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Last Memorial Day, I wrote a diary about how I came into possession of letters written by my husband's uncle Clayton and his wife Hazel.  Back then I was barely halfway through my first read of the archive, which consists of 450 letters, all written in 1944.  Since then, I've organized, read, and outlined them all, and am getting ready for the next phase of this new project: matching the military record of the 9th Army and the formal process of basic training during World War II with the dates of the letters, in essence mapping Clayton's progress through the war, from when he was drafted until the end of his service.

They wrote to each other almost every day.  Four hundred fifty letters, all written between two people who never intended anyone else to read them.  So I feel an eavesdropper's responsibility to keep confidence about the personal aspects of their relationship, even as I feel the emotional connection between them and the desire to share what is essentially a universal love story.  I'd like to hope they wouldn't mind.

Hazel and Clayton had been married for seven years before he was drafted on January 1, 1944.  He, like most men of the time, was a reluctant soldier, and spent some of his time in Basic trying to get out of the Infantry and into a position as a mechanic or railroad worker, since he had done both in civilian life.  But the Army needed infantry, and into the infantry he went.  Hazel kept Clayton up to date on the latest news from home (and she was both frank and gossipy), and Clayton did his best to reassure her that he was both physically safe and emotionally devoted only to her.

The best way to capture the essence of the archive is to let them speak for themselves.  I'll add explanatory notes to these extracts, if you'll follow me below the orange Maginot line.

Clayton's first posting was the in-processing station at Fort Meade, Maryland, not far from his home in the Shenandoah Valley.  Hazel was devastated when he left, but tried to make the best of it:

January 22, 1944

Dear Clayton,
    Well Saturday has almost passed and I miss you more by the hr.  I could hardly sleep last nite, kept waking up thinking I had to hug you up and steal a little kiss.  What a feeling when I started to hug Margaret!  Then I would lie there awake and couldn’t go back to sleep.
    We didn’t get up until about 9:00.  We had breakfast and Sue wanted me to fry eggs for Daddy, it seemed you had to come in.  I guess it will take me and her quite a while to get over that feeling….
    Bernice came down for a while this evening, said she came in a hurry but she sat down and stayed quite a while which pleased me very much.  She said Bob sure was taking it hard over you leaving, said that was all his talk, and his appetite had left him, said he asks her if she had seen me every time he came in.
    Sue and I went up Kakie’s tonight for a while.  Her baby isn’t a whole lot better. It cries a lot.  She sure looks like a whipped chicken, said she and Herb could hardly get you off their minds.  She expects Herb to get his greetings most any time, but he hasn’t heard anything.
    Well Daddy I guess I’ll sign off for tonight as I don’t have anything to write about but just Sue and me.  This sure has been one lonesome Sat. and Sun. night.  I don’t even feel like listening to the radio.  I guess it will be one of many.  But I’m doing my best not to worry too much, I try to hold my chin up and smile.  Just the same I miss you more than you will ever now.  Well anyway, I still love you.


Who's who:  
Margaret: Hazel's sister, who often stayed with her while Clayton was away.
Sue: Clayton and Hazel's 2 year old daughter
Bernice: the wife of Clayton's last employer, Bob, who ran a car dealership and hired Clayton as a mechanic.
Kackie and Herb:  Kathleen and Herb Kress.  Herb worked with Clayton on the railroad and Kackie was Hazel's best friend.  

It was Hazel's early hope that Clayton could get a pass while he was at Fort Meade so they could see each other, but Clayton explained that couldn't happen.

January 28, 1944

Dear Hazel,
    I didn’t write yesterday. I was on detail all day and then called out last nite from 6:30 until after 9:00 on K.P., so I cleaned up and went on to bed.
    I am still here for I am on detail today all day, but I have a soft job, carrying a broom around and keeping out of the way.
    I got 5 letters Wed. and 1 yesterday. Boy, was I glad to get them.  I sure am glad to hear that you are all o.k. and well.  I am feeling good and have plenty of money so far. It hasn’t taken much.  Tell Bob as soon as I get straightened out I will write him and I appreciate his attitude toward us.  I can’t get a pass yet for I have to be here 10 days, so if I stay over Sunday, I hope they let me stay all next week so I can try to get one
    I think some about home but they keep you on the move so around here you haven’t time to do much thinking…..
    They are having a big party here tonight for the officers and old personnel and are they having a time!  Cleared out two mess halls and really decorated them pretty….
    There sure are a lot of fellows coming in here—all breeds, shapes, sizes and creeds.  Everything you can think of there are men who has done it.
    Well, don’t worry about me because I am getting along swell and I can take care of myself.  If you can’t, you soon learn how.
    It’s getting late. I am sitting here watching a pool game in the Day Room.  Time has slipped by and I am tired.
    Well, chin up and keep writing and I will see you soon, I hope.

