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Entries in WWII (7)

Sunday
Jun022013

WWII Love Letter Found After Almost 70 Years

Courtesy Lost Letter Project(NEW YORK) -- When Abbi Jacobson opened her mailbox a few months ago, she found a rusted yellow letter that had been written in 1944. The letter was opened and had been addressed to a Mr. and Mrs. Joseph O. Matthews, who had once lived in the same New York City apartment that Jacobson now occupied.

"I knew it was obviously old and when I started reading it, I realized it was a very sweet love letter from World War II," Jacobson, 29, told ABC News.

Not knowing what to do with it, she began a search for the couple the old-fashioned way, on foot.

"At first, I didn't want to use the Internet to find them, so I went to the municipal archives and visited a few libraries near my Greenwich Village apartment," Jacobson said.

But after a few months of no luck, she took to the Internet, displaying her story on the Lost Letter Project's website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Jacobson said she dreamed of finding the couple and sharing this gift with them. But little did she know that she'd be helped by a number of people from across the country.

"A number of people contacted me online who were willing to help," she said. "There was a woman Meg from Denmark who contacted me on Twitter, who I believe was a cousin."

And after making a number of connections, Jacobson finally was put in contact with the son of the Matthews, Scott Matthews, a New York City architect, 67.

"It was so awesome that this letter connected so many different people together, searching for the couple, and then finding their family," Jacobson said.

Mr. and Mrs. Matthews are no longer alive, but their son, who hasn't seen the letter yet, was thrilled by the discovery.

"It's very interesting," Matthews told the New York Post. "I don't know much about my dad's life before I was born. I wonder what he was feeling about shipping out [for war].

"You wonder what happened to it and what did the Postal Service do with it," he said.

Matthews and Jacobson hope to meet soon.

"They're my parents' age and we spoke for an hour on the phone the other night," Jacobson said. "They couldn't believe it."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May252013

Daughter of World War II Vet Located After Medals Donated to Goodwill

MERS/Missouri Goodwill(ST. LOUIS) -- Just in time for Memorial Day, a mystery that started with a surprise discovery by Goodwill in Missouri had a happy ending.

A box of World War II medals, awards and other mementos was discovered by MERS/Missouri Goodwill earlier this week.

Lewis Chartock, chief executive officer of MERS/Missouri Goodwill, said he believed the box was donated to Goodwill but was likely flagged by a processing person.

Ron Scanlon, Goodwill's director of loss prevention, noticed the box when it made its way to the MERS/Missouri Goodwill headquarters in downtown St. Louis. He notified Chartock.

"He spotted it and understood it was important," Chartock said.

"There's all kinds of stuff. If you ever watch 'Antiques Roadshow,' you know they love to see all of this stuff together: a picture of the whole platoon, combat medals, and a Silver Star."

A citation indicated the Silver Star was awarded to Sgt. James J. McKenzie, a Marine vet who was also a prisoner of war during World War II. McKenzie was born in St. Louis in 1918 and joined the Marines in October 1940. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said McKenzie spent three and a half years imprisoned in Osaka, Japan, and was released as Japan surrendered in September 1945. He died in 1979 of lung cancer at age 60.

Following a "heavy Japanese artillery barrage" on Corregidor Island in the Philippines on April 13, 1942, McKenzie rescued his comrades as they were trapped in tunnels, the citation described.

"Disregarding the imminent danger of collapsing walls and roofs, Sgt. McKenzie heroically entered the tunnels, assisted in extricating trapped soldiers, and gave first aid to the wounded," the citation said.

Workers from Goodwill found McKenzie's last address and learned the home's last owner was his daughter, Rebecca McKenzie. However, a demolition crew was gutting the home on Thursday and indicated that it was recently sold.

Chartolk's staff contacted the home's realtor, who gave them the name of a person who had helped clean out the house and eventually tracked down Mackenzie's daughter-in-law, Deborah Anne Ellis, in Avon, Ind.

Ellis directed the Goodwill to McKenzie's daughter in Pollock Pines, Calif., Michele McKenzie.

When Chartolk called Michele McKenzie on Friday, she said she cried tears of joy.

Michele McKenzie, a retired attorney, said she is not sure how the Silver Star made its way to Goodwill. She said the last time she talked to her stepsister, Rebecca McKenzie, was about three weeks ago, but she did not know her current whereabouts.

Though Rebecca McKenzie was not related by blood to Sgt. McKenzie, Michele said he adopted Rebecca after his second marriage.

Rebecca McKenzie could not be reached for comment. Her mother, Sgt. McKenzie's second wife, Toby McKenzie, died in 2006.

Michele's younger brother, Sgt. McKenzie's son, died two years ago.

Michele McKenzie's parents, Sgt. McKenzie and Grace Francis "Mimi" Woodlock, had divorced when she was five-years old. Her mother died in 1994.

