World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I

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World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

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James Richard Williams, Jr. - World War II aerial gunnerHere are letters our father received from his parents while he was in England, prior to his MIA/POW status.  We feel these letters reflect the general anxiety felt by many parents facing similar situations with their loved ones flying missions over enemy territory.  

In reading these letters we realized how universal the sentiments expressed in them were for that period of our nation's history.   You can feel his parent's love and their constant fear for their only child.  My grandfather notes that he is trying to write his son every day, and in doing so recounts the everyday life and sacrifices being made by ordinary people in a small Southern town during the war years.   My grandparents owned and operated Modern Dry Cleaners and Laundry  (We clean clothes clean - the motto their son made up for them when he was a child, and they proudly display on their business letterhead!)  and they tell of  the war's effect on their business, and it seems the war was good for their business  but the labor shortage and restrictions on purchasing certain items they needed proved frustrating at times!! 

These letters were gathered by Dad's hometown friend, Capt. Venezelos Pappas who by luck was in the same Bomb Squad (600th) with him in England.   We learned through reading these letters that Capt. Pappas was flying in the plane with Dad when he flew his very first mission over enemy territory, and know that must have been a comforting feeling for Dad.  The Eufaula Tribune article dated January 2, 1945 on our Dad's page states that Capt. Pappas wrote Dad's parents telling them what  he had witnessed the day Dad's plane went down.   With that letter he included these personal letters of Dad's that he had gathered when he returned to the base and knew for sure that Dad would not be back in England any time soon.


Dad with his parent around 1926 - Mr. and Mrs. James Richard Williams, Sr. of Eufaula, Alabama

Dad with his parents - around age 4 - 1926


Letters from his Father - Dick Williams, Sr. 

Click on image below to view actual letter and read full text.


Letter from home 7/23/44 to WWII airman

   July 23, 1944 -  My grandfather, the true Southern gentleman that he was, reminds his son who has just gone off to war to " above all be a gentleman".  He comments on his golf game being off  - way off !!. He tells his son that he scored an 11 on hole # 5, because his mind is on his son.  He also reminds his son to "keep his chin up" and that he is counting on him. He apologizes for the typewritten letter, and confesses he has lousy penmanship.  And the William Couric he reminds his son to give his regards to is Katie Couric's relative.  For those of you who watched The Today Show -"Tracing Our Roots" segments in the spring of 1999, Katie traced her roots to Eufaula, Alabama and was shown visiting her ancestral home in Eufaula and with her Aunt Kathleen, William Couric's  wife (whom he married and brought back from England) and their daughter, Katie's cousin - Kathy Couric Mottley.

Father's Letter to son in WWII Europe - 9/22/44
   September 22, 1944 - Here he tries to establish a code with his son so he knows how many missions he has completed out of the required 30), and he is a little irritated that customers keep coming in and disturbing his attempt to write this letter to his son.  He has mailed a package to him which includes a diary, two bars of soap, powder, sweater and muffler. He tells his son he hopes he uses the diary to jot down things so he can share them with his children in the future (and it just so happens that 7 years later on this day his second child was!)  I really wish I knew what happened to that diary, as we never saw it!  We never saw any of his WWII memorabilia...did he not save it or was it lost?? Unfortunately, we will never know. 

Letter from home 9/27/44 - WWII Father to Son

   September 27, 1944 - He is waiting on a photo of Skeet, one of his employees he is fond of to come back from developing (this is way before the "one hour processing" days, as you will see later, he is still waiting for several days).  He is tired with the labor shortage, extra business and no son to help out, but then he feels bad about complaining  knowing his son is "facing such awful things over there".  He also states he can't wait till his son comes home and they can go take a few days off and go fishing," where the BIG FISH BITE and the COOL breezes blow and all that goes with such".  What a shock, we never knew our grandfather to fish, in fact we rarely saw him in anything but a suit with a crisply pressed white dress shirt and a hat.  He always wore a man's dress hat and always tipped it when saying hello to the ladies!

