WWII soldier’s letter to newspaper finally printed
GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) – In March 1942, shortly after Charles J. Gilland of Fairfield was inducted into the U.S. Army, he found himself at Camp Forrest, Tenn.
Assigned to the 317th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Army’s 80th Infantry Division, he spent two years in training there, as well as in Kansas and Arizona. While in Tennessee, Pvt. Gilland wrote a letter home or to a friend, suggesting that the letter and his picture might be published in the Christmas edition of the local paper.
A review of several editions of the Gettysburg Times around Christmas that year failed to find Gilland’s letter. Nearly seven decades later it has been printed.
All units of the 80 Division were sent to Europe in July 1944 for more training. They landed on Utah Beach, Normandy, France, on Aug. 3.
Gilland’s 317th Regiment engaged the enemy in the Saar Basin and in Bastogne, France, before fighting in December at the Battle of the Bulge.
According to official military records, Gilland was a Staff Sergeant when he was killed in action on Sept. 17. He was 23 and unmarried.
Returned home by the Army, he was buried in the Fairfield Union Cemetery.
Because he was one of the first casualties from the area, charter members of Fairfield AMVETS, when they founded the organization in 1953, named it The Charles J. Gilland AMVETS Post 172. A painting of Gilland hangs in the lobby of the post.
Gilland’s letter was never turned over to the Gettysburg Times in 1942. But it was never destroyed.
Found recently among old papers by a stepbrother, the letter was turned over to the Fairfield post and recently posted on its bulletin board.
Post Adjutant Marlyn Ringler sent a copy of it to the Times late last month. It’s printed below.
November 7, 1942
Many, many thanks for sending the home town paper. I enjoyed it very much for it helps me to picture what’s going on back home. And that helps a soldier keep up the good morale.
The United States expects to win this war! And it will with all the “spirit” our men and women are putting into their work.
I have a little item for you to publish in your Christmas edition, for all the folks back home, who would like to know how their “boys” feel. I also have a photograph of myself, if you care to publish it too.
If the American citizens keep up the good spirit which they now have, we’ll soon return all the presents which go to end this struggle and restore the same peace and happiness to this land which we had before.
We wish you all a Merry, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!
The “silent” 80th never talks, it only moves forward.
Pvt. Charles James Gilland
Co. “C” 317th Infantry
APO (No.) 80
Camp Forrest, Tenn.
U.S. Army Services
“On to Victory”
Information from: Gettysburg Times, http://www.gettysburgtimes.com
Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.