Though Michele McKenzie only saw her father on weekends and Wednesday nights, she said they had a close relationship.

She remembers when her father would pick her up from school in the third grade, when he was a salesman.

"Suddenly, I would see my father down on one knee in front of the school, screaming, 'Mike', which was a boy's name, but I know he didn't mean it that way," she said. "I would drop my books and would run as fast as I could run to him."

But he never wanted to talk about the war, even when she asked. Eventually, she and her mother moved to California in 1969 when Michele was 19 years old.

She knew her father was awarded the Silver Star, but after he died, her stepmother told her it was lost or stolen.

She and her husband weren't sure what they are going to do with the mementos.

She said it's a "sad thing" that her husband, named Jim, never met her father. When Michele McKenzie got married in 1976, she couldn't fly because of a head injury and her father was sick and also couldn't travel.

"They would have liked each other," she said.

Michele McKenzie said she offered to have a notary send proof to Chartock that she is Sgt. McKenzie's daughter.

When asked how she might feel when she first sees her father's mementos, she said, "Hold onto them and kiss them -- something like that."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec102012

Woman Turns in Valuable WWII Gun at Police Station Weapon Buy-Back

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Just like a scene out of Antiques Roadshow, a woman in Hartford, Conn., turned in an old rifle to her local police station’s gun buy-back, only to discover the gun was worth anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, inherited the gun from her father who had brought it home with him from Europe as a memento from World War II.

The two officers conducting the gun buy-back, who are resident gun experts for the Hartford Police Department, informed the owner she was in possession of a Sturmgewehr 44, the first modern assault rifle ever made.

“It’s like finding the Babe Ruth of baseball cards,” said Officer John Cavanna. “The rarity, it was made for such a very short period.”

Most people, however, who aren’t avid gun fans would have no idea what role this gun played in history.

“If you were to look at the gun and didn’t know anything about guns, you would think it was garbage,” Crabtree said.

That is essentially what the owner thought the gun was, bringing it to the station knowing full well it would be put into a smelter, melting the gun down into an iron brick.

“People turn in guns for a variety of reasons,” Cavanna told ABC. “They don’t have a good way to secure it, they have kids around their home, or they don’t know how to use it.  This is an anonymous way for someone to take an unwanted firearm and get it off the streets. We then give them a $50 or $100 gift card to Wal-Mart.”

Crabtree attributes gun accidents to ignorance and carelessness. The anonymous gun buy-back program is aimed at preventing people from running into potentially dangerous situations with a gun they don’t know how to use or work.

This seems to be the reason the woman who dropped off the historic rifle.

“Her father passed away. The gun was in her closet,” Cavanna said. “She did not know it was a machine gun."

“If the gun had been in the closet loaded, any second you could hit the wrong level and discharge a fatal round,” he said of the Sturmgewehr 44.

This German-made machine gun can fire 500 rounds a minute, according to Cavanna, who is also a gun range master.

However, at the time the officers received the gun, it was in such disrepair that it was inoperable, unable to shoot a bullet even if the gun had been loaded. At any rate, ammunition would have to be specially made for the rifle.

The unnamed owner of the gun has left the valuable artifact at the police station for safe keeping.

“We did not take the gun in for the gun buy-back program,” Crabtree said. “If we took it as part of the buy-back, we would have no choice but to destroy the gun. We don’t want to destroy that gun.”

The owner intends to sell the rare weapon. “It sounds like her family could use the money,” Cavanna said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov162012

World War II Love Letters Wash Up on NJ Beach After Sandy

ABC News(ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, N.J.) -- Superstorm Sandy destroyed towns and homes, and took lives, but a stack of 57 letters tied together with a pink ribbon survived the devastating storm.

Kathleen Mullen was taking a walk along the Henry Hudson Trail in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., the day after the storm hit when she spotted the bundle of letters.

“They were obviously tied with a pink ribbon, so I automatically knew that they were love letters,” Mullen told ABC News’ New York station WABC-TV.

 

She took them home, carefully dried them under the fireplace in her powerless home and began to read. The letters were written by Dorothy Fallon of Rumson, N.J., and Lynn Farnham of Vermont between 1942 and 1947.

“There isn’t much more to tell you tonight, dear,” one letter read. “I love you very much. Yours always, Dotty.”

Mullen was determined to reunite the letters with their owners. She posted about the letters on Facebook, Craigslist and eventually did a search on findagrave.com, where a Lynn Farnham was listed who died in 1992 and was buried in New Jersey.

Through the website, Mullen connected with Shelly Farnham-Hilber, a niece of the couple, who lives in Virginia. She was thrilled to hear of the find.

“It’s magical. You go, ‘This can’t be real,’” Farnham-Hilber told WABC-TV. “It’s like a genealogical gold mine. It’s just that moment that you think is lost forever and here is something. It’s a gift.”

