About this blog

As the author of this blog, Karen L Garner Martin Messick, I am the daughter of an American soldier, Wilbur (Bill) C. Garner, Sr. and Women's Royal English Navy service woman (British Wren) Gwendoline Rosa Wilkins, who met and married during World War II. They lived and loved for over 50 years before Mother passed in 2000. When she did I helped Dad with every day chores when I could. One day I was helping him clear things out and I lifted a plastic bag out of the seat of Mom's piano stool, asking Dad, "Whats in this bag?" to which he replied, "Just some of Mary's old letters." Mary, his older sister, was still alive at the time, residing in an assisted living facility, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I put the letters back in the piano seat thinking he did not want me to open the letters.
When Dad passed two years later, I inherited Mary's letters.
When I began to read them, I found they were mostly letters from Dad to Mary while he was in World War II ("The War"). I could not put them down. I wished I had opened them the day I first saw them so that Dad and I could have had conversations about them, but that was not to be...so as I read through these "Letters to Mary" I began to get a glimpse into Dad's young years when he met Mom and his time as a soldier. I have researched events during World War II to enhance my understanding of what was happening in the war as each letter came to broaden my understanding of what he might have been experiencing. I knew he landed on the beaches of Normandy, France D-Day plus 1 as he recounted his memory of that day to me when he was dying from Leukemia. It was horrifying. There were also letters from a companion Mary had met while in Minneapolis, he had been deployed overseas. I have entwined them chronologically with Dad's letters as it gives a greater dimension to the war itself. I intend to editorialize as necessary to explain personal relationships and situations as the story unfolds through the "Letters to Mary." I welcome any questions, comments and feedback. As the "Greatest Generation" fades away, I felt compelled to share these letters and story in hopes of continuing the legacy they left for the world. Let us never forget the untold years and lives that were sacrificed for freedom!
If you have stumbled upon this blog I have added a blog archive at the bottom of the blog page. Continue to scroll down to access the Blog Archive. The posts are chronologically listed and to follow the story it is best to start with the first post in December 2013.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Letter to Pfc. Souil W. Garner Ft. Myers Florida May 1 1944

This letter to Souil is from his brother Bill (Wilbur, Will) while stationed in England.....and is the last of the recently found 14 "War" letters....The original transposed letters continue on the Blog until April 1945, the end of "The WAR" where Bill found himself in Germany as S/Sgt G-1 Section, Headquarters of the XIX Corps, and married to Gwen who remained in England at the time, with a three month old daughter, my sister Carol.
He fought with the XIX Corps through out Europe during "The WAR." The letters from "The WAR" make for interesting reading and are identified on the Blog Archive chronologically, by year as I entered them at the bottom of this page.
S/Sgt Wilbur C. Garner , 33377578
G-1 Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, c/o Postmaster, N/Y.

27 April 1944

Dear Souil,

Well how are you doing today Pfc? It seems as though I forget that you were promoted to Pfc. In fact, I think I still addressed your last letter as Pvt. Oh well someday soon I guess I'll be addressing them as M/Sgt. In the Finance branch, the promotions often come very quickly or overnight as to say. I guess Uncle Sam is keeping you very busy these days with paying the boys off. Well that is surely one thing that keeps the morale up.

I imagine this is a bit of news which will sorta take you by surprise, but you should know me by this time. Today I submitted application to the CO for permission to marry. Of course, over here it takes two months after the submission for the application before one can get married. I don't know where I'll be in two months so there is nothing definite about it. Merely contemplation, of course along the serious channel. It is the little WREN that I have been telling you about. She is very nice and very eager to learn the American way. I've got her saying Bath instead of Bawth and lots of other things along that line. Until I met her I wouldn't have given you two hoots for the English that I have seen. She is much different. Oh well that is life for you.

