The following interesting letter was received by Rev. Hanko, from a young man of our churches who is a serviceman. It follows:
August 22, 1954
Dear Rev. Hanko:
I received your letter about the first of the month, but just didn’t get to answer it sooner, for which I am sorry. I hope this letter finds you, and all those that seek and love the truth with you, content in the way of the Lord, and experiencing the abundance of His grace.
I am stationed about five miles from Stuttgart, on an old German army post. The barracks on the post, being German barracks, prove that the German army was one of the best treated. It is 100 times better than the American barracks back in the states. The huge cement and stone structure measures about 50’ x 125’ and is 4 stories high, and has from 20-25 rooms on each floor. The rooms have hardwood floors and plastered walls; the halls have tile floors. There is a central heating plant for all buildings on the post; therefore, we have steam heat throughout. The water and light facilities are excellent.
Yes, I’m driving a two and one half ton dump truck over here in Germany. So far I’ve put on about 2,500 miles since I signed for it last March. Our job consists of care and maintenance of bridge parts and trucks, and the transporting of the bridge to the combat units who build the bridge a few times, for training. It’s rather interesting when we move out of the Company area, and go to different places. We travel the Autobahn, which is a network of divided highways, connecting all major cities, like the PA turnpike. We also take a few back roads through small towns and along canals. This summer we’ve brought the bridge to different units in Ulin, Munchen, Nurnberg, Erlangen, Regensburg, and Hielbroun. Sometimes, while our trucks are unloaded at these units, we go on map problems with the trucks. Each driver is on his own and is given different points and places to go to, and return. The longest problem I was on, covered 100 miles. This is quite a lot of fun.
So much for my job over here. Now the country and its people. Historic spots and ancient customs give daily reminders that it is the Old World. The walled city of Nurnburg, the fortressed castles, and the big old cathedrals, all show scars of time and some show scars of the war. Most of them are still in use. Many of the old cities have winding streets and are so narrow that my truck can hardly squeeze through; and blind curves are abundant. The streets are laid with cobble stones which, although rough, hold up very good. The old towns abound with statues, fountains, and roadside shrines. There are elaborately carved stone facades, iron gates, and cornerstones that provide footnotes of history. High chimneys, steep red tile roofs, and odd little gables and cornices are prevalent.
The country is very crowded, and therefore there are a lot of big apartment houses; yet everything is neat and clean. Even the big cities are clean; there are no slum districts here.
Farming methods are primitive because the typical German farm is small, and its low income makes tractors, etc., uneconomical. So the farmers use methods and equipment used by their forefathers; horses, or on foot, pulling big loads of wood or feed in small carts. It is not unusual to see old women, in their 60’s, working in the fields all day, beside the men, because there are more women over here than there are men. Cows are used as well as oxen and horses, as draft animals. Since the size of most farms make crop rotation standard practice, the strips of cultivated land give the countryside a patchwork appearance. Not much corn is grown here. The main crops are wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, hemp, tobacco, and hops. The production of hops has made Germany one of the leading beer brewing countries in the world. They don’t drink much water, coffee, tea, or milk. It’s always beer, at work or leisure. They prefer beer.
Instead of living on the small farms, farmers live in hundreds of small villages clustered over the landscape. Therefore, there are very few farm houses. Barns, such as those back in the States, are a rarity here. Usually hogs, sheep, cattle, horses, and fowl are housed with feed, in various rooms or annexes of the farmer’s house.
The forests are mostly evergreen, and they have the most rigid forestry laws ever conceived, prohibiting the felling of trees without permission. When we go on maneuvers, or field problems, and park our trucks in a forest, Uncle Sam pays for every tree we break, or even skin, and every ditch we mar, and every rut we leave with our truck wheels.
Most of the industrial transportation is done by boats and barges on the large networks of rivers and canals. They also have a fine network of railroads, and have electric as well as steam engine trains for passengers and industry. And then they also have the Autobahn, which connects the major cities, cutting through mountains, and bridging deep valleys.
In some localities, the people speak part Dutch. In any fairly large town, and some small ones, they can speak and understand a little English.
There is quite a bit of beautiful German music on the air.
The weather has been very wet, causing floods down in the Southern part. Stuttgart lies approximately on the same parallel as Seattle and the northern tip of Maine. The last of the summer sun does not fade until nearly 9 o’clock at night.
In almost every little town there is a church with a steeple, and a big clock in the steeple. Their religion is mostly Catholic or Evangelical.
I have about 7 more months to do, what seems like a wasted two years; but of course we know that every second of our lives is a means to an end. Each second is necessary, and fits into the eternal plan of God. Of course, I find very little spiritual food in the Army. I get the Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights, and Radio speeches, and, of course, I have the Bible.
Well, Rev. Hanko, this is all I can write. Thank you for your letter, and I’ll sign off, knowing all is well with His people. Seeing we are His, through Christ, by grace; not because of anything we, by nature, did, will do, or could ever do; but only by grace and the gift of faith by which we are tied consciously and willingly to Christ our Head. All glory be to God, who knew and loved His children from eternity to eternity, and unto hereafter.
Yours in Christ,
Pfc. Rog Dykstra
38th Engr. Pan. Brg. Co.
APO 154 c/o P.M.
New York, N.Y.