The weekly Saturday night music show at the Country Cabin at Appalachia, Va., last weekend brought with it a Veterans Day mystery.
Curt Blair, a Vietnam veteran from Crases Branch at Letcher, was there for the music, but it was a special night that included military collections, and photographs for the veterans in the crowd.
“They have music there on Saturday night, and they had a little display there for veterans,” Blair said. “Bill Jones had a little display. There were canteen cups, signs and helmets and stuff.”
Blair was browsing the military items when Jones, who is 83, showed him a letter stuck in among his collection of military hardware. It was from a soldier during the occupation of Germany after World War II, to his mother in Jenkins. The problem was, Jones had no idea who the man and his mother were.
Blair said he had never heard of them either, and Jones said he might just throw the letter away, since he had no idea how to find the original writer or the recipient.
Instead, Blair asked for it and brought it back to Letcher County to try and locate the owner.
“I hated to see him throw it away,” Blair said. “His family might never see it.”
The yellowed envelope is from Pvt. John W. Jackson, Co. 311, Germany, and is addressed to his mother, whose name is illegible, at Box 161, Jenkins. The word “Free” is written in the space where a stamp would normally be.
The serviceman’s location is not clear, but it appears to be Amberg, a city in Bavaria where a U.S. Army Post called Pond Barracks was located just after World War II.
Some of the handwriting is illegible, but the letter begins, “Dear Mother,” and tells her that he has read her last letter, that he is doing fine and having a good time, and that he doesn’t know when he will be home. “I will send you some money when I get any,” he writes.
The letter asks her to send a picture of herself and his father, and says he has been in Germany for three weeks. It closes with “from your son John and with all my love.”
The letter is postmarked May 24, 1946, about a year and two weeks after the surrender of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II. While the private had been there for three weeks, it is not clear whether he served prior to the war’s end.
It is possible that the man was in the family of John J. Jackson and Vera Luella Jackson. There was a John W. Carnish, 12, described as “adopted son,” living in the home on April 12, 1940, when the Census was taken. If so, John W. Johnson would have taken his stepfather’s name and would have been 18 years old and a new recruit when the letter was written.
Jones collects military memorabilia, but said he has no idea how he came to have the letter. He said he has several letters of the era.
“This was probably in Dad’s stuff,” he said. “I really don’t know where the letter came from.”