World War II
Mom and Dad reunited
What a journey this has been for me. I learned things about the war I never knew and the role that Dad played in that war has been astonishing. I had no idea one of his jobs was picking up the fallen soldiers. I did not know he could have been killed any day. I feel lucky he made it home. He is my hero.
It has been 87 weeks researching, learning, and living my father’s role in World War II. It was because of those who follow my blog that I got the encouragement to continue. I had no idea that anyone would actually be interested in his story let alone the 1,103 followers I have now. The fun thing about doing this on the blog was the links I could provide. If Dad mentioned a song or movie I could provide links to listen to the songs or clips to a movie he mentions. I had so much fun listening to music from the 1940’s while I read and transcribed Dad’s letters.
My father went into the Army as a kid of 19 and came home a grown man at 25. He was a husband with a wife and a daughter whom he had to provide for. When he did get home they had been married a year and a half and his daughter was six months old. Was she scared of him when he came home? My dad was such a good loving dad that I am sure if she was it would not have taken long before she warmed up to him.
Dad finally meets Mary Lynn
When I look back my parents really did not spend that much time together until Dad came home from the war. While he grew up in Nebraska and she in Kansas they had a chance meeting at a barn dance at Mom’s cousin’s house who just happened to be Dad’s best friend. This all happened he was 16 and she 13. Their pen-pal relationship is how they got to know each other. The war shaped their destiny. As I read their early letters I know my father had eyes for her all the way back in 1937 but I did not know her letters kept him sane.
He lived through the war with no injuries and without losing any of his fellow soldiers. That does not mean he avoided seeing the atrocities of the war. It would be ignorant to think he did not. He just never talked of what he saw and even in his letters those memories are missing. He did not fight on the front lines and many World War II history buffs have said “Oh he was just a Quartermaster” but in my heart I know he knew how important his job was to those on the front lines. Without the Quartermaster they would not have had supplies, ammunition, back up troops, gas, or any of the many things the Quartermaster supplied. Lastly let us not forget it was up to the Quartermaster to get our dead out. I can’t imagine what that would have been like. Dad says in one letter “I have hauled everything from the dead to newspapers.” What an impact that statement has on me.
When I was a child I used to have this reoccurring dream where Germans were chasing me. I would wake up out of breath as if I was running in my sleep. I always awoke just as they were reaching me. For many years I tried to figure out why I had such a dream. No more. I now know that I must have heard stories from when my father was overseas. I just wish I remembered more but maybe it is better I did not. That fact has made this journey so incredible. I was living it all for the first time.
After the war Mom and Dad lived a short time with my grandparents in Pasadena, California. Due to my mother’s saving abilities while my dad was overseas they were able to put a down payment on a house in a small suburb of Los Angeles. At that time the city was still mostly orange groves and trees were everywhere that had not yet been developed. It is one of my sister’s favorite memories. The smell of those sweet orange blossoms in the spring is a wonderful memory to each of us kids. It was a brand new three bedroom home with a big back yard. They paid 8,000 dollars for it back in 1946 and made payments on it until they had it paid off.
Dad did not become a carpenter as he had hoped. He first drove a city bus not far from home. In 1949 he got a job at the local dairy delivering milk door-to-door. He would eventually get a wholesale route which he kept until he retired in the late 1980’s, which is over 30 years at the same job. If nothing else my Dad was very loyal.
Dad, Late 40′s-early 50′s
Recently I got an email from the son of the owner of the business Dad worked for over thirty years. His words touched my soul.
Nancy, Your father was such a wonderful man, kind and gentle, and one of my favorite people that worked for my father. I read your blog and it touched my heart. I often tell the story of your father meeting an older woman who was crying by a fountain at the Manassa retreat in Glendora and asking her if she was OK. Her reply was that her kids never came to see her and it hurt her horribly. Lefty’s response was to tell her to dry her eyes because she was now part of his family. You see, I was there when it happened and his kindness made a really strong impression on me. Another time, when I was about 19, I was quite fascinated by the ring your father wore and I asked him what it meant. He told me it was the ring of a Mason, to which I asked what was a Mason? His reply, “It’s a group of men that get together to do good things.” Lefty surely belonged in that club! Hope all is well with you and your family. I am very touched that the dairy holds such good memories, Steve Schlange
Here is my reply:
Steve, your note brought tears to my eyes. My father was really a great man. My father adopted a little old lady. To us she became our Aunt Pansy. She came to all our holidays and spent weekends with us. When she passed away she left all her money to my dad along with all her belongings. I was told by my sister that her family did not visit her in the retirement place she where she lived. Dad delivered milk to her and she did become our family. I am sure it is the same woman. It is how my dad was. I was blessed that he was MY Dad.