Letter from home 9/28/44 - Father to Son in WWII England

   September 28, 1944 -  He heard  the radio announcer in London saying that he had just seen many bombers flying over on their way to Germany and wonders if his son is in one of those planes.  (From what I can tell his Bomb Group flew that day, so it is a good possibility that  he was flying that day.) His golf game is slipping lately, but he is still playing, even in the rain and he thinks his golf buddy plays better in the rain! He tells his son when he gets back he will order him a gray flannel suit like the one he has and loves.  Everybody is OK at home and he tells his son to "keep on keeping on" (a favorite phrase that my Dad always added to his letters to us when we were away at college, now I know where it came from!).

Letter from home 10/1/44 - WWII Family letter  
   October 1, 1944 - Here he tells his son that the dry cleaning business is very busy almost as busy as the Christmas season business,   And the local farmers have had their third straight year of good crops. He describes bales of cotton lined up on the streets and the high prices the farmers are getting for their peanuts - $160.00 per ton.  They have found a new cook and her name is Georgia. He is from Americus, Georgia originally and takes this as a good sign, after all she is named after "God's country".  He comments on what a good cook she is but worries that people are changing jobs so frequently that she wont stay long. ( I am happy to report that Georgia worked for them for the remainder of their lives - 35 years and I can testify to the fact that she was a wonderful cook.  My sweet grandmother was a very spoiled Southern lady and never even learned how to cook until she was in her 70's and decided it would be fun to learn how to cook.  I can also testify that she was not a bad cook, having learned so late in life, she was pretty good at certain things, her specialty was homemade mayonnaise.)

Letter form home 10/9/44 - Father to son in Army Air Corps during WWII  
   October 9, 1944 -  He has started numbering his letters and this one is number 25. Here he writes of  a local boy that has been injured in Italy, while trying to avoid machine gun fire, he stepped on a mine.  He passes on some good news, that the boy's father says he can distinguish light from dark in one eye (limited vision did eventually return to one eye).  He tells his son that he and Capt. Pappas should write the boy and gives him the address of the hospital in the states where he is receiving treatment.  He had a great golf game thanks to a pre-war golf ball a friend had given him.  He remarks it is getting cooler and soon he will have to start the furnace up for the gals (his wife and mother-in-law).  The good news is the High School football player that joined the Navy was sent home because of  poor eyesight, so the prospects for the football team have greatly improved with his return.

Letter from home 10/24/44- Family letter to son from father, during WWII    October 24, 1944 -  Letter # 35 to his son. Business is good for everyone, but the labor shortage is a problem for all.  Peanut farmers are now getting $170.00 per ton. He read where soap was going to be in short supply in the spring so he ordered soap from everyone he could, figuring not all would be able to deliver.  He was wrong, he has enough soap to last 15 months now!!  Cigarettes and breakfast bacon are hard to get now.  He says as long as the food is going to feed the boys in the Army he is willing to do without, and he doesn't mean maybe!  He is planning on having his friends over for a game of dominos later that night, and he is in need of a bath and clean clothes.  His parting words," Be a good boy and I'm counting on you!!".

Letter from home 10/29/44Letter from home 10-/29/44  
   October 29, 1944 - Letter # 39 to his son.  Business is booming and the cash register is running hot, he had to stop and oil it to cool it off.  They are having problems with keeping employees working.  They received three letters from their son and are glad he is progressing with his missions and if good luck holds out he will be coming home soon. (Well, we know it doesn't hold out much longer and he will not be home for a long time.)  The Braswell boy with the poor eyesight that the Navy sent home is the local Football hero and must be the whole team!  There is a small baby boom going on among the local girls at home.  The weather is beautiful, they are having a wonderful fall and it is a great day to play golf.  His mother-in-law (Mother Dear) is going to New Orleans to help her other daughter (Aunt Mary Lou)  who is expecting a baby and  can't find a servant to help her.  He is enjoying the new cedar bed, he had made for himself recently, and feels 100% better.  He complains that his wife has asked him to bring home a coca-cola and he will have to put up a $5.00 deposit on the bottle!!  He ends with the remarks that he is praying real hard for his son both day and night and thinking of him all the time and pulling real hard for him and he doesn't mean maybe! 


