There aren’t many letters in these first two months of 1945, but they contain a lot of interesting information. In January, Walt is shot down and spends a few days in a raft before being rescued. He goes on a 10 day leave to Sydney in February, which eats up most of the month. He learns of his promotion to 1st Lt. while he is on leave.
As I’m beginning to transcribe Walt’s letters from 1945, here’s something for readers to keep an eye out for.
Charles Garner talks about a few incidents that he and his friends experienced in his letter to Ruth after Walt’s death, and he’s writing 7-8 years after the fact, so he can be forgiven for any mis-remembering. In a recent post, I quoted him, but stopped short of what he says happened to Walt in January 1945. Here’s the entire passage from p. 4:
And then a day or two after Thanksgiving, 1944 J. J. got hit & lost a hand. Dec. 4, 1944, some few days later, I lost an ear. Around Jan 5, 1945 Frank went west—& Pitt spent a couple of days on a raft. Pitt was the only one physically able to return to flying. He did so & flew close to 200 missions.
Garner makes it sound like Franklin’s death and Walt’s time in a raft happened together, but maybe not. Ruth told me quite a few times that Walt was shot down in WWII and spent five days in a raft before being rescued. The five days seems to jive with Garner’s recollection of “a couple of days on a raft.”
There is a big gap in the letters in January between the 9th and the 24th. In fact, Walt mentions in the letter of the 9th that Franklin has been killed in a runway accident the day before. Then the letters resume on the 24th but with no mention of his having been shot down in the interval. So, Garner’s date of the 5th was a little off, but close.
Then there is this telegram sent to Walt’s parent’s address instead of to Ruth’s address:
It says Walt has been missing in action since January 10th, but the time stamp is dated February 7th. We know Walt resumed writing in late January, so he is not still missing at the time of the telegram, but the initial date may be correct. Would family notification really have been so slow?
So, keep alert for any small references to such an incident—if indeed he is allowed to mention it in a letter.
Oh, and I guess that would have been the end of the Ruth-Less plane.
This image shows a P-39 named RUTH-LESS 2nd and its original pilot Lt. Col. R. W. Plahn. Is this the plane Walt talks about inheriting from a pilot who has been sent home, or did Walt inherit that pilot’s first plane? Walt doesn’t say anything about it being the 2nd, but maybe he will. You can see the photo and a description here: Ruth-Less
He does specifically say he gets his own Mustang, not a 39, so it’s a little confusing.
If you ever read of P-51’s doing anything over here you’ll know it is us.
The December 1944 letters, and all of 1944, have been transcribed. Walt does a lot of flying in December, but his little group of four—Franklin, Garner, DuBost, and Walt—take a few hits. The year ends with Garner and DuBost on their way home with injuries, and just Franklin and Walt left to fly more missions.
Finishing out the year, Walt finally gets his own Mustang, which is already named Ruth-less, a sign he takes as lucky, since the previous pilot got to go home.
The unit is moving somewhere as December ends, and Walt hopes to get into a little fun, as he calls it. His mother, as he says, would call it devilment.