Sunday, November 29, 2015

An Anxious Father

Based on correspondence by my grandfather, Sig Levy, it seems he was very determined to see that my father did not go overseas during his stint in the Army Air Force and spent quite a bit of time in November, 1945 sending letters to people in hopes of getting some assistance.   He wrote to U.S. Congressman Bertrand Gearhart in October and again on November 17.  But it appears that he couldn’t stop there and wrote another letter on November 19.

Anonymous Letter 11_19_1945 page 1

Anonymous Letter 11_19_1945 page 2

Thankfully, he left me several typewritten versions – several without recipient’s names and one which was addressed to Hon. Sheridan Downey, a lawyer and Democratic U.S. Senator from California from 1939 to 1951.

Anonymous Letter 11_19_1945 page 1typed Anonymous Letter 11_19_1945 page 2 typed

November 19, 1945

Hon. Sheridan Downey
United States Senate
Washington D.C.

Dear Sir: -

You are receiving this letter from a father of one of the thousands of boys now serving the AAF after being called to active duty under the air corps enlisted reserve program.  I was a pilot with the army air forces in World War I, and I will not sign my name to this letter as it has been stated that communications such as these have been turned over to army and navy officials who, in turn, doled out severe punishment to our sons.

These were the teen-age boys in colleges who patriotically answered the government’s appeal for air combat crew volunteers . . . they were willing to give their lives under the stress of war.

These boys have served many months, and just at the time when they were entering AAF technical schools were ordered overseas to man the occupation forces.  But the only reason they could find was the old army policy of “everyone do his share.”

However, it appears that these younger boys are being the victims of discrimination in discharge methods.  Practically all of the involved AAF men who were called to duty before May, 1945, are separated from the service by now, while these younger boys who enlisted on the same basis and under the same qualifications are being sent overseas to do their share . . . the 30,000 pre-cadets are not being asked that sacrifice.

This is a problem which involves more than just getting out of the service.  It involves, very probably, the future of the democracy that we strove to uphold.  It involves, very possibly, the world war of the future which we dread to face, armed or otherwise.  We understand the necessity of occupying our defeated enemies’ countries, but we ask if it is necessary to continue to send these men with educational ambitions off to a life of boredom?  Are there not enough men in the armed forces with no educational ambitions who can man the army of occupation?  Or do we have to continue to break off college educations which may, in the very near future, mean the peace of the world.  It is not a silly story—and it is for us who have failed to keep the peace of World War I to give the next generation a chance to do a better job.  As a father and a veteran, I say we should have learned a bitter lesson.

If the army’s answer is that men are drastically needed to replace overseas veterans, why were older boys in the AAF discharged and these younger ones left with the burden to finish up the job on their shoulders.  And also, why are present draft boards now deferring men who are engaged in college educations?  Is it fair to penalize these men who volunteered their services a year or two ago and who have done their share already?

Let us hope that American will never repeat another Pearl Harbor within our borders.  These young boys, previously designated as the cream of the nation, may have the key to a better world.  They should be given half a chance.  We ask you, as a capable representative of our chosen form of government, to ask for the fair rights of these highly educated boys who bear the finest characters of your youth.

I quote from H.H. Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces, under date of 1 May, 1945:

We are most appreciative of your interest in the AAF and the fighting spirit that prompted you to volunteer as a member of an AAF combat crew.  It has been possible to train our flying personnel ahead of our present planned needs.  Therefore, future training will be mainly for ground crew, precluding entirely your opportunity to train as a member of the air combat crew.

I hope you will continue your interest in aviation.  The AAF is grateful to you for wanting to fight on our team, and I take this opportunity to express my personal appreciation of your desire to serve with us.”

As the war was in tense progress, these patriots accepted the option of whatever training the AAF had to offer.

Now the war has supposedly been over for many months.  Why can’t this group be returned to their studies and educations as the balance of the AAF team.

