From a Muddy Foxhole of the “Bridge Too Far”

[Letter from Paul Springer to Agnes Sloan Nibley]

November 12, 1944

Dear Mrs. Nibley:

Your letter arrived three days ago, and I went home that night and wrote you three V-mail letters. I was relieved to hear that he was unscathed by the invasion, but distressed to hear of his condition. The strain must be terrific. I told him in my letter that if they take his age and active service into consideration and offer him a discharge, not to be a dilly, but to grab it and come home.

If you could send me his last letter or a copy thereof, I would be very happy to see it, and would return it to you after reading. I am leaving here shortly for Air Corps Administrative Officer Candidate School, San Antonio, Texas, and will be there 4 months (if I don’t wash out), after which (if the end of the war hasn’t closed the school in the meantime) I will graduate as a second lieutenant. Well, there are worse occupations, though not many. Letters addressed my present address will be forwarded to me.

The only note of levity in your letter was about Richard kicking around in a tank. I can just imagine how disgusted he is with the whole thing. Looks like Reid and Barbara are the only ones in the family whose stars of destiny have treated them kindly. Nellie sends her best, and we both second your idea of a rip-snorting reunion when the scrap is over. My, won’t that be a glorious day!

Sincerely yours,

Paul Springer

[Letter from Hugh Nibley written from Holland after the failure of Operation Market Garden, which was intended take less than a week to capture the bridge at Arnhem, but turned into seventy days in freezing, mud-filled foxholes when Arnhem proved to be “a bridge too far.” This letter was written in response to the news that his grandmother had died.]

Nov. 5, 1944

Dear Mother:

Grandma’s departure marks the end of a lot of good things. For us she is the last of the pioneers, living clear through the soft, spoiled second generation, she survived to see the third moving into another time of restless motion like her own—a restlessness which she never outgrew. But ours is a motion far less strong and hopeful than the great Western movement. The activities of our age are cramped and discouraged from the first by the knowledge that clever snares have been laid to catch and exploit any magnanimous impulse, to clip a cool margin of profit from any unguarded generosity. There is something in Grandma’s free and open-hearted spirit that speak to us as if from some Age of the Gods. It is only after men have neatly reversed all values, calling black white and vice virtue, that nature follows suit. Nature does not want to be thrown off-balance – seventy times seven she will patiently refuse to turn topsy-turvy, and then finally one day she reacts to that steady, willful perversity and makes some adjustments of her own. The fourth century BC and the sixth AD are terrible examples. In the times of total confusion which lie ahead let us not forget how clearly our own behavior has foreshadowed the horrible commotion of the earth and the elements. I speak in the prophetic vein, because the signs of an impending readjustment in the face of the whole earth are fairly clear.

[More on Hugh Nibley’s activities in World War II in Sergeant Nibley PhD: Memories of an Unlikely Screaming Eagle.]


About Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was simultaneously the LDS Church's greatest intellectual defender from attack from the outside and Mormon culture's strongest critic from the inside. This blog is composed mainly from Nibley's unpublished writings, letters, interviews and conversations, with occasional posts from associates who had personal interactions with him.
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