I haven't heard from you lately, but I have a few minutes and thought that I would write you. How is Harriet these days? I haven't heard from her lately but I imagine she is at the last out again. I'll bet that almost killed her being cooped up in that apartment for a couple weeks.
Well I'll close for now and hope to hear from you real soon,
Lots of Love and Luck,

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Letter to Pfc. Souil W. Garner Ft. Myers, Fla. April 23, 1944

This letter is to Souil William Garner from Souil's Dad, Souil Wade Garner....

S. Wade Garner
2425 Calverton Hgts. Ave
Balto. Md.
Balto. Apr. 23 -1944


Sunny boy. So you thought that you would put one of those balls right over the home plate and score a home run didn't you? Sending me a personal letter was too much a challenge for my (eat-a-cat), so I thought I had better arm myself with a scribbler and proceed to regain my status quo er it be too late. Dukie I appreciate you taking your time to write me such a lovely letter. I don't feel as though I deserve it, but I would have to tell you the same things as mother does, as we are only one source of information, where we used to have so many "bureaus of information" to draw from. It is now 9:15 pm Sunday and the close of another very cold rainy April day, that almost seems like fall. 
Michael called up about 6 o'clock to inquire about me - your old Dad is having a battle of the "Molars" I had six more teeth out Friday night and am not feeling just as fit as a fiddle. My face is very swollen, have been lying around with cold compresses, on it most of the time, Harriet was here when I came home from the dentist Friday night and was kind enough to go up the street and borrow some ice cubes - (I guess mother told you our refrigerator unit went up, or I think was broken in moving and we will not be able to get it for about 2  weeks) for me. The Doctor says all my teeth must come out, xray showed them to be in very bad condition, all six Friday night were absessed and I have to go again on Wednesday night. Things seem to have gone in reverse since we moved, but "By gosh" - we'll come up again or know the reason why. You know a postage stamp is not worth a darn if it don't stick to its job, and you know me, you might throw me, but I'm coming back if there is any way to do it, and if I don't see a way, I even might be like the colored boy who said he would knock the knots off the other boys head, and the boy said he did not have any knots on his head, so the other boy, again said, he would put some knots on his head and then knock them off. Don't think too much about this Mother and I are about settled in our new home and are very happy and thankful. 
I have met Dr. Horn, he called here twice already and we have been attending church service and Wednesday night meetings and feel perfectly at home and like Mrs. Horn very much, a little dramatic, but I think sincere, and brings very helpful messages. A number of the folks seem surprised when they discover me to be your Dad. So many seem interested in you and inquire about you. Well, we hope this whole affair will soon be over, it looks like things might be heading toward a climax - we hate to hear and read about it, but as long as it must come - the sooner the better. Bernard + Jane did not come today, but are coming on Tuesday for supper, said he had a letter from Will, which was written about two weeks ago - he was OK and seemed in good spirits. Well here's hoping for the best, hope you are well and getting along OK. We're are looking forward to seeing you before many more weeks pass. Will close for this time, with love from Mother and I.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Letter to Mrs. Souil W. Garner (Harriet) Baltimore, Md April 18, 1944

This letter to Harriet (Mrs. Souil W. Garner) is from Bill while stationed in England.....
S/Sgt Wilbur C. Garner, 33377578
G-1 Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, c/o Postmaster, N.Y.
17 April 1944

Dear Mike, (Harriet's nickname)

I received your letter of the 5th last Thursday which was very good time. Seven days to be exact. I also received one from Souil, Jane and Bernard, and two from Mother. I'd say that is a very good haul. I surely was sorry to hear about you having Scarlet Fever, but I really had to laugh and then to think that Ann King was quarantined with you. Boy what a climax! ! ! 

So you are assuming that just because I visited a town, the name of which I can mention no more, you seem to think there is a girl mixed up in it. Well you are right there is and was. She is a WREN (same as our WAVES) that I met at a Red Cross dance one Friday evening about two months ago. I think you can see some pictures of her that she gave me to send to Mother. She is 21 years of age, about 5 ft 7 in, weighs 135 lbs and has sorta blonde hair, not an outstanding blonde but much lighter than Mary's hair. She is a VERY NICE girl and I'm not kidding.

