The War Comes To An End

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The War Comes to an End

The War Comes to an End

In the late summer of 1944 the United States Army, expecting an early end of the war, asked American Express officials to plan an extended series of sight-seeing tours of Europe for the troops abroad. Bert White conferred with the generals in Washington and later submitted an elaborate presentation which was approved in principle. However, the military had been slightly overoptimistic. As German resistance stiffened at the border of the Fatherland and then erupted in the fierce surge of the Battle of the Bulge, the plans had to be put aside.

Nazi desperation could do no more than delay the inevitable. General Jodil signed the surrender at last in the little schoolhouse at Rheims, and the peace of desolation settled over Europe. But in the ruined cities and the wrecked economies men soon began rebuilding. American Express was early in the field to forward this process by its every means.

Bergeron worked fast, and 11 Rue Scribe reopened on January 6, 1945, a month before the armistice. From Paris, Bergeron went to Marseilles and Nice, where he set up a sight-seeing service in conjunction with the Army Recreation Area. Thousands of soldiers on leave from the battle fronts took advantage of this and the entertainment service which Bergeron installed.

He also opened the office in Stockholm and re-established the offices in Holland and Denmark in the early summer of 1945. In August of that year he went to Frankfurt and arranged tour facilities in Germany for soldiers of the Army of Occupation. This service was established early in 1946, with offices in Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Heidelberg, and Wiesbaden as a start. Later other accommodations were provided by the company, and the present large establishment of American Express in the American Zone of Occupation grew to meet the services required of it.

In July 1945 President Reed also sent Gerald Berkey to Europe. Berkey sailed in the troopship Queen Mary and spent ten months abroad, picking up the threads of the freight-forwarding activity, re-establishing offices, and gathering staffs. An amazing number of former foreign employees returned to man these outposts of American Express.

When the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, Reed went ahead full speed with his program of post-war expansion. As fast as the key men came back from government service they were either assigned to the multiplying activities at 65 Broadway or sent scouring around the world to reopen former American Express offices and establish new ones. In 1946 Reed himself resumed his customary annual trips of inspection and encouragement.

That same year a new division was added to the Travel Department. Air traffic to Europe was making prodigious advances and seemed likely soon to surpass travel by sea. It was decided that an expert technician should handle this business. Lieutenant Colonel Louis Kelly, an American Expressman who had served with distinction in the Air Corps, was placed in charge of the new Air Transport Division.

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What next? Expressmen as Prisoners of War

Expressmen as Prisoners of War

Three of the American Expressmen found themselves companions in misery within the college turned concentration camp of Santo Tomas in Manila They were Frank Groves, Lloyd Cecil, and Cecil Kew. There Groves became for a time a member of the Self-Government Committee which made the laws of the camp, distributed the limited Red Cross supplies and food purchased outside the walls, and negotiated with the little Japanese commandant for the amelioration of the prisoners' lot.

Groves, Cecil, and Kew remained within those walls for nearly three and a half wretched years, until that glorious night when the United States First Cavalry Division brought its tanks through the narrow streets of the Philippine capital and crashed through walls to let freedom into Santo Tomas.

When Groves came out of Santo Tomas his 182 pounds had shrunk to 125, and his wife, who went through it all with him, tipped the scale at 78 pounds. He is always very proud to... see: Expressmen as Prisoners of War

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