Monday, January 30, 2012

The final letter from Frances

This is the final letter from Frances that I have in the collection, and it is one of her best.  She starts out with some chatty news about Emily and her "tacky party," but she then uses the occasion of a local wedding to reminisce about her marriage to Maj. Gillham and how special it has been.  His now-famous letter about Hiroshima -- it's received by far the most hits (nearly 600) on this blog -- was published in the telephone company newsletter, which explains why there are parts of a typewritten version in the letter collection.  Dan and Nancy's baby, which is due on May 29, is Penn Holsenbeck, who is now a successful lawyer in New York and a proud grandfather.  (Incidentally, he really kept his parents waiting -- he wasn't born until June 11th.)  Frances ends the letter with a poignant remark about how things will be back to normal again soon, as she says goodbye to Maj. Gillham -- and to us -- for now.

June 2, 1946

Dearest Darling,

Two more of my letters to you in Tokyo have been returned.  I shall forward them on to you so you can see that I did write once in a while!

Thursday night Emily had six of her girl friends over for dinner and a tacky party.  All of the girls fell right into the mood and they all came dressed fit to kill!  Only one or two of the girls had known each other before the party, but five minutes after they arrived, you would have thought they had been bosom buddies for just years.  They laughed, giggled, joked and then giggled some more.  You would have thought there were fifteen Singies around!  After a dinner of spaghetti and meat balls, salad, French bread, iced tea, ice cream and birthday cake, the girls played games until eight thirty when their mamas came for them.  As the last guest drove off, Monty exclaimed, "I had a wonderful time!"  Emily said that she enjoyed it more than any party she'd ever had.

Mother Ki was terribly upset when she came into the dining room just before the party and saw me serving the plates generously with spaghetti.  She doesn't serve it for a meal much less for a party dinner!  Evidently the little girls didn't agree with her because all of them cleaned their plates.

Yesterday, Harvey Livingston, the boy who lives across the street, was married.  Emily, Monty and I went to the wedding.  After I brought them home, I went across the street to the reception.  Of course, a June wedding always makes me think of ours.  Yesterday, I was considering that Harvey and Lillian were another couple starting a new life together with high hopes and aspirations for happiness.  I wondered as I watched them if they had enough give and take in them to fulfill their hopes and make their marriage a deeply happy one as ours has been.

I have often felt that we had found a fine and wonderful happiness in our marriage, but I didn't fully realize how rare our happiness was until I came to Atlanta.  Since coming here, I have met a number of couples who have lived together for years and years and have never explored the full depths of marriage and their happiness still lies buried for them.

In the June issue of the National Geographic there are three articles I know you will enjoy.  One is on the value of a peace time navy and in that article is a picture of the U.S.S. Canberra in dry dock in Manus after it had been torpedoes near Formosa.  The next article is on Cape Cod.  There is a nice picture of the Canal from the mainland side looking toward the Sagamore Bridge.  The little trading post at Bourne is shown. There are pictures from Woods Hole, Hyannis, Provincetown and Falmouth.  The children went out and rounded up the neighborhood to show them pictures in the Geographic where they had been.

The third article is on Japan.  Martha climbed up on the couch by me while I was trying to read that one so I didn't get beyond the first page.  She is getting to be quite a busy body.  She has just cut her seventh tooth.  She is slower than Monty in cutting her teeth.

Since Dan sent my typewriter home, the girls have been anxious to type on it.  I knew they would whether I said yes or not, so, I decided to teach them the touch system and start them off right.  Emily can type without a mistake and Monty is more like her mother and makes many mistakes, but she is learning.  They both know the keyboard and practice on imaginary typewriters all the time.

Father and Mother are due in tonight and I am rather loathe to give up the quietness we have enjoyed with the decreased number in the house.  Then, too, I have enjoyed keeping house again.  Also, my digestion has improved.  Mother puts so much grease in everything she cooks.  I talk like I haven't enjoyed being here, but I certainly have.  It has been a pleasure to know my family again after twelve years of letter writing and an occasional visit.

Tom Lemly is going to Emory Hospital again tomorrow for another operation.  One of his lungs is to be removed because it has a tumor on it and has been collapsed since he had pneumonia in February.

Your letter about Hiroshima was in the June issue of the Telephone News.  I haven't seen a copy yet, but Paul Wright called me up yesterday after he read the article.  He and Louise have bought a house out near where Rice lived, off Highland Avenue.  They have been here since April and he is still with the telephone company.  He wanted to know if you had returned and if you were going to go with the telephone company yourself.

Dan's baby was due May 29, but we haven't heard a word.  Nancy said that a new mother always comes two weeks late, and she expected to be late, too.  Uncle Gart told Dan that it was up to him to keep the Holsenbeck name going and that he hoped Dan would attend to that matter this time!

Four of your women folk are anxiously awaiting your arrival.  It will be wonderful to be with you again and wondering what you'd like for supper and if you will catch poison ivy on our next picnic.

All my love,

The USS Canberra was a guided missle crusier in the U.S. Navy, which was of signficance to the Holsenbecks, since Dan was assigned to the ship during World War II.  It was originally to be christened the USS Pittsburgh, but was renamed, after the Royal Australian Navy ship Canberra, which had been recently sunk.
The USS Canberra underway

Incidentally, Singie was a woman who lived in Robles del Rio in California that the Gillhams knew, and according to Monty and Emily she could talk up a storm.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Frances ponders Maj. Gillham's future

Frances is now in high gear preparing for Maj. Gillham's return, and she has even taken the initiative in seeking out possible job opportunities for her soon-to-be civilian husband.  She also makes an interesting comment about his possibly buying a boat in the future, which he eventually does in the 1960s.

May 29, 1946

Dearest Darling,

Were we delighted with an avalanche of mail from you!  Your ship's diary was most interesting.  I am so very glad that you are getting a chance to rest, eat and sleep.  You should be in excellent health by the time you get back!

I think you are smart to learn all you can about navigation.  Maybe someday you can get a yacht or at least a fancy sailboat!  Then you can take us out by yourself.

Does your ship put in at Boston?  Should I write in care of the port director there or should I use c/o Fleet P.M. New York?

How did the whales look?  Suppose you had been a whaler, would it have been a good year's catch?

Hal Noyes, a Marine friend of Bryant and Carl's, got out of the service recently and was giving me some tips on how to look for a $6,000 to $7,000 a year job.  He has been to New York and thru a friend was able to call on about thirty Wall Street execs who live in the rarefied air.  He has had several good offers and now it is just a matter of choice with him.  He gave me the name and address of the man who got him the entree.  Also, when he was in New York he told the man about you.  I haven't written to you about it before because I was afraid you'd think I was interfering too much again.  Since you mentioned in your letter that you'd see what the Telephone Co. would offer and then try other places, I thought I'd say something about Mr. Towne.

Hal Noyes and his wife called on us when we lived in La Jolla.  He looked like Father, then, but he doesn't now.

Emily was pleased as punch that she could tell me you were going to send me an orchid by air mail.  It was in her flowers folder.  You are a darling to do such a lovely thing.  It will be my very first orchid.  I wish I could keep it till you come home, so I could wear it somewhere with you.

I can hardly wait to get it.  I wonder what color it will be?  Mother Cile says she visited the orchid garden.

Mother, Pop and Elizabeth are leaving in a few minutes for Florida.  They will be gone for four or five days.

Emily is going to have a tacky party for her birthday.  She will have six girls in for dinner Thursday night and she has requested that they all come dressed tacky.

There is a wheat shortage here now and only because Mother knows the bakery lady are we able to get a cake for Emily's birthday.

Thank you for all the interesting letters and folders you sent us from Hawaii.  We have enjoyed them very much.

I am looking forward to the day when I can be with you again.

I am glad you've had a chance to rest, because your letters are like they were before we married.  Even though I've been married nearly thirteen years, I enjoy getting a romantic love letter from you again.  It peps me up as nothing else could.  I feel like I am a young bride again, and I get anxious to see you again, my darling.

Father is going to mail this for me so I must close.  But remember that you are my onliest true love and I can hardly wait to see you.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

An unscheduled stop in San Diego

Another self-styled "serial letter" awaits us today.  Maj. Gillham has left Hawaii and is now heading to Panama, but, as you will read, the ship is forced to take an unexpected yet welcome detour.