            Always All My Love,

The anticipated pass never happened, because in short order Clayton was shipped to Fort Blanding, Florida, for Basic Training.
Feb. 11, 1944

Dearest Clayton,
    Well, I said I would write again tonite so here goes. Mrs. Bailey came up this morning and sat awhile.  She didn’t know much except Wallace was on another bender.  She said she couldn’t understand why I stayed so close home. I told her I was a lot better satisfied here than any place that it wasn’t because I couldn’t go it was just because I didn’t want to.
    I forgot to tell you in this morning’s letter that Bernice told me last night that Bob hit Mr. A. Brown, the one legged man. She didn’t seem the least bit worried about it.  I don’t believe she realized what it meant.  He hit him on the way home to supper  in front of Lee Davis’ store.  They called Dr. Nicholson and he sent him to the hospital. They say his head was cut rather bad. And his leg, arms and shoulder bruised.  But I heard down town this evening that he was resting fairly well.
    I also heard from town that Marshall Sipe had killed himself.  I guess you might know him, I don’t.  They say he was working up in the A. B. C. Store in Harrisonburg.  Some seem to think it was his nerves.  He was examined for the Army last October when Wilson was and Lois said Wilson said he worried so then.  He had been taking some kind of treatments.  He was supposed to have gone to Richmond today for some kind of treatment.
    Helen Hinkle heard from the War Dept. that Willis was still seriously ill but was in a hospital.  They say about 300 men in that camp have it, and that it broke out overnight.
    Mammie sure was proud to hear from you. They are all in pretty good spirits.  She’s been hearing from Barney right regular.
    Lillian asked me and Sue out to her house for supper this evening so we went on home with her.  She had liver and pork chops, peas, greens, potato cake  + hot rolls.  It sure tasted good.  Tomorrow is Carol Lee’s birthday and she is having a party tomorrow evening.  She mailed Sue an invitation and was she proud of that.  I guess I will take Sue after she has her nap.  Carol got us a box of candy chocolate with peanut in the center over at Kennie’s.  I wanted to pay him but he wouldn’t hear to it.  I will send you some when I send your box.
    By the way, I will send you those things Monday, as I won’t have time to get the things together in the morning.  Daddy I didn’t know you could use safety pins in the Army. I thought they taught you to sew.  I bet you missed Mommie when it came to putting out that washing.  I would loved to have seen that.  Lois is going up Harrisonburg tomorrow and she will find me those towels and I have the pins.  I will fix everything in a box together and send it first thing Monday morning.  How is your money holding out?  Let me know if you get low.
    Herb came down this morning to empty my ashes I told him I didn’t have any but my firebox sure needing cleaning.  I haven’t taken out but two shovelfuls since you left, and I can’t seem to shake any through so I guess there must be some clinkers in the bottom.  I told him I would let it burn down and he could clean it in the morning.  It was pretty decent of him to come down to ask to do that for me.  He hasn’t heard anything more. He still will have to go when his papers have been transferred.  I sure would miss them if they would have to move.  Their baby is doing fine, it sure is getting cute.  She smiles now when you talk to her.
    This sure was some day for that bunch to go to Roanoke, it sure was a big gang. I saw them come through town.  There was three busloads of them.  I don’t know why they came through Elkton.  I haven’t heard any reports from any tonight, but will write you as soon as I do.  It started the day by sleeting, then turned to snow, but it didn’t do much.  The ice didn’t melt at all today, so you know it is cold here.  It’s doing a little something out now.  There wasn’t a list of reclassifications in the paper to day.  I guess you will miss them.
    Well Daddy I will close as I am getting sleepy.  I’m sitting on the bed now writing this with my big outer gown on.  Susie has been asleep a long time, she has been good today.  You mention love and kisses.  How I wish you were here.  All of ours to you.       
                    And lots of love,
I will write again tomorrow night.

Who's who:
Mrs. Bailey and Wallace:  neighbors
Wilson and Lois: Clayton's brother and sister-in-law
Mammie: Clayton's mother
Barney: Clayton's brother, stationed in England
Lillian and Carol Lee:  Clayton's sister and her 4 year old daughter
Feb. 20, 1944

Dearest Hazel,
    Another Sunday about over.  It’s been a long one.  Just lying around.  I went to the movies this evening again with a couple fellows here in the hut.  Their names are Gosnell and Grinder, they are both swell fellows.  They had big jobs before they came in the Army.  They are both from Arlington, Va.
    We have a pretty good bunch of fellows in our hut, none very noisy.  All are friendly and will share anything they have.
    There is one fellow in here from Texas, about 35.  He is something—coughs and talks all night in his sleep.  And too clumsy and dumb to pour pee out of a boot.  The Non-Coms ride him hard, he just takes it and goes on.
    Next week I won’t have so much to wash, for the laundry has started picking up dirty clothes and towels. They take $1.50 out of our check so I might as well let them wash them.
    Well, Sugar, I guess you went to church today.  I think I might go next Sunday.  It will be something to do.  And a bunch of the fellows out of the hut go every Sunday.
    I guess it’s still cold up there.  I have forgotten all about real cold weather, for we have none here.  It gets cool and damp here some mornings.
    Gess Sugar, it’s just the kind of evening here that we used to like to get out and just ride around, pretty and warm.  How I would like to be up there taking you and Sue for one, and then a big supper on the Farm….

April 11, 1944

Dearest Clayton,
    Daddy, I will try and write you a line as it is getting late.  Daddy, I hear that 12:00 freight train blowing.  My, but it gives me the blues. Remember, Sugar, how you used to kiss me bye and rush off?  Gee, I will be glad when it’s like that again, or any way just so you are home.
….Well, Daddy, the news on the radio still sounds good.  It makes everyone feel like it won’t be so long.  Gee! Won’t it be wonderful when it is!

