The following is a guest post by Andrew Huber, a liaison specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP).
April Fools is a time of year when you have to expect the unexpected, and things are not always as they seem. Here at the Veterans History Project (VHP), it’s no different, except that we have to expect the unexpected every day, and you never know when a collection or story that isn’t as it seems will walk through the door.
Recently we had a donation that certainly fit that bill. The donor had told us that she wanted to donate some of her father’s WWII letters, but hadn’t told us much more. When she arrived, she was carrying a big box containing over 200 letters, mostly from her father Edward to her mother and vice versa, with some letters to friends and other family members thrown in for good measure. The donor had not actually read the letters, and our curiosity got the better of us and we started opening them up to see what they might contain.
Most of the letters were exactly what you’d expect from a GI – complaints about bad food and bad weather, laments of homesickness and expressions of love for his wife, Helen, but leafing through the letters we also found a collection of folded papers that struck our eyes. Unfolding the bundle, we first found a newsletter, “The Coral Courier,” headed by an illustration of a nude woman reclining. A bit bawdy, but nothing unexpected for a unit of men stationed on a remote Pacific island. The next leaf of paper revealed a typewritten poem, which we began reading out loud.
“Her name was Grace,” the poem began. Already this mysterious verse had our attention, as Grace was most definitely not the name of his wife!
“She looked so sweet, so pretty, so slim. The night was dark, the light was dim.” The poem continued. We asked the donor if her father had ever mentioned a woman named Grace, and she said her father had never mentioned anyone by that name. Could we be revealing a deep, dark family secret right here in the VHP visitor center?!
“I’d seen her stripped, I’d seen her bare, I’d felt her over everywhere. I got inside her, she screamed with joy. That was the first night, boy oh boy!” We have always made it clear that veterans are free to talk about and share any aspects of their service, even the parts with adult themes, but this was starting to get downright pornographic!
“I rolled her over, then on her side. Then on her back I also tried. She was just one big thrill, the best in the land” Who was this “thrilling” young lady Grace? Could she be the shapely woman on the “Coral Courier” masthead? A Red Cross Donut Dolly or a local island temptress? The last line of the poem would reveal all.
“The P-38 of fighter command.” April Fools! It turned out “Grace” was a twin-engine, 1,600 horsepower, aluminum-skinned, fighter aircraft, perhaps one at the very same aircraft spotting outpost that Edward was stationed on.
We were thankful that we didn’t have to ruin someone’s memories of their loving father that day, and we very much enjoyed sharing the unexpected twist with the donor. It just goes to show that you can never assume anything about a donation and there is never a boring day here at VHP. If you have any primary source materials like letters, photographs, diaries, or original artwork that tell the story of a US servicemember that you would like to donate, please let us know by emailing [email protected]. As a reminder, VHP is not responsible for any family secrets revealed, dinners ruined, or Honus Wagner rookie cards accidentally donated, so always double check those donations before sending them in!