Before getting into the first of the letters from the November 1943 binder, I wanted to step out of the flow of the project to give you a chance to peek behind the scenes and to bring you up to date on a few things related to the Family War Letters project. It has been some time since I’ve completed the task of scanning all of the letters and getting them safely tucked away in acid free page protectors and binders.Now they are stashed in a back bedroom closet, ensuring they will stay in a climate controlled environment and shielded from ambient light. I’m so glad that my Mom kept the letters tucked away in her house all these years instead of stuffing them in the garage or attic so the documents were in pretty good shape to begin with. A friend with a lager format scanner was kind enough to let me spend an hour or two in his office scanning the 14 inch and larger documents like the occasional base newsletter.
I’ve reached out to the folks at the 401st Bomb Group Association. The 401st is the group that Uncle Stanley was attached to. The organization started out as a veteran’s reunion group, but has transitioned to become a historical preservation organization. As you can imagine, many of the remaining veterans of the 401st have increasing difficulties getting to the reunions and doing things like running the association’s website and Facebook page. Now the second generation; their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews, have taken over and are doing a great job keeping the memory of the 401st Bomb Group alive.
If you’ve been following this project for a while, you may remember that for the 70th anniversary of V-E Day this past May I made an exception to my habit of handling the letters in chronological order when jumped ahead to blog Stanley’s letter dated May 9, 1945. That letter details his experience taking an eight and a half hour aerial tour of England and Europe in a B-17 on the day the war ended. When I shared the post on the 401st Bomb Group Association Facebook page, the president of the association reached out me and asked if they could include it in the next newsletter that goes out to the 900 members of their association. Of course, I readily gave permission being that the ranks of the veterans grows thinner by the month and V-E Day was as much the culmination of their war experience as it was for my uncle.
SPOILER ALERT FOR THIS PARAGRAPH. As there is great work being done by the 401st Bomb Group Association, much the same can be said for the veterans and descendants of the veterans of the 315th Bomb Group, the unit which Dad will eventually join and which will send him to Guam. Additionally, I’ve reached out to the moderators and administrators of the “Albany…the way it was” Facebook group and the “Albany Group Archive” on Flickr, with the latter being generous enough to give me permission to use any historic images from their collection on my blog. Along the way I’ve also reached out to family members of some of the people mentioned in the letters whom I’ve managed to track down using the power of Google. This project also served as a catalyst to renew my relationship with my Albany cousins. Growing up I only saw them once or twice a year when dad would pack us all up in the station wagon and we’d take a road trip to Albany. In the intervening years, the contact has dwindled to practically nothing. Now, even if it is only the occasional e-mail or Facebook message, it’s more than it’s ever been since my father’s passing over 20 years ago.
Of course, the blogging take the most time. I manage to carve out an hour or two every other day so to sit at my laptop, read a few letters, write them up, do some background research and get them posted on the blog. Sometimes the interval between postings is far too long if a work trip or vacation comes up. You may have noticed that I’ve recently picked up the pace in the last week or so, so that’s been a good thing. It seems like such a long time since I wrote the post about The Box, and dad’s arrival at Camp Upton.
At this point the baby just turned one, Anna and Eddie celebrated their 4th wedding anniversary, Stanley is on his way to England and dad is in Kansas fighting the “Battle of Topeka”. We’ve seen how dad and his brother have coped with being so for away from home for so long, and have seen how the family back in Albany have dealt with the pressures of life during wartime on the home front. All along there’s been snippets of daily life in the Army and in Albany and the big and not so big news from back home. Meanwhile, in the 21st century I’ve come to a greater understanding of what this time in our nation’s history meant to those who lived through it. I’ve also and gained new insights and respect for what life was like at that time for the my dad and his family. Who knows what else will come of this as I continue to work my way through the remaining two-plus years worth of letters. I appreciate your sticking with me through the project so far. I look forward to sharing the rest of the story with you.