May 4, 1944

Dearest Hazel,
    I guess you are wondering if I had stopped writing, Honey.  But I haven’t.  This has been one hell of a week.  Getting up early and getting in bed past midnight.  This week has been the toughest one yet.  No time for anything.  We have been out on the ranges all week and really getting a drilling.  
    I am sitting in the latrine, writing this just to let you know everything is O.K. with me and I’m feeling fine except I am tired.  I have to take a bath and shave yet.  Will try to write more tomorrow night.  Just want you to know I still love you more than ever and am first looking forward to getting home.
                All My Love,

Once he completed Basic Training, like all draftees, Clayton was given a week's pass and sent home.  In an archive like this, everything happens in the gaps, the silences. I'm sure there was visiting with friends and family, the wish from both to slow down time, and inevitably, the awful parting, as Hazel rode with Clayton as he reported for duty.  Then she had to leave, not knowing where he would go or when she would see him again.
August 2, 1944

Dearest Hazel
    Just a line to let you know I am o.k.  My mail is censored and there is nothing I can write or tell you.  I am on the East Coast and don’t know when or where I will be moved.  
    This is a pretty nice camp and so far the food has been very good.  I wish I could write what I want but I can’t.  You understand.
    How are you and Sue.  I sure wish I could be home with you.  I sure hated to leave Sue crying. Sunday it looked like she knew I was not going to see her for a while.  It was sure tough standing there and watching you all pull out.
    Honey, I guess you think this is some letter, but I am not used to writing censored letters, but I want you to know I still love you and miss you more than ever.
    You can write me anything you want.  Incoming mail is not censored so I am waiting for some letters.  
                Always All My Love,

As it turned out, Clayton didn't stay in his pretty nice camp for long.  Within a few days, he was in the hold of a troop ship and heading across the Atlantic, bound for England.  Hazel took a job in a clothing factory, and moved back with her parents, Lizzie and Daddy.

Once he was in the field, Clayton had to burn all correspondence he received, both because it bore addresses and because he couldn't carry anything with him.  He managed to scrounge paper from various places--a French composition book he found abandoned, even toilet paper--and write.  He preferred writing on paper to V-Mail, since it traveled faster.

V-Mail was mail written on a single page form the Army supplied.  Once a week it was collected, microfilmed, and shipped back the U.S., where each letter was printed and mailed. V-Mail had the advantage of being free, while regular letters, still subject to Army censors, had to be stamped.

Despite the challenges in writing, Clayton wrote home as often as he could, but his letters are brief and, as he explains, there's a lot he can't write about.

August 20, 1944

Dearest Hazel,
    Gee Honey, here it is Sunday again, and I can still think of places I would rather be.  I am not busy today, just lying around resting and waiting for the next move.
    This letter leaves me some place in France.  Wish I could tell you where I am at but I do know this part has been through hell.  Honey, if you don’t get mail regular don’t get alarmed, it will be that I am too busy or the Mail Service. I understand it’s lousy out of here.  Don’t let this letter alarm you for I am still o.k. and will be.  This leaves me loving you more than you know, and just waiting until I can see you again.
                All my Love,

Sept. 20, 1944

Dearest Hazel,
    Well, another day is about over.  I came in this evening and shaved and ate chow.  You should see me shave out of my steel helmet.  When I get through washing and shaving in about ½ gallon water you can cut it with a knife.  It’s a good deal different than using running water back home.
    Honey I guess you wonder where I am at and what I am doing.  I can’t tell you where I am, but I am not doing anything exciting. So there is nothing to worry about.  Right now I am about as safe as you are.  Later I can tell you and Sue where I am at.
    I don’t know anything else to write now.  I guess you get tired of this scribbling anyway but I want you to know I am still o.k. in every way and my love is greater than ever to you and Sue.  I hear church singing so I will stop here and go.
                Always all my Love,

Sept 21, 1944

I went to Church last nite, Honey, before the Movie.  I talked to the Chaplain.  I am going to join church and he is going to send my membership back to Rev. Fulk.  I don’t want you to think anything radical or get alarmed about where I am at or what I am doing for I am o.k.  I haven’t changed any, I am doing what I should have years ago.  Write and give me your opinion of it.  I think I am doing the right thing….

Sept. 26, 1944

Dearest Hazel,
    Just another old Army day, Honey.  I am just messing around, still not knowing anything.  We hear plenty of rumors but most of the time they are false.  From what I understand and the news, this mess can’t last much longer.  Goodness knows I hope not.  I sure would love to sleep under a good roof in a soft bed and enjoy the comforts I once had.  But I am not complaining.  I have no reason, considering some of the fellows here.  Again, Honey, I want to tell you how much I love and miss you and how I am hoping to see you and Sue again.
                All my Love,

Oct. 3, 1944

Dearest Hazel,
    I will write you a few lines this morning while I have a chance.  The mail is going out this morning the first time for a week and a half.  I have had breakfast and am sitting by a fire I just built up.  Where I am at it is pretty cool and damp.
    Well, Honey, I have been at Brest, France, and there were really things to see there.  After Brest fell we moved back into a rest area.  Then we moved where we are now.  But there is nothing to worry about.  I am still safe and will be.
    They are hollering for the mail so I will have to stop here.  I will write when I can so don’t get alarmed when you don’t hear from me for some time.
    I still love you more than ever and am o.k. and chin up, and hope you are the same.

Oct 5, 1944

Our outfit was at Brest when it fell.  The day I was baptized the Chaplain and a friend of his and his assistant rode through the town or city a couple of hours.  Every building was destroyed or badly damaged and sights there that you would have to see to realize it was true.
    We have made another long move now and I saw a lot more of France.  We moved by box cars and boy was that a ride.  Gee, Honey, I hope it isn’t long until I can tell you about these things in person and I don’t think it will be, things are looking real good….