Letter from home 10/31/44 - WWII family letter

   October 31, 1944  - Letter # 41 to his son.  Business is booming and he is totally overloaded with work.  They received one  letter from their son today and six of them yesterday.  He comments that the mail is really messed up, but he is always looking for mail from his boy.  He has received a letter from his congressman, whom he had asked for assistance in getting the approval for a piece of machinery he needed.  (The government had to verify that it was an absolute necessity and approve it before he could purchase it, because the war effort was first and foremost as far as production of machinery goes.) The congressman's office was successful in getting him the approval necessary to purchase the machine, but he is having second thoughts about purchasing it now.  He ends by saying he must go see what the neighbors had for supper and reminding his son to thank God for all his many blessings. 

Letters from his Mother - Carolyn  Williams

  Click on the underlined date to read the full text of the letter.






September 26, 1944  


His mother tells him she has just gotten off 2 boxes to him for Christmas, (we all know he will never see them) and is working on 2 boxes for other hometown boys in the service.  One is for Lt. Pappas who is in the same Bomb Group as Dad and she says she knows this box can never repay their appreciation for all the little things he has done for Dad.  She has asked Mr. Jaxon to take a picture of Lt. Pappas' father to add to his box and is waiting on it before sending.   She tells him about the future group of new Mothers and Fathers in their hometown.  She tells him about George Ferrell's (a relative) visit.  He has just returned from flying his missions and she comments that he looks grand...not nervous like the boys from the South Pacific.  George told her how he would make a mission and then come back and go out on a date afterward.   She is worried that Dad is in the Pathfinder group, but  she isn't quite sure.  She has written some of his crew's mothers but haven't heard back from them yet (she will later when they are MIA).  She mentions that Barbara Sue Molnar's  husband is a prisoner of war (Dad would later meet him for the first time at Stalag Luft I and Dad was able to tell Mr. Molnar all about his new son, that Dad had seen on his last leave home and that Mr. Molnar had never seen).  Another boy from Eufaula is a POW in Slovakia and she hopes both boys can be liberated soon.   Aunt Esther called her and said that she had received a letter supposedly from Dad, but she was sure that he had gotten Mr. Churchill to write it for him.  Aunt Esther said she thought Dad was pretty smart to get Mr. Churchill as busy as he is to write the letter for him.   Then his mother tells him she is so proud of him earning his Air Medal and she shall cherish it very much. She says she realizes he has a big job to do and like him they try to put on a good front.  She says all they can do is pray and trust.  It's hard on them too.   Next she dispenses some motherly advise about his future plans, encouraging him to continue his education after the war, perhaps as a journalist, since she thinks he has a talent for writing. (He didn't continue his education or study journalism, but it's funny - his son (our brother) is the Vice President of Associated Press and was the youngest person ever elected to sit on their Board of Directors....  Reading these letters was the first we had ever learned of Daddy's interest or talent in this area!)  Finally, she tells him his name is up for the whole church to pray for this week.



September 27, 1944  

George Ferrell came for dinner. They had chicken, English peas, snap beans, dressing, rice & gravy,  hot rolls, pear salad, chocolate ice cream and cup cakes.  She tells him they are receiving his letters in about 10 days.   They have a very good cook right now but you never know how long you can keep one (again, this is Georgia, who worked for them for the remainder of their lives).  She asks if he has a bottom gunner on his ship and says she hopes to goodness that her letters are not censored, and tells him that his are all marked "Censored" but not a single one has been opened.  (She has evidently learned from George Ferrell that the radar planes do not have a ball turret gunner because that is where the radar is.) She believes that he is on one of these radar planes and is worried about it and it turns out she was right as he was flying in a radar equipped plane when he was shot down and taken as a prisoner of war. (It appears in later letters that he denied this to her, probably to keep her from worrying.)   