That is why we look to you guardians of democracy to look to your leaders of tomorrow and guarantee them a rightful chance to fight for the peace as they volunteered to do in war.  Our country’s fate lies in their hands more than it does in ours . . . this is why we feel they are the ones who should be given the real chance.  We are looking for your public answer.  We have won the war—now let’s really try to win the peace.


Looks like Sig was trying every avenue he could think of to get his youngest son, my father, back to his college education at Stanford University.  And since he was such an avid newspaper ‘clipper’, he also spent some time clipping some interesting articles. 

Here’s an example.

Duration Too Long

I just can’t imagine the desperation he felt and the energy he spent trying to do something.  ANYTHING.  But, unfortunately, it was not to be and off he went.  You can read about his time as an Editor and reporting from the Nuremberg Trials here

I guess I’ll never know if AN ANXIOUS FATHER's letter made a difference in the lives of the young men.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dear Friend Bud

I recently shared correspondence that my grandfather, Sig Levy, sent to Congressman Bertrand Gearhart as my dad entered the Army Air Force in 1945 here.  Did Bud respond?  It looks like he did on November 10, 1945.

From Bertrand Gearhart 11_10_1945




Interesting, although it doesn’t mean too much to me except that Gordon should contact Congressman Gearhart directly.  Wonder if he did?

But Sig DID contact him on November 17, 1945.  I have the handwritten version of his correspondence which is quite crumpled – I would like to know the story behind that.  Did he consider not sending it?  Did he change his mind about throwing it away after it was typed up?  I’m glad he kept the typed version as it is much easier to read than his handwriting!

Bertrand Gearhart 11_17_1945 page 1 handwritten

Bertrand Gearhart 11_17_1945 page 2 handwritten

Bertrand Gearhart 11_17_1945 page 1

Bertrand Gearhart 11_17_1945 page 2

November 17, 1945

Hon. Bertrand W. Gearhart
Congress of the USA, Ninth District
House of Representatives
Washington D.D.

Dear Friend Bud:

Yes, Gordon is home on a 15-day delay to say “goodbye” as he is on his way overseas.  He reports to Greensboro, N.C. on December 3rd to AAFORD.  It is apparent from his orders that the army now has a definite policy to ship every eligible teen age boy overseas to man the occupations ofrces [sic].

Gordon says he wants no inivudal [sic] favor, for he realizes that someone must do the job, but he wonders if it really is an indiscriminate choice.  He thinks it somewhat unfair that all enlisted AAF men who were called to duty two or more months earlier are being completely dischraged [sic].  It appears to be dsicriminating [sic] against the younger boys who enlisted on the same basis under the same qualifications.  No wonder he is dubious about the so-called policy of “every one do his share.”

The is why, Bud, we feel that if the need isn’t actually so great, that the men with stern ambitions in life and who enlisted ahead of time to serve their country should have the same chance as the present draftees who are being deferred once they reach college.

The boys are all hoping that when they arrive overseas they will be placed in important work so that they may be of real service to their country.  They hope they will not be kept there too long, as they naturally feel that they are entitled to get back to their colleges and complete their educations.

I assure you, Bud, that the parents of all these young boys are bitterly opposed to the policy, and I have heard from many of them.  They fell [sic], as I do, that it is no longer necessary to break up educations, for there are plenty of men who have no educational ambitions at all who can man the occupation forces.  It appears that these volunteer boys of the war days are now being penalized for their patriotism just because they were two or three months younger than the rest.

Bob is still in the army..he is information and education officer at Fort Lewis, Washington, and I get reports from other officers that he doing a fine job up there.

See you are making the front pages everyday re Pearl Harbor.  I guess that it is keeping you very busy.

I hope my couple of notes haven’t burdened you, and here’s hoping that you guardians of democracy won’t let the kids down.  They will be doing your job in the next generation.

