I've hit a couple milestones tonight. One is that this is my 70th post, so I have posted every day for 70 days. Did you think I could do it, MaryM? I didn't, so I'm energized!
My second milestone is that I have completed reading, recording, annotating, scanning and organizing all 253 of the letters my Dad sent home from his three years serving in the Army during World War II. At least these are the ones that are still around here. There are some missing moments, but I guess there needs to be some mysteries in life. It is all contained in one huge Google Docs (I guess it's called Google Drive now) spreadsheet file with all the scans of the letters attached to that. Yes, I'm possessed but many of you already know that.
Below are some of the treasures I found. On the bottom below everything else was a commemorative pillow case, of which there are probably thousands in attics and eBay entries around the country. This one highlights the 34th Infantry Division, or "Red Bull" Division that is well-known now as centered in Minnesota. They were the first division to get involved in Tunisia in Spring, 1943 and that was about the time my Dad would have been shipped to the front lines after basic training in Ft. McClellan, a lot of waiting around at Camp Butner, NC, and finally put on a ship in late January headed for Africa.
Other items in the pictures - upper right is his Purple Heart for being shot in Italy in a battle somewhere around Leghorn (I think Leghorn, he can never say exactly where he was because censors read, and censored, all letters..."Loose lips sink ships" you know), bottom right was his wallet on which he had drawn the Red Bull symbol, his initials (hidden in the picture), and his name and "outfit" - Co. "C", 168 INF REGT - 34 DIV. Also middle bottom is his picture from later in his time in service because he has bars for the Purple Heart, battles he was in, and his combat infantry badge. On the bottom left was a metal, unbreakable mirror of some kind that he would have had for shaving, etc, when he was out and away from any form of civilization...and there were a LOT of references to times like that. Anyway, that was the place that he recorded all the places he had been from the time he crossed the Atlantic and landed on foreign soil.
At some point the U.S. won what he called the "African War" and then their division headed over to Italy, and I remember him talking about the Anzio Beachhead and lots of Italy stories. I just found a book on Amazon.com called As You Were that tells about his regiment and division in more detail that I've ever heard. It should be here any day now. Because of his leg wound, he was eventually reclassified into a big supply port of call, called 6th Port, in Marseille, France, and that's where he finished out the last 6 months of his three years in the Army. From there they were discharged based on a point system, and his frustration kind of boiled over when they would change how points were awarded and how many points were needed to go home. He was luckier than others because he eventually had enough; some of the guys though had to head out to the war in the Pacific after serving time in the European war.
I hadn't planned on including this, but as I was doing one of the last letters tonight, I read where he said he had had his picture taken by a sidewalk photographer that Sunday as he was walking home. He said it was windy so it wasn't a good picture. And I had just found these pictures so one of them was from that day in April, 1945, on the streets of Marseille. And somehow the idea of a sidewalk photographer back then just kind of strikes me as funny--kind of like the pictures they take of visitors to Disneyland or other theme parks and then sell them to you later. Nothing new under the sun!
And I need to point out his hat (it's not called a hat but I can't remember what they are called). My mother would say that he always would wear his hat at a "rakish" angle. He did it back then and he did it until the day he died. He wouldn't look the same with his hat any other way.
I feel like I learned more about who my father was as I went through these letters than I ever knew about him in real life. And, yes, that makes me a little sad, but it just brings up more questions and thoughts about what I can do to find more answers.
So, time well spent!