I guess I have had as much to do as you have had so little. I've been working about three evenings out of the week until 10:30 and 11:00 PM. Well the only thing I can say is that it surely helps the time to pass by quickly. It really has flown too. It is hard to realize that in about two more weeks that one-fourth of '44 has passed.

Thanks for Jessie's address. I have wanted to write to them for sometime. I received a very nice card from them but have never written sue to the fact that I lost the address. 

Well I hope you are OK again by the time this letter reaches you.
Beeeeee Gooooood and don't work tooooooooo hard. 
Lots of love and here's hoping we'll all be home again soon,

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Letter to Pfc. Souil W. Garner Ft. Myers Florida April 18, 1944

This letter to Souil was written by Bill while stationed in England....

S/Sgt WIlbur C. Garner, 33377578
G-1 Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, C/o Postmaster, N.Y.
13 April 1944

Dear Souil,

I'll start this letter now and finish it later on. I've got to work tonight. Just one more night. I've been working day + night until about 10:30 or 11:00 about 4 or 5 days out of the week.
I received your letter of April 7th yesterday. That was really good time. Thank you for the letterhead.
Gwen (Gwendoline)  is saving them. Well so you want a description. Light hair or dirty blonde, height 5 ft 7 inches weight 135-140 and she has a lot of personality. I got a letter from Harriet today telling me to be careful of these English girls. I'll see you lata. I got to go to work now. 

14 April 1944

Dear Souil,

Well I finished work last night at 11:00pm. Boy I've seen enough figures to last me a life time. What a life. I hope that is all for a while, but I doubt it. It seems like every night there is something else to do.
I guess you have been working hard lately. I imagine your hours are a little more regular than mine.

17 April 1944

Dear Souil,

You see how I have to write a letter. I've made up my mind that I shall finish this letter at this sitting. Well I went to see Gwen yesterday. I told her that I had described her to you as a pleasingly plump, dirty blonde. She said that she was going to have to write you  and put you wise. Well I guess you'll get the low down if she does that. I think she has written yo Mary. 
There is no more news now so I'll close and make sure that this letter gets out in the mail today. Be good and don't work too hard.
Lots of love and luck from your little red-haired brother,

Friday, January 1, 2016

Letter to Pvt. Souil W. Garner U.S. Army Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana December 21, 1943

This letter is also from Phoebe Emma Garner, Bill, Mary and Souil's mother.
Mrs. S. Wade Garner
6000 York Rd
 Baltimore -12 Md

Dec 21 st Tuesday
My Dear Souil,

Your letter just arrived, + without writing a letter in return I could just say, "thems my sentiments too." It just seemed as though a good part of that letter I must have written to you, instead of just the opposite. Well I certainly do share thoroughly the way you feel about Christmas, to me it doesn't seem possible it will be here + gone in just a few short days, + even now since Dad has put up a tree + trimmed it, it still does not seem actually that Christmas is here. Bernard went out on the lot in back of their house + cut one for us + Christman's + himself. Mr. C drove back there + brought them home; he trimmed theirs last Sunday afternoon + Dad trimmed ours while I sat in a chair + bossed the job. I am getting more expert at that all the time. But the tree has not made it seem a bit more like Christmas, neither could all the gifts the world holds, without my kids; it only emphasizes the fact that they are not here. Jane's mother + Dad want her home for Christmas day + Bernard don't want to go. He vows he is going to have dinner in his own home if he has to cook it,  + eat it alone.
So Dad + I are going to be home as usual + if he comes in for a while, or they both do, all right, if not we may go to Aunt Eva's a little while in the afternoon. But I told him to go along with Jane + don't spoil their  Christmas because he wants to be with us. My cold does not seem to leave, it is better for a few days + then I seem to start all over again, I have been afraid to go out for every time I do I come back sneezing + coughing. Maybe I am coddling myself too much. But I am getting out of patience with myself.
Hugh Sebra called yesterday, said he  + Alameda had both been sick with Grippe + he has an ulcered stomach. He said too; Uncle Willie Johnson is in bed with a heart ailment + is not expected to recover. Aunt Gertrude has had a hemorrhage in one eye + has lost the sight of it. He said she has been working for about two years in a millinery store on N. Charles St., but has had to quit now. Also said Frank Groton was married about three weeks ago. Wonders never cease, do they? It is very cold here, but you must have Balto beaten, for we have only had two mornings that the thermometer registered 17, last week it hovered around between twenty + thirty degrees a good part of the time. It looks like snow this morning + I shouldn't be surprised if we get some. I was talking to Aunt Eva on the phone and she said Uncle John has gotten over his bad cold + is feeling fairly well again. Dad is surely breaking the record this year, he has not had one cold so far + I hope he continues so. I am glad Harriet seems to be content  + I felt sure she would adjust herself to conditions as she found them, don't spoil the present, thinking  about the future. Just be thankful for the day as it comes, + trust for the rest. It seems that is all any of us can do, + after all, we are only given that one day at a time, so why waste the strength we need to get through that one, fretting about tomorrow.  Guess you can understand all this lingo.