Oct 12, 1944
…you ask what I want for Christmas.  I will tell you what I would like, a wedding band or ring if you can get one.  I will put a piece of paper in this letter the length around my finger….
    It sure has been old and rainy here for a couple days and I have been real busy.  This leaves me o.k. and loving you more than ever.  I am depending on you Sugar so keep your chin up and one of these days we will both celebrate…
Nov 6, 1944
    Honey I hope you are right about this mess can’t last much longer.  The news does sound good and we are making good headway.  If only the devils would give up.  They know they are whipped.  
    I got my ballot to vote yesterday so I voted for Mr. Dewey.  I hope it does some good.
On November 8, Hazel wrote to him with her opinion of the election:
I guess you know by now that Old Roosevelt is President again.  The Ole Devil.  I hope he soon ends this mess, but I’m afraid he won’t.  I believe every time he and Ole Churchill have a conference it is to see if they can’t make the war last longer.  It seems as if this mess will go on forever….
Clayton writes of his Thanksgiving in the field:
    We had a real dinner yesterday for Thanksgiving, plenty of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, a good Salad and pumpkin fixed up fancy, but I couldn’t go that.  Believe it or not, I ate the big part of a leg and thigh of a good sized turkey.  It was baked and well seasoned and sure tasted good.  But Honey, it didn’t taste half as good as it would have if I could have been home and you could have fixed me a good meal.  I thought of you and home while I was eating but, I still ate a lot, for food like that don’t come often over here.  Honey I am just waiting for the day when I get home and can sit on a chair at a table and eat food that you really like and cooked home style by you…
    Things are mighty quiet.  But we are kept busy working or standing guard all the time.  And, Honey, standing guard all night by yourself and so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face gives a man a lot of time to do a lot of thinking.   He thinks of things in his past and thinks of things he wants to do when he gets home.  There are some good rumors that the war over here will soon be over.  From the progress our armies are making maybe it will be, for they are doing good work now.
As the 9th Army moved into Germany, soldiers were bivouacked with German families, and Clayton was no exception.  As grateful as he was to not be living in a tent, he was still homesick:
Dec 6, 1944
I don’t know any news, except I was reading a little war newspaper we get most every day.  The news sure looked good and things sound good, so maybe Honey it won’t be so long until I can come home…
        I hear the people of the house downstairs praying.  They are sure giving it off.  Wish I could understand what they are saying.  They speak German.
    Honey this leaves me the same and I feel rested up.  I hope it finds you and Sue o.k. and well too.  Honey I ask the Good Lord to look after you and Sue and I believe He will.  I am sending all my love to you and I am hoping this mess will soon be over so I can be with you….
Clayton's final letter, dated December 8, 1944:
Dearest Hazel,
    I will try to write you a few lines now.  I just got through overhauling my fountain pen and it writes much better, but it don’t improve my writing any, does it?  Ha.  I hope you can least read it.  This high-powered French ink I have been using stopped it up.
    This has sure been another easy day.  We haven’t even had to fall out for anything.  All we had was a clothes inspection.  I sewed up a big snag in my pants this morning.  It was about 4 or 5 inches both ways.  You should have seen me handling that needle.  It taken me about 1 ½ hrs. to sew it up.
    I didn’t get any mail today so it leaves me with nothing to write about.  We are still hearing good rumors.  I hope they are true.  I wish I could tell you what they are, but I don’t think they would go through the censor.
    I had to stop and go get some chow.  It was pretty good tonight.  They had ground hamburger, potatoes, pretty good spegetti (I don’t know how to spell it.) and sliced peaches.
    I helped to cut some wood this evening for the folks.  They let us use their dining room to warm in and do our writing.  And we hauled some coal for them this evening, too.  These people are very peculiar the way they live and the way they do things.  I wish I could understand their language.
    How are you and Sue getting along? I feel like you are O.K.  I don’t know why I feel that way but Honey I do.  I know you are taking care of yourself and See.  Gee, Honey, it makes me feel good to know I have some one back there like you to depend on and to come back to.  Is Sue looking forward to a big Xmas? I bet she is. Honey, do you remember how cute she was last Xmas morning when she walked into the room and looked at her things?  I hope I am there for yours and her next one.
    Well Honey I guess I will have to close here for the gang has gathered in here and they are slinging the bull so thick I can’t even think.  This leaves me the same as always well and O.K. and I hope you are the same.  I still want you to know how much I love you and I am still just living for the day when I can come home to you.
                Always all my Love,
Clayton was taken prisoner on December 18, at the beginning of the German offensive that became the Battle of the Bulge.  He was shot, hit by small arms fire, and died sometime during that day.

On that day, Hazel wrote to him:

…I worked today. A blue Monday, Sugar, I mean a blue Monday—cloudy and dark all day.  It started to rain about 4 this evening.  The news too sounds awful bad on the 1st and 9th Army fronts.  Sugar I am worried sick over you but something inside me tells me you are O.K.  I hope and pray you are and this mess soon ends.  I have a feeling it will….
and the next day, December 19, 1944:
My Dearest Clayton,
    Sugar, nothing unusual, just another day. It’s been real cod all day, it didn’t rain enough to melt the snow and ice, and the ground still has right much ice on it in some places.  The roads are o.k.  I don’t want you worrying about me going to work.
    I worked today and still doing fine, although Sugar, I will be thrilled to death when I know you are coming home and I can quit.  It is a good thing for me now to work, it certainly helps pass away the time.  There are quite a few girls in there just like myself, we are just living for the day we can take care of our homes and live again.
    Sugar, I fixed your box to mail last night and taken it up this morning and it weighed a quarter of a pound too much so I hope to mail it tomorrow.  Sue fussed because I brought it back this evening.  She wanted to know why I brought it back, why for Mommie you don’t mail Daddy’s box?  Boy, Sugar, your daughter is a bird.  I don’t care how many Christmas Cards I bring home, she says didn’t we get a letter from our Daddy.  She thinks of you first, Honey.
    Sugar, the news still sounds bad from over there. Of course I am worried silly and listen to the radio news, but Sugar, I have a feeling you will come through O.K. for Sugar I am depending on you.  You are my whole life.  My chin is high, Sugar, for I just have a good feeling.
    Lizzie had hay beans and corn bread for supper and back bone, you know how I like hay beans.  Well, I really ate. I really acted a pig. Little Sue really eats, she looks as heavy as ever but she is getting lots taller.
    Sugar I don’t know any news tonite, except we are all well and doing fine.
    Just have to tell you I still love you more than anything in this Ol World and just waiting for you.
                Always Yours,
All correspondence that Hazel and the rest of the family wrote was returned unopened.  The only letter Hazel touched was the letter from December 18.  The rest of them she put into a box, and put the box in the barn.  There it stayed for 60 years.

