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Here are the exact words that my grandmother, Mattie Forrester, received in a Western Union Telegram on December 1, 1944.
The Secretary of War
Desires me to express
His deep regret
That your son Walter
Was killed in action.
Letter to follow.
Reading that telegram must have been like a blow to grandma’s heart. A devout woman, Grandma must have prayed at night that her son Walter would survive the war and return to his hometown of Wanette, OK. But not even his remains would return. Walter was buried in a military cemetery in Italy.
My dad, who once rode horses bareback with his brother Walter on the dirt streets of the small town of Wanette, was 53 years old when he tracked down his brother’s gravestone in Italy and wept over it.
Postscript: That is a photo of Walter’s actual Purple Heart, which, along with the telegram mentioned in my post, is framed and hangs in our living room.
Walter was a ball-turret gunner on a B-17 (the Flying Fortress) on a mission to bomb a munitions factory in Austria when his plane was shot down by heavy artillery fire. Curled up in the ball turret attached to the belly of the plane, he must have known he was going to die as he watched a curtain of anti-aircraft shells rise from the ground and explode into flak all about him
I never knew Walter Forrester but I am terribly proud that he was a part of our family. He won’t be forgotten soon. I will pass on to my son Uncle Walter’s Purple Heart and the Western Union telegraph that my grandmother received.Published in