In a poignant tribute to Remembrance Sunday, a man has unveiled an extraordinary find – a treasure trove of wartime letters authored by his heroic uncle who perished during the Second World War.
Marty Whitacre, aged 62, was astounded when he stumbled upon stacks of correspondence while sifting through boxes stored in his mother’s garage. Within these boxes lay 357 letters inscribed by his father’s brother, Glenn Whitacre. Marty promptly transcribed these letters, immersing himself in the life story of his long-lost uncle.
Glenn, who served valiantly as a radio operator and gunner in the U.S. Air Corps, met a tragic end during World War II.
“I firmly believe that these letters were destined for me; there was no mere coincidence in my discovery,” expressed Marty, an engineer from Santa Ana, California, USA. He continued, “I consider myself exceptionally fortunate, even privileged, to shoulder the responsibility of preserving and chronicling these letters. Above all, I am grateful for the opportunity to finally acquaint myself with my Uncle Glenn, recount his tale, introduce him to our extended family, and share his story with the world eight decades after he led life and paid the ultimate price for his country.”
Among the poignant contents of one letter, Glenn wrote, “When you ponder it, war is, in reality, a rather absurd method of resolving disputes. During peacetime, if one person takes another’s life, the perpetrator is typically sentenced to either life imprisonment or death. However, in wartime, the more lives you take, the more admiration you receive…”
Marty’s grandmother had meticulously safeguarded this correspondence following Glenn’s demise. It was stored alongside medals, military records, bus tickets, photographs, and telegrams honouring Glenn and his service. Over time, these letters became intermingled with other memorabilia. They ended up inside a grocery bag – the very bag where Marty eventually rediscovered them.
After this startling discovery in 2016, he transcribed them in 2018, dedicating 18 months to the endeavour.
Marty shared, “To my surprise, my uncle had meticulously recorded each letter’s day, date, and time. Each letter appeared to have been opened with a letter opener, which aided in preserving the information on the envelopes.”
He continued, “To my chagrin, my uncle’s handwriting was rather illegible, a trait he acknowledged in his letters, occasionally displaying a bizarre pride about it. He wrote hastily, often on both sides of the paper, and occasionally employed delicate, thin sheets of paper along with an old-style fountain pen and inkwell, or a pencil when necessary.”
“Many of the letters remained surprisingly well-preserved despite their age. However, some had practically disintegrated in my hands and necessitated meticulous repair and reassembly, akin to restoring incredibly fragile puzzle pieces.”
Marty has continued to work on this archive of letters, simultaneously conducting extensive research using historical records obtained from the online collections of the global family history site MyHeritage.com.
He added, “Throughout this process, there were several profound moments of realization. One of these moments was the revelation of how close-knit the Whitacre family was. They were deeply intertwined in each other’s lives. I could perceive my grandparents and even my father in a completely different light than I had ever known. I had never seen my dad as a brother. My uncle took immense pride in mentoring and encouraging him, in being the big brother.”
Marty has authored a book titled ‘I’m In The Army Now,’ featuring Glenn’s letters. He plans to donate this precious archive to the American War Letters Museum, describing the experience as “awe-inspiring” in connecting with his uncle through these invaluable missives.
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