Old Letters Tell Story Of Tyler Man During World War II - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Old Letters Tell Story Of Tyler Man During World War II

They sat in a tin box for 60 years, now an East Texas couple is hoping to share a set letters dating back to World War II with others.

For $60 Nelda and Bill stanley of Lindale, came to own this set of 148 letters.  In near mint condition, the letters date back to the Fall of 1943.

The letters were written by a young man from Tyler, writing home to his parents while stationed in the South Pacific. They provide a unique look at a part of East Texas history.

It was last summer. On a whim, the Stanleys purchased a box of old letters at an estate sale in Mineola. Expecting little, they soon found out those letters, were special.

"We went through a few of them and read them, but we eventually read them all and made a story. You know it was a story," said Nelda Stanley.

That story belongs to a young man, a Navy Yoeman by the name of James Richard Whitney.  A Tyler resident shipped off to war in the South Pacific, these writings are a near daily account of his experiences.

"He was a very family oriented person and he showed the greatest respect for his family, his mother and dad and also the family members that he spoke about," said Bill Stanley.  "He was a very caring person."

As a whole the letters give a glimpse into the life of a soldier during World War II.  They also help paint a picture of the young man who wrote them.

Bill Stanley read an excerpt of one of the letters that touched him.

Bill stanley:

"This letter is written to his mother on November 27,  1943"

"I am proud of where I am, and I am proud of the uniform that I am trying to wear with the splendor and grace that affords it.  It means something to me and I am trying to show it in my everyday actions and efforts.  I hope I am worthy of it's pride and trust."

The Stanley's said it's the simple messages that make these letters so special.

"It was interesting to both of us that we were able to read the story from the time he left home and the states to the time the war was ending," said Nelda. 

"It's just a common everyday affair, nothing spectacular but that's the way we live our lives just common everyday people," said Bill.

The story of the letters beg for answers into the life of James Richard Whitney. The search for those answers led to the Smith County Courthouse and to the home at 417 West Bow Street in Tyler.

Documents show Whitney came back to Tyler following the war.  They also show he never married and had no children.  Whitney lived at the home on Bow Street until his death in 2000.

The Stanleys plan to donate the letters to the Smith County Historical Society.  They are hopeful the letters will eventually be placed somewhere for others to read.

Chris Gibson, reporting

Note:  The Stanleys and KLTV would like to thank Mr. Russell L. Martin, Director of Degolyer Library at Southern Methodist Uiversity in Dallas.  His generosity has allowed for this report.

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