One of Ruth’s Letters

Just posting that the first and longest of Ruth’s letters is posted. Over 30 pages long, because she doesn’t have Walt’s mailing address yet, it’s a good introduction to the lives of family who waited at home while their loved ones went to war.

The whole thing ends with this kiss

Ruth’s Letters

After finishing transcribing all 359 of Walt’s letters, I fell into a winter slump. Let’s call it a vacation. I’ve crept back into transcribing by working on those two pilot logs (log1, log2), and now I’m starting on Ruth’s Letters by scanning them and filing them into folders—I hate that part.

Walt mentioned a few times that he was returning her letters for the scrapbook she planned to work on (but never did). Most of her letters were bundled into envelopes, except for four that were returned to her in their original envelopes. She might have picked those up when she went out to visit him. The last bundle is dated 26 July 1942. Walt doesn’t head out to Texas until November, so it’s unclear why the returning ended in July. Nevertheless, that’s all there is. Walt and Ruth would be together after December, so there was no need for letters in 1943. The war obviously made it unlikely that Walt could return any letters received overseas. Beyond that, I don’t know what happened to the idea of the scrapbook, even though there is a large one with photos of other soldiers in it.

My scanning plan is to scan all of an envelope’s contents into one PDF. For the transcribing, though, I’ll do that one letter at a time, with each letter page in JPEG format. Bear with me.

While there is nothing new to read, imagine me scanning and organizing.

Walt’s Pilot Log 1944-45

Almost as soon as I declared that I hadn’t seen a pilot log that continued from the first one, I picked up a little notebook that served as a log for the remainder of 1944 and 1945 up to September. It notes the first time Walt flew a P-51, described in all caps as WONDERFULL, and even notes the date when Walt was shot down!

Mostly, it’s just a record of locations, aircraft, and hours flown. At the top of the first page, Walt lists his total time as 592:15 hours. That’s a lot of hours.

The two log books are very different in design, the second one being a small notebook that would fit easily in a pocket, although I suspect it stayed behind during flights and didn’t, for example, go into the water with Walt in January 1945.

  • The first book, from Walt’s stateside training, is leather-bound with pasted-down and blank endpapers. All the pages are folded and stitched together at one center seam through the endpaper pieces.
  • The later book is bound with a heavy paper cover, and the pages are folded and stitched to that cover at one center seam. The seam is covered in a paper binding on the outside of the booklet.

I’m creating a new page for this second log book and have added links to both of  them to the main Letters menu.

Walt’s Pilot Log 1943-44

Update 5 March: My winter slump is over and all the pages have been scanned and posted for the pilot log.

I’m scanning Walt’s Pilot Log book, as it shows his locations from March 1943-Novenber 1944, much of that time when there were no letters from him. Not only do we get to see where he traveled, but in what airplanes he trained, and then in the second half of 1944, we can see all his overseas locations and a list of some of the missions he flew.

Based on the information in the log, he is in Thomasville, GA in January 1944, so that the letter I have posted for that month should really be dated 1945. I’ll be moving that letter to where it belongs with an explanation.

There is too much information in the log for a blog post, so I have given it its own page and also linked it from The Letters page. I have only scanned and posted a few log entries so far, but the page is published so you can read it as it develops.

Discharge Documents Add to Walt’s Timeline

An envelope containing a few service and discharge documents fill in some dates of when and where Walt served in the Army up to 1947. An odd bunch of documents that Walt and Ruth would have had to hold up to a mirror to read, they look like they might be photos of film negatives—in reverse. I’m guessing it had something to do with how the Army was storing the glut of documents it must have had during the war. Today, it’s easy to scan the documents and flip them to be able to read them, but here’s an idea of what the originals look like:

There are two honorable discharge documents, one from 1943 and the second from 1947. They suggest that Walt had to be discharged in September 1943 (perhaps at the end of his flight training?), and then reenlist in October 1943 to begin another stage of training (I’m guessing here). Altogether, Walt served from 12 January 1942 to 7 January 1947. Here are the discharge documents:

There are two additional documents, an enlisted record dated 30 September 1943 and a separation document that also entails the particulars of his service. That document doesn’t appear to have a date other then his official date of separation of 7 January 1947 :

From the enlisted record, we learn that Walt received training in 1943 from March through September at San Antonio, TX, Oklahoma City, OK, Winfield, KS, and Eagle Pass, TX.

It’s that second separation document that holds interesting information in the section called military history:

  • Occupational Specialty: Tactical reconnaissance pilot
  • Battles and Campaigns: Philippine Islands, Southern Philippines, Luzon, New Guinea, Ryukyus, China Offensive Air Offensive Japan
  • Decorations and Citations: Distinguished Flying Cross; Air Medal w/3 oak leaf clusters; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/7 bronze service stars; American Theater Campaign Medal; Victory Medal; Philippine Liberation Medal w/2 bronze service stars
  • Service Outside Continental US and Return: Departed 20 June 1944 for the South Pacific, arriving 23 June 1944; Departed 22 October 1945 for the USA, arriving 1 November 1945.

One more document, in a different envelope, shows that Walt didn’t stay out of the service very long. He completed an Air Force Aircraft Controllers Course in July 1949 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Panama City, FL: