Friday, February 19, 2010

The last letter written to Robles del Rio, California

Today I noticed I have 15 followers, which is great, and I welcome the four new followers, whoever they may be.  For some reason, only 13 are identified on my dashboard, so I am assuming I have two additional stealth followers.  Maybe one of you veteran bloggers can explain the discrepancy to me.  In any event, everyone is welcome, and don't forget our big Followers Reunion in Bermuda this spring.

Yesterday I made several amazing discoveries in an old green army trunk in our attic:  I found bound copies of six of the reports that Maj. Gillham had been working on for Gen. MacArthur and the GHQ SCAP.  They are veritable works of art, with charts, graphs, maps, and the typing job is masterful, considering this was way before the advent of word processing or even electric typewriters.  There is no way I can include these in my blog, but if anyone is interested in them, I would be happy to go into greater detail about them.

My other discoveries were several personal items of Maj. Gillham, including his dog tags, his military ID, and several medals that he was awarded for service in WWII and during the Occupation.  I am trying to find a way to scan these, or photograph them, to include on this blog.  I also found a pile of old photos, some of which are pertinent to us here, and I will post some of them below, after today's letter.

This letter is a short one, the last one addressed to the Gillhams in Robles del Rio, since the family is now most probably underway on their trip east.  Maj. Gillham also comments on the growing influx of private citizens in Japan, usually sent over by private companies.  This is a fairly common phenomenon with all wars, most recently seen in our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

9 Dec 45

Dearest Love,

I don't know if you will get this before you leave Robles or not, but I said I would write you there until the 10th.  I am also writing to La Jolla and El Paso (Gen. Del.) and will write to Memphis.

I certainly hope you will have a nice trip and enjoy the reunion with your family.  It is nice to have a family to go to see.

Today is Sunday and it is a beautiful day -- but I have to work, so I can't take it all in.

The American civilians are coming in here in ever-increasing numbers.  They all have some sort of official job so far, in order to get in.  We call them the "carpetbaggers."  I guess they will gradually take things over here -- and at a very good salary for themselves.  Most of them get from $6,000 to $10,000 a year plus expenses.  They rate as experts, but I think that most of them were previously government clerks or small-time politicians.  Some of the WACS are taking their discharges and staying on as civilians.

I got a good box and I am gradually collecting a few more things for you and the children.  When I get it full I will send it on.  I sent one box to Atlanta.

I guess this will be my last letter to Robles, unless I hear from you to the contrary.

Good luck and have a good time.  I will be writing to you wherever you are as long as I know where it is.

Lots of love,



This may be as good a point as any to offer a small biographical sketch of Maj. Gillham prior to his joining the Army.  He was born William Tucker Gillham on October 6, 1908, at the home of his parents, George Halsey Gillham and Effie Young Tucker Gillham in Memphis, TN.  He was an only child, although he did have an older brother who died in infancy.  His parents were married in 1898 and were by all accounts a fun-loving couple who were the life of all the parties they attended.  His father had many careers during his life, but the one he is remembered for most is that of a writer of stories for boys and young men.  His most famous work was The Adventures of William Tucker, the protagonist of which he named after his son.  The work was serialized in The Youth's Companion magazine in 1926 and published as a book in 1927. 

Pages 4 and 1 of a four-page circular touting George Gillham's book.

Pages 2 and 3 of the circular, with reviews of the book

William T. Gillham (who was known as Bill to his friends, but was William to his family) grew up in the small town of Kerrville, Tennessee, about 20 miles north of Memphis.  The town was named after the family of his paternal grandmother, Maria Henderson Kerr Gillham.  The family name is pronounced just like the name of the movie star Deborah Kerr, yet the town's name is pronounced like the words "curve ill."  William attended the McCallie School in Chattanooga and graduated in 1926, and that fall he enrolled at the Georgia School of Technology (now the Georgia Institute of Technology), or Georgia Tech, in Atlanta.  He majored in electrical engineering and was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity.  He graduated in 1930, having witnessed the Georgia Tech Ramblin' Wreck win the national football championship in 1928 and attended the very first night game at Grant Field in 1929.

One of the earliest photos of William Gillham (right), astride a burrow
with his cousin Edward Lang in El Paso, TX, ca. 1910

Young William in an undated photo

William as a teen in the 1920s

William with an unnamed college sweetheart at Tech, 1920s

He met his future bride at the North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta while at Tech and while Frances was at Girls High.  After graduation, he got a job with Southern Bell Telephone Company in Atlanta, and Frances attended the Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville.  As a result of the stock market crash, however, he and most of his colleagues lost their jobs and he was forced to return to his home in Kerrville where, as he put it, he got a job with Standard Oil, i.e., pumping gas at a local filling station.  The couple finally married in 1933 in Atlanta, and they lived at his family home, called "the little brown house," in Kerrville.

He was ultimately hired back by Southern Bell and was sent to Knoxville, TN, where Emily was born in 1935.  By 1938 they were back in Memphis, where my mother, Monty, was born.  After a short stay in Jackson, MS, he and several other Southern Bell colleagues joined the Army and began officer training in Ft. Monroe, VA, in 1941.  The rest of his Army life should by now be very familiar to you.