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Sgt George White, squad leader, Co. G, 331st Infantry Regiment, US 83rd Division, ETO

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    Sgt George White, squad leader, Co. G, 331st Infantry Regiment, US 83rd Division, ETO

    ​ Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Here is a tribute to George E. White, a squad leader in an American infantry regiment in the ETO/European Theater of Operations. White was born in 1912. I have a grouping of his, as shown in the various pictures in this post. In the previous century, my father's law firm in Washington DC had a long-time office manager named Ethna White (pictured), who died in the 1990s. Ethna was George White's sister. It was brought to my attention that there was a scrapbook of letters kept by George's and Ethna's mother, including wartime letters (many on V-Mail). After Ethna died, the letters went to George's widow, Alice (pictured), in California with a note that I would be interested in taking the letters if she did not want them. After a while, the collection of medals, along with the letters, as you see in the pics was sent to me from Alice who wrote that she appreciated my interest in them. The letters are from the 1930s-April 1945. The prewar letters show a man working as a traveling salesman in the central Virginia/USA area including Charlottesville, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg and other places well known to me because I live near them; they are likely familiar to other WA members. In November 1940 George White got a draft registration number and soon after began military service in various units. Here is a timeline of his service put together from the letters:

    176th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, May-June 1941
    ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program), 4th Company, 4th Regiment, 1943-1944
    Company D, 3rd Battalion, 1st Replacement Regiment, June 27, 1944
    Still in the United States, July 13, 1944
    In England, July 25, 1944
    Somewhere in France, July 28, 1944
    New address: Company G, 331st Infantry Regiment, August 15, 1944
    In Luxemburg, November 1, 1944
    In Paris, wounded, small antitank shell fragments, December 14, 17, 1944
    Back to outfit, February 10, 1945

    While in the States, one can see that he had what was probably a shared experience from many American servicemen. The 176th Regiment was at one point part of the US 29th Infantry Division but was then detached for Washington DC defense. The ASTP was an "entity" that took men deemed above average in intellect or potential and kept them in reserve (many college students, who continued their studies) with the idea that they would be called to service for modern warfare to operate we would call today high-tech weapons and so forth. In 1944, it was ended because what US military leaders learned was that the Army especially needed infantry replacements because infantrymen were killed and wounded in great numbers (that's a very generalized description of the ASTP, but I think fairly accurate). That was White's fate, it seems. He ended up in the 83rd Division "somewhere in France" in summer 1944. Wounded in December, he missed the Ardennes Campaign, but was back with his unit in late winter 1945. The 83rd Division was one of dozens of infantry divisions in the European Theater, the division engaged not long after D-Day/June 6 and for a while operating around St. Malo on the Atlantic Coast of France. White's letters do not mention place names, generally, and lack any such language as "We blew up three Kraut pillboxes today..." He writes about having gastrointestinal problems, a toothache being treated, lousy food, some people he has met, inquiring and reminiscing about homelife and wanting to return home. I think he must have been near St. Malo and then certainly on into eastern France, Luxembourg, and Germany. The after action reports of his regiment have been scanned and can be found at: Not long after White's convalescing and returning to his unit, the 83rd Division began a drive into a collapsing German Reich, commandeering many kinds of vehicles in a drive to the Elbe River. It was nicknamed (perhaps in typical American fashion) by the American press the "Rag Tag Circus." On April 13, 1945, elements of the division, among them George White, crossed the Elbe near Barby, White was killed in a German counterattack at Walternienburg and his tragic fate is described in letters written to his mother from two fellow soldiers, Dick Winslow and Ivan Yoder:


    Dear Mrs. White-

    We all called him Whitey. He was my squad leader. Everyone liked Whitey.
    We had crossed the Elbe River that day and into a small town- We immediately dug in on the outskirts of town – anticipating a counterattack. The Germans attacked as we expected with tanks and infantry. The infantry were infiltrating thru our lines. Whitey was the first man to spot them. He threw a phosphorous grenade in their midst and in so doing completely disorganized their attack. I was next to Whitey at the time and with the help of our squad we annihilated the enemy with grenade and small arms fire.
    After the fire fight Whitey said to me he was going down the line and check on the men. See if all the men were all right. He was killed within fifty feet of me by a German automatic weapon. He was killed instantly. He never made a sound.
    I don’t know what to say now Mrs. White This is all a terrible nightmare to me. It’s hard to explain to the folks back home what we front line troops go thru. If I come to the States I would like to come and see you.
    Whitey didn’t suffer. He was killed instantly. He was a fine man. God bless him.
    Sincerely, Dick Winslow


    May 23, 1945

    Dear Mrs. White,
    I received your letter today asking me if I knew your son George. I am glad to give you all the information about his death that I can. He was killed on Friday the 13th of April about 12 o’clock at Madenburg [Magdeburg?] Germany. He was my squad leader and a finer soldier I never knew. Some day I hope to get home and then I can give you some more information. Well I don’t know any more that I can write about him for the time being.
    Yours sincerely, P.F.C. Ivan P. Yoder


    Yoder is mentioned by name in one of White's letters to his mother and another letter from White mentions pictures of some of his fellow soldiers. No such pictures of them are in the grouping, but the portrait of White in uniform may have been taken at the same time as his comrades' photos? In one letter he mentions that he had a toothache when the enclosed photo was taken and apologized for the odd look on his face. I suspect George's anguished mother wrote Yoder and Winslow because George had named them in pictures he sent, seeking to learn about her son's death.

