Wayne’s mother writes his brother, Verne, with news of the family . . . .
Dec 8 – 1944
I expected to hear from you by this time but guess you are pretty far away by now. I hope you had a nice trip and enjoyed it.
Nordie was sent to Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland.1 Co. E., 9th Bn. 3rd Regt. AGF Repl Depot #1. (one) Is in a nice camp and has passes every night to go to Washington D.C.
Wayne has 43 missions now and expects to be back home by Feb. His address is still the same. Had a letter from him this week and he said he was writing you also.
We are all fine, the kids going to school and getting anxious for Christmas to arrive. I have all my Christmas shopping done and packages mailed. Harvey is working same as usual. Has gone back to firing.2
I had a long letter from Aileen and she said everything was fine with Allen and her.
Tommy is working for Kaisers making shells now.3
The neighborhood is same as when you left. Lots of new people buying homes around here.4
I think of you every day and pray for you. May you come home soon. God will take care of you for me.
Love Mom5 & all.
Notes & Commentary
1 Harry Nordman Gray completed advanced infantry and artillery training at Camp Van Dorn, near Centreville, Mississippi and is now awaiting assignment to a combat unit in Europe.
2 Harvey Ryning, her husband, is working as a railway fireman.
3 Tommy, her oldest son, blew off one of his fingers while playing with a railway torpedo as a boy. Not physically fit for military service, he lives in Denver, Colorado and works for Kaiser making artillery shells.
4 She was living at 1618 Champlain Terrace in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
5 Within three weeks of writing this letter, she will have four sons serving overseas. Harry Nordman Gray, who just turned 18 in July, will be in Belgium with the Army. Another son, Robert Searls Gray, will be serving with the 835th Aviation Engineer Battalion in Italy. Verne will be serving as a B-17 gunner with the 8th Air Force’s 390th Bombardment Group, 571st Bombardment Squadron in England. Wayne will be serving as a B-25 gunner/armorer with the 42nd Bombardment Group, 100th Bombardment Squadron, at Mar Airfield located near Sansapor, New Guinea.
By December 1944, the war affected their extended families. Wayne’s wife, Bonnie, had a brother serving in the Army. Ernest McDowell Gibbons was serving in Company G, 41st Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division in Belgium. Her sister’s husband, Capt. James F. Castles, was serving with the Army in Italy. Capt. Castles had been awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action on 18 September 1944 while serving with Company F, 338th Infantry Regiment, 85th Infantry Division, in Italy.
Verne’s wife, Aileen, had one brother, Arthur Garfield Cline, serving in the Army in Hawaii. Her other brother, Kenneth Eugene Cline, was on his way to England where he would serve as a B-24 pilot with the 577th Bombardment Squadron, 392nd Bombardment Group (H), 14th Combat Wing, 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force. Most of her cousins were serving in the Navy and the Army. One, Joseph J. Trostel, had been awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry in action while serving with the 45th Infantry Division in Italy.
Aileen’s grandmother, Julia Przedzienkowski Furrer, emigrated in 1893 from Russia to the United States at 23. She brought with her three younger siblings: a sister, Stocia, and two brothers, Teodor and Roman Przedzienkowski. They came from the small village of Zatorawisna in Zuromin District, an area that would become part of Poland after World War I. A sister, Joanna, remained behind. Joanna married Jan Domalgalski and among their children was a daughter, Stanislawa Domalgalski, who in 1946 would marry Stanislaw Jaskolski. In December 1944, Stanislaw Jaskolski was a prisoner at Stuthoff concentration camp (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stutthof_concentration_camp : accessed 07 December 2014). His prisoner tattoo was 87558. He had been arrested by the Gestapo in 1944. See Stanislaw Jaskolski. Come with Me and Visit Hell. Translated by Jim Przedzienkowski. [np]: Amazon Digital Services, 2011. (http://www.amazon.com/Come-Visit-Hell-Stanislaw-Jaskolski-ebook/dp/B005CM1TZ6).
The war touched everyone.
Yes it did touch everyone. and some in different ways. On my mothers side she lost her father in WWl and she lost a brother in WWll and another brother survived as a RAAF pilot in Celebes.
My father was a Quaker and became a “conshie” and spent a lot of time throwing awau white feathers. His mother-in-law would not speak to him. My father’s sister was married to a Wilf Shilg who was in the Australian Army and survived to come home but was a bit of a wreck, And another brother – also a ‘conshie’ was a civilian on MacArthur’s staff in Brisbane. When I was young I started work at 401 Collins Street in Melbourne. The same building that was MacArthur’s Melbourne headquarters.
Few people, I believe, have an appreciation for the extent that World War II had upon families. They see a war movie and that it for them . . . It explains all there is. What must it have been like for Wayne’s mother worrying every hour of every day how her sons were?
Did your father’s mother-in-law ever reconcile with him?
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I think that might have been more common than we know. The war and emotions associated with it tore many families apart.
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You know they were a special breed when they can handle so many loved ones in the midst of combat. I know how I felt when my only child joined the Marines 6 months before Desert Storm – but four!!!?
I don’t suppose there are any readily available statistics on the topic, but I have often wondered how many families had all their sons or their daughters’ husbands or boyfriends serving in the military.
Frankly I wouldn’t know how to begin to research that. But, then again, there are usually statistics for everything!! 😉
About 40 years ago, I read a book that contained information such as that, but I can’t remember its title.
Our society has turned completely the other way… Back then, people appreciated you when you wore a uniform. You saw them in department stores, parks, ice cream parlors… Now, ask a young kid what is a gold star mother (let alone a blue star mother) and you get the blankest of stares. ALL families went through the stress of not knowing…but the mothers took the brunt of it. That goes for any country…
Back then, everyone had someone in the military. It’s not the same today and, hopefully, never will be again.
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