U.S.S. Alcor
28 May 46

Dearest Lovely,

This leg of my journey was going to be so long that I didn't start a letter to you right away.  However, when I don't write a few lines to you every day or two it make me feel lonesome.  I enjoy a little one-way chat with you.

We left Pearl Harbor at 0900 on 24 May.  It was a beautiful clear day and everything went off fine.  We sailed north of the other islands and they were in view all that day.  Approaching and leaving Oahu I was able to see all the larger islands in the Hawaiian Group except Hawaii.  For two or three days the weather was beautiful and the sea smooth, but now we are running into squalls and it is getting fairly rough.  This is a good riding ship and it takes the sea well.  I am in a regular routine of reading, sunbathing, exercising, sleeping and eating.  Also we have movies every night and most of them are new to me.  We took on a Protestant chaplain at Pearl and so we had a nice service on deck Sunday.

Yesterday we reached the latitude (about 21 degrees N) where the sun on that date is directly overhead at noon.  It was the first time I had ever seen that.  Also, we can see the southern cross at night now.

Our new Captain is very nice, but operated entirely different from Capt. Millard.  Capt. Millard stayed on the bridge all the time, but I seldom see him there.  He lives in his regular cabin, whereas Millard slept in a little emergency sea cabin behind the bridge, etc.

The deck chairs we got in Honolulu are very comfortable and convenient.  At present, I am reading Mixter's Navigation,  Yankee from Olympus and Forever Amber. So you see I get plenty of variety.

29 May --

It now develops that we will put in at San Diego.  We have been bucking a strong head wind ever since leaving Pearl Harbor, and the ship has a lot of barnacles on the bottom so we have been using a lot of fuel.  This morning the Captain decided we didn't have enough to get to Panama, so he radioed for, and received permission to, put into San Diego for fuel.  His officers all wanted to get it in Mexico, which wouldn't be so far out of the way, but it seem there is too much diplomatic red tape involved.  So at 1300 today we turned northeast and are now heading for San Diego.

We are due there Monday morning 3 June.  I suppose we will be there about a day, and if at all possible, I will get ashore and call you up.  I suppose I could leave the ship there and come across by rail, but I have made that trip a number of times and I probably won't have another chance to make this one.

When I get to Atlanta I will have to report in at Ft. McPherson and they will probably put me in a hospital somewhere.  If that seems like it will be long and drawn out I will try to get them to give me some leave.  I might be able to get some sick leave, which won't count against my terminal leave, but I will have to go to the hospital a few days first.  I feel fine now, but this rheumatism is still latent in me and I want to get it run down before I leave the army, if possible.

Gee! I wish we could have had a few days together at La Jolla.  Wouldn't that have been nice?  However, the location is not nearly as important to the situation as your are.  I am sure we can arrange a little honeymoon somewhere.

30 May --

Today was Emily's birthday and I thought a great deal about her -- and you -- today.  She has turned out to be a mighty fine girl and I am very proud of her.  We had a rather busy day eleven years ago today, didn't we?

1 June --

This morning I looked out on the horizon and saw my first sign of home -- the California fog bank.  We have now plunged into it and the fog horn is blowing regularly.  It is very cool now.  I can see why Bryant nearly froze to death when she came from Hawaii to La Jolla.

Col. Wilder, Lt. Cmdr. Myers and I had dinner with Capt. Doughty tonight.  He was the executive of the destroyer that sunk the Jap sub off Oahu about an hour before the main attack.

Saw a good movie tonight -- Weekend at the Waldorf.

2 June --

We are not far from San Diego now and expect a land fall early in the morning.  I saw bits of kelp floating by several times today.  We are still under a high fog and the sea is rough.  The chaplain wasn't able to finish his sermon this morning, as he got sea sick.

One quaint old order is sung out several times a day on this ship, as I imagine it is on most navy vessels.  Over the loud speaker system comes a long oscillating blast on the boatswain's pipe, followed by the order: "Sweepers, man your brooms! Clean sweep down fore and aft!"

I am going to mail you ten rolls of exposed but undeveloped film from San Diego.  I am afraid to take it through the tropical heat of Panama, and then, too, you can have them developed by the time I arrive.  They are the pictures I took during my last several weeks in Japan, including the trip to Kyushu -- also what I have taken so far on this trip.  Get them developed at a good, reliable place and remind them that some of them are on Japanese film and may require a little special attention.

3 June -- 0815

We are now anchored in San Diego Harbor.  I got up at 0500 and saw the Los Coronados Rocks, our first landfall.  I will mail this on the ship and write you again before I leave.  I don't know how long we will be here, or any details yet.

There is a high morning fog.  Everything looks mighty good to me here.

Lots of love,

As I wrote earlier, Yankee from Olympus is a biography of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.  George W. Mixter wrote a book entitled Primer of Navigation in 1940, which was designed for both amateurs and experienced seamen alike.  Kathleen Winsor's controversial 1944 novel, Forever Amber, was banned in 14 states for supposed salacious passages, portrayals of sexual intercourse and 39 instances of illegitimate pregnancies.  Nonetheless, it was the most popular novel in the 1940's and was filmed in 1947 with Linda Darnell and Cornell Wilde.
Week-End at the Waldorf was a 1945 film starring Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon and Van Johnson.  The film was based on the 1932 film Grand Hotel, which itself was based on the Vicki Baum novel Menschen im Hotel (literally "people at a hotel") from 1929.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pitching in at a church social, and waiting...

Now that Maj. Gillham is on the way home, Frances is consumed with both elation and apprehension.  She seems to worry excessively about the fate of her letters to him, but the worry is tinged with hope and anticipation.  Incidentally, several years earlier, Mother Cile and Pop had been to Hawaii to visit Bryant and Carl, which explains one of Frances' comments below.

May 27, 1946

Dearest Angel Pie,

Your letter from Pearl Harbor arrived yesterday.  I was delighted to know that you're getting nearer home every day.  However, I am distressed that you didn't get my letter when you arrived.  I thought that letter I sent to you at Pearl was especially newsy as I seemed to have so much to tell you.  Dan and Carl arrived about the same time your letter from Tokyo did.  From the information in your letter and the speed of your ship, they decided that any other letters sent to Pearl would miss you.  So, I sent only one there and have been writing to you at the Canal Zone.  I hope the ones you receive at Balboa will help make up for the ones you didn't get in Hawaii.

I love you so much, darling, and it grieves me terribly when I feel that I have been the cause of your feeling sad or let down.  I know how you must have felt when the other man received four and you didn't get even one.  I am sorry that my one little letter wasn't there waiting for you.  My heart and mind have been with you all along the trip, though, hoping you are having a fine time and getting a good rest.  I know your arthritis could use plenty of sunshine and rest.

We are all anxious to hear about your trip around Oahu.  Mother says that you and she will have plenty to discuss when you get here.

Tonight Elizabeth and I undertook to prepare supper for the young people at the church.  We made salad and tea for a hundred and only sixty showed up.  All of Mother's neighbors had salad and tea for their supper, too.  Emily and Monty went down to help us and they had such a good time doing it that they came home and told Mother Cile that they would help every Sunday night.  Elizabeth and I told the girls they could help anytime that they wanted to but that we'd had enough for a long time to come!

Father has been the grand councilor for the Atlanta chapter of the traveling mens' association.  So, he has been appointed a delegate to the convention to be held at Gainesville, Florida, next week.  His expenses will be paid, so he says he can afford to take Mother with him this time.  They will drive down Wednesday and stay until Sunday.  Elizabeth is getting some vacation at the same time, so she will drive down that far with them and catch the bus there for Palmetto.  That leaves me here in charge of things.  Mother has been worrying and wondering if it will be too much for me to look after things while she is away.  Emily quietly reminded Mother that her mother had kept house for nearly thirteen years and that she was sure I could handle things for her.

It will be fine if you get home by June 23, for we have always managed to be together on that date all these twelve years.  That in itself is quite a record and it will be wonderful to be with you this time, too.



