These are not memories, but instead are knitted-together fragments found in boxes and albums and the need to fashion an image for a lost father.
Myles Cullen, known as Jim, was one of 3 brothers, and the strongest among them, for neither Georgie nor Frank was fit for service. Their father Hugh could only work as a night watchman after pipefitting got to be too much for him. The women in the family were tougher. His mother Nellie and sisters Catherine and Aggie managed to hold things together. When Hugh was no longer bringing home enough, Myles dropped out of high school to help with feeding the family. He worked at Con Edison - the New York power company. That was where the army found him in April 1941, when he was 28, and had not yet figured out his future.
Jim was sent from the Bronx to the Pennsylvania Keystone Division (28th) and trained in Louisiana. He made Sergeant, and was sent to officer candidate school in Fort Benning, Georgia. He was always serious and responsible, but before the army, his ideas about his future were vague, and from his family's vantage point under the "L" on Jerome Avenue, there was not much blue sky to look at. He did want to settle down and have a good life and a family. While on leave, he met Margaret Krell at Pop Krell's bowling alley on Mt. Eden Avenue. He fell for her pretty hard, and was sure that she was the one. He wanted to be her provider and protector, and getting ahead in the Army could open opportunities after the war. He was finding his strengths and learning to use them.
After he made second lieutenant in September 1942, Jim and Margaret were married on October 3. He went to Camp Wheeler in Macon, Georgia for several months. Margaret joined him, and there they had a little taste of married life, and a little army bungalow to live in. That came to an end when Jim was sent again to Fort Benning for training as a 1st Lieutenant, and then to Bragg, Oklahoma for 'troop training,' with the 222nd "Rainbow" Division at Camp Gruber, the first time he had worked with men under his command.
After Camp Wheeler, Maggie, pregnant with their little girl, returned to her family in the Bronx. Jim did visit New York when Susy was born in January, and again before he took ship in Boston in September, 1944, He had a week of sea travel aboard a commandeered passenger liner running without lights across what was an unnaturally calm and phosphorescent Atlantic. He was moved to Normandy from Liverpool through Southampton, with a temporary group that was to provide replacements for various units throughout the ETO. They were bivouacked in Normandy, then transferred by train through France to Belgium and then Luxembourg. The freight trains they rode had cars called 40 and 8's, leftovers from WWI that could accommodate 40 troops and 8 horses.
They bivouacked in the Belgian woods, waiting. Jim used chicken wire to build a bunk for his tent, and woke up every day with a corrugated back. Snow, freezing rain and rough terrain was the order of the day, and only rarely could Jim write about a pleasant interlude, like Thanksgiving, when the army arranged a Thanksgiving feast in warm and dry surroundings.
Right after Thanksgiving, Jim was attached to the 109th Infantry, Company A, part of the Keystone Division where he had trained as an enlisted man. After many other assignments, the weary 109th was being assigned with other units to the Rhineland campaign that Eisenhower had advocated with the Allies. The German troops in the forests along the Rhine in France and Germany were well entrenched and hardy, and the weather was terrible. The Rhineland campaign was one of the costliest efforts of the war, although it did succeed.
Jim's company moved south in France, and saw a lot of action. He stayed in trenches, castles and tanneries. He told about a field laundry shrinking his pants so that they no longer met up with his boots. He became a counselor to his men, and wrote of having "office" hours where the men would talk with him about their personal problems. In his letters, he kept trying to reassure Maggie, making certain she was receiving money, and hoping she would buy herself and Susy some gifts since he could not. On January 21, he wrote about staying for a day in a French home that was warm and dry, and had a table on which he could write a letter. The only problem was that the bed was too short to accommodate his 6'1" frame. His last letter was on January 30, and he urged Maggie to stay positive; his watchword was that everything was "only temporary."
On Feb 3 Maggie received a telegram that Jim was missing in action on Feb 2, and it was later confirmed that he died on that day, in a frozen bit of woods in Alsace. He had just silenced a German machine gun nest in the infamous "Colmar Pocket," where the German army stubbornly resisted the Allied push to send them back across the German border. His friend Lt. John Maguire wrote Maggie to say that Jim had been killed instantly by an explosive charge, and did not have time to suffer. Jim received the Silver Star for his actions on the day of his death, and by February 9th, the Colmar pocket had been emptied of the German Army.
Jim was first buried in a military cemetery at Epinal, France, near Colmar, and in 1948 was interred at Long Island National Cemetery at Farmingdale.
"For gallantry in action against the enemy in France on 2 February 1945. Lieutenant Cullen was commanding the support platoon of his company during an attack on the enemy in Colmar, France. When the two leading platoons became temporarily halted in their advance, due to the intense machine gun fire, Lieutenant Cullen courageously reconnoitered the area to determine enemy dispositions. The report of this reconnaissance enabled his Battalion Commander to commit his units most advantageously. He then returned to the forward elements of his command and directed its fire. Lieutenant Cullen personally silenced an enemy machine gun and it was during this brave act that he was mortally wounded by enemy fire. Through the courageous action of Lieutenant Cullen, his company was able to secure its objective. His gallantry reflects great credit on Lieutenant Cullen and the Armed Forces of the United States."
– Submitted by Susan Cullen Schwartz –