So long now and with kind regards,

Sig Levy


One thing I can’t be sure of is if he ever actually mailed the letter since I found an envelope addressed to Congressman Gearhart that was never used.  Maybe the typist/secretary (fg) typed an envelope even though Sig had already hand addressed one?  One thing I do know from all of the typos is that Sig should have found a different typist!

Envelope to Bertrand Gearhart

Sunday, November 15, 2015

McPherson County Sentinel

In honor of Veteran’s Day (and my favorite Civil War ancestor, Emery Waller), I reposted my blog from November 11, 2011 the other day on facebook.  No matter how much time has passed since I first “found” Emery (my 3x great grandfather), I still smile every time I think about him and the cousins he has put me in touch with.  And then today I received one of those little facebook “memories” reminding me of things I have posted on this date over the years.  The one that caught my eye today was from November 15, 2011 where I posted about the end of the story with Emery.  And it occurred to me that while I posted the end of the story on facebook, I never did a proper blog post about it.

Links to the previous posts in the event you’re interested. 
April 11, 2011  April 16, 2011  April 22, 2011  May 12, 2011  May 13, 2011  May 15,2011  May 20, 2011  May 29, 2011  November 10, 2011

But I never wrote the end of the story – the newspaper article from the McPherson Sentinel on November 12, 2011 telling Emery’s story. 

McPherson Sentinel 11_12_2001
The McPherson Sentinel
Saturday, November 12, 2011

The author, Cristina Janney, wanted to put the story in the November 11 edition but there was other news that took precedence that day.  I remember how disappointed I was but in retrospect, having it delayed a day might have just pushed it to the front page.  Emery was front and center!

McPherson Sentinel Page 1

Civil War veteran finally gets marker, by Cristina Janney, Managing Editor

A Civil War veteran whose grave has been unmarked since his death in 1890 finally had his life and service commemorated recently.

Emery Waller was, for the most part, lost to the world and his ancestors until his 3rd great-granddaughter began a quest to track down her family tree.

I’ve always had a curiosity about my family but, unfortunately, I didn’t listen too well as a child,” Debi Austen said in an email.

Her paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Gunzendorfer, which is a fairly uncommon name in the U.S.

Many years ago, my mother made the statement ’’there are no more Gunzendorfers in the United States,’ and I thought that couldn’t be true so I decided to start researching,” Austen said.  “A friend at work is very involved with genealogy so she got me started on and the rest is history!”

Many members of Austen’s family began to emerge from her research.  She found pictures and other documents that help her fill in the blanks of a growing family tree.

Austen learned she had relatives in America during the colonial period and decided she would attempt to amass enough documentation to put in an application for the Daughters of the American Revolution.

She learned her ancestor Ashbel Waller, Emery Waller’s father*, fought in the American Revolutionary War.

But Emery, born in December 1813, seemed to be a missing link.

She learned he was a Civil War veteran as was her 2nd great grandfather, William Warren McAboy, and another ancestor on her mother’s father’s side (Emery is on her mother’s side) who served for the Confederacy and was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

McPherson Sentinel Page 2

She said she was not surprised to find these connections to military service based on the time period she was researching.

However, she thought her research had led her to DeWitt County, Ill., and was intent on finding Emery Waller there.

Pension records led Austen to Kansas and information her ancestor also had served in the Mexican War.

Eventually she tracked Waller to McPherson Cemetery, where she learned her ancestor was buried in an unmarked grave in the McPherson Cemetery.

…when I said at the end of the second post (to her blog) that I was emotionally drained, that was a complete understatement,” she said.  “I remember it was a Friday night, and I was unwinding after a week of work and working on my research.  So much happened that day that I could barely keep it straight.  And when the search was complete, and I saw the photos, I looked at them with tears streaming down my face.  It was a culmination of so much anticipation and a relief to finally know where he was.”

Austen said she was saddened to learn her ancestor was not honored with a headstone.

