Perhaps the most rewarding part of this project has been the opportunity to hear from people who have stumbled across my blog and, as a result, shared a piece of their story, asked a question or offered a comment. For example, it was truly a privilege to hear from Jane Watkins, the daughter of USO performer Edith Delaney. She shared a comment on this blog post about Edith.
I recently heard from Mary Eileen Swart, who told me a little about her uncle, who enlisted the same month as Babe, served in the same division (though a different regiment), and sailed overseas on the same boat. She said she found my site during “a search for info about the Casablanca and Canastel replacement depots. Here’s a little of what she shared, as she wrote it to me (published with her permission, and with light edits):
My uncle, John Anthony Ruhl, was from Milwaukee, Wisc. He was 20 years old when he left for the war, serving from February 1943 (basic training) till November 1945. He died in September 2001. His funeral was the evening of 9/11.
After his wife died two years later, my mother stored his box of army artifacts. After my mother died last year, I brought the boxes to my house. I’m now discovering a treasure chest of history.
John left a small diary. From what I’ve seen on another site, I think the little brown notebook may have been government issue. He also had a beautifully preserved photo album, with captions for each photo. There are other items, too, including discharge papers, his mess kit, letters home, and more.
My project is to combine the diary, the photos, and links to other sources, in order to piece together a reasonable history of his 2-1/2 years in the Army. I’m doing this for my sake, as I find it fascinating, but also for the sake of his memory. I want my children and my nieces and nephews to know about their great-uncle. John and his wife never had children, but I don’t want him to be forgotten.
Ms. Swart is blogging about her uncle here.