A week has passed since Memorial Day, but today I was going through a box of old letters and photos and found a large batch of correspondence to, from, and about my uncle, Lee Erling Anderson, who never came back from WWII. I never knew him, but from reading the letters to and from him, am guessing he was a fun-loving, full of heck guy, who headed off to war with a sense of duty and pride, and that his family sent him off in the same manner. My uncle, Bud Anderson, also served and came back, thank goodness, because he was a shining star in my life. I know that Uncle Bud survived several of the large battles of WWII and was injured, but his correspondence has been passed on to my cousin JoLynn Anderson Lacis.
My grandparents were of stoic, Scandinavian stock, and by the time I came along, which was just shortly after the war, they no longer spoke of Uncle Lee, at least not publicly. I imagine that is just how they dealt with their grief. But, in going through this pile of paperwork, I saw the great lengths my grandmother and his sisters went through to try to find him or to find out exactly what happened to him. There were many letters addressed to him, sent by my grandmother and his sisters, that were returned unopened and stayed unopened until I read some of them today.
There were several letters from the War Department, letting them know that at first he was a prisoner of war, then that they didn't know where he was, and then that he was deceased. They never found out exactly what happened to him or where he was and his remains were never returned to the U.S. In the above photo, there is a picture of him, a letter from him from the POW camp and the letter received from the War Department announcing his death,
I saw that my grandmother wrote to the War Department, ND Senator Young and to various soldiers that may have known my uncle, trying to find out just what happened. As a child, the final story, as I was told, was they felt that he was maybe in a hospital which, although marked as such, the Germans had bombed. But, I am sure there was not only a feeling of terrible loss, but of helplessness in not knowing what, when, where, how...
It was obvious to me in reading all the letters, telegrams, and documents, just how slow and inaccurate and inefficient correspondence was almost 80 years ago! It also seemed to me that they way things were handled, my grandparents must have felt somewhat that he was just a name and a statistic. I understand what a daunting task it must have been for the government to deal with all of this, but these letters and papers surely brought it home to me today.
I hope we will always remember, that freedom isn't free and that we should never take it for granted and how terrible the world could become if left to power hungry leaders.