In 1944, the 306th Bomb Group was stationed in Thurleigh, England. Lieutenant Robert A. Stalker was a bombardier in the 369th Squadron. He met an English girl named Muriel Paul, who lived in nearby Bedford. The attraction was immediate and mutual. Robert and Muriel saw each other whenever they could. Five weeks after they met, in October, Robert’s plane was shot down over Cologne, Germany. Muriel obtained the address for Robert’s mother in East Orange, New Jersey; through an exchange of letters for the next several years, a bond formed between two women separated by an ocean but connected by their love for one airman.
Letters from Lt. Robert A. Stalker to Muriel Paul
Thursday, 21 September 1944
Here’s that note I half-promised to write to you. Since I haven’t seen you all week, I thought I’d better confirm our date for Saturday night – barring any unforeseen events, I’ll see you about 7:30. O.K.??
As you can guess by this stationery, I’m at the Red Cross Club in Bedford. My pilot and I just returned from London. You see, the start of our pass was moved up a day at the last moment, so I had off yesterday & today, instead of Tuesday & Wednesday.
I was going to come out and see you tonight, but decided against it because it is pretty late now (8:35, to be exact) and you wouldn’t be expecting me anyway. Instead I think I’ll write a letter or two home, get the early truck back to the base, and “hit the sack”. Naturally I’m pretty tired after two days in the “big city”. I had a good time on my pass, and will give you all the “jen” when I see you (did I use that expression correctly)?
I’m looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. Till then, I’ll just say
Friday, 29 September 1944
I know you are expecting this letter on account of the fact that I didn’t keep our date last night. Yes, I did fly a mission yesterday, but that’s not the half of it! It was the fourth consecutive day that I had to fly (three combat missions and a practice one on Tuesday). A single mission makes a fellow pretty tired, so you can imagine what a “beat up” state I was in last night. We landed late in the afternoon, so by the time I took a shower it was 7 o-clock, at which time I hit the “sack” for a delightful twelve hours of sleep.
Our field didn’t put up a mission at all today, otherwise I would probably be up in the “wild blue” again this morning. You see, the replacements are not coming in on schedule lately, so everyone is getting more than his share of flying, especially the new crews.
I’m awfully sorry I couldn’t make it last night, not only because it probably inconvenienced you, but because I was looking forward to seeing you, as I always do on all our dates.
Before I forget, I received your letter on Tuesday. I was a little surprised but more that pleased to get it. It got here real quick, considering it was postmarked on Monday PM.
Now, about our next date. I was considering coming in tonight, but think I really should go to bed early again, because I feel sure that only bad weather can save me from a mission tomorrow. I hesitate to set a definite night, because of what happened last night, but I will say that I’ll be in at my first opportunity next week. I’ll try to make it early so you’ll have plenty of time to get ready. Roger?? I hope you have a nice time at home this weekend, Muriel.
Post Office Telegram from Mary to Muriel
2 Oct. 1944
Received letter. Robert coming one night.
Auntie Ella to Muriel
2 Nov. 1944
We are all so sorry to hear you have been so poorly, & when I saw a letter from you I thought perhaps it was to suggest a visit to us. It is a pity it wasn’t, might have done you good. I am awfully glad you are in such nice diggings & that Mrs. Williams is so good to you, cheer up now & keep well for winter. How sad it is that the American friend you made has lost his life. Poor laddies why should they give their dear lives for such a cause? I am sure his mother would love a letter from a nice girl who knew him & helped to make his life happy while in E–. Dorothy’s address is 146 East 39th Street New York – 16 – N.Y. U.S.A. I am sure she would do all she could to trace the parents but it may be difficult. We have good news from Chum* he is somewhere near Brussells [sic] & is very thankful to be housed again after so many months under canvas. He is disappointed that there isn’t any chance of home leave. He was rather hoping & expecting it. I have just had a letter from A. Beryl she & (?) Dick are spending three weeks holiday in Vancouver. She says how lovely it is there. They would like to live there but you wouldn’t get a house for love or money. “Yes” I am still at the same case. The old Captain is really much better. We all join in much love.
Ever your loving Auntie Ella
*Orphan raised by one of Muriel’s aunts
Letter from Mrs. Josephine E. Stalker to Muriel Paul
Monday, Apr. 9, 1945
Your very lovely letter reached me safely and I’m so happy that you did write and not take the advice of the officers who told you not to. I rather expected to hear from you because you see Bob told me about you also and that he couldn’t see you on his last leave as you were sick with a cold. He wrote that in a letter I received the day after the telegram telling us he was missing.
If only I had some good news to tell you about Bob. It will be six months next Sunday and that is such a long time that we have very little hope left.
Perhaps you have heard from Lt. Carle that six of the crew have been reported prisoners. The pilot and the five enlisted men. Joe Seibert, Bob and a boy named Duncan, the co-pilot who took Frank Carle’s place that day are still missing. Do you think Lt. Carle heard from any of the boys while he was still in England? I was in touch with his family about seven weeks ago and they were expecting him home soon. I asked them to have him phone me when he reached home but haven’t heard from him to date. His home is about sixty miles from here.