In time, Hazel remarried. Sue grew up, and died without having children of her own.  Hazel was, by all accounts, a much harder woman after Clayton's death.  He was buried in the American cemetery in France, but two years later his mother had his body shipped home and reinterred in the family plot in the local cemetery.  Hazel, who was by then remarried, never forgave her former mother-in-law.

I know this has been a long diary.  They tell their own story better than anyone else ever could.  Thanks for reading it, and thank you for giving me the chance to share a little of this treasure.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 09:18:58 AM PDT

  •  what an excellent compilation (9+ / 0-)

    of those letters. I felt like I got to know them a little bit.

    This diary deserves a spot in the community spotlight

    Thank you for sharing.

    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today. James Dean

    by raina on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 09:42:07 AM PDT

  •  Thanks, DrLori, for this love story in letters. (14+ / 0-)

    It was so hard to read the ending and knowing the pain that followed.

    I have a bundle of letters that my Mom wrote to my Dad while he was away in the War. I haven't read them for a long, long time... lots of heartache there for me as my Mother died the day after I was born in Nov 1944.

    War kills more than just the participants in it, of course. In my Mom's case it was the terrible lack of doctors stateside. Her death would certainly have been prevented had a surgeon been availalble.

    Once, again, thanks for this post. Putting flesh on the bones is what we always try to do, isn't it?

    Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

    by figbash on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 09:47:30 AM PDT

    •  Oh my goodness, figgy, I'm so sorry. (12+ / 0-)

      What a tragedy for your mother, your father, your family, and you.

      Of course, you are quite right. The effects of war are wide-ranging and unpredictable, catching up so many in its wake. I wish it hadn't affected your family so directly.

      I'm seeking to organize DKos members in SE Michigan--roughly, from the Ohio line at Lake Erie NE to Port Huron, W to Flint and back S from there. If you'd like to join our new group, Motor City Kossacks (working title), please Kosmail me.

      by peregrine kate on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 09:52:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Figgy, I'm so very sorry (7+ / 0-)

      It must be hard to read those letters.  Yet, at the same time, it's like holding a part of her in your hand.


    •  Some wounds never really heal, and some losses (8+ / 0-)

      leave holes that are never really filled.  As painful as it must be to have those letters from your mom, they're also a great gift in that you get to know something of who she was, in her own words.  There are a lot of people walking around who really don't know their parents, and who take for granted that there'll always be time.  And there almost never is.

      Still a loss like you sustained, even though you have no memory of your mother, affects you for life, and you always look for how it could have been different.  

      One of the really sad things that happened to Hazel and Sue was that, as Sue grew up she resembled her father, and Hazel had less and less to do with her, because the resemblance was too close and the memory too painful.  Instead of embracing her daughter as the living link to the love of her life, she closed it all away, and they were both poorer for it.

      I hope your dad didn't do that.

      "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

      by DrLori on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 10:18:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's almost as sad as the death itself. (5+ / 0-)
      •  No. Not at all. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        edwardssl, klompendanser, brook

        Although he did leave me with his parents to raise while he was still in the Army He came home when I was about a year old and it was decided by my four grandparents and my dad that I would stay where I was with them as they all thought it would be too wrenching for them and me to go through a separation. Circumstances were such that I was 16 before I went to live with my dad and his 2nd wife and my 5 half-sibs.

        All my grandparents and aunts and uncles lived in the same community so I was the recipient of love untold.

        The pain of this loss never leaves me. I spent many years feeling guilty about it. Now, I've reconciled that but it's not something that you "get over."

        I've raised a wonderful daughter, though, and that has made me whole.

        Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

        by figbash on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 12:22:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Dear cousin, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      edwardssl, figbash

      I did not know about your mother. Mothers are precious things--I know you, being one yourself honor your own with your relationship with your daughter. Many many hugs.

      •  ♥ larmos ♥ (0+ / 0-)

        Hugs back to you. BTW, already wanting to come back your way to dive into courthouse records in Christian Co., Montgomery Co and Bond Co. I'm more convinced than ever that that is my only hope of ever solving my GGGrandfather Prater's "disappearance."

        Until then, see you here and in FB land! Hugs back at'cha.

        Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

        by figbash on Sun Nov 04, 2012 at 04:51:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Oh, this has brought tears to my eyes. (9+ / 0-)

    They were so hopeful.  It's like getting the bad news all over again.

    We need these reminders about the price that's paid by our  military members and their families.  The ultimate price.  Can the rest of us ever really fully understand their sacrifice?  I can't see how that's possible.

