During World War II, five members of my immediate family served in the U.S. armed forces. My oldest uncle, Lewis Staton, was a Seabee, an abbreviation for “Construction Battalion,” the branch of the Navy that built and maintained airfields, ports, roads, and other war-related infrastructure. My youngest uncle, Joe Staton, was an infantryman in the Army who was captured by the Germans in North Africa in March 1943 and spent the rest of the war in German P.O.W. camps until they were liberated in May 1945. My mother’s cousin, Wallace Tutt, was a pilot in the Army Air Corps and flew “the Hump” between India and Burma. My uncle, Marv Krenk, served in the Air Corps as an intelligence officer in the Pacific. And my father, Larry Fischer, was a career Air Force (then called Air Corps) officer assigned to personnel duties on several air bases. Fortunately, all five of them survived the war and came home.
In September 1943, my grandfather and my aunt Mary decided that the best way to keep all the family up to date on events affecting the servicemen and those on the home front was to publish a weekly newsletter. Letters from the five members of the family in the military were summarized, and Mary added her column of “Home Front Gossip,” which contained news about everyone else, from babies to grandparents, from family in Eugene, Oregon, the home base, to those in South Dakota and Tennessee and points east and west. My grandfather typed the newsletters (with multiple carbons on onionskin paper), and copies were mailed to dozens of recipients eager for news. Luckily, Mary was well organized and kept copies of every bulletin, as well as some personal messages. There was a strong artistic strain on all sides of my family, which showed itself in many ways: Grandpa and Marv wrote poetry; Lewis was a cartoonist; Joe, who had studied architecture before the war, had the penmanship of a calligrapher; Mary and my mother, Ruth, were singers; and my father was both a musician and an artist. In the Five Star Bulletin, these traits lend warmth and realism to the descriptions of daily life.
In the days before email and texting, people wrote actual letters; and to read the words and thoughts of those living through the hazards and deprivations of the war, facing terrible uncertainties with courage and fortitude, brings those people to life. And more important, it keeps them alive in the memories of those of you who never knew them. No one from the generations before mine still survives; I am the oldest member of my generation, and one of the few who remember any of the extended family outside Oregon. But you will know them all when you’ve read these pages.
To see sample pages, click here. Note that these are sample pages only and will be difficult to read without a magnifying glass. The last image in the gallery is of my grandparents and their five children in the living room of their house at 570 West 10th Avenue in Eugene, taken on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary in 1954. I’ve identified everyone in the picture and given the names of their spouses, although during the war years Joe was unmarried and Lewis and his wife were divorced. (They later reconciled and remarried, but this explains why Lydia does not appear in the Bulletin, and why their daughter Sue is rarely mentioned.)
To read individual pages of the entire Five Star Bulletin, download the PDF file here. You can print any pages that are of special interest to you from the PDF file. This file is quite large and will take about three minutes to download, depending upon the speed of your computer. If you are a member of the family, or are simply interested in sharing the contemporaneous accounts of some wartime experiences, I think you’ll find the time required to download and read these pages was well spent.
The Five Star Bulletin is an account of one family’s personal war and is not intended for publication other than in this blog. Any publication rights are reserved to the estate of Mary Krenk.