup of the division book), and has a real interest only in things alcoholic (for which I admire him), so things are not rushing.

I got back Saturday night, and was going to run up to the castle Sunday morning and write this letter. But I slept all Sunday morning, went swimming in a pool near here Sunday afternoon, and drank Sunday night. Yesterday I made the long trip to Geissen, which took all day.

As I said in the other letter, there seems to be little new about my status or that of the division, other than that my 78 points are now official.

I believe I forgot to mention that in Muhlhausen I bought a few bits of brick-a-brack at a gift shop, nothing that I liked but something that seemed to be souvenirs, had them packed and sent them home. There were some little powder or pin boxes -- but I am afraid that they wouldn't fit on Ma's bureau. The wall vases seemed to be the only useful things I could find--- all the others were too fussy. I wept and gnashed my teeth because I got there just too late to get some tiny Dresden dolls like the ones in front of the clock, and they never did get in another shipment.

Well, it is now supper time, so   I'll end this with love to everyone at home,

Bill

 

 

 

"Dad, William Vermilye Toffey III"

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