    My step-father's brother (the eldest) was also killed in WW II.  Their mother feel into a deep depression, never recovering until her death in 1953.  Their father never remarried, and the remaining two brothers were understandably never the same.

    So terribly heart-breaking.

    Thank you for sharing Clayton and Hazel's story.  Now they'll never be forgotten.

    •  Thank you for letting me write this. (6+ / 0-)

      As I worked through the archive I got emotionally involved (hadn't planned on that), so as I got close to the end it got harder and harder.  That first unopened letter--I held it for a long time before I finally cut the envelope open.  The fact that my husband, who really is the custodian, encouraged me to do it was the only reason I felt permitted to trespass on their privacy.

      You're absolutely right that war exacts a terrible toll on everyone involved.  That holds as much now as it did then.  That our military today is all-volunteer does nothing to blunt the sacrifice that reverberates throughout the circles of families and friends.  It struck me, reading, how little things have changed.

      "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

      by DrLori on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 10:25:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I read your earlier diary, DrLori, but I forgot (10+ / 0-)

    that Clayton was killed. It came as a totally unwelcome shock from the sequence of letters you included here.

    I am sure that you can convey what you are hoping to do in the overall work--the individual stories against the enormous scope of the war. Loss all around, brought home once again.

    Good luck with this worthwhile project. I look forward to the final product.

    I'm seeking to organize DKos members in SE Michigan--roughly, from the Ohio line at Lake Erie NE to Port Huron, W to Flint and back S from there. If you'd like to join our new group, Motor City Kossacks (working title), please Kosmail me.

    by peregrine kate on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 09:55:10 AM PDT

  •  We have open dates in December (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slksfca, brook, figbash, klompendanser

    Would anyone care to regale us in a family story,  update us with any interesting discoveries, provide helpful research hints (honestly, I've learned so much "how to"s from you guys), etc, etc?

    Our Current Schedule

    Nov 9    mayim
    Nov 16  Land of Enchantment
    Nov 23  figbash
    Nov 30  klompendanser
    Dec 7    open for adoption
    Dec 14  open for adoption

    Anyone want to host a Friday GFHC Open Thread?  It's really easy.

  •  I apologize (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you for a wonderful though sad diary.

    Now Iapologize for what I'm going to do,which is to go totally and selfishly off topic.

    I need the help of the techies on this site. (I've been waiting for the GFHC diary as I knew I'd be among friends).

    I am in the middle of Sandy. No heat, electricity, hot water no power of any kind. I can use the3G function on my iPhone to read sites in text which is keeping me a little sane. But although I found podcasts and snippets of MSNBC they won't play for more than a couple of seconds.

    The most important day in 3 yes is coming up, and I feel cold, hungry - and isolated. Could someone tell me how to access video?  I tried holding the button back to allow the video to buffer but that disn'r work.

    I'm going crazy. I'm scared to death about this election - how do we even vote?

    I' m so sorry to hijack this thread but at this point I just didn't know what else to do.

    •  Oh, hayden, I have no idea how to help you (5+ / 0-)

      but I'm sure someone will.

      Are you doing okay, and are in a position where you can get food and warmth, warmer clothes, etc.?  

      "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

      by DrLori on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 10:38:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not really. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        brook, edwardssl, figbash, klompendanser

        Nothing's warm. It's hard to imagine the world ever being warm again. There are diners with generators open. I asked for pancakes and the owner said he was out of the ingredients. I asked for a turkey sandwich and he just shook his head. I asked him if he had any idea when he could get a shipment of food in, and he said food might be available in a few days, but there is no gas to deliver it.

    •  hayden-no apology needed! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      edwardssl, figbash, klompendanser

      If you can give us a location, we can look for answers for you.
      Please let us help!

    •  Hayden (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brook, figbash, klompendanser

      if you still need help, let us know either here or in DKos messages where you are and we'll see if we can get assistance information to you, or if we can find someone to come to you.

    •  Here's a link to Fema (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brook, figbash, klompendanser


      Under "For Disaster Survivors", there's links and instructions for local shelters.  Perhaps they can also help make arrangements to get you there.

      Please let us know whether or not you're able to get help.  I don't want to leave you without knowing you have some kind of assistance.

    •  Oh no, haden! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      edwardssl, brook, klompendanser

      I am so very sorry to read of you dilemma. Has anything changed for the better in the last few hours? Do you still need help? I can vouch for the fact that I am no techie by any means, but I have a cell phone and two working computers.

      Let me know by kos mail if there is anything I can do.


      Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

      by figbash on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 12:29:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Here I am, a computer geek who has no smart phone (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      edwardssl, brook, klompendanser

      The 3G function might be limited due to power shortages at various sites in the wireless phone network. The good news is that AT&T and T-Mobile have combined their networks so that anybody can use either service without restriction until things get better. You won't notice the difference, but that kind of coordination between competitors is unprecidented. Still, the circuits aren't running at full speed everywhere. Perhaps that;s why your video service remains poor to awful.

      At least you can get textual information.

      There are good things happening in general. President Obama has been the adult in the room and is, once again, gaining in the polls. Willard and P.D.Ryan (he hates being called P.D.) are stepping in their own shit and staging fake concern about "those people" (us) again.

      There isn't anyone left (on the left) that thinks that Willard has a chance. The wingers are busy calling Nate Silver various nasty names. Willard is predicting a landslide, of course. What an idiot!

      Unemployment remains under 8%.

      President Obama will be in Madison, WI on Monday with Bruce Springsteen in a last call for votes. He's going after P.D.Ryan with all he can throw at him. As a bonus, Tammy Baldwin's polling just keeps getting better.