It was after he retired that he tried his hand at carpentry. He built a beautiful cabinet in one end of the living room for my mother to show off the willow ware which she collected over the years. There were many other projects he made including a dresser for my sister Julie. He made it with no nails or screws just glue and dowels. After he made all the things he wanted he then settled and took up whittling. I have to admit these are some of my favorite mementos from my dad. Little birds, people, boots, and saddles carved with his own hands. I am lucky to have such great memories.
Mary Lynn was the apple of my father’s eye when he finally got to see her. I love the pictures of him holding her while wearing his dress uniform. These pictures have a lot more meaning now. Mary gave my parents their first grandson and ended up with four sons; Peko, Harold, Tyrone, and Joseph. The oldest is only eight years younger than I am so we grew up more like siblings than aunt and nephews. My dad loved those boys so much it makes me tear up when I looks at pictures of them together. Sadly Mary Lynn passed away in 2000.
Dad, Mom, Sharon and Mary
My sister Sharon Rose was born at the end of 1947. She was graced with Grandma Susie’s real name, Rose for her middle name. Sharon is artistic and is amazing at making costumes for the local playhouse for the plays they put on. She can take a curtain and visualize it as a wedding dress and then proceed to make it. She made all the decorations and much more for my wedding in 2000. She amazes me with her craftiness. When I had my therapy dog she even made him costumes which always made him popular at any event we attended. Boy can she cook. I remember back in the old days when we would have Christmas together she would make a ton of cookies. We would get them in those shoebox like plastic containers. There was a mountain of those cookie packages. I miss that. My nephew’s moved to New Jersey in 2007 and now the family is scattered across the United States.
Julie Ann was born in 1952 making it three girls for Mom and Dad. Julie married Larry in the 70’s I was in the wedding and my daughter a flower girl. Julie is one of the most compassionate people I know. She kind of reminds me of Mother Teresa and I don’t know many people that I can say that about. I admire how strong her faith is. She is such a special lady and I am proud to call her my sister. She graced my parents with two more grandkids, Kyle and Tina.
Mom, Dad, Julie, Mary, and Sharon
I came along in 1957 thirteen years after the war ended. They named me Nancy Lee and I was the fourth daughter. Now that I look back at his letters I know he wanted to name Mary, Terry Lee if she was a boy so I guess that is where they got Lee as my middle name. I am told I was named Nancy as this was where Dad was in September (the month I was born) of 1944, Nancy France. The other story is there was a beautiful actress with the name “Nancy Lee.” Where it came from is not important but after knowing about Dad being in Nancy, France it is curious. I gave my father his first granddaughter, Tania after my sister’s four boys were born. Dad retired shortly after her birth and they became attached at the hip. I love that she was able to feel the special love he reserved for his family.
Julie, Sharon, Me, Mary Lynn, and Loren
Finally in 1960 my mother gave my father a son. Born on Friday the 13th my brother was doomed. With four doting sisters trying to control him, he had a hard time. He learned early on how to live with women, poor kid. Named for my father and Pop he was Loren Vance. Loren never did have any children of his own but married a wonderful lady, Dee who had two sons from a previous marriage, John and Chad. It did not matter to Dad that they were not blood. They were always two more grandsons and held a piece of his heart.
It seems to me that after all Dad saw overseas he must have had some degree of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but I did not recognize any signs. My sisters have told me one lasting effect the war had on him was when a loud bang went off in the neighborhood Dad would be off the bed and under it before he even woke up. I did not know how the war may have affected him. Most of the stories he told of the war I have forgotten and only had bits come back to my memory while reading his letters. I now believe it was so I could see my parents through these letters with fresh eyes, which lead to a side of them I did not see. My memories start at least 20 years after the war. With the stresses of raising five it was a hard time for them and their marriage.
