Thursday, June 21, 2007

A WWII Letter from My Grandfather

A couple things I've read lately reminded me that I had a special keepsake: a letter my paternal grandfather wrote his parents during World War II: Becky has been transcribing her letters from boot camp to home; and a reader of Family Tree Magazine recently wrote in response to their February 2007 article "Preserving Memories" that envelopes of letters should be saved, as they often contain vital information to complete what's in the letter.

The letter I have was saved because it mentioned that my grandfather, Robert Lewis Robbins, had frozen his fingers during the service. I'm sure it was used toward obtaining some sort of disability pension from the military. He and his brother, Bill, Jr., signed up together and served in the 1452nd Army Air Force, Air Transport Command. Bob worked as a flight mechanic and achieved the rank of sergeant before he was discharged.

So that you understand some of the people mentioned in the letter: Bob, my grandfather, was married to my grandmother, Jeanne, and they had two children at the time of this letter: two-year-old Louise and 6-month-old Bryan (my dad). My grandfather was the oldest of five siblings; the rest of the family included Bill, Jr., Shirley (not mentioned), Jack, and Joyce. My grandmother, aunt and father were living in Edmonton, Alberta to be near where my grandfather was stationed. Great-uncle Bill was also married to Josephine, a Edmontonian, although she's not mentioned here. The letter was written to Bob's parents, William Bryan ROBBINS, Sr. and Marie LEWIS.

The letter is written in cursive pencil on United States Army Air Forces stationery with a matching envelope. It's addressed from:

Sgt R Robbins 16086708
Sq F, 1452 AAF Base Unit
AIRO 462 c/o P.M. Minn, Minn.

and is addressed to:

Mr & Mrs Wm B Robbins

Instead of a stamp, Bob has written "Free" and the faded postmark says "U.S. ARMY POSTAL SERVICE, DEC 23 1944 402"

A note has been scrawled across the front in ink:

Record of Bob freezing
finger en route on flight

Dec 14/44
Dear folks

Am now over the headwaters of the Mississippi in northern Minn. or Dakota heading south. We are going to some place in Ill. to a hospital with a patient we picked up in the Artic [sic] early this morning. I frosted my two thumbs and a couple of fingers last night when we had some mechanical trouble I had to correct in sub-zero temps in a forty mile an hour wind. Just like Michigan. I should be back to our base by this time tomorrow. I can't get back too quick to suit me this time though because Jeanne took Bryan to the hospital with a bad cold day before yesterday. He wasn't very bad but they have so much better facolities [sic] there than we have in one room and they seemed very willing to keep him there for a couple of days. He's such a tiny guy that we hated to have him in someone else's care but as he would be better off we think it's best, at least for a couple of days.

Sure glad to hear Jack is in the Navy. I'm sure he'll get along OK. We'll drop him a line as soon as possible congratulating him. And I do bet it's a relief for you folks. I suppose Bill will be leaving soon, two weeks is all too short to be at home only once a year. We'll soon be coming into Minneapolis now so will finish this later

01:00 o'clock
Dec 23/44
Was just going thru my bag and found this letter that I'd never finished. Bryan is well and home now, he was in the hospital just one week. Am now on my way back to base from a trip to Montana. Which reminds me that I was down here just before or on Christmas day last year too. Jeanne and I have a little tree and we look forward to having a very merry Xmas for our little family. We have all kinds of presents for Louise and Bryan. Say sure thought that turtle that Joyce made was cute and it's a very practical little pillow too. I bet Bryan will spend hours on it. Last week I made Bryan a pottie chair out of an orange crate and I'm just as proud of the design & workmanship as can be. I've been getting to see quite a bit of the family in spite of all my traveling lately. I wish we could all be together for this Christmas, but in our family we're together in mind if not in body so I sincerly [sic] wish each of you still there at home a most merry Christmas and may God bless you all, every one.

P.S. Bill is back, going strong. he has a new job now no more flying for him, too much rank. Incidentaly [sic] that was Moline, Ill & Davenport Iowa that I was at. Just had a short layover though, and I slept all of those few hours


Anonymous said...

I don't have any letters like that, but they're interesting keepsakes. They tell us little details we wouldn't otherwise know. Thanks for sharing it with us :)

Janice said...

I think an entire generation of men learned how to write letter during World War II, and many of them never wrote another letter after that (my father included). I'm really glad to have a few letters my dad wrote to my mom, and to his own mother during that time.