From an eMail:
Dear Mr. Province,
I recently was sent a link to your website of Patton info by a cousin whose son is working on a 7th grade history project in Oklahoma. She sent an article regarding Charles Province and the woman from San Diego who led him to the treasure of the huge two-volume history of the Third Army during WWII.
I wanted to write and let you know that my father was the "unknown clerk" who copied down Patton's famous speech on that long ago day. His name is Neil Harper Shreve and he grew up in Fairmont, West Virginia. He had one year of college at Fairmont State Teachers College but had to end his studies due to the Great Depression and subsequent lack of money. He ended up working for the Consolidated Coal Company in Fairmont and it was there that he learned shorthand. That is what made it possible for him to copy down Patton's speech verbatim.
My Dad wore glasses and was deferred from the army for several years, but in 1943 he was accepted and off he went to a base near Columbus, Ohio to prepare to go overseas. He was called, "The Old Man" by the younger soldiers because he was nearly 30 years old. He was married to his great love, Jane Kennedy Shreve and had one child at that time, my sister Kit.
When the movie "Patton" came out in the early 70's, my Dad was shocked when it opened with the famous speech that he had copied down himself! He contacted 20th Century Fox and tried to receive a bit of recognition, but they weren't really interested in this unknown clerk.
He was part of the 44th MRU under General Patton; the Mobile Records Unit which traveled behind the troops over Europe, keeping track of everything. The "Mighty 44th" as they came to call themselves survived even after the war. My father was happy to be the one to keep the group together until his death on December 9th, 1977. The group met for years every Labor Day weekend, most often in Oglebay Park in Wheeling, West Virginia. The "44th" folks became like family to us and when our mother died at such a young age (42) in 1956 leaving 5 children and my Dad so heartbroken, they were such a source of comfort and help to us.
I could go on and on about them and all of that, but I won't! I still keep in touch with the remaining 44th people as best I can. I have a list of the remaining group and email Charles James ("Jesse" of course) who has taken over the task of person in charge.
I have all of my father's letters to my mother during the war and he was quite a writer so his human-interest stories enclosed in these letters are to me pretty remarkable. It has always been my dream to have these published someway before all of the WW II vets are deceased. I have sorted through and chosen the ones I think would interest most people, but it is a daunting task! My father was in the army from 1943 until 1945. He came home via Washington, D.C. in December of 1945 and he met my mother at his sister Elaine's apartment there. I was born 9 months later, one of the very first Baby Boomers! He was always proud to tell me that story!
My father was a wonderful, wonderful man who made life magic for us. After losing his beloved Janie, our mother, to cancer he raised all 5 of us children. He was not Catholic himself, but kept his promise to her and kept us all in Catholic school. My eldest sister Kit even became a nun; a Sister of Saint Joseph. She kept in touch with many of the 44th until her own early death 2-1/2 years ago at age 59, also of cancer.
I now live in Hyattsville, Maryland, four miles from Washington, D.C. where my life began! We still have our old home in Fairmont, West Virginia where we all grew up and there in front of the courthouse in the downtown, people can pay to have bricks placed in the sidewalk at the entrance to the building. About 4 years ago, the five of us children put our money together for one of the larger bricks and on it we had written "The Saint and the Scribe" with our parents' names.
So now you know the rest of the story!
The scribe who copied down Patton's speech was my dear Dad . . . Neil (don't forget the H!) Shreve.
Thanks for being so interested in keeping history alive!
Sharon Shreve Klees
From an eMail:
Thank you for the website re the MRU . . . how interesting! That gave me the most comprehensive view of exactly what my Dad and his buddies did during the war!
I can't tell you how pleased I am for my father's sake that you were so interested to find him all of those years. I'm sure he would be amazed. The recording of history and facts was so important to him. He would so appreciate someone who felt the same . . . To me he truly was for many, many reasons one of those unsung heroes.
