B-17 Flying Fortress

My grandmother congratulates her son on becoming flight sergeant and on his stint teaching fellow airmen how to dance. She adds some motherly warnings to keep to his studies. When she writes, “Think always of yourself first,” I don’t think she means for him to be selfish, but rather not to forget his duties and school work.

As you read this letter, remember we were at war, and epithets against the enemy were common  at the time. Please keep this in mind as you read what would today be considered an ethnic slur against the Japanese. We had been attacked at Pearl Harbor and were fighting back against a formidable enemy.

She relates a frightening air crash at the field where her eldest son, Will, is still struggling to pass the pilot’s license test.

This letter is written just a few weeks after the death of my mother’s father, (see Death in the Family), and my parents are preparing to move with my mother’s mom, Grandma Koroschetz, into the building managed by my dad’s parents. My parents had only been  married ten months and Dad would now have his mother-in-law living with him and his recent bride in a one-bedroom apartment.


Chicago, Ill 10/7/43

My Dear Ebner,

This morning I got your letter from 2-3 Oct., so at 3 p.m. I sent you the hat and pants. I am glad you got money enough, [which] you are getting [for]pay. But we are all very proud of you for your sergeant-reporter and that you find pleasure to teach your fellows dancing.

But don’t forget [your] school work. Think always of yourself first. (Can you afford the time? [I believe she means the time for teaching dancing and other extra duties.] It never pays to be too good.) I have full trust in you with all!

How is the schooling? Is it very hard? And is it very cold up there? The people tell me that in Steven’s Point [WI] it will be very cold in winter there. Leave me know in time if you need slip-over [Pull-over, like a sweatshirt], or the flannel pajamas and sleeping shoes [slippers] for keeping you from getting a cold.

I am pleased if you send me one letter a week. Be sure that I get one letter, no matter how short. Then I am happy to hear from my Ebner. I’m praying for you more than 2 [times] a day by the green light.

How are you feeling now? We are all well. Tell me how was or is that running on track? Did you write the Pastor [Kaitschuk—of Bethel Church], and Frank [Von Arx] too?
Hoping your get a little time.

We got the news [about] Harold Kaitschuk [the pastor’s brother]. We know how he was wounded in action. He was stabt [stabbed] by a Japaner, that yellow Devil, so he will be at a hospital in Texas, then home for a while. Bob Hetzel is home from Arizona. He is looking not bad. And Lill and Fred are by her Mother now* till Nov. 1. Then the moving in 3-3- C in Mr. Brown’s flat here in this building. They signed today the lease.

Will Gartz at Harlem Airport, IL

Will took the test again Sept 30th and failed in drilling and tail-spinning. At Harlem Airport there was a new teacher just coming in from his flight with a Madison [WI] student from the army who took private lessons on his own time. They drilled in tail-spinning and something went wrong. The teacher got killed and the student may [get better], but not sure. So I am telling Will it is better that he failed so long he is saved.

My praying for you two. If you begin to flying, be very sure [of what you’re doing]. Trouble can come quick. As always I said to you, be yourself. I pray so hard and steady for my 3 sons’ safety forever. Dear God, ….

The son from the school store where we get the milk will be shipped shortly overseas….

As soon as Will have time, he will write you. Now he has 4 nights in a week classes, so you see…

Lots of love, your Mother

Love from Dad, Will. God bless you and be always with you.

Original Letter