Letters

Letters


To see it, to observe the size of it, and
to look at the beauty of it, I can’t describe it. It does have an impact on me. We had to
exert such a loss of life to achieve that beach. Normally you get a thought that, Boy,
but for the grace of God there goes I, there’s where I would be. You have that thought. The
men shed their blood for France, for the world. But they shed it here on French soil. To me
their bodies should be here. And the cemetery is, I think it’s a beautiful and peaceful
place. French people are wonderful, especially here in Normandy, how they remember and how
they put us on a pedestal and we really don’t deserve it, the real heroes are in the cemetery.
Dear Mrs. Carter, It is with regret that I am writing to confirm the recent telegram
informing you of the death of your husband, Captain Elmer N. Carter, 0-1697… (Sound
Dissolves to next sentence) I know the sorrow this message has brought you and it is my
hope that in time the knowledge of his heroic service to his country, even unto death, may
be of sustaining comfort to you. I extend to you my deepest sympathy. At first she was
very angry because she found out, after he was killed, that he volunteered to transfer
from the hospital staff where he was initially assigned to an infantry division. And he wrote
a letter to a friend of his and that friend gave her that letter after the war. Dear John,
I have been transferred to a battalion which is part of the CT and I am its surgeon. You
know what a battalion surgeon is in a regiment that is designed as a combat team. I’ll never
tell Fernie, but I requested the transfer. It is impossible to say why. My feelings and
emotions are all mixed up about it. But I was unhappy in the station hospital and I
am happy here, or as much so as one could be away from home. I don’t fear death, per
se, but it really depresses me to think I may never see Fernie, Tom, or Walter Ford
again. –Norval. So she saw for the first time, “I’ll never tell Fernie but I requested
the transfer.” And I think she went into a rage, but I think she got over it, out of
her love for him which was stronger than her hate… and her love for us boys. There was
an American Veteran who was there and who said to me if you would have been there right
before we embarked for Europe, you would have seen that there were many tanks, cannons,
trucks… I looked at him at that time he would have been 19 years old and he had no
idea what he was getting into. It’s as if, at that age, I would have been sent thousands
of kilometers away from my home to go help people that I didn’t know. Dear Ruth, How’s
everyone, fine I hope. I’m making it swell. We get our wings on Saturday. It’s one hell
of a feeling when you jump from a plane. When you jump the prop blast catches you and sends
you whirling. Then your chute opens giving you a big jerk. You come down real peaceful
then to Earth. You don’t land so very hard. We have learned how to hit and take up a tumble
to lessen the shock. Well I had better close, I jump tomorrow at 8:30. Bye, and answer soon.
Lots of love, Gene.In 1940 I come to Jonesboro to go to school and met, Gene Sellers. He
was easy-going, he was just well-liked, and he made everybody smile. I was crazy about
the guy, he was a nice fellow. And Gene was a good shot, and uh, in free throws he was,
I think was an excellent. I don’t know if anybody could beat him. Every game was a thrill
because we was winning and when you’s in high school if you’s a winner and put out, a lot
of times you got a chance to go to college and Gene went off to college to the University
of Arkansas. When he quit school, he came home and he told us what he was gonna do.
Gene said he wanted to serve his country. He was in the National Guard and the superintendent
here had called mom and dad and told ’em that he could keep him from going, and Gene didn’t
want that, he wanted to go into paratroopers. Dear Wanda, Ann, & Howard,
Received your letter and was very glad to here from you. I went to London, had a swell
time. You could kind find lots of things to do and many pretty sights and places of interest.
I finally got all I wanted to eat. But it’s not like the food you get at home. I’m telling
you and Mom are really going to be hurting when I get back. I’ll keep you both busy just
cooking. I’m feeling fine and getting along all right. I better close now, so write soon.
Love, Gene. To see all these tombs lined up like that, knowing that all these people were
liberators, it’s something very powerful. It was young people who were sacrificed, above
all… for a cause that was surely a good one But they thought well of all these people,
that’s for sure. At the time the Americans were our liberators and we only thought about
that. My father, he was born in Cass, West Virginia and he went to Augusta Military Academy
and then, of course West Point. He was kind of a dashing good looking guy that mother
fell for and she was quite good-looking herself. My own sweet wonderful, sweetheart, Oh, I
love you more than ever honey. What a time. I was lucky. But I certainly have sore knees
and elbows, and a sore tummy from flopping in ditches and dodging bullets and artillery
shells. Some experience. I’m just as far up in front as any of them. I duck just as many
bullets, too. They can’t hit me though, so don’t worry. I must go to bed now. Oh good
night my darling. I love you. Hughie. Hubert Mathews felt some invincibility. He had survived
against incredible odds in Sicily, and the same was true in North Africa. He refused
a promotion so that he could still engage the enemy directly in front of the troops,
rather than from behind the troops at the time of Normandy. My own sweet darling wonderful