So Bob told you all about us, about the silly notions his kid brother gets. They are so different, these two, Bob so sensible and serious and Don just the opposite. He was eighteen in March and enlisted in the Navy. I hope it was the wise thing to do. The boys reaching eighteen now have no choice, all the long training programs are closed and if they wait to be drafted they are put right in the infantry and we didn’t want that. He hasn’t been called yet and we are hoping he won’t be for some weeks until he graduates from high school.
Do you think Bob ever felt that he may never come home? Did he ever talk it over with you? If he did feel that way he never let us know, his letters were so cheerful, so full of courage, he didn’t want us to worry. But we did, every time we’d hear the radio “hundreds of bombers over Germany” and “50 of our planes failed to return” we’d be almost frantic but we prayed so hard for him and somehow we felt that he would get back safely. Please God he may still be alive, we won’t give up until final word is received.
I’m glad he knew you, Muriel and truly grateful to you for the time you gave to him in the few short weeks you knew him. Won’t you write to me soon again?
Josephine E. Stalker
Dorothy Lawton to Muriel Paul
April 9, 1945
Muriel dear –
I was so glad to have your letter, even though the reason for your writing to me was a bad one. Your letter to Mrs. Alan Stalker, 112 Sanford St. East Orange, New Jersey, (to quote her address) has been sent to her & I hope it will be of some comfort to her. How I do hope her poor son may have been imprisoned & be released with these increasing raids on Germany. It was sweet & thoughtful of you to write to Mrs. Stalker. I got a friend who lives in a nearby town in New Jersey to find her & have just received the address to-day.
Thank you for all the family news. I am going to give you the first inkling of a secret – I am going to retire from the Music Library on July 1st & as soon as they will give me a passage am coming home. I shall write Aunt Ella, so you need not be afraid to tell the family. I was amused by you remembering my knitting. I wore that rust suit out & have made three others – now I only knit for soldiers. How interesting that you are living in Westbourne Rd. It has old memories for all of us. Shall hope to see you before long.
Your affectionate cousin,
Letters from Mrs. Josephine E. Stalker to Muriel Paul
Sunday, Aug. 12, 1945
So much has happened since I last wrote you that I hardly know where to start. I kept putting off writing to you in the hopes that I would have good news for you but all the reports that we had about Bob turned out to be false.
On June 30th we had another telegram from the War Dept. confirming Bob’s death on Oct. 15th. I still can’t believe it, and as I sit here today listening to the radio and waiting for word that Japan has accepted our terms and surrendered, my only reaction is a feeling of extreme depression and sadness. Not because the war is ended, we all thank God for that, but we will now have to accept the fact that Bob is gone and that is not easy.
I will try to tell you a little of what took place since my last letter. Some time in April Lt. Carle called on me with his bride. They were married the day before and were on their way to Mississippi where he is an instructor. He told me a very encouraging story about a friend of his, a gunner who had seen our Bob in the plane after it was hit and this boy felt certain that they were all safe. We have since learned that it was another plane and not Bob’s that he had seen.
Then on May 28th Lt. Carle’s father called me on the telephone to say they had received a letter from a friend of Frank’s who had just been liberated in Germany, and he wrote that he had met all the boys of the crew and they were all safe except the co-pilot. You can imagine how we felt, almost as if we had heard from Bob himself. From day to day we waited for word from the Government but weeks passed and our hopes were shattered again.
In desperation I wrote to Mrs. Ritter asking if she would have her husband call me on the telephone as soon as he arrived home, as I knew then we would have the true story. He called me one afternoon, I believe it was around June 10th, and told me the sad story.
The plane received a direct hit, the nose and two motors were shot off and I believe Bob and Joe Seibert were shot right out of the plane. After Lt. Ritter bailed out and was captured he said the Germans brought him to a spot where two bodies were and asked him to identify them. He identified Lt. Seibert by his tags but the other body had no tags and he was unable to say whether it was Bob or the co-pilot. However, they showed him a wallet containing the co-pilot’s picture and when asked to identify him he gave no answer and the Germans said it didn’t matter as he was dead anyway. What he cannot swear to is whether the second body was Bob or the co-pilot, he said he didn’t see a third body but he later wrote my husband that he was pretty sure it was Bob’s because it was close to Lt. Seibert’s body. He reported this story to the War Dept. and we believe the official telegram we received was based on this report.
Lt. Ritter is to report to Atlantic City Aug. 13th which is tomorrow and he has promised to call on us. We hope by seeing him we can get a better idea of what did happen. Not that it can help matters any and in a way I rather dread meeting him as I know how awful I will feel.
Just think, Bob has been dead almost ten months, as time goes on we miss him more and more. Sometimes I wonder how we can get along without him. Don was called into the Navy in April and we have been very lonesome and heartsick all these months.
We received your picture and think it is very lovely and I am so happy to have it. I am having some made of Bob and will send you one when I receive them. Please let me hear from you soon again.
Josephine E. Stalker
Tuesday, Aug. 28, 1945
I finally got Bob’s pictures and am enclosing one. I hope you like it.