Although I at least knew where his remains were, I was saddened to know that he had been lying there for 120 years and no one knew anything about him or that he was even there,” she said.
Hard enough for anyone, much less someone who had served his country.”

She said she knew she would not rest until the situation was rectified even if she had to travel from Washington to Kansas to place the stone herself.

Austen said she did not know where to begin, but someone mentioned the Department of Veterans Affairs, and she filled out the paperwork and started the process to get a headstone placed on the grave.

She was referred by the McPherson Cemetery sexton to Stockham Family Funeral Home, where Kevin Stockham assisted in getting the headstone prepared and volunteered to install the stone that was provided by the Veterans Department free of charge.

Kevin was an enormous help, and I could not have completed this project without him,” Austen said…”He kept me in the loop as things progressed and let me know once the stone arrived.  And once it was placed, he sent me photos and the feeling that came over me when I saw the photos was indescribable.”

Stockham said he has helped fill out paperwork for veterans markers before, but never a Civil War veteran.

It took a couple of tries to get the paperwork through, but Austen was able to use Waller’s pension records to prove his veterans status.

In my 25 years in this business I have never done this,” Stockham said.  “It was such a rarity.  I felt it was kind of a privilege to participate.  It was unusual circumstances.”

Austen has not been able to find pictures of her grandfather, but she knows from other records, he was about 5-7” and between 135 and 145 pounds.  He lost two wives and at least three children and suffered from illness during the last 30 years of his life after his military service.

Austen said she wants others to know Waller’s ancestors 120 years later care very deeply about him and want to honor his memory.  He was loved by his family, both the ones he knew and those who came behind him, she said.

Emery Waller was more than a number on a pension record or a name on a stone – he was a man devoted to his family, and he was my third great grandfather,” Austen said.

And that’s my story.  I am so privileged to have been able to honor Emery and connect his ancestors together all of these years later.  Our “Waller Cousin” facebook page now numbers 5 and we hope to add to that count further in the years to come.

Emery Waller gravestone

RIP, Emery!

Ashbel Waller was Emery’s grandfather, not father.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

You’re in the Army (Air Force) now

In going through some correspondence that my grandfather, Sig Levy, kept through the years, I found some very interesting things that helps me understand his thoughts as his sons went off to war.  And in light of Veteran’s Day coming up, I thought it appropriate to share some of his correspondence. 

Bertrand W. Gearhart served as the United States Representative for California’s 9th congressional district from 1935 to 1949.  I don’t know if my grandfather had a personal relationship with him but it looks like they did have some correspondence back and forth in 1945.  Since he addressed him as Bud, I would guess they were friends.

Bertrand Gearhart 10_15_1945 page 1

Bertrand Gearhart 10_15_1945 page 2 

October 15, 1945

Dear Bud:

I certainly was very happy to receive your letter today under date of October 9th.

Yes, I did read the account of Richard J. Rundle’s appointment to the Naval Academy at Annapolis and was certainly pleased to hear of it.  The family was extremely gratiful [sic] and rang me up to thank me for the assistance I gave and expecially [sic] to you for doing the good work to have him appointed.

I only hope he makes good and from his past reputation he should, as he was a very fine student in High School.

Thought you might be interested in knowing where my two boys’ are.  Robert is a 1st Lieutenant and is Base Information and Education Officer at Fort Lewis, Washington, and I really think he has been doing a swell job.

Gordon is a private and enlisted in the Air Force Reserve in the Air Combat Crew and had his basic at Keesler Field, Mississippi some time ago.  He has now been transferred to Scott Field, Illinois and unfortunately this class of youngsters, in the 18 and 19 year old class, have had practically nothing whatever to do since the Japanese surrendered.

I understand that there are thousands of men lying around at these eastern camps doing nothing and the moral of most of these boys is on the down grade.  You, no doubt, have received thousands of letters in connection with these youngsters and I hope and we all hope that you are doing all you can to get them released from the Army so that they may go back to College in the event that the Army does not actually need them, which appears to be the case.

