Last week, we left Mike Pesta playing football, and seeing his friend Smokey on Thanksgiving plus a few times after that. Now, we switch to January 1945:

Uncle Joe (Russia) exploded fireworks the latter part of January. Started to drive toward Berlin with us in his path. Rumors ran riot: "We were to be evacuated." We weren't.

Jerry started the ball rolling. Moved out the wounded to Barth. "B" Lager had 1,500 moved out and the rest came over to us. Finally our fate became known. Feb. 5 at 2230, Jerry told us to prepare to evacuate the next day, on foot. It was expected, but dreaded. We had seen the Internationals going in and out each day.

Feb. 6, 1945, we left with blanket roll and Red Cross parcel, bound for we knew not where. If we had known a little more, quite a few of us would have taken more than one parcel. (That first day was rough.) After months of laying around, to walk out with a pack and march 15 kilos was torture. But, eventually, we got used to it. Food and Red Cross parcels were our main worries. Three or four spuds a day and hot water was enough to keep us alive.

Retreat from Kiefhyde: Left Groos Tchyow on foot. Headed for who knows. We've got one Red Cross parcel with us. When that goes, we worry about food. Traveled 14 kilos through snow and mud. Damn pack must weigh 100 pounds. Feels that way. Slept in a barn the Jerries took over for us. Beattie, Frenchy and I shacked up together. Kept fairly warm. Salvaged a blanket and some other articles. Had quite a variety of Kriegies here. Russians taken at Stalingrad. Pole from Warsaw. Few French here for five years. All predict an early end. Nuts!

Feb. 7, 1945: Up at 0530. Hit the road at 8.25 kilos to Stolronberg. Feet are OK, but, oh my legs! The rest of the mob OK. Stayed in another barn tonight. Probably know every barn in the country before this is over. The Jerry had a couple of cut kids. Vince and Murph handled the hot water. Also got themselves an egg. Must've been good.

Feb. 8, 1945: Up at 6. Supposed to do 15 kilos today. We did 20. Saw a couple of wonderful blisters. About an 1/8 of an inch of skin off of both heels. Wonder what it'll be like in a few days. Quien sabe? Barned up again. Can't seem to get warm. Murph got sick during the night. Too much rich food.

Feb. 10 and 11: Walked about 40 kilos for both days. Beattie is getting his backside painted. Sure is an awful looking mess. Duke didn't feel too hot today. Giesel's feet are bad, but he's hobbling along with us. Got plenty of guts for my money. Seeing a lot of courage these days. Found out what it means when you see guys with thin faces and bad stomachs (lack of food) cracking jokes while they go through mud up to their knees.

Rumor has it that Stettin has fallen. We heard guns today. Padre says they're Jerry warships shelling the Russians in Stettin. Quite a few of the boys are getting the go-away blues. Tomorrow night is the deadline. We should be nearing the coast soon. Tomorrow will tell the tale. Stay or go. We're damn short of food, but the Jerries aren't giving out any. Gave us 18 pounds butter and 10 tins of corned beef for about 400 men.

If ever the Lord figured on helping these guys, he'd better do it soon. Can't do a hell of a lot of walking when your stomach is empty. May take a short cut myself tomorrow. Better close now and get to bed. Bed, what a laugh! Anther hay loft.... continued next week.

Keystone Connie, with Valentine love, call 610 933-0669.

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