Farnham-Hilber said that Lynn Farnham, her uncle, served in WWII and was at Pearl Harbor. The couple had two children. The son has died and Farnham-Hilber’s family has lost touch with the daughter. Dorothy Farnham is 91 years old and lives in a nursing home in New Jersey.

The family is looking forward to being reunited with the letters and the find was a beacon of light to Mullen during tough times.

“It kind of sent the message that love conquers all, you know, in such devastation … something so delicate just washes ashore,” she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May022012

Book Names Iconic Times Square Kissing Couple From World War II

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two authors claim they have figured out the identities of the sailor and nurse seen kissing in the iconic 1945 LIFE magazine photograph from the end of World War II.

In The Kissing Sailor, co-authors George Galdorisi of Coronada, Calif., and Lawrence Verria of Bristol, R.I., tell what they call the story of the real man and woman in the picture.

On Aug. 14, 1945, LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took the photo in New York City’s Times Square. He took four dozen photographs, including four of the unknown couple kissing.  He had lost track of his reporter in the crowd, and the two who kissed moved on without telling each other -- or Eisenstaedt -- their names.

LIFE did a retrospective in 1980 about the picture, asking the real sailor and nurse to come forward.  The problem was, more than two people did.

“Those people who looked at the picture and after the fact said, ‘I was kissing someone that day; it was probably me,’” co-author Galdorisi told ABC News.

Galdorisi met Verria through a mutual friend and said they agreed to track down the story of the photograph together.

Galdorisi said Verria first heard of the identity of the sailor, George Mendonsa, from a student in one of his classes.  Soon after, he saw the famous picture in a Rhode Island restaurant next to a photo of a sailor in his navy blues.  He was told the sailor was a local celebrity, claiming he was the one in the picture. Verria interviewed Mendonsa and was taken by his story, feeling he had proved his identity as the sailor.

The co-authors identify the nurse in the picture as Greta Zimmer Friedman, who lives in Maryland.  Both involved in the kiss are now 89 years old.

The book revolves around the picture itself, Times Square, where the photo was taken, the publication of LIFE magazine and the people involved in the story.

“People who have absolutely fascinating lives,” said Galdorisi.  “The three of them shouldn’t have been there, they should’ve been dead.”

Galdorisi said he and Verria prove the identities of the kissing couple by forensic analysis, photographic interpretation and other technical means.

There have been multiple people identified in the past as the sailor and nurse.  One of the best known of the women was Edith Shane.  She came forward in 1979, saying she had not told her story before because she was a proper woman, and proper women don’t kiss in Times Square.

In 2007, a man named Glen McDuffie claimed he was the sailor in the photo, even taking lie detector tests to prove his story.

The famous photograph has made headlines recently for other reasons. Singer Katy Perry reenacted the photo with a sailor she pulled onto the stage at a recent concert.

And last week, a car on Florida’s Gulf Coast hit a 26-foot tall sculpture recreating the photograph, according to ABC affiliate WWSB. There is a similar statue in San Diego.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Feb112012

Teenage Sweethearts to Reunite 70 Years Later

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Despite the passing of decades, the emergence of other loves and thousands of miles between them, Betty Hove, 85, and John Grosch, 87, never forgot each other.

The teenage sweethearts, who lost track of each other after Grosch enlisted in the Navy during World War II, will meet again Sunday, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

“I never got over this guy. He was always tucked away in the corner of my heart,” Hove told ABC affiliate KXLY-TV in Sacramento, Calif.

The two met when Grosch was working at a California grocery store.

But World War II cut their romance short. All Hove had was a name, no address. She didn’t even know if Grosch survived the war.

She was married twice and widowed a few years ago. And through the years, she never forgot her first love.

A friend searched online for Hove’s sweetheart and found him living in Georgia.

Hove sent him a Christmas card. He called her on New Year’s Day and the two arranged to meet in Georgia.

“How am I going to get close enough to hug and kiss her?” Grosch said. “It’s impossible to believe it, but I know I am!”

Even though many years have passed, the two love birds are looking forward to revving up their romance once again.

“He was just so sweet,” Hove said. “They don’t make them like him anymore.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep242010

Only Living African-American WWII Medal Of Honor Recipient Buried In Arlington National Cemetery

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images.(ARLINGTON COUNTY, Va.) -- ABC News reports that the only living African-American veteran to receive the Medal of Honor for valor in World War II was laid to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery Friday.  Vernon Baker, 90, died of complications of brain cancer in July.  Baker was buried among the nation's fallen heroes, in the same section as the only other African American Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran buried at Arlington.  President Clinton presented Vernon Joseph Baker with the Medal of Honor in 1997, after an investigation revealed that the high climate of racism during World War II had prevented recognition of heroic deeds of black soldiers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio.








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