wife, I love you more than ever. I go into battle pretty soon. I know you and sweet B.J.
will be with me. I’ll right again tomorrow if the battle isn’t too tough. Your own, Hughie.
You know when people are widowed, especially that young, the rings go off. But you know
what, she wore his ring all of her life. She loved him a great deal. Dear Medrick, I’ve
done a little traveling since the last time I saw you and I’m now in merry old England,
and like it very much. This has really been a pleasure cruise so far, under slightly crowded
conditions, of course. The most unusual part or thing I’ve noticed so far is the lack of
noise. Walter. From stories that I heard as a child, I knew that Walter had been a P-38
pilot. I knew that he loved horseback riding. He had been, you know, grew up on a farm and
did work with horses and also did precision horseback riding. And he loved not only what
they could do for you, as a farmer, he loved the feeling of the freedom of riding a massive
animal and causing it to move in precise ways, like a P-38. Dear Medrick, Another day comes
to an end in the European theater of operation, and a beautiful day as I have ever seen, anywhere.
Just like a spring day in California. Yesterday was the same. They are keeping us rather busy
here lately. I guess you know why. We have a box seat for the big show, and it really
is a big show. But then I suppose you’ll be able to see as much at the theater without
half the trouble. We had an uneventful but interesting sightseeing tour over the land
of the super race. Every now and then my neck finds itself turning both ways at once. Goodbye
for now. Your bro, Walt. I tell you when I’m walking in the Cemetery, to me it’s more than
a grave, you see. I know the family, I know some of them how they die. The main that I
could say, that I thank them. I thank their families because I know how it is when you
receive the telegram that the Secretary of the Army wrote and say, “We regret to tell
you that your brother or your son was killed in Normandy.” this is why in Normandy, the
people don’t forget, you see. Private Kenneth Hatcher, June 2nd, 1944, High folks, I thought
this card would explain everything. I’m hoping to hear from you soon. Love, Ken. He was a
fun loving guy, enjoyed a good joke and we used too- we had good times together. No matter
what we did we made a, kinda turned it into a fun thing and, um, I thought he was God.
You know, I thought he was the best thing ever. He was my big brother. My dad Ken was
a dairy farmer. The Hatcher Farm was a dairy farm, they had a few cows. You know, he was
a great family man who loved his family, and he was very much a patriot who loved the land.
Dear Mom & Dad, How are you folks? Pretty busy now I suppose. I am too, so it evens
the score I guess. I suppose haying is coming up pretty soon. How many pigs did you sell?
What did they weigh and bring? Tell Pa to sell the chicks and go farming. Have you seen
Betty and the kids? Seems like a year since I saw them, suppose it will be before I see
them again. But I’ll see them all again. I sure do miss them. I’ll close with love. Write
soon, Ken. Normandy in June must’ve been familiar to him. I think the hedgerows would have been
familiar to him, certainly the small fields with the – you know, the lined fences. And
first thing that would have to have connected with him would have been, “My God, these are
people like we are, you know, back in Wisconsin trying to make it on small farms, and we’re
here to make sure that they’re gonna be able to do that. July 24, 1944 Mom, Just a line
to let you know I’m still ok. I hope you are the same. Don’t know when I’ll get time to
write another one ’cause we’re pretty busy. But don’t worry about me, and tell dad I’m
giving them Hell for him. I wrote Betty a letter today. First one in 3 weeks. Keep her
cheered up. Love to all, Ken. I could’ve had him bring back here, but his brother that
was in service said he earned that patch of land. At least I knew he died for a reason.
We had to help. We didn’t, as a country, did not have a choice. For me, it’s the human
being, alone, that inspired the interest that I have. Because, really, that’s what it is.
In each case, there are human lives that are lost by the thousands and the fact that these
young people came and died like that, six thousand kilometers from where they live,
that’s always had a big effect on me. They were sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, and
friends. Nearly all of them left behind a void in lives of those they knew. For them,
time stopped on the day they were killed. They are forever young. To generations that
have followed them, and will follow them in the future, they’re graves are living memorials
to the past, to what Americans once did in a place so far from home. For what, ultimately
did they give their lives? Very simply, they gave their collective future to ensure ours.
In the final analysis, there was for them, nothing more valuable or more precious that
they could ever give.

3 thoughts on “Letters

  1. What a tribute to our hero fallen of the Normandy Invasion. My dad was one of these brave men who flew over the troops on the ground providing support. He was lost over Cherbourg-Octeville on 24 June, just a few short weeks after D-Day while attacking the German guns at Ft du Roule, overlooking the harbor. His P-47 Thunderbolt was struck by fire from those very guns and the tail was blown off his ship. He went straight down into Octeville. Today the site is called, "Square Strahlendorf."

  2. Seeing Omaha Beach, Normandy American Cemetery and this video filled my heart with gratitude. As Dwight Eisenhower said, "They did it so the world could be free."

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