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.
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.
In between transcribing the letters from 1944-45, now that I have that ton of 1942 letters behind me, I look around the site and make little changes that need to be done to keep all pages on the site up to date. I see that I’ve declared in some places that I have no plans to transcribe some letters from friends, but I’ve changed my mind about that. I just won’t do it until all of Walt’s and Ruth’s letters are done.
One of those is the long letter from Charles Garner. I started rereading it, and he actually gives a little timeline about Walt’s training and location in 1943. For example:
Pitt & I first met in September, 1943 at Dale Malory Field, Tallahassee, Fla. I was just newly married & if I remember correctly, you & he had not been married too long.
We went from Tallahassee to Thomasville, Ga. & from there back to Tallahassee. It was not until this second trip to Tallahassee that I became close to Pitt. There—Pitt, I , Rule, Conny Fagerland, DuBost, Franklin, & Marty—separated ourselves into one group & drew cards against other groups to see if we could go overseas. There were six groups of seven apiece & all wanted to go. But—we won or lost—as the case may be & were sent to Meridian, Miss. There the seven of us became as one. We drank, cussed, fussed, fought, gambled, flew & studied as one. Call it “Esprit De Corps” or by any other name, but whatever it was, we seven had it. And, we enjoyed ourselves. We were all young then, both in age & experience. Those of us left are now young in age. I have a picture of us taken at Meridian which I look at every so often & recall the times we had. This picture fairly glows with youth & eagerness.
. . . .
From Meridian we went to Savannah, Ga.
. . . .
From Savannah we seven went to Camp Stoneman, Calif.
. . . .
From Stoneman, we seven went to Hamilton Field at San Francisco & there Rule, Marty & Fagerland left ahead of us & went to a different Sqdn.
There’s more; it’s a long letter, and I will quote from it again before it is all transcribed, but these excerpts help fill in where Walt went for stateside flight training in 1943. From Ruth herself, I remember hearing something about Florida and California, but stories were not really a part of our lives; she kept most of it to herself. I lived in Georgia from 1997-99, but never heard Ruth say anything about her or Walt having been there. But she did leave the letters.