Thursday, January 26, 2012

A close call on the way to a recital

Today we hear a more detailed account of the dance recital that Emily mentioned in the previous post.  It's interesting to note that neither my mother (Monty) nor Emily remember much about the car episode, but they both vividly remember performing at the recital.  In fact, my mother can still do some of the dance steps, and all my life I heard stories about "On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe."  The letter is quite a testament to Pop, who, whether consciously or not, was acting as the girls' father while Maj. Gillham was away.  He always had a cool head and a sunny outlook, and valued family above all else.   

May 25, 1946

Dearest Darling,

Yesterday the rail strike went into effect.  With another coal strike pending, everything is shutting down.  I surely hope that by the time you get home things will be getting better.  If there is any change, it will have to be for the better.

The other night Mother and I went out to Agnes Scott to hear Dr. Niebuhr speak.  His sister-in-law was the Mrs. Niebuhr in Knoxville who took metal work from me and also took copper from me without paying for it.  He is a very brilliant man.  It was interesting trying to keep up with him.  It was like listening to Dr. Kelso in La Jolla.

Last night the girls were in their first stage performance.  They were excited and all in a flurry for us to leave in time for them to get there early.  Father thought that he'd better take us as the place was twelve miles beyond Tucker and he knew a shortcut.  We were driving along Briarcliff Road when Father's clutch slipped and the car wouldn't stay in gear.  I went to a house and telephoned to Mother to come and bring my car.  All the time it took for me to call and for Mother to get there, the girls were having fits.  Of course, it didn't take very long, but the time seemed like a century.

Mother picked up Webster somewhere along the way and he took care of Father's car and Mother, while the rest of us drove on to the performance.  "The show had to go on."  Father said as we drove along that generally when he came that way, he reached Tucker before he could draw his breath good, but last night it seemed as though we'd never get there.  The miles seemed endless.

Pop and I were sure that Emily and Monty showed unusual talent.  We felt that they were outstanding in their performance.

All my love,



Below is a YouTube video of a newsreel from May 23, 1946, two days before Frances wrote today's letter.  President Truman had threatened to have the military take control of the railroads, yet with three minutes to spare before his ultimatum was to go into effect (3:57 p.m. on May 25th), the two railway unions agreed on a contract.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Emily writes two letters

Today we find two letters from Emily that she has written to her dad, Maj. Gillham.  We know for sure the first one was sent and received, since it was found in the envelope postmarked May 25th.  The other letter was also found in this envelope, but it is dated a month earlier and is incomplete.  It may have been sent along with the first letter, or placed in the envelope afterwards.  The second letter ends mid-sentence, not because a page is missing, but because Emily simply stopped writing in the middle of the page.  We may never know how these two letters came to be found together, but I am sure Maj. Gillham enjoyed them immensely.  Incidentally, in tomorrow's post we will hear more about the dance recital Emily talks about below.

May 25, 1946

Dear Daddy,

You really can think up the nicest things to send us.  I do believe you have sent us everything imaginable.

I was on a dance program last night.  I did a toe dance. Monty did a tap dance to the music Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.

This really is a short letter, isn't it?

Lots of love,


April 16, 1946

Dear Daddy,

I would like to write you about the legend of the dogwood.  If you know it, that's just too bad, but if you don't here it is.

Once long ago when Jesus was living, the dogwood was big and strong and tall like the oak.  Well, when Jesus was going to be crucified, the Romans chose the dogwood to be the cross.  Well, at this the dogwood was angry to used for such a cruel purpose.  So, while Jesus was on the cross he told the dogwood that he would make him a little small knotted tree so that he would never have to be used for such a cruel purpose.  The blossom would have two long petals and two short petals to represent the cross.  The [...]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Holsenbeck kids have a reunion

Today we hear from Frances again, and she is impatiently waiting out the days before Maj. Gillham comes home.  I believe the "fat old man" she refers to belowe is actually the brass statue of Hotei, which is one of the Japanese Seven Lucky Gods that I wrote about in an earlier post.  This statue is at our home in Crosswicks, sitting at the moment on the bookcase at the bottom of the attic stairs.  Also, Camp Civitania plays a big part in the lives of the Gillham family later on.  It is now called Camp Timber Ridge, and it is located near Austell, GA.  Also, notice that Frances foresees the Holsenbeck clan getting together at a later date -- we've been getting together ever since!

Dearest Angel Darling,

Last night I dreamed that you had come home at last.  I met you at the front door.  Then we sat on the couch and kissed me again like you did once before long ago. It was such a blissful delightful dream that I have been feeling happy all the day!

Your box of clothes and the second box of swords came today.  When I took out your shoes I got all weak inside.  All the lovely presents you have sent home have been impersonal, but your shoes have the creases in them that your feet made.  They were once a part of you and they seemed very personal to me today when I opened the box.  You'd best hurry home soon, darling.  I am so anxious to see you.

We have the fat old man with the pot-bellied stomach sitting on the mantel.  Mother thinks he is horrible, but she went straight to the living room and put him in a place of honor.  On the other side of the mantel is the large brass incense burner.  Between them are two brass candle sticks and a little brass bowl.

I just love the five tea cups you sent this time.  One of them was broken, but I can fix it.  Besides the little lacquer lunch box you sent the girls, it is the only thing that has arrived broken.  The tiny vase is just darling.  That seems to be everyone's favorite.  Father likes the ornate card box.  What do they use the little lacquer box that is strung together for?

Dan came down for the week-end. Bryant, Carl and Margaret were here, too.  Elizabeth had to sleep at Miss Pearl's, but other than that, we were all bedded down comfortably and had a fine time.  We certainly missed you and Nancy.  Some day I hope we can all get together with all our children and have an opportunity to know each other.

Dan was impressed with all our brass and china.  He surely appreciated the knife and things you sent them.  He wanted to take some of the brass home with him, but I told him that I was waiting until you come before I give anything away.

Today when the girls went to dancing, the teacher had their costumes ready for them.  Friday night they are going to dance at the school in Lawrenceville for some kind of benefit.  Emily has done something like this before, but Monty is beside herself with excitement.  A brand new gold satin costume trimmed in red tartan, a chance to dance on the stage is something great in her life.  Their formal recital will be on June 19.  If you can't get home by then, the girls will be simply delighted to give you a special performance.

Not knowing what your plans were to be this summer, I just went ahead and made plans to send Emily to Camp Civitania July 1-14.  I had to register her on May 1.  Ever since she didn't get to go to camp in La Jolla she has been anxious to go.

The other day Mrs. Lovett and I took the Girl Scouts up to the top of the city hall to see the city.  They started throwing pennies and nickels down to the sidewalk and then they all ran down sixteen flights of steps to see if they could get the money before anyone else found it.  Then we went to the capitol to see the museum and the legislative rooms.  One girl decided that she had to get the autograph of one of the judges.  That set the whole crowd of them scurrying up and down stairs, in and out of offices, asking, "Are you important? I want your autograph."

Two letters that I wrote to you to Tokyo were returned.  Also, you received one from Wilson.  I will send them on to you.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Maj. Gillham buys a deck chair and sets sail

Maj. Gillham writes his last letter from Hawaii after he boards the Alcor, ready to set sail for the Panama Canal. 

Aboard U.S.S. Alcor
Pearl Harbor
23 May 46

Dearest Lovely,

Have just come aboard and expect to pull out tomorrow morning.

Have had a fine visit here and seen most of what I should, I guess.  It is a lovely place and the climate is ideal.  We had fine quarters at Ft. Shafter and they didn't cost us anything.

Yesterday we prowled around some of the shops, had lunch at Ft. De Russy Officers Club, went swimming at Waikiki and watched the surf boards and outrigger canoes.  It was all very interesting. Had dinner at a night club and saw some hula.

Today we did some more prowling and shopping, and went to the aquarium and saw many unusual fish.  Also went to a botanical garden that had full-size trees from tropical areas all over the world.  Enclosed is a leaf from the sacred tree of India.

I am sending the children some picture folders of scenes and the flowers and fishes. I also mailed a roll of color movie film. Other things I am bringing with me. The Col. and I both bought a deck chair. He is going to buy mine when we get to Boston. They were made in Maine and he is taking them back there. He is assistant to the President of Bowdoin College somewhere in Maine. He came from near Boston.