Mom and Dad 1945
One of the only times I remember seeing my father cry was when we were making the funeral arrangements for my mother. He broke down and cried. I was taken aback as my mother had Alzheimer’s and she had become very mean to him not recognizing him as her husband. In fact she did not even know who he was. Sadly he got to where he would not go to see her because of it. He had no problem calling us to make sure we went though. I could not believe that I was able to provide comfort to him, to allow him to cry on my shoulder as he had done for me throughout my life. I saw something in that moment. I saw the love he really had for her all the way back in 1944. There was no denying this is what I was observing as I tried to comfort him. I did not understand that then but see it clearly now.
I know that Dad never forgot those he served with especially his best buddy Bob Winter Whenever he could he would make it back to Nebraska for the yearly reunion the 110th 35th Quartermaster held. The last one was held in 2004 and by then most of our men had already passed away. I will always wonder why Dad got “busted” and demoted back to a Private but now it is one of many questions I will never get answered.
Mrs. Ann Howard (Truman “Ben” Howard’s wife) Bob Winter, and my Mom, Courtesy of the Winter family
Through perseverance I have been able to locate Bob’s family. This is as much their story as it is my father’s since Dad mentions Bob in almost every letter as far back as 1942. After the war Bob went back to Nebraska and married the love of his life, Madeline. She was the girl that Bob talked about while he and my dad talked for those many, many nights. I know Madeline got Bob through the war just as Mom did with Dad. They had two sons who grew up in Nebraska. Both the boys say they remember my parents from when they made trips back to Nebraska. I am sure they probably visited my family in California. I wish I remembered. I know that Dad kept in touch with many of the men he served with and there are several names that I remember from my childhood, such as Ozanne, and “Pop” Gordon.
By telling this story on my blog I have had other family members of the men Dad served with contact me. Every once in a while someone finds me who was connected in some way to Dad’s war days. One came from the grandson of one of the General’s Dad serve under;
Hi – Stumbled across your site doing other research; my grandfather was General Edmund B. Sebree, whose picture you have posted. Fun to read a view from one of his troopers as to how the Tennessee Maneuvers went. My grandfather always referred to them as miserable in terms of weather, but incredibly useful in training the Division up to the standards. The unit’s performance in France bore this out; the 35th was always one of the better divisions in Europe. As for my grandfather, he had a long and distinguished career, and had the distinction of being wounded twice (Once in the Pacific and later in France) as a Brigadier General. Again, nice site and a fine way to honor your father s service. All the best.- Ed McAlister (Edmund Sebree McAlister)
And they keep finding me one way or another. My latest contact was from the grandson of Murray Comb’s. Matthew Combs has been generous enough to give me close to one hundred pictures I did not have. If you want to join in on the conversation about these heroes you can join us on my blog at
Stop by and sign the guest book.
In talking with my sister Julie the other day and she told me of an incident she had with Dad after Mom passed away. Julie was there for a visit and he had a small box in his hand. He expressed his disgust as he showed her the box with a few items in as he said; “Look! this is all that is left of my war days. Mom said she saved every letter I ever wrote her. She didn’t this is all there is.” I am not sure exactly when the suitcase was found but it was hidden in the attic and found by my daughter after she bought my parents’ house. Sadly it was after my father had passed away.
So this one is for you Dad! She did save every letter and through your words I have been able to share your story. What a story it was. To you Mom thank you for saving almost every letter Dad wrote to you and for showing me you did really love him. The letters gave me a new appreciation for how deep your love was for each other. To my daughter, Tania thanks for the encouragement and for bringing the letters to my attention. To God thank you for giving me the insight and courage to share my parents’ story. To you the reader thanks for taking the time to help me honor and preserve my father’ memories and the 110th 35th Quartermaster division by reading this.
Robert “Bob” Winter, Allen Ozanne, Claude R. Gordon, Murray Combs
© 2013 notsofancynancy