World War II-era letters discovered in wall
June 7, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (June 7, 2012) -- On Oct. 20, 1943, Wanda Hester from Dewar, Okla., sent a letter to her son Sgt. George Hester, then a Soldier at Fort Meade.
The mother wrote of her husband's failing health from working in a smelter, their financial troubles and the couple's attempts to sell their property and move to California.
Despite her concerns, Hester promised to send her son a $25 bond to help him and his wife.
Hester's touching letter was among 10 letters found by Melwood employees May 24, as the men worked to put up dry wall in Bldg. 249 on Chisolm Avenue.
The letters, written in the early 1940s, were addressed to Fort Meade Soldiers and were found in a wall frame of the building.
Mike Bradford, a carpenter maintenance lead at Melwood, gave the letters to the Fort Meade Museum.
"I find you can change the date, but the story remains the same in the Army," said Barbara Taylor, museum exhibits specialist. "Mothers sending news from home, Soldiers still asking their family for money, noncommissioned officers still concerned about their trainees -- it's the human condition. It's a window on the past."
Taylor said no one knows why or how the letters were put in the building's wall. The letters, which includes two Christmas cards, are fragile, but a museum volunteer is in the process of transcribing them.
Several letters are unopened and they technically belong to the U.S. Postal Service, Taylor said. The museum is in the process of contacting the postal service to determine whether the letters can still be delivered, or if the museum can take ownership of the find.
Taylor said another poignant letter also was sent in 1943 from Sgt. Henry Corvatz at Fort McClellan, Ala., (the Base Realignment and Closure Commission closed the installation in 1995) to Sgt. Chester Caudhill at Fort Meade.
It seems the men went through basic training together, Taylor said. Corvatz, a senior noncommissioned officer in charge of a barrack, writes of overseeing more than 200 Soldiers.
"They're the same rank," Taylor said. "Soldiers talk about the same things today, they have the same concerns. They take their job seriously and they are concerned that their Soldiers are well trained."
Before ending the letter, Corvatz writes to his Fort Meade friend, "It seems you had a whale of a time in Baltimore. Must be swell to be near a city like that and be able to get all the liquor you want -- or is it rationed too!"
Mike Franklin, a Melwood general maintenance worker who found the letters, said he didn't think much of it when he saw them in the wall frame.
"We noticed how old they were. They had three-cent stamps. We thought that was kind of strange," Franklin said.
The workers passed the letters around and tried to read them before telling Bradford of their discovery.
"He said it would be a good idea to take them to the museum," Franklin recalled.
Bradford notified the museum and Franklin said he is glad he did.
"If not, they probably would have been discarded," Franklin said.