You may be interested to know that Lt. Ritter called on us Lt. last week. He had just come from Port Din where he received his discharge. There are the things that hurt so much when I think that Bob, too, might have been out if he had been lucky enough to survive that mission.
The past few weeks have been very hard for us and now so many of the boys around here are coming home already. Something has gone out of me and I shall never be the same again. I have tried to be interested in things but it all seems so futile.
Just what was your opinion of Lt. Ritter? It seemed very strange to me when he was here he never once said he was sorry about Bob. In fact only one of the crew has written to extend his sympathy. For them the war is over but for us it will never be over. Do I sound bitter? Write soon.
Josephine E. Stalker
Thursday, Oct. 25, 1945
I have been wanting to write to you for several weeks and today when your second letter arrived I felt so ashamed that I decided I must write immediately.
I do enjoy hearing from you so much and when I received your long letter of September 15th I couldn’t help but feel that you must be a very sensible young girl, you say you only knew Bob five weeks yet you seem to have understood him so well.
Several weeks ago we received Bob’s clothes and other effects from overseas. They came in a very large carton and I was alone in the house one afternoon when they arrived. The first thing I took out was a shoe, it had some soil on the sole just as if he had only worn it the day before. I can’t tell you how my heart ached at the sight of that shoe and yet it made me feel very close to Bob just to handle his clothes.
I waited until my husband came home and that evening we unpacked the case. You would wonder how the government could ever keep those things straight. I’m sure there wasn’t a thing that didn’t come back. When we had finished we just felt that this surely was the end. Even tho my heart ached so, all his things had to be sorted and put away. I shall always keep his uniform, and his underwear and pajamas were all put away in his chest after I had washed and ironed them. I have kept his room just the same as the day he went away and now it is like a sanctuary to me. My friends think I should put his clothes away where I won’t see them but I don’t feel that way. I like to go into his room and see his things and that way I feel that he is still very close to us.
Now I do hope I haven’t upset you by telling you all this but somehow I feel I can tell you these things because of the way you felt about Bob. I don’t talk about him much even to my best friends because I realize while they have all been very sympathetic and understanding they don’t want you to talk about these things forever. People soon forget and they gush about boys who are coming home until I feel sometimes I could scream.
Many homes are displaying flags and “Welcome Home” signs and every time I see one I feel so badly and yet I would probably do the same thing myself for Bob’s homecoming.
Donald is at college in Nashville, Tenn. He is still in the Navy but in the N.R.O.T.C. which is a college training program and a wonderful opportunity for him. When he finishes he will have a B.S. degree, that is if his marks are good. Of course I would rather have him at home or in a college nearer to our home but still he will get more time off than if he was still in the regular Navy. He is in with the civilian students and will get the vacations same as they do.
He was home about a month ago before starting college and when I showed him your picture he said “She’s cute, isn’t she?” He’s so different from Bob, yet there’s not a thing wrong with him. Bob was so sensible and dependable and Don is just care-free, never sticks to a job very long (the ones he’s had during vacation) and likes changes even with girls. He gets a terrible crush for a while and then he turns to someone else. He’s still young and he’ll get over that as he grows older, I wouldn’t want him any different.
Sorry I’ve run out of paper and will have to finish on this scrap.
Conditions here are about the same as in England, I presume. Strikes all over the country, you would think they’d be so glad the war is over but the world is full of selfish people whom the war probably hasn’t even effected [sic].
I am sending some receipts we received with Bob’s effects. We are most interested in the one for his trench coat and wondered if you would be so kind as to inquire if they still have it and what the charges are. We would send you the money so you could send the coat to us.
Now I must close as I am running out of scrap too.
Josephine E. Stalker
January 15, 1946
This is going to be quite a lengthy letter as I have two of yours to answer, so I hope you won’t mind if I type it as it will go much quicker and I can get so much more on a page than by handwriting. Please forgive any mistakes as I am a little out of practice, this happens to me [sic] my husband’s office typewriter.
First I want to thank you for the lovely hanky you sent me, the lace on it is beautiful. I do so love such pretty ones to wear in the pocket of a sport dress, it was very sweet of you to send it to me.
I am so sorry you went to all that trouble about those laundry tickets. I shouldn’t have sent them to you, I’m afraid you wore yourself out trying to check up on them. No doubt Lt. Carle did pick up the coat but I wouldn’t think of writing him about it now. To tell you the truth I don’t know what I would do with it if I did have it. I just thought if it was still in the Bedford Dye works unclaimed we might get it. As for the underwear I’m glad to hear they gave those things to charity. We have had several drives for clothing to be sent to Europe and I have given a lot of Bob’s clothing in these collections.
The Christmas holidays passed very quickly it seemed but somehow I was glad when they were over. Don was home for two weeks and left to go back on New Year’s Day. He is very anxious to get out of the service and come home for good. As far as we know now the program he is in will close in June but he may not get out of the service as he enlisted for two years. However, he will have his first year of college finished and then if he has to stay in the Navy a few more months he can go on with his education after he is discharged.