I hope I will get some more mail from you when I get to the canal. It was certainly a pleasure to get a letter from you here.

Well, here I go -- off to see my darling. It may be a long, slow trip, but each day brings me closer to the one I love. I sent you an orchid today, just because I love you.



Fort DeRussy is actually one of five such-named forts in the U.S., all named after General Rene Edward DeRussy, the oldest general to serve in the Civil War (on the Confederate side).  The fort is located adjacent to Waikiki Beach and is largely unfenced, allowing public access.

Bowdoin College is a small private, liberal arts college located in Brunswick, Maine.  It was founded in 1794 and currently has an enrollment of 1,777 students and a faculty of 213.  The president at the time of this letter (and thus the Colonel's boss) was Kenneth C.M. Sills, who served from 1918-1952.  Interestingly, the college is the alma mater of both President Franklin Pierce and the fictional surgeon Benjamin Franklin Pierce, a.k.a. Hawkeye, from the novel, movie and television show MASH.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Another letter from Hawaii

Today's letter from Maj. Gillham is unique in that he writes it on the back of some old Army laundry lists.  As he explains, he could find no other writing paper.  I have scanned one of the sheets and added it below:  you can even see his writing on the back through the paper. 

Ft. Shafter, T.H.
22 May 46

Dearest Lovely,

I can't find any writing paper at the moment, but I am not going to let that stop me from telling you that I love you.

Last night we went by Pearl Harbor and our ship was gone.  We were worried for a while but finally found her over at a dock where she had been moved.  She is being turned over to a new Captain here, and we met him when we went aboard.  She will probably not sail until the 24th, so we will have an extra day ashore.

The nicest thing on the ship last night was a letter from you.  It was was the one that was returned for more postage.  I guess that was because the address didn't have an APO or Fleet P.M. on it.  The amount of postage they required still doesn't make sense.  Anyway, it got here and I was surely glad to hear from you. I am sorry Martha had to have the measles.  I hope she will get her strength back before hot weather.  You and the children seem engaged in a lot of educational and cultural activities.  I am glad you have the opportunity.  I know I missed several of your letters when leaving Japan.  I didn't have them forwarded here because I didn't know where I was going.  I infer from your last letter that you received the binoculars and the china.  I also sent two long boxes of swords, etc., and a big wooden box of clothes and souvenirs that I mailed the day I left.  I think that is all that is en route now, except me.

It looks like I will get to Boston about 21 June.  Of course, both the port and date may be changed, but I had hoped that we could get together for a big celebration on 23 June.  I don't know what I will run into when I hit the states, whether I will be allowed to travel independently or not, nor whether I can get any delay en route Ft. McPherson or not.  But if at all possible I want us to have a grand reunion on the 23rd.  If you will stand by to received a telephone call starting on 20 June and be prepared to jump in any direction on short notice, maybe we can work it somehow.  You might be able to meet me half way somewhere like Charlottesville.  Don't be too disappointed if we can't work it, but we can try.  I was told at least 20 times that I couldn't go on the Alcor, and when we got here we were told on every hand that there was no transportation available, but we have had a sedan at our disposal nearly ever since we arrived.

Yesterday morning we spent in the Bishop Museum.  It was most interesting and a very well-arranged museum from the technical standpoint, too.  It was good that we knew what we were looking for or else we never would have found it.  In the afternoon a major who has been here about two years took us all around to points of interest.  We went up to the Kamehameha School where we got a beautiful mountain top view of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.  We went to the University of Hawaii, to Diamond Head, over the Pali (some place and some wind) and back to Schofield Barracks for dinner at the officers club.

I mailed you a roll of unexposed color movie film that I was able to get at the PX for $3.25.  I am bringing anything else I get with me.  I will try to get you the sweater and other things in Panama.

It is certainly going to be lovely to see you again, my darling.  I love you.



Here is one of the laundry lists he wrote this letter on.  Remember to right-click on it and select View Link in New Window, for a close-up look.

The Bishop Museum is now called the State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, located in Honolulu.  It was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop, a philanthropist who named the museum after his wife, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last heir of the Hawaiian royal family, which was deposed in 1872.  The museum houses the world's largest collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian artifacts.

The main entrance to the Bishop Museum today.

Charles Reed also founded the Kamehameha School that Maj. Gillham visited, which is located in the same neighborhood.  The school was set up in 1883 by his wife, Bernice, as two schools:  one for boys and one for girls, with the stipulation that they admit only those of full or partial aboriginal Hawaiian blood. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Back on American soil

Maj. Gillham is at last back on American soil, if not in the United States itself.  He arrives at Hawaii, or as he puts on his letter, "Oahu, T.H.," or Territory of Hawaii.  It would be another 13 years before Hawaii is granted statehood.

Ft. Shafter
Oahu, T.H.
20 May 46

Dearest Lovely,

Since writing to you this morning I have seen a good bit of Oahu, considering the short time I have had available.  Transportation was difficult to get, but through an officer at Ft. Shafter that Col. Wilder knew indirectly we finally got a sedan to drive ourselves.

The climate here is ideal and everything seems so stateside that it was quite thrilling.  Filling stations that were operating and neon signs were the most striking.  I had seen neither since leaving home.

We went to Schofield Barracks, a beautiful post, then through the Kole Kole Pass and saw some very rugged mountains.  I had looked at these very mountains from the ship this morning and it was most interesting to drive through them and really see what they looked like.

We had a few drinks and an excellend dinner, including a glass of milk, at the Moana Hotel.  It is a fine place near the Royal "Hiwayman," which isn't reopened yet.

We have a nice solid place to spend the night at the Ft. Shafter B.O.Q.  The fort is right on the edge of Honolulu.

Lots of love,



B.O.Q. stands for bachelor officers' quarters.

Fort Shafter was established in 1907 as an Army base, named for General William Shafter who led the U.S. expedition to Cuba in 1898. It is located just northwest of Honolulu in the southeastern part of Oahu. It is now senior Army headquarters in Hawaii and the base of the U.S. Army Pacific Command.

Aerial shot of Fort Shafter, Hawaii, as it looks today,
with the original ring of palm trees from 1907.

Scofield Barracks is the largest Army base on Hawaii, located just north of Pearl Harbor. It was damaged during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, and was used famously in 1953 as the filming location of From Here to Eternity.  It was built a year after Fort Shafter in 1908 and was named after General John Schofield, who had visited Hawaii in 1872 and recommended that the U.S. build a naval base at Pearl Harbor.

Kolekole Pass, located just east of Schofield Barracks,
between the base and the Pacific Ocean.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A letter from Addie in Memphis

Today's letter is from Addie, the woman who assists Maj. Gillham's mother at the home for the elderly in Memphis.  Frances, as you recall, had been there during the Easter holiday, and now Addie is writing to Japan.  Her address, 1207 Sledge, is directly off U.S. 51 near downtown in the Annesdale-Snowden neighborhood.  The letter has no date on it, but the postmark is May 18, 1946, so we are ordering it in the collection according to that date.  Maj. Gillham's mother, Effie Young Tucker Gillham, died that summer, on September 2, 1946, at the age of 75.

1207 Sledge
Memphis, Tenn.

Mr. Gillham,

I hope you will surely excuse this fine paper.  I'm going to write in spite of the yellow paper.  I have had very little chance lately to get letter paper.  So, I am going to write just the same.

Well, yest. Sun. was a lovely mothers day.  Also, it was very cool throughout the day.  We had visitors until late Sun. night.  Wish you could have been among the bunch.

Mr. Gillham, your wife and lovely children came to see us some time ago.  You have a grand family.  Frances gave me both yours and her address, but they were misplaced.  I'm so sorry, for I promised to write her at once after she went away.  Won't you forward me her address to me soon?

Your sweet mother is as usual.  I have just finished her bath now and left her laughing.  She said I had been drinking.  She is a mess.  I love her very dearly.

Well, it won't be so very long now til you'll be coming our way, will it?  Try and bring your family, if possible.

I am sorry I had not written sooner, but I could not from losing the address.

Hoping you'll be heading our way soon.

