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A Thanksgiving letter from 1943

By Staff | Dec 1, 2013

Like a lot of you, I found a little time on Thanksgiving Day to, well, to give thanks.

I was thankful that the Lord has blessed me with good health, a wonderful wife, a terrific family, great friends, nice cozy home and, overall, a pretty awesome life.

I couldn’t ask for much more.

It’s pretty easy to be thankful when life is good. More amazing, though, are people who are thankful when times are not so good.

I want to share such a story with you this week.

Kermit Chafee entered active service in the Army on April 15, 1941 and his discharge came on Sept. 2, 1945. He was in active duty overseas mainly Tunisia and Italy for three years, five months and 24 days. He was a bandsman in the 34th (Red Bull) Army Division and played tuba in the military band and double bass in the dance band.

After the war, he owned a motor grader service in Winnebago for many years.

He was a prolific letter writer writing well over 1,000 letters during the war and many of his letters were printed in the local newspapers.

Here is one of them from a 1944 edition of the Blue Earth newspaper:

This is Thanksgiving Day 1943. It is cold and rainy outside, and now and then a drop of water seeps through the canvas and onto my bed. My feet are wet and cold from guard duty in the rain and from standing in the mess line in mud and water. Our breakfast was, before we finished, thoroughly diluted with rain water dripping from our helmets and into our mess gear, or onto the spoonful as it was about to be consumed.

Clouds make it most too dark for writing in here, so heavy are they that we have no fear of enemy planes. It isn’t flying weather. But we hear incessant roar of motors as traffic moves along and the big guns firing out from the valley, set up a most continuous thunder as their explosions echo and re-echo in the surrounding hills. Some missiles are coming in from the other side. Such is the setting here for the day which bids us recall the blessings of the day and of the past year and thank God that life is pleasant and that this is to be a happier, better world when this war has ceased. (A subject for historians’ discussions.)

So I collect just a few thoughts and reasons why I am thankful today:

For excellent health after so many months living out-of-doors in fair and bitter weather.

For the good done for us by our chaplains who stake their lives to lighten our burdens in hours of greatest peril.

For the Red Cross which brings reading material right up under fire, and which provides a home for us in these foreign cities where we may rest or be entertained.

For friends and relatives who never fail to write and keep us reminded that there are warm homes and hearts awaiting the greatest day in our lives and theirs the day of our return.

And for Faith to believe that life is not dull, that grievous tragedy is not all loss, and that your prayers do help us to understand.

Chafee’s letter puts Thanksgiving Day into perspective, even 70 years later.

And it gives me one more item to add to my list of things I am thankful for.

I am thankful for every person who has ever served in the military, and especially those who spent this Thanksgiving Day overseas in service to our country in places like Afghanistan. They deserve our very special ‘thanks,’ today and every day.

Because of them we can say thanks for the freedoms we enjoy in this great country of ours.

One other note.

Maryjean (Chafee) Miller and Dick Miller are in the process of compiling and scanning all of Kermit Chafee’s letters and newspaper articles so they can be made available to the Winnebago Area Museum and any interested persons.

I am thankful they wanted to share this particular letter with me, so that I could share it with you.