September 30, 1944

The radio says a lot of bombers have been going down lately and she is kind of in the dumps, worrying that  it must be pretty rugged on her son. She reminds him that his heavenly father is by his side guiding and watching over his every movement.  She promises him that if he lives close to him (his heavenly father) that he will take care of him.  They haven't heard from him and everyone else is worried because they are not hearing anything this week also. Her friend Mrs. White told her she would make a cake for her to send him (again, my grandmother didn't learn to cook until she was in her 70's).




October 10, 1944

She praises him for being so good about writing to them and tells him he doesn't know how much good it does them on the home front and reminds him that they are sweating it out too.  This is his birthday letter, she reminds him that he may be 22 but he is still her baby.  She tells him she prays over him always, as she has from the first, that he will be a joy and comforter to those around him, after all friends and the good will of our fellow man mean more than money, etc.  She will be thinking about him all day on the 19th and hoping he is enjoying his birthday.   She tells him he should be getting about 10 boxes for Xmas from different people in town.  She figures he has made about 10 missions since he has the air medal and a cluster. Again, here she is worried that he is a pathfinder and she asks him to send her a sign in his next letter, either saying he does remember the path that lead to the Country Club or he doesn't remember the path that lead to the Club, etc..  They have had their first cold snap and the clothes are pouring in. They have decided to cut out the delivery service and believes their competitor will follow suit.  She wishes him many happy returns and hopes his next one will be spent back here with them.  She is praying for his safe return each night.


October 24, 1944

V-Mail - Its been two weeks since they received a letter, so she figures the mail is not going through and decides to try V-Mail.  Their neighbor received a V-Mail letter from her son today. She tells him that his Dad has written him every day for 4 straight weeks and to be sure and brag on him, etc.  She heard someone come in the other door and "whistle his whistle" and her heart did flip-flops.  She rushed over and there stood a friend of his "Brer".  Their friends the Whites haven't heard from their son in over a month and they have asked the Red Cross to try and get in touch with him. She feels so sorry for them.  Brer attaches a note to her letter telling Dad to hold everything down until his gang  can get over there and wishes Dad best of luck.



 October 27, 1944 

Her new found fountain pen has gone bad so she has gone back to pencil, but she is sure he would rather hear from her this way than not at all. She is sick with a terrible cold and feels like "the dickens".  They got their first letter from him in over 2 weeks yesterday.  The mail is really messed up, the neighbor had one letter that was half burned up.  Bob Spann was in a minute ago and it sure did make her homesick for her son.  Today the postman brought 6 letters including the one he wrote on the 19th, his birthday.  She remarks that from these letters she now knows that he is not a pathfinder (I guess he used the code she had asked him to.)  The Whites are hearing from there son regularly again and she feels so much better.  She hopes the mail will be better now that the Xmas rush is over because it sure does something to you to get mail from your loved ones.  She is glad he liked the book she sent him and will try to send some more. It only cost $.25 and is a copy of a $2.50 or $3.00 book.  She will be sending him 2 pairs of woolen socks that his grandmother bought for him.  She is saving his letters so he can read between the lines to her when he gets home, because some of his remarks just go completely over her head.  She remarks that some of them are clever and she does get them, such as the one about the 16th hole of golf (when the Country Club only had 9 holes).  Buck Davis and his crew escaped from their prison and he is on his way home.  They are sure he will have a lot to talk about. 


The letters end here.  Dad was shot down on November 26, 1944,  the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  My grandparents received the news that their only child was "Missing In Action" while they were attending the annual Christmas dance at the Country Club in December 1944.  Information traveled much slower then!