    White was awarded a posthumous Silver Star, and the citation for its award is at the 331st Regiment's April 45 report: Winslow was awarded the same decoration for the April 13 battle, the award noted in the May 1945 report. I have put some scans here of a newspaper article which mentions that a grenade killed White, not automatic weapons fire as Winslow tells White's mother. We shall never know what happened. Americans in a sh*tty situation and place at night a long way from home and a counterattack by the enemy in the darkness. From what I can tell, it was a determined effort by the Germans which made mention (as I recall) in the 83rd Division's history or perhaps the appropriate volume of the US Army World War II's official history (the Green Books). If anyone knows about details, please share.

    The WWW being what it is, I looked for information about all this and found out about Tony Vaccaro, a pretty/very well known photographer, who took thousands of photos while in the 83rd Division. He is still alive and survived COVID a few months ago, at least that is my understanding. I grabbed some photos he took of the very times we are talking about and included them here. If you want a sense of the horror of Central Europe in 1945, google him and look at his work. It does not pull punches. The 83rd Division encountered KZ-concentration camps in addition to experiencing the everyday misery, destruction, and violent death prevalent at this time and place. Vaccaro faithfully documents this.

    I will be attaching scans of various artifacts including an April 9 1945 letter to his sister Ethna in which White thanks his sister for a dictionary she sent him, writing "the [German] civilians get to be as much bother as the Jerry soldiers" and that he "wished this extended sightseeing tour would end. When I saw the first inch of Europe I had seen enough although there is really lots to see if you don't have to worry about what you couldn't see. So long, your big brother, Georgie Porgie"

    Finally, there is an end to this story and some kind of closure. In early October 2020, I received the following email from a gentleman in the US, with names blanked out, though there is no need for that really; it is all more than on the level. (The German mentioned has a couple of posts about him in the WA Forum).

    Hi [BB75],

    I assist a research group in Germany headed by &&&& who looks for missing aircraft and missing airmen from WW2. If you google &&&& you will find a lot of information about
    him for confirmation purposes. Recently we came across a bracelet in Europe that we think belonged to George Emmet White and I came across the page where you are referenced. I’m hoping to get a hold of any family. Any chance you can assist? I assist in the US to return such items to family members including dog tags, bracelets, and anything else.


    Pictures of the bracelet, with White's name and serial number (SN is present on virtually all of his wartime letters) and a dedication from his wife Alice on the back, are attached. The sterling silver bracelet was found, recently and near the Elbe I have learned but by whom and how is not known to me.

    My apologies (as always, I have been dinged for this before) for less than perfect pictures, but I think they are clear enough. They include various decorations, with a named Silver Star, campaign medals, and a Winterschlacht im Osten medal which presumably was among White's personal effects sent back. The photos show White, with and without parents, and awarding of the Silver Star to Alice. The ladies with Alice in one picture are the aforementioned Ethna and sister (George's only other sibling), Kay. A portrait of Alice is also shown.

    All are now deceased, with George and wife buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, USA.

    Peace and RIP George White.

    More pics DSCN0274.JPG DSCN0241.JPG DSCN0286.JPG DSCN0309.JPG


      some more DSCN0307.JPG DSCN0243 2.JPG


        more pics (Winslow letter, continued) DSCN0244 2.JPG


          Ivan Yoder letter DSCN0242 2.JPG


            Tony Vaccaro pictures, crossing Elbe near Barby and GIs at Walternienburg, where White died barby.jpg walternienburg.jpg


              newspaper articles and letter to Ethna, White's sister DSCN0297.JPG


                DSCN0306.JPG paper and letter


                  April 9 45 White letter to sister..."extended sightseeing tour" DSCN0299.JPG


                    sterling silver bracelet, belonging to White, from his wife Alice, recently found near the Elbe River (2020?) thumbnail (1).jpeg thumbnail.jpeg


                      There is a German Winterschlacht im Osten medal seen in the picture of all the medals, which presumably was among the dead man's personal effects. The 83rd Division patch is a repro I bought; I think it is upside down in the same picture.


                        White's two sisters and his widow, Alice DSCN0310.JPG


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