Many servicemen in WWII kept diaries, and even more wrote letters home. It wasn’t unusual for families to keep every letter sent home and many soldiers returned from war with their diaries. Most of these are now in the hands of their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, packed away and not read for many, many years. Now 70 years later, these are family treasures. Through these letters and diaries we can all realize the sacrifices these soldiers and their families made for our freedom.
If my dad, George Edwin Farrar, wrote a lot of letters home, they have been lost over the years. And there is no evidence of a diary. I do have some letters he wrote to his mother, which I will publish.
The most treasured letters I have are the letters to my grandmother from the families of other members of the Buslee crew after the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision between their B17, Lead Banana, and another 384th Bomber Group B17, Lazy Daisy. These letters show how slowly news traveled during WWII, and how much anguish families experienced not knowing the fate of their loved ones for such a long time.
When an airman jumps from an airplane, he is in free fall until he deploys his parachute. His life hangs in the balance until the parachute stops the free fall and glides him gently down to earth. Without the chute, his descent would be much faster, and with a very unpleasant abrupt ending.
Here at home, the families of the men involved in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision were all in free fall for a very long time. I imagine, for the families that eventually found their boys were alive, they felt an emotion very like the airman whose parachute opens and sets him down again on earth, an elation.
But for the families whose agony of not knowing continued for so long, the abrupt news that their sons wouldn’t be coming back from war would emotionally be like never deploying the chute and hitting the ground at full speed. At first, with the pain, there would be disbelief. The news took so long in coming that it must be wrong. Families still hoped for a good outcome and still waited in free fall, as if when hitting the ground, they were to bounce back into the realm of not knowing. Perhaps the second landing would be more gentle.
I will start publishing the letters I have, sharing the information and emotions they represent. The first will be letters my dad wrote home before beginning combat duty, and I will soon get to the ones the families of the crew sent to my grandmother while they were all waiting for news of their sons.
I will also publish official letters and documents that my grandmother received from the government. One of my purposes is to try to show the timing of news to the families in relation to what was actually happening. News from Germany was very slow in coming and so was very outdated.
If anyone has any letters that were written by my grandmother, Mrs. Carroll J. (Raleigh) Farrar, during WWII, I would very much appreciate hearing from you and obtaining copies. Also, copies of any letters home from any of the Buslee crew that describe what life was like at Grafton Underwood or during prior training or combat missions, would be appreciated. I would like to get a better feel for what life was like for these boys and their families during this time period. Please contact me.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013