      Afaik, a polling place (or a nearby alternative) will be available for voters on Tuesday, power or not. The powers that be are busy making sure that plenty of paper ballots will be available. Extra absentee ballots are being printed, too. According to one article from WNYC, here, they're even considering offering bus service to consolidated polling places, perhaps using the Aqueduct for those in Queens. The decisions aren't final, but you can be assurred that you'll be able to cast your vote Tuesday.

      You might find a generator and a tent in the playground of a school polling place, for example. FEMA has prioritized generators for polling places. Even without power, poll workers are planning to count votes by hand if necessary.

      The timeline to cast absentee ballots has been extended through today in NJ. You'll have to go to a town hall since it's the last day. The town offices in NJ have been ordered to be open through the weekend to accept and process absentee ballots  

      As for staying sane, you have a lot of friends here to help however we can. Staying hydrated and sheltered is most important. Blankets, extra layers of clothes, etc.

      I hope that you'll be able to catch one of the videos from MSNBC or elsewhere of one of Obama's recent campaign speeches. The transcripts here on DKos don't quite show how good he really is. You'll be inspired and relieved.

      Yes, he's still running FEMA and personally directing the whole process between speeches. He's showing everyone exactly what kind of man he is. And he's even more of an extraordinary president and human being than ever. And Willard is still an unconscionable asshole.

      Even Mayor Bloomberg has endorsed President Obama now.

      The gas shortage is at the top of the list, btw. FEMA and the military are busy delivering fuel transport trucks as quickly as possible, The Red Cross has warm food, power, and heated facilities. There's no need to be uneasy about seeking them out. Besides, they might be grateful if you can help them out where needed. So far, the supplies are being distributed to high priority and fragile locations, but this should improve soon.

      Please keep us updated when you can.

      "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 01:22:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  {{{hayden}}} (0+ / 0-)

      You are definitely in my thoughts ... I'm so glad you found some help at the church ... please let us know how you are doing...

      I wish I knew about smartphones ... I only have a lowtech cell ... I hope there is a samaritan who can help or that power comes back soon. This is no time of year to be without heat and power.

      "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

      by klompendanser on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 08:10:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  have you tried UStream? or JustinTV? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm searching for you and will try to reply as I find things that might be useful. I've not tried these myself, so can't be more helpful. (I'll keep looking!)

  •  I'm in tears... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    edwardssl, figbash, DrLori, klompendanser

    I too had forgotten that Clayton had been killed. The letters,
    so like the ones my mother and I poured over - from her brothers - tugged at my heart and then - the flood gate opened reading he'd died.

    Reading on, I shed tears for our dear figgy, and edwardsl for the pain they have also endured.

    This is a place where hearts often touch. I hope everyone finds as much comfort in that as I do.


  •  For Drlori and all the rest of you (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks for all your good wishes. I know religion is not always in favor on this site but you are all angels. So is our church. I got an email - some dorks like me would say the answer to a prayer - to come on over. The church family had gotten a generator, set up Internet, and had a warm room, cookies and water all set out for the community. No evangelizing, mo names required  if you need it, it's here.

    That's what good people are all about. Church or no church, I see it on dKos every day.

    Thank you all so much.

    But if someone can figure out how to access news and video, please please send me a message.

    •  Whew! (4+ / 0-)

      I'm just very happy you have a place to go.

      I wish I could tell you what to do with your iPhone, but I don't have one, so don't have a clue.

      Perhaps either someone here, or someone at the church can show you.

      GoG has provided some news above, though.  Looks promising for the good guys!

      Anyway, let us know if there's anything else we can do, and we'll try our best.

    •  Glad to hear you've found (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DrLori, klompendanser, GrumpyOldGeek

      a place to be warm and safe at least. I don't know about iphones at all but see GOG has offered some help.

      Keep us posted, please.

    •  News and video fix for iPhone - perhaps (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Your iPhone can't possibly be the only one having trouble with videos and news. The computer geek in me knows that every iPhone like yours is probably having the same issues with video and such.

      So off to the Google machine I go.... [tick, tock, tick, tock]

      Sure enough, there seems to be a boatload of bugs in some versions of the iPhone software. That's not anything new. That's one of the reasons I don't have an iPhone nor own any Apple products, but that's off topic.

      You need to update your iPhone software to iOS 5.1.1 if that applies to your iPhone. It depends on the make and model and the version of iOS that it came with. Here's what one article says:

      Apple Releases iOS Update That Fixes Streaming Audio, Video Issues May 7, 2012.

      If you’ve been having trouble with AirPlay on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, help has arrived. Apple has released an update to its mobile operating system that fixes problems related to streaming your audio and video to supported devices, in addition to correcting a few other small issues.

      Version 5.1.1 of iOS addresses AirPlay playback problems, fixes a fickle HDR photo option when activating the camera app from the iPhone and iPod touch lock screen, makes syncing bookmarks and reading lists from mobile Safari more reliable, and takes care of problems some iPad users were having switching from 2G to 3G networks. It also banishes a rare error message that could crop up after making purchases from the App Store.

      If you’re already using iOS 5, which came pre-loaded on the iPhone 4S and the new iPad, it’s possible to update to the latest version without connecting your phone, tablet or iPod to your computer. That’s thanks to iOS 5′s new over-the-air update feature. Still, it’s recommended that you plug your device into a charger to prevent its battery from dying mid-update.

