From Posen, Prussia (today Poznan, Poland) to PWE #2 (Prisoner of War Enclosure #2) at [Souilly], France: 20 October 1918. Unbound. This postcard was sent to Unterofficier Friedlaender, who was held captive at the U.S. Prisoner of War Enclosure #2 in Souilly, France, from Posen, Prussia via the American Central Records Office for Prisoners of War at APO 717, Tours, France. It was written on 20 October 1918 and bears a Posen postmark with the same date. There is a German “Uberwachungsstelle” (monitoring agency) handstamp in the lower right corner, a circular “55” censor handstamp over the postmark, and a double-square American Base Censor stamp in the lower left corner. A records office clerk annotated the card, “PWC #2”.
My German is very poor, but the card’s content appears to discuss the weather, “Grosspapa” (grandfather), the receipt of some of the sergeant’s letters, and hopes that he had received many letters and parcels.
The card address indicates that Friedlaender was a sergeant assigned to the German 461st Infantry, the best unit in the mediocre 237th Division which had performed poorly on the Eastern Front and been relocated to the Aisne-Marne sector in the Spring of 1918.
By June 3, it had dug into positions within the Bois de Belleau (Belleau Wood), a 1.6 square kilometer of tangle of undergrowth, with the 461st occupying the center of the its line. On 6 June, the 6th Marine Regiment and the 1st Battalion of the Army’s 2nd Engineer Regiment, both part of the Army’s 2nd Division, began an assault into the woods. Attack and counterattack followed until 15 June when the exhausted Marines were relieved by the Army’s 7th Infantry Regiment which continued to grind away at the German defenses until the Marine Brigade was able to rest and replenish its ranks before returning to the front a week later.
The stalemate continued until the afternoon of 25 June when the 2nd Division’s three army artillery regiments unleashed a devastating two-hour barrage on center the German line which was held by Friedlaender’s 461st Regiment. As the barrage lifted, five companies of Marines attacked, and after several hours of heavy fighting with the shell-shocked defenders in the smoke-filled woods, the Americans captured and held the German position.
The Battle of Belleau Wood became one of the celebrated actions of the war due to the purple prose of Chicago newspaperman Floyd Gibbons who accompanied the Marines and was wounded during the engagement.
Freidlaender, who was held at the Army’s Prisoner of War Enclosure #2, was no doubt captured during this battle as the remnants of the 461st Regiment saw little fighting for the rest of the war. (For more information, see the Marine Corps History Division’s The Bravest Deeds of Men, “We Were there Too: the US Army at Belleau Wood” at the Angry Staff Officer, “German Defensive Plan at Belleau Wood” at worldwar1.com, the G.H.Q.A.E.F.’s Prisoners of War: Regulations and Instructions, 1918, and “Central Prisoner of War Enclosure No. 2” in the A.E.F Commander-in-Chief’s Report: Report of the Provost Marshal; all online.). Very good. Item #009728
This is, perhaps, the only extant example mail to or from PWE #2 and made even more desirable by its association with one of the most storied battles of WWI. At the time of listing, no other PWE #2 mail is for sale in the trade, and there are no auctions recorded at the Stamp Auction Network, Worthpoint, nor the Rare Book Hub. Neither does OCLC show any institutional holdings.