On the day he turned 18—May 3, 1943—a high school student named William Fee rushed to the local selective service office to register for the draft. Throughout William’s childhood, his father, Dwight, who had fought in the devastating Meuse-Argonne offensive in World War I, strove to instill in his son the values he held dear: duty, honor, and integrity. When William went off to basic training, Dwight sent him the following letter:
Wednesday July 28, 1943
Well, I guess you’re a soldier, now—a rook, anyhow, and on the way. At any rate you’re in the uniform so many of your people have worn. I know you’ll never forget that you’ve worn it, if you live to be a 100. Never forget, while you’re wearing it, exactly what it means and stands for; live up to all that it means. I know you’ll never disgrace it or do anything while wearing it to make it look cheap or tawdry. If this is corn, let it be corn….
I got a big kick out of your phone call; sorry mother wasn’t there, and so was she. We’ll stay in till 9 p.m. every night now till you leave Meade, and hold the girls to 3-minute calls….
We had a terrific rain and thunder storm last night—washed all the earth off the corn roots which lie exposed above ground, every stalk flat on the ground. I never saw so much water—all grass in our back yard covered for an hour or more.
I must go as we’re dining at Bill Baird’s to meet his mother.
Will write tomorrow.
As always, Pop
After a year of training, Fee was shipped overseas with the 11th Armored Division. Dwight—a newspaperman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—wrote to his son:
October 1, 1944
Well, I figure you’re off on the Great Adventure. There will be many disagreeable experiences; soul-shaking experiences; tragic experiences; uplifting experiences. You will see examples of selfishness and selflessness that will stir you tremendously. I have no doubt that you will develop the same respect that I have for the Infantry, the Gol-Darned Infantry, and the same awesome regard for the Medics.
I have no fears for you; you will do well. You have the finest spirit of any one I know of. I wish I could go FOR you, or at least WITH you, but this is your war. Mother and I will pray that God will give you courage for any danger you will have to face; that you will be given steadfastness, and patience, and resolution. We believe that God lays on nobody more than he is able to bear; that through all trials God will provide the qualities needed to meet them. I believe David: The Lord upholdeth all that fall; The cast-down raiseth up again.
Just be your own self: and there are not many people to whom I could say that.
You are serving in a great cause. Because of you and those like you millions of fathers and mothers and children again will be able to think and speak freely without fear; to live their lives without oppression. And we here at home will be spared what most certainly would have been the fate of those people if all of you had not gone out to prevent the domination of the world by Japan and Germany (and Italy)—and don’t think for a minute that they wouldn’t have dominated it. And they’ll try again in another generation if they can. Goodnight, son. Have at em!
As always, Pop
Keep busy. Keep bucking.
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