Other Letters From World War II Families

This letter was sent to James D. Haffner who was one of only two survivors on his plane on March 26, 1944.  The letter is from the parents of Don Roberts, who lost their only child that day.
Roberts Letter Page 1 - Loss of only son 


 Roberts Letter Page 2


Donald B. Roberts - WWII B-17 Engineer killed March 26, 1944

Donald B. Roberts


Wampsville, NY
June 10, 1945

Dear Jim,

    We rec'd your letter from England and thank you for writing to us. We are happy for you and your family that you will soon be reunited and we hope you are well.

     It was an awful shock to us to lose our Don as you know he was all we had.  We are trying to carry on as best we can but life will never be quite the same again.

    There are many things we would like to know but we don't like to ask too many questions as you have been through so much we know there are many things you would like to forget.

    We would like to know just what happened on that last fatal mission.

     Do you think the boys were killed instantly.  It would be a comfort to know that they didn't suffer.

     Is there any way we can find out if they were buried and where.

     Don was so fond of all the boys and so proud of your crew.  He was so sure you would all come through as your crew was one of the best in the Air Corps.

     We want to know more about yourself.  Will you be discharged from the Service?  If not and you should be stationed here in the East and should have a short furlough we would be glad to have you come here.

    Just give us a ring our phone number is Oneida N.Y.  1409 - RI.

    We will be grateful for any information you can give us.

    God bless you and your family.

Sincerely Yours,
Berhn & Elsie Roberts



The following letter was written to Aaron Kuptsow by his mother exactly one month after he had been shot down.  You will note that she still had not received word from our government that he was missing in action.  Of course Aaron never received the letter and it was eventually returned to his mother.

Aaron states "that his mother had never had any formal education so the spelling, grammar and handwriting can be difficult to make out, but you can get a feel for the anxiety and her love for her three boys - I still get tears in my eyes whenever I read that letter." 
Letter from Lt. Kuptsow's mother page 1 during World War II

Letter from Lt. Kuptsow's mother page 2 and envelope

Dec. 26, 1944

My Dear Son Aaron,

we are all well, hoping to hear the same from you. didn't get any mail from you 3 weeks. its more than a month we didn't hear from you, we are voryed.  Aaron if you wont me to stop vorying please write and write soon as I don't know what to thing of what hapened.  as I been getting mail regular from you now I don't.  you know your mother is voring kind.  please Aaron if you have any love for you mother and father send me just a few words that you are allright and all well please do that for me your mother as I don't know what  to write to you just now.  when I'll get mail from you I'll write more. we received the souvenoirs.  Preston Kuptsow didn't get his yet. you had said  you send it out did you didn't get mail from Joe. did you get your chrismas packages.  Aaron please write soon.  God be with you my child. God shall safe you from the enemy and you shall be with me home soon.  all the luck in the world to you my boy.   God bless you my Son.  the good God will be with you.   your loving mother and dad. dad says write soon.  I love you my son.  God bless.  regards from all.

mother and dad

take care of yourself
mother   I love you



Letters From Stalag Luft I

Kriegsgefangenenlager - Postcards from Stalag Luft I 

POW post card from World War II from Stalag Luft I          Stalag Luft I postcard from POW to Mom Postkarte to Father         Kriegsgefangenenlager to POWs father

From Lt. Oscar W. Gills to his mother.

From William J. Harding to his father

      Kriegsfegangenenpost to parents          Kriegsfegangenenpost to parents from John Barrett

David Feldman to George Feldman

From Lt. John A. Barrett to his parents

Lt. David Feldman to George Feldman

Other World War II letters

V-mail from Lt. Harding to his father
V-mail from Lt. Harding to his father - before his MIA/POW status

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This site created and maintained by Mary Smith and Barbara Freer, daughters of Dick Williams, Jr.