We had a family dinner at our home on Christmas day. We usually spend Christmas at my mother’s but she is not very well right now so I decided to have my sisters and their families here. I was very busy preparing things for days before the holiday and while it was a lot of work and I was quite exhausted when it was all over I really think it was the best thing for me as I didn’t have so much time to think. Of course, Christmas will never be the same for me again without Bob. He loved the family dinners and parties we used to have and sometimes I feel that I shouldn’t do things as we did before but my sister tells me that Bob would want us to go on just the same and we should look on these family gatherings as a memorial to him.
I’m glad to hear you had such a lovely time being home for Christmas. And those cakes and buns you wrote about just make my mouth water, you must be very artistic or should I say domesticated dressing them up so prettily with holly and berries. Those are the kind of things Bob loved, fancy cakes with rich icings. I never bake a cake or a pie these days that I don’t think how much I would give if he were only here to enjoy it. Fifteen months today, and I still feel that some day he will walk in the door.
Now that you write that you haven’t been feeling so well I am more sorry than ever that I bothered you with those old tickets, you shouldn’t have been asked to do all that investigating as it was all so unnecessary. Please take good care of yourself and do get as much rest as you possibly can.
The clippings you sent were very interesting. Bob’s great-grandparents were born in Scotland and it could be that this Captain mentioned may be from the same “clan”. I should like very much to come to England some day and visit St. Paul’s Cathedral after the chapel is erected. If it only didn’t seem so far away. Sometimes I feel if I could only go to Germany I would go around for days and look for Bob’s grave. We have been told that the Germans did bury some of our dead and that they will be removed from Germany to American cemeteries in France and England but that will probably take a long time.
I meant this letter to be cheerful and now I’m afraid I’ve done just the opposite.
I hoped you would receive the compact by Christmas but guess I was too late getting it off to you. However, I’m glad it arrived safely and that you liked it. Write soon again, your letters are most interesting and don’t ever think I am bored, I like hearing about your family.
Josephine E. Stalker
Sunday, Apr. 7, 1946
First of all I want to tell you how much I appreciate your letters, they really do something for me and you are ever so thoughtful in trying to obtain some information about Bob to send me. For instance, having your girl friend try to find out something when she arrives in Germany. Most girls just wouldn’t be bothered they’d say the boy is gone and that would just be the end.
It seems a coincidence that this friend should be going to Germany just about this time because only last week we received a letter from the government telling us that some captured German records revealed that Bob had been buried in the Cemetery of Geyen in the vicinity of Cologne. I hope you can get in touch with your friend and tell her this and it would be such a help if she could get there and tell us something of Bob’s grave. Of course if it is at all possible we would like to have him removed from there when the government gets to those things. I believe I read in the paper some time ago that all our boys who were buried in Germany would be moved to American cemeteries either in France or England. In fact I think I would like to have him brought home, I know some people did that after the last war. Some folks advise against it but I think I would like him buried in a family plat where we will all be together some day. However, we have time to decide about that later on.
Several weeks ago I had a letter from one of the gunners on Bob’s plane, Kenneth Ross, did you know him? This is the first I have heard from him since he returned to this country last summer and he wrote that he would like to come see me some Sunday. My husband didn’t think I should have him as it would only upset me but I thought perhaps he had something he wanted to tell me so I invited him out last Sunday. He came and brought his girl friend with him, he is only twenty and is a very nice boy but he had nothing more to tell us then [sic] we already knew. It only seemed to open the wounds and also to leave some doubts in our minds as to whether the pilot was all that he should have been. This boy claims he was the last to leave the plane and the fact that Lt. Ritter didn’t seem to know that the front of the plane was shot off may indicate that he lost his head. Of one thing I am pretty sure, that is that he couldn’t have helped Bob as this boy said he heard an explosion in the front of the plane and I feel pretty sure that this being the case Bob must have been killed instantly.
He also told us that Bob wore a name plate on his flying jacket and he thinks that if Lt. Ritter wanted to he could have identified him. Perhaps he did but didn’t want to tell us. You never know how these boys feel I guess in most cases they just don’t know what to tell the parents. Another thing he told us was that Mrs. Ritter had written his mother that he had received the D.F.C. and we were wondering what he received it for. It seems to me the co-pilot who gave his life would be more worthy of that since I heard that the engineer in the plane a boy named Bussieres passed out and the co-pilot threw him out of the plane saving his life and then being killed himself.
I don’t happen to know the boy you mentioned from East Orange, friend of the new girl in your office, but I know very well the street where he lives, it is not far from us at all.
I can’t say that Van Johnson reminds me of Bob that is for looks, features, etc. but in general appearances I guess he does since ever [sic] picture I have seen him in of late he is a flyer. I didn’t care to see “30 Seconds over Tokyo” but I did cry thru several other pictures he appeared in. One was “Thrill of a Romance” a beautiful picture in Technicolor and I can’t think of the name of the other, Lana Turner played with him. In both these pictures he reminded me so much of Bob, in fact everything I see or do these days Bob is always in my thoughts. These beautiful spring days are filled with memories of him.
We hope to be able to take a trip down south next week to visit Don for the Easter holiday, he only has three days off and would be unable to get home and back in that time as it is about 900 miles from here. I hope my husband can take the time from his business to go as I am very anxious to see Don. I think the trip would do us both some good as neither of us have been feeling too well lately.
