In 2016, while rummaging through his mother’s garage for old family pictures and records in an effort to continue working on his family tree, Marty Whitacre, 62, found a rusted footlocker.
It was full of U.S Air Corps uniforms, some old documents and yearbooks, and also a faded grocery bag with dozens of envelopes.
“These are the letters your uncle wrote home before he was killed,” said Marty’s mother. Marty knew his father’s brother, his uncle Glenn Max Whitacre, was killed during World War II, but the subject was too painful to speak about and was therefore completely silenced in their household. Any information about his uncle was taken to the grave by Marty’s grandparents and his father, Dale Whitacre, who died in 1997.
Being an avid genealogy enthusiast, Marty immediately understood he had just discovered a treasure: a time capsule holding 357 letters that were over 70 years old.
To Marty’s amazement, each letter included the day of the week, the date, and even the time it was written.
This was the starting point of his life project.
Piecing together the story of a lost uncle
For the past 7 years, Marty has dedicated himself to preserving, repairing, and restoring the precious pieces of his family history, and of American history, no less.
“The process of extracting the information off of these letters was complex,” says Marty. “They had to be extracted from the envelopes. The paper was very brittle. It at times had to be rehydrated in order to even be unfolded. Other letters were so delicate they would practically fall apart in my hands and they had to be reassembled like puzzle pieces.”
All this was continuously combined with thorough research using MyHeritage.
Glenn Whitacre served as a radio operator and gunner aboard a B-24 bomber in the U.S Air Corps. He was inducted in Feb. 1943 and killed in a mid-air collision over Italy in July 1944. Glenn was only 19 years old.
He had terrible penmanship — which made Marty’s work considerably harder — but wrote beautifully and with great sensitivity. He wrote about war and love, family memories, and future dreams. He used 1940’s slang (everything was “swell”!), and shared his fears, excitement, and personal thoughts as well as anecdotes from the training field and the battles.
Marty Whitacre became an expert at handling antique and deteriorating documents, and much more: “I’ve learned about the preciousness of handwritten letters and the value they bring to family. I’ve learned a lot about WWII and what America was like during that time period. Above all, I learned about my family and how close they all were. I learned so much about my father, and I got to know my uncle. The uncle that was not to be spoken of.”
Marty first shared his story in a comment to a MyHeritage.com blog post:
“My uncle was killed in WWII. I never knew him and very little was ever spoken of him. A few years ago I located all (357) of his letters home. All of them were in envelopes that had not been owned in over 70 years. The condition of the letters varied greatly by the type of paper used and all were quite fragile. For those that were heavily creased I layed [sp] them out in a room with a humidifier for a couple of hours and this helped make the process easier.
I’ve scanned and encased (vacuum sealed) all of them and am in the final stages of transcribing them. When complete, they’ll be donated to the American War Letters Museum. It’s been awesome getting to know my uncle who gave his life for our freedom.”
Since then, he has done additional research using MyHeritage’s databases to complete the work on his book I’m in The Army Now, which features the letters Glenn Max Whitacre wrote. Due to the number of letters, the book had to be split into two volumes. The book will be published soon via the Amazon Publishing Agency.
Watch him sharing his story and reading from one of his uncle’s letters in the video below:
The letter he reads contains the following sharp, painful insight:
“You know, when you stop and think of it all, war is actually a silly damn way of settling an argument. In peace time, if one person kills another, the former is either sentenced to life imprisonment or death. But in war, the more you kill, the more they love you. Of course, we had this thing forced on us, but it seems so damn silly, useless and horrible to actually kill another man regardless of his race. He probably has loved ones at home, the same as we do, and wants to go home just as badly as we do. It seems like a hell of a thing to do to keep him from doing eventually the same thing I want more than anything else to do: go home and back to civilian life.”
— Glenn Max Whitacre
We are very grateful to Marty for sharing his story with us and welcome you to share your story in a comment, through this form, or via email at email@example.com.
All military records on MyHeritage are now available for free until May 30 — take this opportunity to learn the stories of the heroes in your family!
Wishing you a meaningful Memorial Day.
The post He Found 357 Letters His Uncle Wrote Before Falling in Battle During WWII appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.
Source: My Heritage