Best wishes to you and family,

Your dear Mother and Addie

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Maj. Gillham finishes the first leg of his trip

Today we read the second part of Maj. Gillham's "serial letter," which he had to break off and mail after the first part reached twelve pages.  In fact, he labeled this letter No. 2 to confirm this fact. 

No. 2

U.S.S. Alcor
16 May 46

Dearest Darling,

I am starting my second serial letter to you aboard the Alcor.  The other one got to where it was about all that one envelope would hold.

Yesterday morning we crossed the 180th meridian and had Wednesday 15 May all over again.  We are less than 900 miles from Hawaii now and should get there Monday morning.  We have passed Midway, but it was too far away to see it. I am again impressed with the beautiful blue of the ocean in this area.  It is a shade that is hard to believe.

I am taking about 20 minutes of sun per day now and am beginning to get a tan.

Only Col. Wilder is going on around through the Canal with me.  The others are planning to get off at Pearl and get another ride to the west coast.  He and I are going to try to see all of Oahu that we can in the two or three days we will have there.  I will mail these letters there and also will try to get one off just before I leave telling you of my visit.  Wish my friend Chun were there, but I think he is still in Korea.

17 May --

The distances in this Pacific Ocean are appalling.  We passed Midway a couple of days ago and it will still be about three more days before we get to Pearl.  After ten days at sea there is really not much to write about in the way of news.

Things have settled down to a daily routine that has little variation.  There is plenty of time to read and think and rest.

It is hard for me to picture just what I will do or what things will be like when I get home and return to civilian life.  I have lived in an artificial world too long.  You, my darling, are a fixed and guiding star -- and the children are real to me.  Other than that everything is nebulous.  After I get out I will talk to the telephone company and see what they will offer.  If I don't like their proposition I will be able to speculate for two or three months before I have to do something.  Naturally I am as anxious as you to settle down and have a home somewhere -- for our own sakes and for the children.  I think they should be allowed to stay put for a while now.  However, I don't want my desires to overrule my better judgment and cause me to do something rash.  A few months or readjustment shifting is not a lifetime.  Whatever the outcome I am sure we will make out fine.

18 May --

A Frigate Bird flew across our course today and kept right on going, heading for French Frigate Shoals to the north.  He was a tremendous big thing.

They say that the temperature of the sea water is now 78 degrees F.  No wonder it is warm.  They could use some of that water at Carmel, couldn't they?  I will have to see about getting the currents changed.

We are due in Pearl Harbor day after tomorrow morning.  The Capt. thinks he may be relieved there. He has been at sea for 56 months during the war.

I have found "Yankee from Olympus" and am finishing it. Something interrupted me when I was reading it several years ago.

19 May --

We got our first land fall this morning.  It is quite a thrill to sail over 3000 miles across trackless ocean and then find a big rock sticking up out of the water right where it is supposed to be.  We are running south of the islands and will be at Oahu early tomorrow morning.  In fact, we are only making about 8 knots now so we won't arrive too early.

We have fared very well on this leg of the trip.  Good weather and good food.  Tonight we had soup, celery, ripe olives, fried chicken, English peas, mashed potatoes, bread and butter, coffee and apple pie a la mode.  That is at the end of a long voyage from a foreign port.  It is a far cry from salt meat and hard tack.

I will close this now and mail it aboard.  I will write again before I leave Hawaii.  Gee! I wish you were with me.  I will long for you at every beautiful or interesting thing I see.

Lots and lots of love to the sweetest wife in the world.



The International Date Line is the imaginary line running roughly the length of the 180th meridian that demarcates the change of day on the globe.  The concept was created at the 1887 Internation Meridien Conference, which established the zero, or prime, meridien at Greenwich, England.  There have been various changes and deviations from the 180th meridien over the years, to avoid traversing land masses and splitting island groups.  Going eastward, the traveler subtracts 24 hours when he crosses the IDL.  Conversely, going west he adds 24 hours.  The island of Midway, which Maj. Gillham mentions, is just east of the IDL.

The book Yankee from Olympus:  Justice Holmes and his Family is a biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the long-time Supreme Court justice.  It was written by Catherine Drinker Bowen and was published in 1944.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Frances receives word of Maj. Gillham's departure

Today Frances finally gets word of her husband's long-awaited departure from Japan.  Her spirits have lifted and now their reunion is in sight.  I thoroughly believe her when she writes, "I feel wonderful."  After a few requests for purchases in the Canal Zone, the letter reverts to the chatty updates we are used to, but there is a definite lift in the overall tone.   

May 15, 1946
Angel, My Own Love,

I was delighted to get your letter mailed May 7 saying that you were on your way home!  No sweeter words could reach my eyes.

I had not written to you for several days because you said you would be leaving by the 10th anyway.

With no sight of you and no letters to write to you I felt that I was all alone!  Now I can write to you again and I know you are definitely on your way.  I feel wonderful.

I think it is fine that you are getting a long sea voyage on a nice ship, and that you are stopping in Honolulu and Balboa.  You always could manage to do interesting things.  The trip will probably rest you and help your arthritis, too.  I surely hope so.

Now -- there is a hitch in your coming through Balboa though!  There is a commissary there that handles British and French goods tax free -- as Mexico does.  I would like a new sweater size 34.  I bought a lovely yellow one in Mexico several years ago.  This spring I rubbed holes in it under the arms from wearing it.  Yellow, green, blue or pink will be most acceptable.  Also, you might get us both some nice woolen socks.  Mine are size 10 or 9-1/2.  And too, some Lanvin French perfune is extra fine.  They handle Spode and Wedgewood English china.  However, I don't need china. I have a very lovely 93 piece set of Noritake that my own true love sent me.

While you are in Honolulu I hope you can go to the Pali and on a tour of Oahu.

Here I am filling this letter with things for you to do.  I'll stop now and write of the children.  Martha is up again and over with the measles.  She is still weak as she frets and tires easily.  I am glad to say she hasn't had a relapse of any kind so far.

Sunday I took Emily with me to hear the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.  We took your binculars and enjoyed seeing the orchestra as well as listening!!

The two girls are going to be in a dance recital June 19 at Druid Hills High School.  The teacher is making all the costumes and they are lovely.

Emily will be in two numbers.  One in the tap dancing class with Monty and the other in the advanced toe dancing class.  Each little girl has a boy to hold her while she pirouettes around.

At school the children in Emily's room are at the newspaper writing age.  I remember going through it and having more fun.

Emily wrote the marriages, want ads, funeral notices, etc., last night.  In the funeral notices she had that one of the girls in the class had died of curiosity.

Yesterday when Emily and I came home from scout meeting we found Monty sitting on the front steps watching two buckets fill up with rain water.  She put what she caught in a bottle and took it to school today.

Monday night Elizabeth, I and two other girls went to Glen Memorial Church to hear the Emory Glee Club give a recital.  It was free. Dr. Smart was there, our friend who came to Chicago to preach one Sunday.

Pierre van Paasen is speaking tonight at the Erlanger.  Mother wants to hear him.

I know you decided that coming home to the states was preferable in our case to our going out to be with you.  I am satisfied with your decision and I am pleased as punch that I will see you soon, my darling.

Do you notice Martha's scribblings on the paper?  She is especially cross and fretful just now.  I will close this letter now, but I will be thinking about you constantly.

Wish I could fly to Honolulu and occupy the other bunk in your cabin for the rest of the trip back. Wouldn't it be lovely!

All my love,


Friday, January 13, 2012

Another letter from Mother Cile

Today we hear from Mother Cile one last time.  She sent the letter five days after Maj. Gillham left, but before word had reached Atlanta of his departure.  This letter was, alas, returned to 992 Washita, and Frances most likely included it in a packet of returned letters that she sent along to Maj. Gillham aboard the Alcor.  The clipping that Mother Cile enclosed is posted after the letter below.  Also please note her use of the name Marshall:  the first time she uses it, she is referring to Pop (Daniel Marshall Holsenbeck, Jr.), and the second time she means her nephew, Grace's son Daniel Marshall Brandon.