Please extend my very best wishes to your parents on their Silver Wedding Anniversary. It was so nice for them that they were able to have you all with them to celebrate. We will be married twenty-three years on April 18th.
The next time you write let me know what size hose you wear and perhaps I will be able to send you a pair of nylons. I don’t suppose you can get them over there, can you? I have six pairs, I stood in line twice and got a pair each time and the other four were sent to me from stores where I have charge accounts. There have been some terribly long lines for them but I didn’t go for those things, I have never been a hoarder during the war and am not going to start now. I feel wealthy with six pairs of hose they will last a long time they tell me some folks have as many as thirty pairs.
I know you won’t be able to compliment me on this typewritten letter, it’s just awful the mistakes and the spacing and everything. This is my nephew’s typewriter, it’s different than any I have used before and another thing this is not the proper paper to use for a typewritten letter so please overlook and excuse it’s [sic] terrible appearance.
I hope you are feeling much better now that the winter is over, has the heart condition you mentioned in your previous letter cleared up, I hope so. Please write soon again.
Friday, Sept. 20, 1946
Your lovely letter telling me of your engagement to Jack arrived last week and I am so happy for you both. I’m quite sure that even tho you don’t think you have that old feeling of excitement right now you will have a marriage based on the foundations I am sure yours will be brings a deeper and more understanding love afterwards that is more lasting then [sic] many of the little emotions we feel before. From what you have written me about Jack I know you have made a very good choice. He seems to have all the qualifications to make a fine husband.
Your photograph arrived safely in your previous letter. It was kind of you to send it. I can’t honestly say whether you have changed much since this is a different pose from the other one you sent me. I really think I like the first one best, perhaps it is because I can tell better what you are like being it is a full face pose instead of a profile. If you have a small snapshot of Jack you could spare I should love to see what he is like especially since you tell me he reminds you somewhat of Bob.
Donald has fully recovered from his tonsillectomy and has started school this week. He has enrolled in a college in our town which makes it very nice. The only bad feature being that they are so overcrowded they have to stagger the classes which makes it rather confusing. For instance he has a class from 9-10 then another 12-1 and then 3 to 4 etc. and he has an hour or two in between. Sometimes he comes home if he has the car, then rushes back for the next class. However it will probably work out when they get used to it. Last week he moved into Bob’s bedroom because it is a larger and much nicer room then [sic] the one he had. We had planned it for some time but I just couldn’t face taking all of Bob’s things out until I finally decided it had to be done. It upset me so and Don noticed it and said “Mother you had better stop.” But I finished the job, it had to be done sometime. It upset Don too. Several times I noticed tears in his eyes and he walked out of the room so he could brush them away. These are the things that hurt so much.
I was sorry to hear your sister has been so ill and do hope she is feeling much better by now. I know what a strain her illness must have been on your mother.
I have another pair of nylons to send to you. They are finer then [sic] the last ones I sent and I thought you might like them for your trousseau [sic]. I’ll get them off in a day or so.
We are having a spell of very hot weather for September. It is really more like the weather we have in August. We haven’t had a drop of rain here in our section since before Labor Day.
My husband and I took a short boat trip the end of August. We were on the Great Lakes and went to Duluth, Minnesota. No doubt you received the views I sent you of some of the places we visited. On our way home we stopped at Niagara Falls. We had been there before but I enjoyed seeing them again. I felt very rested while on the boat but when I got home I had to go to see my doctor again. My heart bothered me a good deal but he said it is not an organic condition and I am not to worry about it. He gave me some medicine and I am feeling better but this hot weather makes me very tired and listless.
I’m afraid you find me a very poor correspondent lately. I should have answered your last two letters more promptly but please don’t let my long silences stop you from writing. I’ll be very much interested to hear all about your wedding plans. The best of luck and happiness to you both.
Josephine E. Stalker
Nov. 29, 1946
I can just imagine how busy you must be with preparations for your wedding next Saturday. How I wish I could be there to see you married. You’ll make a very pretty bride. I like the color you have selected for your attendants, it’s one of my favorites. It would be nice to have a piece of your wedding cake but if there are restrictions there’s nothing you can do about it.
I was very slow getting the nylons off to you but I do hope you receive them sometime next week in the event you may want to use them for your wedding or going away outfit.
I had no idea the housing situation was as acute in England as in this country. It would be nice if you could find just a small apartment, it’s so nice to be by yourselves when you’re starting out.
The snaps you sent were very welcome. Jack looks like a fine fellow and Cynthia looks like a very jolly person.
We are still having very mild weather here. It may turn cold one day and then the temperature goes right up again. It isn’t so healthy this way as many people have the grippe and there are rumors going around of a flu epidemic this year such as we had after the last war. Some people are having inoculations to avoid it and I think I will too as that is one thing I am afraid of.