      The bolding is mine. You mentioned 3G, so that seems to be a fit for this problem.
      I don't know which iPhone model you have, but I'm guessing that the iOS upgrade (and the fixes) are available for your make and model. If you need help finding out how to do an upgrade, let me know and I'll see if I can find some readable instructions about how that's done. You might need to connect your iPhone to another computer do get make this happen. Somebody at the church probably has a way to help you out with that. Or you have a computer of your own.

      "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 06:15:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  DrLori, I'm so sorry to be so late (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brook, DrLori, edwardssl

    to this most excellent diary ... the voices of Hazel and Clayton are so clear, and I had tears by the end. What an emotional, and sad story.

    My mother's brother had spent most of the war stateside as a drill sargeant, but in 1944 managed to transfer to duty overseas ... he was quite short, so served as a tailgunner, and was shot down on his first mission over Germany. He spent 1-1/2 years in a German POW camp...the German censors allowed exactly one letter to get through to him-- one that my mother wrote. He didn't bring it home because he read it so many times it wore out.  He didn't like to talk about his experiences, and he never married, never had children. Yes, the war had costs that are not easily quantified.

    Thanks for the diary and for the discussion.

    {{{all my friends}}}

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 08:04:39 PM PDT

    •  Dear Klompie (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      klompendanser, edwardssl

      Missed you today!

      {{{hugs for you}}}


    •  Indeed, the costs of war (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      klompendanser, edwardssl

      are myriad, pervasive and enduring.

      I wonder if your uncle was the same man when he came home that he had been when he left.  I can't imagine what being a POW would do to the spirit.  It makes me think of the many men I've known who came home from Vietnam irrevocably changed.

      Clayton had a brother, Mike, who was also a drill sergeant, stationed at Fort Bragg.  He so wanted to go into action but was good at his job, and at length believed he would never be sent over.  He despaired over it.  Then in the summer of 1944 he was involved in a training accident that took his arm and leg.  In fact, Clayton was able to spend a few days at his bedside during the crisis before he was shipped out.

      Mike died a few years ago.  Lovely man.  The first time I met him he advised me that I was wise to be playing hard to get with my then-boyfriend, his nephew, but I shouldn't do it for too long.  He was very pleased when we married.  And he never believed that I wasn't playing.  :)

      Thank you for liking Clayton and Hazel's story.

      "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

      by DrLori on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 09:55:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have a cousin who died there 2 months later (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DrLori, edwardssl

    I'd like to imagine that my cousin and Clayton were friends. It's unlikely that they ever crossed paths, but they certainly were together in so many other ways.

    Those letters are such a wonderful treasure. I'm envious (sort of).

    My 1st cousin 1X removed is Bryce Bender, killed in action in France on 28 Feb 1945. He's buried in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium along with 7,988 other American soldiers. He was a Private in the 87th Division, 346th Infantry.

    This Cemetery is one of two American Cemeteries in Belgium where those killed in WW2 are interred. Henri-Chappelle is just plain beautiful. The other one is Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial.

    Bryce Bender was 24 years old.

    His family placed a monument in his home town cemetery stating that he is buried at Henri-Chappelle.

    Bryce's wife, Bernice, remarried. I don't recall ever meeting her.

    I remember Bryce's mother fondly. She was a close friend of her sister-in-law, my grandmother, and was a frequent guest at our homes. "Aunt Madge" (Smith) Bender died in 2000 at the age of 105.

    Aunt Madge's nephew is another kindred GFHC-worthy addict. I'm sure he has pictures and details about his Uncle Bryce in his collection. Maybe he has some letters. I'll have to email him and ask.

    Thanks for the touching diary.

    "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

    by GrumpyOldGeek on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 08:02:01 AM PDT

    •  Thank you for reading it and sharing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GrumpyOldGeek, edwardssl

      your own connections.  Clayton was first buried in the cemetery at Henri-Chappelle.  Most of the family felt he should have been left there with his fellow soldiers, but his mother did not agree, and wouldn't rest until he was buried near the spot she had in mind for herself.

      It took about 0.01 seconds for me to realize what a great treasure this archive is.  I've been trying to track down all the people who are mentioned in the letters, and then I need to track the 9th army's official records.  My mother-in-law has photos she has yet to share, before I'll consider this complete.

      Maybe Bryce and Clayton knew each other.  Sounds like they worked in the same neighborhood.

      "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

      by DrLori on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 09:47:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This stuff always leads me to something new (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I was looking at Bryce's info in my family tree database and it dawned on me that a high school friend was named Bryce and that his last name was the same as Bryce Bender's wife's maiden name. A few quick searches on Ancestry confirmed that my high school classmate was definitely named after Bryce Bender. So here we go again. I'm related, through marriage, to yet one more high school classmate.

        This stuff reminds me so much of Ken Burns' great series, The War. The language and the events are the same. He could have chosen Clayton or Bryce for this series.

        I can still hear the voices of those in my family who spoke about so-and-so as a "swell fellow" or someone who had "a spell". I loved the description of the mother who "looked like a whipped chicken".

        The Ken Burns series brought out a national appeal to veterans and families to collect documents and to record the real life stories for future generations. Local libraries were engaged in providing the collection points for a while, but the ultimate destination was the  archives of the Library of Congress.

        There's probably something about the WW2 project on the LoC web site. After you get things put together, you might think about providing a copy for the archives. The extra research you're doing is valuable, for sure.

        "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 11:35:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  DrLori, what a beautiful diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You honor this couple's love with this diary. It is a fantastic look at the lives of those for whom WW2 changed so much. You did a fantastic job weaving the letters together, and pointing out that the quiet times for the letters were when the action was taking place. Thank you so much for sharing.

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