This has become harder than I imagined! I just had the inspiration to get me back on track. But first, let me make an “table of contents” so to speak, to help those who are interested. I have also written various blogs to honor our dads and mothers. Those links are provided in various blogs as they pertain to this series.
WWII Letters home:
- The first WWII Letters Home post will eventually be expanded as time allows or as other family members want to help! This is a brief post of the letters Bill’s mom, Ruth Brunner Lees wrote home. Click here: War Letters
- The start of Earl Lees WWII Letters home. Click here: World War II Letters Home – Earl Lees – Part 1
- A diversion as I waited for more information on Earl’s Service records. This also carries a short introduction to WWII. Click here: WW II – Our Parents
The first letter we have that was saved and in Part 1, did not provide much information. Such as where he was other than he had been in Africa for seven months. What we do know about the battles he was in is from the autobiography of his first commanding officer and Lieutenant, Medal of Honor recipient, Matt Urban.
If any family member wants to graphically understand Earl’s actual service, read The Matt Urban Story! Earl was with him during all of the battles. I HIGHLY recommend it AND to any WWII enthusiast. I am NOT receiving any compensation for this, just a love of history and the warriors who served. But it is personal for me now that I can actually SEE what these brave warriors did for our country.
One of the first things I want to share from Urban’s book, is how Earl and the majority of men under his command managed to survive. Our family knows Earl was born into a family of faith. Perhaps it was shattered when Earl’s mom and baby brother died during the 1918 Flu Pandemic. But we know after the war, Earl’s faith blossomed!
It was evident Matt Urban and the men above him in his chain of command were also men of faith. In fact, at the time, our country was a praying country and many were on their knees. After reading Matt’s book, I KNOW God had His hand on both men and every other one that survived. I can’t explain why so many did not survive. They also were men of faith, who also had family on their knees praying. This is one of many mysteries of God we cannot explain.
The next thing was more practical as we learn how the Army prepared for war and eventually, how Urban prepared his men. We want to remember this is what all those in the USA infantry experienced as I focus on Earl’s service. Earl’s life up to the war was in the school of hard knocks. When he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was 24. At age 22, Urban just graduated from college graduate and was an athlete when he volunteered to serve. I’m grateful to know, his book is also part of Earl’s story.
As Urban tells his story, his book adds in WWII history:
“While he was starting his senior year at Cornell in September 1940, “the first cadre of the newly activated Ninth Infantry Division was arriving at Fort Bragg. Army life began in a tent on a desolate insect-infested tract of sandy land. ‘Bragg’ became the birthplace of the modern American Army.”
“Urban’s graduating class from Cornell University in 1941 was nicknamed ‘The Class that Went to War.’
“When Urban graduated from Cornell in 1941, over 500,000 men have been called into uniform. The industry was rapidly changing from producing civilian products. Now they were tooling up to produce planes, tanks, bombs, rifles, cannons, etc. Rationing had begun for rubber, gasoline, and other essential items.” (My comment – There was no doubt, the United States was preparing for war.)
“On December 7, 1941, a dreadful shock engulfed the nation. The United States Navy fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor lost seven of eight battleships. Casualties reached 3581… With 2,403 Americans killed in a treacherous attack. The Arizona and Oklahoma capsized. President Roosevelt declared this ‘is a date which will live in infamy.'” (excepts from his autobiography)
From memory, a few details remembered as I read the book and visualized Earl’s service. Urban pushed his men to get into combat-ready condition to fight. He ensured everyone under his command during training knew how or learned how to swim. And not just swim, but with heavy gear. And finally, he emphasized the value of good foot hygiene as he commented, living in a foxhole will take its toll on their feet. To survive combat, one must have his feet in tip-top condition!
Earl enlisted at the end of April 1942. By now, Urban was an established officer and was ready to GO to war! Already in the works was “Operation Torch.” Earl completed his three months of basic training by August 1942. Without any additional documentation, we don’t know if Earl was one of the 107,000 men which deployed on one of the 850 ships. Operation Torch was an armada that made a 3,000-mile zigzag journey across the submarine-infested Atlantic Ocean. We know that Earl was in North Africa in December 1942. Urban’s description of the ship ride over is worth the read. I tried to imagine how Earl did as he became a fan of the navy as he wrote in his letters home!
By the time this second letter we have written to home, Earl had been enlisted for 13 months. He made Corporal but we don’t know the exact date. He said he had been “acting” for a while. At age 25, he did have the maturity to take on the responsibilities of men and weapons.
Co F 60th Infantry
Just a few lines to let you know that I am all right and still enjoying the best of health. I hope you are the same and that I still think of you all and looking forward to the day when I can see you again. There really isn’t much news that I can give you at this time except that I am a corporal now. I have been acting for some time but now it is official. You might guess that I am still in Africa, although I have been here only seven months it seems as though I have been here the biggest part of my life.
By the way I received that paper with Jack and my picture in it. I guess it was all right, Everyone else seems to be doing it. I bet Jack didn’t like it though. How long has it been since you have seen or heard from Jack? I guess he is still in California, isn’t he? I haven’t heard from him for some time. Another thing I just thought of is that we can receive packages now and something good to eat like candy for instance would go pretty good. Do you receive my allotment regularly? As you can see space is getting short and there isn’t much more I can say for now. Tell Barb and Sambo I think about them a lot and say hello to most of the people for me and don’t forget to write me soon. Earl
Six days after Earl wrote this letter, his Captain, Urban was awarded a Silver Star Medal. You can see in this commendation, it was earned in F Company. Earl was right there with Captain Urban!
Captain Matt Urban, Silver Star Medal awarded on 6/21/1943: Unit: Company F, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division “Old Reliables”, U.S. Army was a Silver Star medal, awarded on June 21st, 1943 “For gallantry in action while serving with the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division in Tunisia, in 1943. As Executive Officer of Company F, Lieutenant Urbanowicz was a driving spirit of his organization throughout the entire campaign. His leadership was an inspiration to everyone under him. When the Company Commander became a casualty, Lieutenant Urbanowicz took command and displayed extraordinary initiative and efficiency in further knitting the company, under heavy enemy fire, into a first-class combat unit. Without regard to his personal safety, he was at all times at the front, constantly hazarding his being in the interests of the success of his company. On ** March 1943, he personally led a two-man patrol back of the enemy lines and knocked out an enemy observation post, that had been directing the source of artillery fire, with hand grenades. After being wounded on another patrol in the morning, he returned for medical aid and then volunteered to lead another patrol that same afternoon. He was a source of confidence to his men and a source of cheer to the wounded.” Headquarters, 9th Infantry Division, General Orders No. 49 (from Traces of War.)
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24