During the Battle of the Bulge, General George S Patton’s Fourth Armored Division broke through the German lines to relieve the pressure on eighteen thousand American troops surrounded in Bastogne. While an evacuation route was established, the Red Ball Express successfully carried out a ground resupply mission providing ammunition, food, winter clothing, blankets and a rather unusual letter… . By Reg Jans
In his snow-covered slit-trench just south of the tiny town of Recogne, twenty three your old mortar man Pvt James ‘Pee Wee¹ Martin received his first post from home.
‘There was a mail drop’, Mr. Martin remembers, ‘A truck drove in behind our lines and some overdue letters were distributed’. Jim’s family back in Ohio, had forwarded an official looking envelope to the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, when it reached Ramsbury (England), the paratroopers of third battalion, 506 PIR, had already parachuted into Normandy for D-Day.
The American Postal Service then forwarded the mail to France. Too late. The troopers had already returned to the UK and had jumped into the Netherlands for Operation Market-Garden. ‘That letter has followed me all across Europe and visited every country I had been to’, Pee Wee continues. ’It finally got to me in Bastogne.’
Excited to receive some news from home, Jim opened the envelope but what he found was not exactly what he had expected. ‘It was a letter from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), Jim remembers, ‘Dear Mr. Martin, we have checked your account and you still owe us USD 200,-. We urge you to settle this immediately in order to avoid any further actions to be taken against you.’, the cheery veteran says.
Astonished and slightly perturbed by the uncomfortable message (a motivating letter or Christmas card from home would have been far more appreciated), the ever inspired soldier scribbled back from his freezing foxhole.
‘I wrote the following’, Jim smiles, ‘”Dear IRS, Currently I am sitting on a log in Bastogne, Belgium, with snow up to my butt. The unpleasant news has arrived that you plan to take action against me if I don’t pay immediately. Well, I have a surprise for you: COME AND GET ME!”’.
To temper the mood of the administration, Jim Martin added a few bills of D-Day Invasion Money to it, before returning his answer to the USA.
‘I never heard from them again’, the now ninety four year old trooper chortles.