From the Times-West Virginian, Summer, 1970:
Twenty-six years ago, a member of the XII Corps of the Third Army, then stationed in England, hurried to his typewriter after hearing General George S. Patton, Jr. address the troops after taking over command of the Third Army. The general had already distinguished himself by his fearless dash and drive as commander of armored columns in Africa, and he was to become famous as the spearhead of the Allied campaign across Europe.
Hot off the typewriter that day came what the editors of the official history of the XII Corps were to call a "minor masterpiece" as they published it in their unit history. That account of the Patton Speech which gave a remarkable profile of a man who spoke the language of the G.I. was to be published anonymously thereafter in many newspapers and even in a magazine. Before that, it was read by thousands of men in the Eastern Theater of Operations, but none of them knew the name of the author.
It is past time-notably at a moment when "Patton," the motion-picture about the great general, is being exhibited at the Lee Theater and across the nation-to reveal that the soldier writer was Neil H. Shreve, a well-known Fairmont man, who went "all the way" with Patton from Utah Beach to the Rhine.
It is our pleasure to reprint the Shreve article today.
44th MRU, APU 312
c/o PM, New York, NY
29 August 1944
Mrs. Neil W. Shreve
606 Oliver Avenue
Fairmont, W. VA., U.S.A.
Just got your letter of the 16th and at last you came thru with a nice lead, and opened the gates for a world of possibilities which you can now piece together and by using your imagination, get a pretty fair picture of things if you follow the papers closely, which I surely hope you have been doing.
Remember when you mentioned a certain general and how good he was, and the army he headed which is making history (and you don't know the half of it)--well, that's our boss! He will come out of this one of the top men of the war, as we all predicted once he got rolling and now we are in full swing right behind him. Yes, that is our Army and you may be able to see a lot of things now! I had the great privilege of seeing him once in England, up very close, and heard a stirring talk to the men of our camp such as only he could give. It was a real event, with all the pomp and ceremony of a visiting king, and I have a rough copy, from memory, 4 pages long, of his speech and of the general setting that I have treasured since that day.
This army is now moving like wildfire and when this is over will receive world fame, and we are all tickled to death realizing that we are part of this making of history. If you only knew how many miles we've moved since hitting the beachhead, you would surely believe we are in it up to our gizzards, too! That should give you all at 606 a new interest and excitement as things move onward now, and be sure and watch those headlines, and save any big ones for me-I sure want them! Now what do you think?
Speaking of saving stuff, I am sending some clippings and a copy of the "S&S"-be sure to save all this stuff in a special box, safely, whatever you do, as some of it is invaluable, and can only be explained just why when I can tell you details of it, for it all has meaning that I'm sending home, whether you can see it openly or not. Don't throw away anything I ever send, for it is for a purpose.
We had steak again today, and for a change, the boy dishing it out went hog-wild and gave me a whole mess kit full-most I've had yet in the army, and I wolfed it appreciatively. The APU has to travel 180 miles for our mail, so that's why letters are slow!
You make me jealous with talk of the record hot summerthe kind we always wanted for swimming, picnics, and ball playing, and now when I'm gone for the first time in my life, we have it! How long did Mother stay up the valley? Glad to hear Fife is Capt. I knew Capt. Baileyhe dealt a lot with Mr. Tharmes, and I guess Fife will too. I may see him in the office some day! He will surely have a lot of power in the area, as a Capt. In the SP is a big shot job. So Buzz is spending his furlough fishingyou might know ithe's a nut on it. Yes, your V-mails are getting here faster than air mail, but I like air mail to see your writing once in a while, so keep mixing 'em up. My lighter is working swell, honey, and is one of the finest ones in the unit, too. Everyone wanted to know where you got it. Seems queer, you not knowing I'm in France yet (per your letter of the 16th)and we landed on July XX. Schaal got a letter from Bob Connolly in England today (remember the artist in my early days at Hayes I liked so well?) He's in Manchester, same spot as Pagealso Raffles' home town, in northern England. I guess you can do a little tall bragging to the people now about who our outfit isand I'd appreciate your telling Charley Lucas, Gail, etc. Dreamed about you last nitetwo straight!
Until that day, darling,
All my love,