Handy Island

Handy Island
"The Air War Finds A Handy South Atlantic Island" was the caption on this Peter Hurd painting of Ascension Island, from Life Magazine, April 1945. It was the only place for pilots to refuel between Natal and West Africa.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Letter From the Chaplain

Roy and Mary Chapman of Homewood, Alabama: my father's parents.  They appear to have some kind of a World War II booster sign on the front door and are posing with it.  "We have a son overseas" or "We support War Bonds."  It must have been something like that.

By August 1942, my grandparents in Alabama were concerned that they had not seen their son for seven months, mail service had only just begun to work with some regularity, and they still didn't know where he was.  When Lt. Chapman was asked to stay on at his secret location--Ascension Island--it appears that he asked the unit's chaplain to write his parents and assure them they shouldn't worry.

Office of the Chaplain
38th Engineers
APO #1257, C/O Postmaster
Miami, Florida

August 3, 1942

"Dear Mr. and Mrs. Chapman,
I am the Chaplain of the organization to which your son, Lt. Chapman, is assigned, and take pleasure in writing this letter.  He seems to be in the best of health and is quite cheerful in the performance of his duties.  He is one of Uncle Sam's reliable officers and is to be commended for his worthy service.  It has been a pleasure to know your son during the past few months.

He has been chosen, partially because of his efficient service, to remain, as an officer, at this location. [The location was Ascension, but it was still top secret.]  This organization, known as the 898th Engineers, is made up of a select group of men.  Advantages of staying are (1) see and enjoy the fruits of four months of hard labor, (2) avoid the dangers of travelling by sea and the possibilities of being place[ed] in a more active battle zone, (3) easier times as the big jobs have already been completed, (4) a very healthy climate, safe from all diseases, (5) the 20% foreign service pay, (6) good mail service, and finally (7) many of his friends are also staying.

We hope that upon his return you will encourage him to attend his church and promote his Christly principles.  In the meantime I hope that the church has received his address and is sending bulletins and letters to him regularly.  May the church ever be your comfort and strength.  Be assured that "The powers of destruction shall never overthrow it."

According to news reports, the home front is putting forth a very strong effort to produce men and equipment for the present crisis.  We are glad for this, but even happier because you folks are maintaining high principles and are praying for the success of the same.  We know you will continue to do your best."

Dad's mother, Mary Chapman, tending her Victory garden in her dress and stockings.  Dad's sister, as big a wisecracker as Dad was, has written on the back: "I sure hope victory doesn't depend upon our garden!"

"It has been a pleasure to write the above information and I hope it has brought comfort and strength to you.

Sincerely yours,
Vincent A. Cox

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