Atlanta, Ga.
May 13, 1946

Dearest Bill,

You were wonderful to remember me so beautifully -- and so many times -- the luncheon cloth is exquisite and the silk hoses are my pride possessions.  Many, many thanks.

We are anxiously expecting your return.  I am afraid you won't receive this letter, but nevertheless I want you to know how much I appreciate your thoughtfulness to me, and also to Mother Ki, Frances and the girls.  So many things happening all the time, that it has been hard to settle down and write letters lately.  Mother Ki was thrilled with her tea set and we use it every day, and everyone is so interested in it.

The china you sent Frances arrive in wonderful shape and it is exquisite.

You have an interesting family, and we have been enjoying them very much.

Yesterday Frances and I went to hear Bishop Moore at Glenn Memorial, who has just returned from Korea and Japan.  He was sent over by the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, the Methodist Commission on Chaplains, and the Methodist Committee on Overseas Relief.  Enclosed is a clipping.  He only made these few remarks and preached a sermon, "On Mothers," and said at a future time he would tell about his trip in detail.

Tonight Frances and Liba have gone to Glenn Memorial to hear the glee club of Emory University.

We are having a lot of fun together.

Carl and Bryant have gone to Florida for a few days to see Carl's brother and will stop by Palmetto and spend the night with Grace, Marshall's sister.

We were so glad you saw Marshall.  When does he expect to get out?

Lots of love,

Mother Cile


Remember, the best way to see these photo attachments is to right click on them and select Open Link in New Window.  Once the new window opens, you can click on the image and it will appear at full resolution. 


Thursday, January 12, 2012

A birthday letter for Emily from aboard ship

A short letter today from Maj. Gillham, this time to his eldest daughter, Emily, whose birthday is on May 30.  This was her 11th birthday, which her father would ultimately miss by almost two months.  We will have to ask Emily if they ever did "step out" when he returned to Atlanta.

U.S.S. Alcor
12 May 46

Dear Emily,

Mother will read you from her letters all about the fine sea voyage I am having.  The object of this letter is to wish you a very happy birthday.  I was hoping that maybe I would get home in time for your birthday, but now it looks like I will be a little late.  I am bringing you a birthday present with me.

The main thing that I want to say is that I am very proud of you.  You have been a joy and a pleasure to both me and your mother ever since you were born.  You are growing up to be a sweet and lovely girl. I am very anxious to hurry home and see you again while you are still a little girl.  That won't last much longer -- a few more birthdays and you will be a young lady.  My!  You have a lot ahead of you, but I am sure you will be capable of coping with it.

I hope the future holds much happiness for you.  You have a daddy that loves you very much.

Don't forget, we have a date to step out together when I get home.

Lots of love,


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Maj. Gillham writes a "serial letter" aboard ship

Today we read Maj. Gillham's self-styled "serial letter" which he writes during the first leg of his journey aboard the USS Alcor.  It's an informative diary of his daily shipboard life, as well as an insight into the man himself.  In my travels with my grandfather, whenever we came across anything to do with transportation, engines or machinery of any kind, he would stop and explore how it worked, or ask someone about it, or, more often than not, explain it to me.  He seems to have taken this same approach to the ship, and has wasted no time in becoming friends with the captain.

U.S.S. Alcor
9 May 46

Dearest Darling,

This is our second day at sea and I thought I would start a serial letter to you which I can mail at Pearl.

We got underway yesterday promptly at 0900, came out of Tokyo Bay and have been heading due east ever since.  This ship is not very fast (12 knots), but it is comfortable and not crowded. We have the run of the ship, including the bridge.  The captain went to Ga. Tech for 1-1/2 years before entering the Naval Academy.  He has been explaining all his radar and navigation instruments to me today. We have a movie in the wardroom every night.  The meals are fine and served in style.  I have a two-man cabin by myself.  It is located amid-ships and therefore rides easier, I think.  This ship was built in 1927 as the S.S. Dixie running from New York to New Orleans as a passenger vessel.  It still retains many of its passenger vessel days' features, such as tiled baths, a fine promenade deck, etc.  There are three other army officers aboard and several navy officers as passengers.

I took some of those sea sick pills that I brought from Monterey and have had no trouble, although several of the crew have been sick.

We have a merchant ship, the Cape Bon, following us because her radio is broken.

So far I am sleeping about 12 to 14 hrs. per day and eating like a horse.  I have an extra bunk here in my room.  It is a shame the you can't be here, to share the cabin with me.  Even with only one bunk it would be O.K.

10 May --

This ship is not going fast enough to suit me.  I am very anxious to be with you again, my darling.  From what I know so far, we are due to arrive at Hawaii on the 20th and will leave there on the 23rd.  It then will take about 19 days to reach the canal.  So far my main occupation has been eating and sleeping.  I have an enormous appetite and am sleepy all the time.  Since they have good food and I can sleep whenever I want to, I am doing a good job at both. I have read a couple of detective stories so far.  I will probably get down to something a little more serious shortly, but right now I am enjoying not doing anything serious.  There is a nice library on the ship and I intend to look into it soon.

About eight laps around the deck is a mile.  I try to get in a brisk walk once or twice a day to keep my blood circulating.

The Cape Bon is still with us and it is comforting to be able to look out and see another ship close by in all this vast expanse of water.

We have a movie in the wardroom every night.  It helps to pass away the time.

The weather is still partly overcast and chilly, but we expect to run into some that is better soon.  Before long we will bear to the southward and it should be warmer every day.

11 May --

This morning we sighted a mine and came about to try to get rid of it.  We shot at it with rifles from the bridge for some time.  I think I hit it once or twice myself, but that didn't do any good.  They also shot at it with 20mm guns but couldn't hit it.  Finally they had to use a 3in. gun.  It sank without exploding.  I didn't expect to fire a rifle again while I was in the army.  It was an interesting variation to the day's routine.

Now that I have a little more free time, I find that I spend most of it in thinking about you, my darling.  I dream about you when I am asleep, and when I am awake I think back over various events and intimacies in our life together.  Then I try to imagine our actions when we get together again.  It is a very pleasant way to pass the time.  Somehow, I have no fear this time of upsetting that very delicate balance of perfect accord.  I believe we will hit it right off from the start.  I love you too much for it to be otherwise.

Have just come from seeing the picture "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes."  It was an excellent piece of child acting -- made me very homesick for my own sweet girls.  It is probably old, but if it comes back I wish you could all see it.

12 May -- Sunday

Went to church this morning -- did a lot of sleeping, and finished a detective story.  I am getting pretty expert at killing time, and I will need to be if I see this voyage through.  We changed courses at noon today and now are heading somewhat southeast.  This was done to avoid a storm and also to get out of the overcast area.  The captain likes sunshine.  This Pacific is certainly a huge place. Yesterday we got an SOS from a vessel about 800 miles to the north of us.  She was in trouble in a storm.  There were two other ships in the vicinity so we didn't go.  Today we hear there is a typhoon about 1500 miles southwest of us, but we don't think it will bother us.

There are a couple of automatic record players available and a fine album of records.  Also, short wave radio with which we can get San Francisco programs and other places.

13 May --

Have had a busy day today.  Passed our first ship, sighted several whales, took a sunbath, and learned how to operate a sextant.  The captain is turning out to be a swell fellow and is teaching me much interesting sea lore.  For instance, today I learned all the different types of clouds and what they mean.  We had them all today.  It has been a fine day and smooth sailing.  I think he is glad to have someone to talk to, and while he is in the mood I am going to learn all I can.  When I first saw him when I came aboard in Yokosuka, he was bawling out the officer of the deck for not having his gig alongside at the time he had specified.  I thought he was going to be a pill, but he has turned out quite the contrary.

I have your pictures on my desk and they are a lot of company.  I wish you could walk out of it into my arms like the girl did in the picture that introduced the song "If I Should Grow Too Old To Dream" about 15 years ago.  Do you remember?

By the time you get this it will be getting to be warm weather.  This will be Martha's second summer. Do be careful with her food and don't let anything happen to her.  You know Dad's little brother died in his second summer.  There is no necessity for such with modern sanitation and refrigeration, but it will pay to be cautious at this period.  You know they loose much of their babyhood immunities at this age.  I know you are a very careful mother, but I was looking at Martha's picture and had to get it off my chest.

