I added two letters to the 1951 list of letters from Korea: 26 April and 19 May. Walt writes to his four-year-old son, Sib, about eating right, not playing in the street, and just generally being good. Happy Father’s Day.
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.
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.
The November 1944 letters are finished and it was an interesting month of letters. It begins with Walt having returned from a trip to Sydney, Australia, anticipating getting some flying missions where he can shoot down an enemy plane, but some of the realities of air warfare hit close to home.
His friend J. J. DuBost takes a hit and loses some fingers, or a hand, depending on the storyteller, and is probably headed home.
By the end of the month, Walt has been involved in a friendly fire incident that shot down a US plane (he was able to recognize it first and not shoot). He is grounded for a few days during the investigation, but quickly returns to his anticipation of being part of some “hot” missions.
October ends with Walt in a plane on his way to Sydney, Australia with his friends Charles Garner and J. J. Dubost, and a few others, for some rest and relaxation. Walt says they plan to eat until their sides bulge. Garner describes this remembrance of the trip in his letter written after Walt’s death:
We went to Sidney together on leave & got gloriously drunk & I ate a 1/2 gallon of whipped cream while so tight I couldn’t hold the container. Pitt was forever trying out some kind of new drink & would try & sell us on the idea. Sometimes he succeeded but by the time we got to liking his particular kind he would switch to a new one. This went on & on.
And then a day or two after Thanksgiving, 1944 J. J. got hit and lost a hand. Dec. 4, 1944, some few days later, I lost an ear.