My mother isn’t well again. It seems to be her nerves this time, she is very quiet and not a bit interested in things and we are afraid she will crack up. We are trying to work out a solution, she has a very large house to care for and not as much help as she had before the war and we feel if she could get away from that again for a while it may help. I was sorry to hear your mother was ill and do hope she has improved by now. There is so much for her to think about at a time like this with all the preparations that precede a wedding that one needs a great deal of energy to carry on.
I’m going to close this letter now as I know you are far too busy to take time to read lengthy missives.
I will be praying for a beautiful day for you next Saturday, blue skies and lots of sunshine. I’ll be thinking of you all day, Muriel.
My family all join me in sending you both our very best wishes for your happiness in the years to come. God bless you.
Josephine E. Stalker
Mrs. Josephine Stalker to Mrs. John C. Wild
Feb. 22, 1947
Please forgive me for being so long in writing you to say I received the lovely scarf you sent me. I am just thrilled with it and it has been very much admired by all my friends. Your wedding cake arrived shortly after the scarf. I have never seen a box like it with your names and date on. I thought it very cute. Many thanks to you both for remembering me.
I seem to have so much to tell you this time I hardly know where to begin. My family Christmas dinner went off very well. Mother was still on the sick list but she has been feeling much better now for the past three or four weeks. I haven’t been too well myself since the first of the year. I started New Year’s Eve with an infection in both my hands and later with an infected throat. I have just finished with the skin specialist a couple weeks ago. I couldn’t imagine where I got such a thing but the doctor thought it was from medicine I was taking. Vitamin B capsules for one thing that might have been too rich for my blood.
Now for the big news. Don has run away and been married. We knew he had been going out with this girl but had no idea it was serious until a few months ago. At that time we talked him out of marriage and asked them to wait at least a year. Then about four weeks ago they started to talk of marriage again and this time we just couldn’t talk them out of it. Since Don is just about twenty (will be Mar. 7th) we would have had to sign papers for him and refused to do it thinking it would stop them from doing something foolish at this time. Well it didn’t and they went down south to No. Carolina and were married on Feb. 10th. Most of the southern states have different laws then [sic] here and will marry them under twenty-one. You can imagine how I feel. I never thought Don would do such a thing and I blame the girl a great deal she seemed to have a lot of influence over him, was always calling him on the telephone. I think she was just crazy to get married and she only eighteen.
I feel very badly to think he has given up college which he must have (altho he said nothing about it to us), because they are now in Florida and no doubt they will both get jobs there if they intend to stay.
When I first knew what they were planning I thought it would just be more then [sic] I could take. First losing Bob and now this. How I’ve missed Bob these past few months. I’m sure if he was here it never would have happened, he could have talked some sense into him. Now that it is all over I am trying very hard not to be too upset. He went entirely against our wishes and now he is on his own. Things are difficult enough these days for we older folks yet these kids go into marriage with no job not much money and it doesn’t seem to faze them a bit. We can only hope that it works out.
We have been reading about the dreadful winter you are having in England and I do hope that you have not been affected too badly and that perhaps you may be away from the worst of it. At any rate I hope it will soon be over.
Our winter has been comparatively mild in these parts altho it has been very bad in many other sections of our country. We have just had the worst snow storm here in six years, about twelve inches. It started Thursday night and kept up all day yesterday. Everyone was kept busy shovelling.
I hope this letter finds you and all your family very well and I do hope to hear from you soon. The months seem to pass so swiftly.
Josephine E. Stalker
Sunday, Sept. 21, 1947
Please forgive me for not writing to you for such a long time. I know it was in February when I last wrote, right after Don went away. I was sick for a long time after that but for the past month or so I have been feeling better. My husband took me to Florida last March, my sister and brother-in-law accompanying us, but the trip didn’t help me much, my doctor said I had too many shocks. I sometimes wonder just how much we can take.
Don and his wife were in Florida also and as we had partly forgiven him we stopped to visit them. They intended to stay there until June but changed their plans and came home shortly after we did. I haven’t taken them into my home as I still am not convinced that this marriage will work out. Don is doing his part but I don’t feel so sure about Joanne. Right now they are living with a friend of Don’s not far from our home. This boy’s parents are dead and he lives with his brother and sister in a large house, about ten rooms and two baths. Joanne is doing the cooking and things seem to be working out pretty well so far.
Thru a friend of ours Don secured a very fine position with the Western Electric Company. He is planning to finish his college course at night school. I hope it won’t be too much for him as he will have to attend classes three nights a week and have a bit of studying to do the other nights.
It was very thoughtful of you to send those lovely pictures of your sisters and also your wedding. You must have had a very lovely wedding, Muriel, that was such a nice family picture. Your mother and father look so nice, quite handsome your father, isn’t he? How is your mother, is she feeling quite well now? Seems strange talking about your wedding when you are probably looking forward to your first wedding anniversary. How the months fly.
We have been reading of conditions in England and it must be pretty bad. Heavens knows things are not good over here but there is still plenty of food if you have the price to pay for it. We all feel that there will be a crash here soon as prices can’t go much higher. Conditions all over the world are very discouraging, where is the peace we thought we had won? There seems to be so much mention of World War III and the atom bomb. Heaven help us if that ever comes to pass. It will be the end of civilization.