14 May --

We are getting into tropical waters now.  The weather is much warmer -- I have changed to cottons and they feel good.  Since I have my foot locker and duffel bag right in the cabin with me, all my gear is available.  I am disgusted that in my hasty packing, I apparently threw my swimming trunks and a pair of shorts in that box that I sent home by mail.  This is the first time I have had an occasion to use them since I brought them over here.  I took another short sunbath today and later went up and passed a medicine ball with the Capt., Exec., Col. Wilder and a couple of younger officers.  It was a good work-out and I got up a good sweat.

It has been a calm, beautiful day all day.  The sunset was beautiful and the Cape Bon silhouetted against the sky in the fading twilight was quite a sight.

I am a little red from my sunbathing but haven't hurt myself yet. I am reading a book on the derivation of nautical terms, which is most interesting.

This letter has now stretched out to a dozen pages, so I expect I had better close it and start another tomorrow.  We will probably cross the date line in the next day or two.  We will have to live through the same day twice this time. That seems like wasting time, doesn't it?

Japan was interesting, and I am glad I had a tour there, but as I get farther away, the U.S. looks better and better to me.  You always looked good to me, but as I get closer to you I get more and more anxious to see you.  Time and miles will pass and we will be together again before long, my darling.




The movie Our Vines Have Tender Grapes was released in 1945 and was, as Maj. Gillham correctly guessed, old by the time he saw it.  It starred the unlikely couple of Edward G. Robinson and Agnes Moorehead as Norwegian immigrants to the U.S., and their daughter, played by Margaret O'Brien (who was Judy Garland's kid sister in Meet Me in St. Louis).  It was based on the novel of the same name by George Victor Martin.

The song that Maj. Gillham referred to is actually titled When I Grow too Old to Dream, written in 1934 by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II.  There were two films that featured the song, both from 1935 -- The Night is Young and My Old Mare.  Below is a version by Vera Lynn (who sang We'll Meet Again at the end of the film Dr. Strangelove).


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Maj. Gillham boards a Navy ship bound for home

Finally, the day has arrived, albeit rather unexpectedly.  Maj. Gillham is now on his way home, and while his first attempt to sail home fizzled (as we read earlier), it took some doing to make his second attempt a success.

Aboard U.S.S. Alcor
7 May 1946

Dearest Lovely,

I have had a terrible time for the last two days sweating out this passage, but "all's well that ends well."  I am aboard the U.S.S. Alcor, a navy destroyer tender.  It is a big ship (450 ft. long -- about 13,000 tons) and a very comfortable one.  It has been in these waters for about 18 months and is starting home tomorrow at 0900.  We will stop a couple of days at Pearl Harbor and also at Balboa, C.Z. You may write me at both places:

U.S.S. Alcor
c/o Port Director
Pearl Harbor, T.H.
Balboa, C.Z.

After that we will put into some port on the east coast of the U.S.  They don't know yet for certain.  It may be anywhere from Boston to Charleston.

There are three other army officers aboard.  A Lt. Col. Wilder seems to be a very nice person -- he has the Commodore's Suite.  I have a double room previously used by two Lt. Cmdrs.  It is somewhat like Dan's room on the Canberra, except it is longer with the two bunks end to end and has two large windows opening on the promenade deck.

The Navy was swell to me all the way through, but the Army caused all the trouble they could and did everything possible to prevent my going this way.  It was only by sheer persistence and some luck that I made it.  It should be an interesting trip and will be far more comfortable and pleasant than being crowded up in a victory ship troop transport.  The captain and others of the ship's officers have been most hospitable.

This ship is a large floating machine shop, capable of making most any major repairs on destroyers.  They say it is very seaworthy and steady -- only rolled 8 degrees in the typhoon last fall.

I imagine the trip will take 5 or 6 weeks, getting me home about the middle of June.  That is as close as we can plan anyhow.  That won't be much of a delay and I think the trip and rest will be worth it.

I will write you from Pearl Harbor and from Panama.

It is a long, long way to go, but to be moving in your direction, my little darling, makes life take on a new meaning for me.  I shall dream of you throughout the entire voyage.

I ran into Frisby in the navy hdqtrs. yesterday.  He is planning to stay on as a civilian and bring his family out.  So is Wrightson, and I think Bull is, too.

I love you, my darling, I love you.



The USS Alcor was originally built in 1928 as the S.S. Dixie, a commercial passenger ship, and was later acquired by the U.S. Navy in 1941 and fitted to be a destroyer tender.  Alcor is the name of a star in the constellation Ursa Major.  The only ship in her class, the Alcor was designed to repair and equip destroyers damaged in battle.  Originally, the ship carried out its repair duties for 30 months in the docks at Norfolk, VA, but by July, 1944, she had sailed to the Philippines to help in repairing the Pacific Fleet.  After Japan surrendered, she spent several months in Okinawa before sailing for Yokosuka, a port on Tokyo Bay opposite Yokohama.  It was here that Maj. Gillham boarded the ship on May 8, bound for Norfolk, VA via Hawaii and the Panama Canal.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Maj. Gillham tries to find Frances' cousin

The first paragraph in today's letter reads like the outline of a bad service comedy.  You can almost imagine Danny Kaye playing the part of Maj. Gillham.  He is searching for Daniel Marshall Brandon, the youngest son of Aunt Grace, Pop's sister.  Elizabeth Brandon ("Libba") is his sister. 

5 May 46

Dearest Darling,

Yesterday I got a letter from Elizabeth Brandon thanking me for the scarf I had included for her. I wanted to see Marshall again before I left, so I started out to find him. His company had been transferred to another building. When I found it he had been transferred to another company. There they said he was working at the P.X. -- at the P.X. I found that he was in another section. I finally found him at the gift P.X. I had a sedan and he had the afternoon off, so we drove around Tokyo for several hours. I am glad I got to know him better before I left.

The day before, I went to Lt. Col. Lookers funeral. He was at Ft. Custer, Charlottesville and CASA with me. He drank too much and it got him. A service was held in the beautiful St. Luke's Hospital chapel and he was buried at Yokohama. We have a U.S. National Cemetery there. It was the first military funeral I had ever attended with the firing of volleys and taps. Haviland and Franklin were there and sent you their regards.

I am out of ink and don't have a bottle here, but I am going ahead and writing with a pencil.

Today I got a letter from Nancy thanking me for the package I had sent to her and Dan.

I drove up in the mountains today and saw some beautiful scenery and hazardous roads. I enjoyed both. We finally came to a place where the road had slid completely away. The road was about 8 ft. wide with a precipice of several hundred feet on one side. It was impossible to turn around, so I had to back the car down the mountain about a mile while the others walked back. Today is Boys Day in Japan. One village we went through was having quite a colorful festival.

I will find out tomorrow if I can go out on the navy ship. I hope I can, as it will probably be more interesting as well as more comfortable.

I am going to a wedding tomorrow. Cmdr. Stevens, who was at Chicago with me, is marrying a WAC at St. Luke's chapel.

Every day now brings me a little closer to you, my darling. It is certainly fine to have you to look forward to.

I love you with all my heart.



St. Luke's Hospital was founded by an Anglican missionary in Tokyo in 1902 and is credited as being Japan's first modern hospital.  A much larger facility was built in 1920, but the building and the adjoining nursing school were destroyed in the earthquake of 1923.  The U.S. government helped underwrite a replacement, which was built in 1933, and this is the building that Maj. Gillham writes about above.  During the Occupation, the Allies used the hospital building as part of their general headqarters.

Aerial view of St. Luke's Hospital, as it appeared
when Maj. Gillham was in Tokyo


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Two letters in one envelope from Frances

I found the following two letters in the same envenlope, but only the first one had a date on it.  The envelope was postmarked May 3, as well, but there's no telling when (or if) the second letter was sent.  However, the subject matter and timeline seem to fit in with the first letter, at any rate.  The china has arrived, and it is still in the Gillham family, distributed among the three daughters.

May 3, 1946

Dearest Darling,

My trip to Memphis pulled me out of my nadir and I have been feeling much better ever since. The prospects of your early return are encouraging, too.

