Monday, August 12, 2013

Military Monday - Letters from the front

Over this past weekend, I was spending a little time going through things that I had brought back from my trip up to Dad's house back in June, and made a fun discovery that has begun to lead me on a genealogical
mystery chase.

Among all of the letters that I scanned while I was at Dad's were about twelve that were dated back to World War II.  At the time, I thought that all of these letters were from my mother's uncles.  What I discovered this weekend was that seven of those letters were from someone outside the family.  My mistake was that with the tiny handwriting on the return address, I mistook the last name for Hill.  When I started to look at the scans this weekend, I realized that the last name was actually Wells.  As I read the letters themselves, it became obvious that this soldier definitely wasn't a family member.

But who was Bob Wells?

The letters held only a few clues.  Based on the content of the letters I can tell:
1) Bob Wells had worked with my grandfather on the Pennsylvania Railroad before the War.
2) He lived in or near Ft. Wayne, Indiana (my grandmother mentions a "Mrs. Wells" stopping by the house)
3) He served in the 710th Tank Battalion in the Pacific theater
4) He saw action in the battle on Peleliu

With those clues, finding Bob Wells should be somewhat easy for a genealogist, right?  Well.........unfortunately at this point, I don't have my accounts with Ancestry or Fold3 active so the only resources I have are those free ones that we all use, and they weren't providing much help.

I posted a request for help to an Indiana Research group that I am a member of on Facebook, and a wonderful fellow genealogist from Indianapolis has jumped on the case with me.  With Marilyn's help, I now have a possible obituary for Robert Wells from Leo, Indiana.  All of the details in his obituary fit my clues so far.

I have talked with my brother and sisters and we have decided that without a doubt, these letters belong in the hands of Bob Wells' children or grandchildren if we can find them.

I have to be honest, I am hoping to find Bob Wells' family for some selfish reasons too.  Yes, I want to get these letters into their hands because he writes about his own family, how he is feeling about the war, and they are definitely something that I think his family would want to see.  But I also want to know more about the relationship between Mr. Wells and my grandfather.  Were they close friends?  Were they just co-workers?  Was my grandfather perhaps his mentor (being about 20 years older than him)?  Is Bob Wells the mystery man in a picture that we have of my grandfather standing beside one of the locomotives he was an engineer on for the Pennsylvania Railroad?

I wish I could say that I will have a follow up to this post soon, but all I can promise at this point is that I will post the resolution of the mystery when it happens, and if Mr. Wells' family gives permission, I will add some content from the letters to my blog.

Stay tuned....

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