Your Loving Son, Philip
Letters from an American Soldier in World War II
May 1944 – June 1946
By Sgt. Philip R. Herzig
Edited by Helene P. Herzig
With vivid detail Your Loving Son, Philip takes us back to the lives of the GIs in Germany at the end of World War II. Philip Herzig, a 19-year-old studying at Princeton University, was drafted in 1944. For the next two years he wrote home every other day, describing his life, first in boot camp, then in Germany, first in battle duty and then in the army of occupation. Philip describes everything from the guns issued during boot camp to the desolate surroundings of bombed out Germany. He even spends a day at the Nuremburg Trials. His mature observations about the German personality, about the GIs fraternizing with German frauleins-the enemy-and politics in the US are all fascinating and honest. At the same time, this boy misses his family greatly and doesn’t hesitate to fantasize about their trips in the family car, the cookouts and his parents’ loving personalities.
The book includes photos of Phil and his buddies as they travel around Germany and their posturing for the camera in the mountaintop ruins of Hitler’s headquarters in Berchtesgaden. He describes his surroundings — from the Riviera when he’s on deserved leave after action that led to a Purple Heart to the house of a family that hosted him in Holland to the shower the company gets to take in a deserted monastery.
Finalist in the International Book Awards “Military History” category.
BASIC TRAINING: June 15, 1944—Camp Croft, S.C.
We have just started bayonet drill. They say this is the hardest and most tedious work in the infantry training and I can well believe it. Holding the rifle in the correct position and going through the maneuvers for close combat fighting soon makes your arms numb. At first it is very clumsy; you either master the bayonet or it masters you. This bayonet drill is known as “the spirit of the bayonet.” That is everything is done with a snarl or a growl. We sound like a pack of mad dogs.
June 15, 1944
Today, as you probably know, is infantry day, and what a day it has been. The day is in honor of us, the forgotten branch of the army that does the fighting and will win the war. Being that good, you might think we might get a little vacation today, but no! Work twice as hard….In case you’re interested Dad (what a silly question) the reason June 15 is designated as infantry day is that on this day 1775 George Washington accepted command of the continental army, consisting almost entirely of foot soldiers.
July 28th, 1944
Mother dear, please don’t worry about me. You know me better than to think I’d be homesick, but don’t think for a moment that I wouldn’t rather be home, but so would eleven million other boys.
Christmas Eve 1944
This undoubtedly, will be the worst Christmas of my life, but paradoxically it will probably be the most unforgettable one. However, there is a compensating factor for this outward physical discontentment. I don’t know what it is but somehow you don’t mind it so much when you think that your being over here is saving the ones you love from the evils of war. You’d go through anything to keep this out of America, and it takes one look at any European town to see what I mean.
So long for now—and thanks for the many wonderful Holiday seasons of the past. They’re furnishing me with a lot of swell memories right now—
July 9, 1944
And Honey, don’t worry about my manners. You can still be a gentleman in the army, although at times it is a herculean effort.
August 31, 1945 Berchtesgaden
Only a burnt-out shell remains of Hitler’s one time home. However, you can still stand at the main window in the large living room… and enjoy a breath taking scenery down there, something you will never forget. I don’t see how any same man could have looked out of that window and thought of war.
“Your Loving Son, Philip is a major memoir from the World War II generation, distinctive for its literacy, its palpable recovery of the ordinary routines amidst those extraordinary times, the distinctive voice of a coming-of-age American man-child who has been hurled into the greatest military venture of the twentieth century…Philip is always disarmingly honest, never poses, never embellishes for effect. This is the genuine article.”
—Joseph Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian
“[Your Loving Son, Philip] is a rare and fascinating glimpse into the journey of a soldier; so detailed, so well written. The first chapters speak to the timelessness of soldier…camp life, drill, his impression of the South, it’s all there. What follows is no less remarkable: his journey to a foreign land, the experience of battle, and his encounters with the local populace. Absolutely fascinating to anyone interested in the [World War II] conflict and the experience of soldiering.”
—Ken Burns, Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
“…what an extraordinary book…! I feel like I know Philip Herzig—son, brother, friend—ane I know his worldview, his humor, his muscles, and his war. I love the breadth of responses to the range of his interests, from food to politics. It is all the more remarkable to me as I thought a thousand times about my mother’s war experiences during the same period of time.”
—Ann Kirschner, University Dean of the Macaulay Honors at CUNY
“I have been touched and pleased by reading this wonderfully interesting collection of letters…They are sensitive and literate, and [Philip’s] loving relationship with his parents and sister comes through very clearly. I enjoyed the Introduction [by editor Helene Herzig, Philip’s widow]: What an extraordinary gift to find in the attic after his death. It was so appropriate…to publish them. I’m sure [the book] is a major memoir of that generation.”
—Beryl Barr-Sharrar, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
“Philip Herzig’s letters offer a unique perspective on the European Theater of Operations (ETO) during World War II. Few men wrote home as often as Philip and few were as well read in history and politics as he was. His travel descriptions are “mini-tours” of the places he encountered as he fought and traveled through Europe—from Belgium to Hitler’s Lair to the Nuremberg Trials to this R&R in Nice, France.”
—Larry Zini, Huntsville, Utah