I received a card from the War Department too notifying me of Wilbur's (Bill's) change of address. I couldn't explain how I do feel about it, if I tried, so its best not to try I guess. All we can do is trust. Poor Kid! He surely has had some hard knocks in his short life, + I do think he was dreading, the coming  of Christmas at Camp Polk without Betty. Well now My Dear Boy I do sincerely wish for both of you + Harriet a happy Christmas, + am certainly thankful you can be together, at least some time through the Christmas season. My love to both of you + lots of it.
Yours Lovingly Mother

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Letter to Pvt. Souil W. Garner U.S. Army Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana December 19, 1943

This letter is from Phoebe Emma Garner (Souil, Bill and Mary's mother). As of the date of this letter, she had three of five children in the armed services, Mary in Minneapolis, Souil in Indiana and Bill in DeRidder, Louisiana, preparing to depart for Europe.
Mrs. S. Wade Garner
6000 York Road
 Baltimore -12 Md. 
Dec. 17 - 43
My Dear Souil,

Your letter received yesterday morning + I surely did enjoy reading it and so did Dad when he came home last night. I surely felt relieved to know that Harriet had gotten a comfortable room. See, what a lucky bunch we are! But that's not luck either, simply the one who notes the sparrow's fall, supplying our daily needs; call it what will. I don't think I would like at all, to feel that you children were in a strange City, among strangers and not Also know that He who made the universe has you under His care.Well, today is the big day you have looked forward to; so I, like yourself am wondering where + what, for you. I had a phone call from Wilbur on Tuesday night, (I think it was Tuesday) He said he had been trying to get one through to you, all the evening, he was then in DeRidder, + said there was no change in his plans. He had said before in his letters he expected to leave on the 15th of December, so I suppose he didn't want to say so, but meant that as good bye, for the present. Well, the only thing we do is trust, where we can't see, + we surely can't see far.
We are having a very cold spell of weather; last Monday it began + yesterday it was down to seven degrees. I expect it is just as cold this morning. Was nice clear weather though + the weather bureau says clear today. Baltimore is certainly hard hit by the Grippe Epidemic. There is talk of closing the schools, on account of it. I am glad you will be able to use the barracks for sleeping during that extra period. I don't imagine it would be very comfortable sleeping outdoors in such cold weather, unless absolutely necessary, it does not seem practical or sensible to me, but guess Uncle Sam might think otherwise. 
Dad + I had a good laugh about the long underwear, but I'll bet you are thankful to have it now. I wonder how Mary is managing to keep warm. I think about her each morning when we get up, how cold she used to be. I'll bet she, like ourselves + thousands more, will be too happy for words, when Peace finally comes. 
I am much relieved, + not at all surprised to know Harriet has landed herself work to keep her busy: you can't keep a jump ahead of that girl, + I imagine, she'll keep two jumps ahead of you and that is good for you. Well I hope she doesn't over do her strength, for she is a real bunch or energy, + would never be happy idle. 
Colin Bell will be home next Sunday + will leave on the 26th of Dec. to go back to college at Macon, Georgia, so I imagine he would get your note here before he leaves, I do not have his school address, but if you want it I will get it from his mother, for his birthday is Jan 1st and we have always sent him cards, so I will need it anyway. 
We are fairly well, my cold is still trying to hang on, but I feel pretty good except coughing + hoarseness + time will take care of that, I think. Jane has been home with a cold since Tuesday, is better now. Hope you get the box all right, wish it could have been more, but I couldn't get out shopping much on account of the cold, so now, Bye, Bye, + lots of love to you both, we certainly do think of you often.
Yours Lovingly Mother 