These boys are going to be the citizens of tomorrow and if they lose all their education it will be a sad state of affairs.

Gordon himself is extremely active and has just written me today that he has worked himself into a position as reporter on the Base newspaper so that is right down his alley as he was a sports writer on the Stanford Daily.

I was sorry that I missed you and didn’t get to visit with you on your last trip to Fresno, but for some reason you were so busy I could never find you.

Again, we all think you for getting young Rundle his appointment.

And I do hope that Congress will look into the situation concerning these 18 and 19 year old lads who are doing nothing in the Army and as soon as the Army can relieve them I hope that they will then all go back to College and get their education.

All the boys and my family join with me in sending you their very kind regards,

Sincerely yours,
Sig. Levy
Scott Field

And in the box of letters I have that my dad, Gordon Levy, wrote to his parents, I found this letter from Scott Field, Illinois which I think might be the letter that Sig references in his correspondence to Bud.

Gordon Letter 10_13_1945

13 October 1945

Dearest Mom and Pop:

Your letter yesterday was indeed welcome – after a week without mail, it’s a good feeling to hear from home etc.  All the news was deeply absorbed, but I’m sorry that none is fit for publication in the Scott Field Broadcaster.  As yet, I haven’t had any mail forwarded from Keesler, but it will get here sometime – in the army, you learn how to wait a good spell for anything.

You can notice by the typewriter that I’m once again back in the good situation – at the present I have a good deal, very lucky I must say.  This job keeps me out of KP, details and inspections – and as Pop knows, a newspaper is a damn swell way to get to meet people.  I work under a sgt. and a corporal – both swell guys.  My job consists of an assorted barreload [sic] – get news, write it, help print it at the printer shop 25 miles away and deliver 10,000 copies over the 81 stops on the post.  We ride in class around here when we do any riding – in an army recon car.  I don’t know what the chances will be for permanent assignment here – but I’ll wait until I see what they’re going to do with us.  If leaving here or going to some school will look good, I’ll go.  If it looks as though I can stay right here permanently and have a good job, I’ll try to stay.  It all depends on how well I do and how much I’m needed when my name on the shipping list comes up.  I’ll let that ride for awhile.  Right now they’re sending guys to Las Vegas, Madison, and all around either for permanent party or overseas or even schools in some cases.  This school business is a big farce – all those recommendations are just useless, cause once a guy gets in school, they’ll pass him even if he never turns in a paper.  I think I have a good opportunity right here – I’ll stick to it and work as hard as I can.  I’ve had enough rest for awhile – a little work won’t hurt me.  I’m fairly well satisfied – things sure can change in a period of a few days, can’t they?  I’ll send you a copy of next week’s paper if I have anything in it…fair enough?

Let me know where Ben Winkler is in St. Louis and anyone else you might know who lives around theese [sic] parts.  We go into town fairly often – in fact, we’re even going in this afternoon to see Washington University’s campus and maybe get a few connections there.  My friend Dave was a Delta Tau Delta at Stanford, and they have a chapter here – so we’re in.  The little town of Belleville is a nice place too – about 35,000 and only five miles from here.  I haven’t even had a chance to see that yet.  This job keeps me busy all day, and when night comes I’m a bit tired – but that’s natural after so long of doing nothing.

I see where a night call from here only costs around $2.00, so maybe you’ll hear from me more often wile I’m here – count on that.  Thanx, Pop, for having the Bee changed to here – I’m a little lost on hometown news, but I’ll catch up soon.  I got a nice letter from Rob before I left Keesler, which was interesting.  I could see getting stationed at his base sometime – just think, I could go to the officers club and all around – me with no stripes.

That just about does it for now – have to get out and collect a little data before lunch  You’ll hear from me early in the week – till then

Love, Gord

Gordon Military
Gordon F. Levy

More correspondence to come – stay tuned.