I received your letter written April 25, where you were waiting for a train to return to Tokyo.

I'm glad you've seen Jack Wrightson again. What is he planning to do? If he goes home would he go to Maryland or Puerto Rico?

I had a letter from Yuyo and she said that her sister had died recently from a kidney operation in Philadelphia.  I had an Easter card from Mary Elizabeth.  She told me not to be so stuck up about my phone call from you because George called her Easter. I bet you told him how to work it.  You are so clever and smart!

Elizabeth and I have had a run-in and are now settled back as good friends again.  The whole household was upset over the affair.  It was something while it lasted but now that it is all over I never wait to remember it again.  It will be a long time before I want to talk about it, too.

By the time you arrive, all the squabbles should be over and we all can live in peace and harmony.  I hope we won't have to have one to settle down.  I'm getting too old to take them. They wear me out!

Martha plays in the yard with the big girls all the time.  She knows her way around the neighborhood very well.  So, twice lately she has opened the screen door and gone down the steps and across the street all by herself.

The binoculars you sent are fine. I like to look through them.

All my love,


Dearest Love,

The china arrived yesterday and we are all thrilled to pieces.  Fortunately we are thrilled over 93 whole pieces of beautiful china.  I have only unpacked the first one of each box until you come and we know what we will do.  There is no place to put it here and then we'd have to repack it ourselves.

I think your "pig in a poke" was a great success.  You know where to poke the pig properly, I guess.

Your letter about Hiroshima will be published in the June or July edition of the Sou. Tel. News.

Martha caught Margaret's measles and has a terrible case.  It is the kind that is hard on the eyes and has so many after effects.  However, it should be over by the end of next week.

The coal strike is getting to be terrible.  The railroads are even cutting down on their schedules.  Maybe you'll have to fly from the west coast to here unless things improve.  However, soldiers are still given preference and they'd better give you 1st priority to come home soon to me!

I received your letter today written from Fukaoka.  I am glad you've had such an interesting, pleasant time there.  You are one person who can get the most out of an opportunity.  I am so proud of you, darling.

The girls and I are in the front bedroom now and Elizabeth is in the back one.  Bryant, Carl and Margaret have gone.

Dan is coming down this weekend, and Bryant is coming thru next weekend.

We have an invitation to visit in New River again when you return.

I hope every day is a day closer to the one I shall see you again, darling.

As Monty said yesterday, Daddy has sent us everything except himself and he should send that soon!

I received your seventy-five dollar money order and deposited it.  Thank you kindly, darling.  I have a safety deposit box thanks to my friend Joe, otherwise known as Lucile Taylor.

All my love,


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Maj. Gillham misses an early boat home

Today we hear the unfortunate story of Maj. Gillham's missed chance to get home sooner, as everything seems to conspire against him.  We've all had experiences like this, where out of the blue an opportunity comes by that you ultimately miss, making you wish you'd just stayed pat the whole time.  As you may remember from earlier letters, the "Reple Deple" is the slang term for the Replacement Depot, which processes arriving and departing soldiers and is located about 30 miles southwest of Tokyo.  And again we see the term "valapac" -- does anyone know exactly what this is?  Google seems to fail me on this one.  It appears it might be a portmanteau of valet and pack, referring to, well, a portmanteau (in the original sense).

2 May 46

Dearest Lovely Dovely,

Well, I missed the boat -- this time literally. I was told that there wasn't a chance for me to leave before the 10th or 11th of May, but yesterday afternoon I got a call from the 4th Reple Deple telling me to report by 10 PM last night and they could get me on a ship leaving today. I had packed nothing and my room was filled with a six-month accumulation. I dashed around and thew things together or gave them away and got a car and got out there right at 10 PM. Then they told me the sad story that the original male officer compliment on the ship had been 97, but it had just been reduced to 90 because of some blooming women that had to be shipped. I spent the night at the 4th R.P. and worked my way up to 1st alternate before the booking was closed, but I didn't make it. I returned to Tokyo about noon today, and couldn't get my old room back, but after much talking I did get another room in the Dai Ichi. I left my foot locker and duffel bag at the 4th R.P. so I am now living out of my valapac. My room seems very bare indeed. I have now settled down to wait 10 days for a boat.

Yesterday before I left I got your card from Anniston, Ala., saying you had been to Memphis and were writing in detail. I hated to go off and miss that letter, so I had it to look forward to when I returned. I was here today and I enjoyed reading it very much. It was nice of you to go and I appreciate the complete and full report you gave me on everything. I am proud that I have such a smart wife.

It seems that everybody is back and out of the army but me. I think the firm Geo. works for is Caradine-Rorsh. I sold them their first telephone system when the firm was organized. I got to know Mr. Caradine very well.

I am sorry my flowers took so long to get there. I sent my cable on 1 Apr and it seems it should have been enough time. Anyway, I am glad they got there for Easter.

I am glad the box arrived and that everyone was pleased. I sent a big wooden box yesterday containing my overflow. It has a lot of clothing and "stuff" in it -- also several nice souvenir items. I have also sent two long, narrow wooden boxes with swords and a few presents, and a small box containing a pair of binoculars. I hope they all get through O.K. So far, it seems that everything has eventually gotten there. My foot locker is nearly full of stuff I have collected, but I don't know what is for who. I will have to get you to help me decide. I hope I can get something suitable for Addie from it. When I returned today I was able to get another 10-yard piece of silk. This is light green with a small white figure. If I collect much stuff during this ten days, I will mail another package before I depart.

I am scheduled to go to Ft. McPherson from here. If I require any extensive hospitalization, I don't know where they will send me, but I imagine it will be nearby.

I don't have much to do here now. I go by the office every day and consult with them for a while and give them a little advice, but I don't have any responsibility. It is getting warm and rainy here now -- rather sticky. I am just as glad I won't be here this summer.

It is indeed a pleasure to be planning to "fly to the arms of my darling." I will try to send a cable when I leave and will call you as soon as I hit the states.

I love you with all my heart.


P.S. Enclosed find $75 money order. WTG

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Goings-on at 992 Washita

Another chatty, newsy letter from Frances, with a sense of urgency in the air now that Maj. Gillham is definitely on his way home.  She mentions Flip-Flop, the family's black cocker spaniel, who, unfortunately, has taken to behaving badly.  He was Maj. Gillham's (and Monty's) prize pet and lived until the early 1950s.

May 1, 1946

Dearest Darling,

Since you wrote that there is a good possibility that you may be home within a month, the days have crept along at a snail's pace for me.  I've tried not to think about your return too much until I hear something definite from you, but my heart seems to rule my mind.  I have missed you every day since you left, but lately, the missing has been greater.  I think that it won't be long before I see you and then each day passes so slowly that it seems like a year.

Did you enjoy your trip with Wilson to inspect the power plant?  How is your arthritis?  What does the doctor say about getting you over here for hospitalization?

Last night Carl, Bryant and I went to see Mr. and Mrs. K.W. Bryant wanted Carl to meet him.  Carl liked him very much.  I spent the evening talking to Mrs. Weisinger, as she is quite deaf and doesn't enter into a general conversation.

Mr. K.W. asked me if I could do some volunteer work a Fernbank this summer and I told him that I could if I could take the children out there with me. He highly approved of that!

I think Martha is cutting a new tooth this week.  Gee, I hope she finishes cutting the majority of them before you get here.  She has such a hard time getting them through.

This morning she has been having a lovely time playing with the little black dog you sent with the binoculars.  She is now inspecting a little magazine with as much dexterity as Margaret.  Yesterday she went with us to dancing.  You should have seen her trying to dance.

Flip-Flop has become the terror of the neighborhood.  He growls at the casual passer-by, barks and snaps at the milkman, postman and the paper boy.  They are all scared of him.  We are getting a terrible reputation around here.

Two more bonds have arrived, January's and February's.  Before long, we will catch up and be even and they will come on time.

All my love to the dearest sweetheart in the world.



Frances writes today's letter on stationery she got from the Hotel Richmond in Augusta, which was one of four in the Barringer hotel chain.  The chain was run by Charles Barringer, who named the flagship hotel in Charlotte after his father, William R. Barringer, a hotelier himself.