Letter to Pvt. Souil W. Garner U.S. Army November 6, 1943 Baltimore Maryland

This letter is from Phoebe Emma Garner (Souil and Bill's Mother)  to Souil after he was drafted into the Army and sent to finance school at Fort Benjamin Harrison,  Indiana..........
Mrs. S. W. Garner
6000 York Rd.
Baltimore Md - 

Nov. 6-43

My Dear Souil,

I received your letter on Wednesday, was surely glad to get it. Harriet called the night before, + told us of her change in plans; she sure did feel badly about it. We certainly do sympathize,  I told her to come anyway, + stay a couple weeks, but she didn't think that would be practicial, + I suppose she knows best. Well, Dear Boy, we surely will be thinking of you this weekend especially. I don't often stop my work on Saturday morning to write a letter, but I can't get you out of my mind this morning, for even a few minutes, so thought I would stop + write to you. I had a letter from Wilbur this morning telling  me, his unit is slated to be the next one out of there for overseas, when the maneuvers are over. It seems terrible for this war to drag on + on as it is. There must surely be some good reason the Good Lord has for allowing it, + who am I to question? I know you must be digging into that course you are taking. I hope it will be of use to you when things are settled once more, + this night mare is over. Souil Mr. C says just about the same as that Officer told you; he thinks you have gotten a wonderful break, so lets hope any way. There does not seem to be much left in this life anyway-but hope,  so lets hold on tight to our hopes + faith which is only a confirmation of our hope. Hope says I expect so + so, + faith says, I know in the Lords own good time he will bring some special thing to pass, because he has promised that, "No good thing will be withheld from those that love him." So lets not lose heart. Well, here's the Old Lady preaching again. Souil Mr. & Mrs. C are very much worried about Jim. Patty's sister has a boy friend, who is a sailor; his boat docked over a week ago in Boston + he went home, to Plattsburg, on furlough. He was surprised on arrival, that Jim was not home, for he says Jim's boat, The Spencer, was in Boston dry docks laid up for repairs. He told Patty + she has waited almost a week , after that for some word, and then wrote to Christman's. He had written Patty a few weeks ago and told her he had lost his hearing entirely from concussion of big guns, (he is in charge of a gun crew.) The Dr's think one ear drum is burst, but that the other will respond to treatment. Since that she has not heard a word. Mr. C thinks it must be a mistake, + that the boat couldn't be in, but Mrs. C thinks it is in, + Jim is hurt more seriously than his letter said + he is in a hospital + won't let them know. Well they are really worried. So I have spent a lot of time trying to keep her talking, so she won't have time to sit and think much this week.  See, I always have an alibi, when I don't write often, when the reason really is I get lazy, once in a while. Now Souil I guess I shall have to bring this to an end. We are both well, + getting along all right. I laughed at your reference to Dad's pay,  (the mistakes) for he came home the last pay day, with nearly six dollars more than he should have had + they don't seem to be able to figure it out. Well, if they want it that way, I hope it won't be six less. Now Lots of love from us both, to the very best boy in the world, none excepted.
Yours Lovingly