I do hope you have found a place to live by now. In your last letter you mentioned that you had promise of a house this year. Did you get it as yet? Are you still going to business?
A friend of ours who has a brother in Germany asked him to go to Geyen to see if he could locate Bob’s grave. He went last spring, found the cemetery but couldn’t find any American graves. After making some inquiries he found that there had only been one American flyer buried in that cemetery but that when the Americans came thru they removed the body. He was told also that the flyer’s name was not Stalker. Right after we had that information from him we received a letter from the government saying that Bob was buried in a U.S. Military Cemetery located nine miles southwest of Liege, Belgium. I got in touch with Joe Seibert’s family also the Duncan boy’s, (he was the co-pilot) and they both wrote that they had received the same information as we, namely that they were buried in Geyen. The Duncan family later heard from the government that Roy was buried in the same cemetery as Bob in Belgium. The Seiberts have heard nothing more then [sic] the information about Geyen.
Some day soon we will receive another letter asking us if we want Bob brought home. I read today that the first of the War dead to be returned from Europe will arrive in October. I don’t know what our decision will be. Some time ago there was no question in my mind at all but that we would have him brought home but now I am wondering if I could go thru it. Of course we would have him brought to our own cemetery plot instead of to a Military Cemetery.
I do hope this letter finds you, Jack and all your family in the best of health. I would like to send you a box of some of the things that you can’t get over there such as shortening, tea, etc., and would like you to suggest something you would like to have. Perhaps you will write soon so that I can get it off to you in the very near future.
With kindest regards to all
Dec. 1, 1947
Your last letter was a real tonic to me and I am quite ashamed of myself for not answering before this. I must admit I am a very poor correspondent these days. I have had a setback the past two months and tomorrow I have an appointment with another doctor. He has done a lot of good work for a friend of mine who was very sick and I am hoping he can help me.
I was so glad to hear that you have found a place more to your liking and where you can use your own furniture and other things. I’m sure you must be managing your home very well and Jack must be very proud of you.
It took me a while to get the food together to send you but I finally got the package off about two weeks ago and hope you receive it soon. At first I couldn’t get the fruit in the stores around here so a friend brought me currants and mixed fruits from New York. I hope I included all the ingredients for your holiday cake or pudding. There were other things I thought of but they will have to come in the next one. You know we are only allowed to send 22 lbs.
We are all hoping that conditions will soon improve in your country. If we only weren’t so far apart it would be so much easier to help. Last week the school children were collecting food to send overseas and they did very well in this section. I suppose you have heard of the “Friendship Train.” We have seen pictures in the movies and I don’t know just how many carloads of food they have collected but it does make one feel good to know we are helping but even carloads are probably a mere drop in the bucket when there are so many thousands to feed.
No doubt by now the excitement of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding has died down. Everyone over here was very much interested. I got quite a thrill out of hearing a re-broadcast of the ceremony when I was at breakfast that morning. Phillip’s voice was very clear but the Princess’ was a little weak, however they sounded very nice and they are such a lovely couple, I hope they will be very happy. We also saw pictures of the ceremony in the newsreel the other night and also some very good ones in “Life” magazine.
I hope you don’t mind me mentioning Bob in all my letters but somehow I know you are interested and I wanted to tell you that there has been so much publicity attached to the homecoming of the first War Dead that it has discouraged a lot of families who were considering bringing their loved ones home. In the first place I had no idea that there would be another public service, American Legion and church, but that is what most of them are doing according to the papers. I’m afraid it would just about kill me to have to go thru anything like that now and even tho I have felt right along that we would bring Bob home I think we will change our minds. If he is buried in a nice cemetery, and I have heard some of them are nice and well taken care of, perhaps he would want to remain there with the boys who fell with him. Maybe some day I could go over and visit his grave.
I hope you and Jack and all your family are keeping well. Don’t let Jack work too hard. Are you still having the injections to prevent colds? I hope they will be successful because a cold does take so much out of you. I hope I never get another like I had when we returned from Florida last March. I thought I would never lose that cough.
The Christmas season is started again and all the stores are doing a tremendous business. They say people don’t have the money but wherever you go they seem to be spending plenty. In a few days I will be sending you another package, just a little Xmas remembrance so be on the look-out for that too.
About the ban of food I must tell you that on the custom slip there was a place to fill out giving another address in case the package for some reason or another wouldn’t reach you, and the only address I could find at the time was the one you had before, 41 Coldwell Lane, Sandygate so if it doesn’t show up within the next week or ten days you might inquire there for it. I have since found your home address which I would have used had I found it in time.
When you write again Muriel, tell me what size slip and blouse you wear. I would have liked to send you something like that for the holidays but am afraid I might pick the wrong size. Send me the information and I will have it for future use.
Remember me to all your family and with lots of love to yourself.
Mrs. Allan Stalker to Mrs. Muriel H. Wild
(this photo was the only item in the envelope, postmarked March 22, 1948)
June 28, 1948
I received your most welcome letter last week. I too have owed you a letter for some time but I guess I’ve been too lazy to concentrate on anything these days. No doubt you have read about the miserable weather we have been having this summer and spring. We have had an abundance of rain and right now it is very hot and humid. It was very foggy when we got up this morning but now the sun is trying to come out. We have had only one or two clear Sundays in months and everyone predicts that we are only to have eighteen clear days all summer. It certainly is very unpleasant for people at the seashore.
