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.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Letter #3 to Mary from Mrs. Wilbur C. Garner (Betty)

This blog entry continues with the actual "Letters to Mary." 
I have also added a short narrative at the end of this blog letter entry.

Mrs. W. C. Garner
3600 Copley Road
Baltimore, Md. 15

Mary Garner S2C
4th Battalion 13th Company
University of Indiana
Bloomington, Indiana
                                                                                                            Monday, May 24, 1943

Dear Mary,

     How are you getting along now? Hope you are feeling well. It was raining "cats and dogs" the day we left Kentucky. Bill says it's very hot down in Louisiana.  He seems to be dissatisfied with conditions at Camp Polk now. Seems as though all the decent fellows have left the company. He has been studying very hard for his Warrant Officers exam. He has already had his physical. Bill seems to think his company officers are trying to keep him from getting his commission. I hope he gets it or he will be one terribly dissapointed person. He called  me Sunday, boy it was good to talk to him  again. I miss him so much. I had lunch with your Mother last Friday. I have been house cleaning ever since I got home. Sunday we went down the shore and opened up the house. We started in cleaning and hope to start painting next week. Bernard called dad and offered to help paint. I thought that was very nice. The weather was rather warm the first week I was home, but is now cool again. Our yard at home here is beginning to look real pretty again. We had quite a time finding someone to cut the grass for us this season. Finally we got a little 12yr. old boy to cut it. 

I am losing weight, Mary, but I don't know why. I am eating all the time. I only weigh 102 lbs. now. By the way, your Mother is looking very well. I have been practicing up on my cooking lately. I should be able to give Bill a pretty good home by the time all this mess is over.  

Please forgive me if this letter doesn't make sense. This is the 3rd letter for me tonight and I am getting kind of sleepy.
It hardly seems possible that June 1 is practically here. The time has gone so fast the past few years. Just think in 2 months Bill and I will be married 2 years. It has been the happiest years of my life. I bet you don't know just how wonderful he is. Mary he has been so good to me. I could never tell you how much I love him. Guess I'd better stop this slush. You know I'm sleepy when I talk like this. Well, be good Mary. I promise again that I will write more often. Hope everything's O.K. If you have time, drop me a line sometime.

                                                                                          Love, Betty

This is the first and last letter from Betty (Mrs. Wilbur C. Garner). She passed away a month after she wrote this "Letter to Mary," at the age of 21, on June 25, 1943, when she went into a diabetic shock from an undiagnosed diabetic condition.  She had been married to Bill just shy of two years. She was laid to rest in Druid Hill Cemetery, (Groveland section) Baltimore, Md. 

As told to me (Karen Garner Martin Messick) by Bill prior to his death in 2002.

"At the time of Betty's death, I was stationed in Camp Polk, Louisiana and out on cadre when I received the news. I was notified by the Army of Betty's sudden passing and given bereavement leave to return home. I immediately began my long journey home. The darn trains in the country were tied up with military comings and goings in support of the war effort and it took me over 48 hours of constant travel to arrive in Baltimore. I arrived tired and exhausted the day Betty was laid to rest, as I had not slept for those 48 hours. Betty's father, chastised me for not arriving sooner. I could not believe he did that, as I was mourning the loss of my beloved young wife. He was a real bastard.
Shortly after Betty was buried I headed back to Camp Polk to continue my service to my country, leaving my parents and Betty's to dissolve our marital home."


  1. I am so touched by this letter and want to go back and see others you have posted. My father was in the military/France through Germany at a similar time. He never spoke of what he did or saw, I know it tortured him to do so. But we are left with many "blank" years of his life. Reading this letter some how filled in a hollow place. Wishing you the best with this on going project. Sharon

    1. Thank you Sharon, The men who served all those years were sworn to silence!My dad never spoke of the war until he was dying. I feel as you do that there are so many missing pieces. I am so glad to know you have found this to be helpful! Than you!

  2. Sharon, thank you for leaving your comments. Quite possibly he was in the same unit. You can get his military records if you do not have any from the Government that will tell you what unit he was assigned to and then you can look up their history. Dad never really talked about it either until he was in his late 70's, they were sworn to silence, and they kept their promise. They were a very unique and honorable generation. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions and I will try to answer them and maybe fill in some more blank spaces for you.