We had a very nice trip down south, the weather being better than it was at home, we had some rain but not enough to bother us too much. To celebrate our anniversary which was on Sunday, April 18th, we had a party for my immediate family and seven of my most intimate friends. First we had them for cocktails at our home at 5 o’clock and then we drove to the country and had a very delicious dinner. We had a lovely private dining room which was very attractively decorated and everyone enjoyed it very much. Then we came back to our house and had a little fun but everyone left early. The following Wednesday we started on our trip, my husband had some business to finish up before we could get away. We received some very lovely gifts including hurricane lamps, gravy boat, bread tray, coffee pot, and lovely vase, these pieces were all in silver, then we received a very beautiful electric clock and rayon tablecloth with a dozen napkins and last but not least my husband gave me a beautiful platinum wedding ring set with diamonds.
We were away about ten days. First we stayed in Charleston then came up to Williamsburg and Washington, D.C. We took many pictures mainly to send to you and much to my disgust they didn’t turn out. I don’t know what was wrong, but we used a camera Don had bought on his honeymoon and evidently there was something wrong with it because we had several pictures left on the film which we took home and even they didn’t turn out. I was especially disappointed about some I had taken at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington and which I knew you would like to see. It is very impressive to see there are two soldiers on guard all the time. I believe they are probably on duty an hour at a time as we saw them change the guard while we were there.
You asked about Don and Joanne, well he is back home with us again, they separated the early part of April and I sincerely hope this time it is for good. He is still working and has already had his vacation the first week in June. He went to the seashore with a couple of boys who work with him but it rained about five days out of the nine they were away.
Two of my sisters and their families have gone to California. They are both widows, one with twin girls, thirteen and the other has one son, nineteen. He is in the Naval Reserve and was attending college last year up at Yale and this summer he had to go to Hawaii as part of his training. So it happened that the mother of the twins was going to California with the Red Cross to their Convention so she sent her girls on ahead with my other sister and her boy letting them drive her new Ford and they were going to meet her in San Francisco after the convention and they are taking a month to drive home, they will be back August 1st. My nephew of course, left them in San Francisco where he had to report to the Navy and I understand he sailed last Friday for Hawaii.
My mother is alone now and she is leaving for the seashore next Saturday for three weeks. Then my other sister is going down the last two weeks in July so that leaves me without a family for a while. Of course we won’t take a summer vacation after being away in April but we may get a couple of week-ends if the weather changes a bit.
I was sorry to hear that you had to give up your apartment but I don’t blame you I couldn’t live in a place where conditions of that sort existed. I can’t stand uncleanliness of any type and especially around a kitchen where you prepare food. I hope you will be lucky in getting the flat you heard about. Conditions are about the same over here. We haven’t sold our house as yet only because we haven’t been able to get an apartment. We have a buyer for the house and they are after us all the time to sign the papers but we won’t do it until we know where we are going. I’ve been all over looking for a place and we could get one of the numerous garden apartments that are being built around here but the rents range from $115.00 per month without garage, you have to sign a three year lease and in some places a five year one and besides you have to pay six months rent in advance which would be $700.00 or more and they hold that as security until your lease is up. That’s the part we don’t like paying out all that money and signing a long lease you never know what will happen in the next three to five years and if you have to break your lease for some reason or another you loose [sic] the money you paid as security. That’s where they get you and of course they are all Jews who are building those places they are the ones who have the money.
Please extend to Cynthia my very best wishes for her happiness. Will she be married soon? Have your parents been keeping well? I hope so, give them my best regards. I suppose you and Jack will be taking a vacation soon. Will you go away? I think a change of atmosphere is always good for us. I feel somewhat better since my trip altho this weather we are having makes everyone feel low.
Well Muriel, this seems to be all the news I have for now. I hope the next time I write I will have some sort of a photo to send to you. Remember me to Jack and take good care of yourself.
Robert Allan Stalker
d. 15 Oct. 1944
buried Plot D, Row 2, Grave 13; Ardennes American Cemetery – Neupré, Belgium
he received the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Muriel Hope Wild, née Paul
b. 29 Dec. 1922
Josephine E. Stalker
b. 1899, d. Mar. 1979
buried Gate of Heaven cemetery, East Hanover, NJ
Ardennes Cemetery Memorial Certificate
For more info:
▪ I gratefully acknowledge the help of the 306th Bomb Group Historical Association. Please consider making a donation so their volunteers can continue their valuable work keeping the memories of military personnel alive.
▪ This is the cemetery where Robert is buried
▪ Thread on The Fedora Lounge about Robert’s A-2 jacket*
*I tried contacting the owner of the jacket, but he never wrote back to me. I would love to know where this jacket is now.
▪ Russell A. Strong’s First Over Germany (1982) is a detailed account of the 306th Bomb Group and it mentions Bob. I’d love to have a copy of this book.