There’s my Pop Pop, on the right in the photo above.
In the past few years, I’ve become fascinated with my family history and researching the genealogy on both my Mom and my Dad’s sides of the family. My Dad began compiling information about his family when he was a teenager in high school. It’s sort of fascinating to look at all of the documents that he so painstakingly acquired through countless trips to libraries, cemeteries, and so forth….deeds, xeroxes of family bibles, my Dad’s neat all-caps handwriting detailing years upon years of names, birth and death dates, locations, marriages, and offspring on scraps of paper…it’s a ephemera lover’s dream.
Needless to say, the internet has made genealogy much simpler, but much more daunting at the same time. The years stretch so far into the past, and the past gets more and more opaque, lines get crossed and names get confused. More and more, first hand accounts make all the difference, and bring the clearest pictures to mind. I’ve decided to start by scanning and transcribing all of the documents my Dad has given to me in his official “passing on the title of family historian.” I look forward to sorting through all of the various documents in an attempt to create a timeline of sorts, even if it’s just for the little bit of history this branch of the family is are aware of. In the last year, we have (quite fortunately and serendipitously) made contact with several distant cousins in our lineage, and have greatly enjoyed spending time together and reveling in each others knowledge of our family history.
The first on the list of documents to transcribe are my Pop Pop’s letters home, written during his time serving with Darby’s Rangers, 4th Battalion, during WWII. Below is just one of the letters he wrote home to his family, in this case, the letter was addressed to his mother in November of 1943. My grandfather was hospitalized in Africa after suffering a nervous breakdown.
The letter reads as follows:
November 30 1943
(Written on brown paper labeled “American Red Cross Club” in red, with the red cross at top. At bottom of page is written: “To furnish volunteer aid to the sick and wounded of armies…..” and “To act in matters of voluntary relief and in accord with the military and naval authorities as a medium of communication between the people of the United States of America and their Army and Navy…..The Charter of the American National Red Cross. By Act of Congress January 5, 1905.” )
My dearest Mother,
Just a line today to let you know I still think of you. How are things at home?
I am well + feeling fine. News here is scarce. But I will try to write a few pages anyhow.
I am not in combat now but in a hospital for my nerves.
For my being homesick + the strain of combat sort of caught up with me.
I have been in Sicily and I was also in the invasion of Italy. The first wave to go in + believe me that was really something. There isn’t a lot I can tell you. But I will enclose a newspaper clipping of a raid I was in. One we pulled on the “Jinnies.” (?) And it happened that I was a “Bazooka” gunner at the time. It was really something.
Mother, have you ever heard from “Carl Stout?” I would like to hear from him. But I don’t know his address. In fact I don’t know anyone here that I knew in the States. Did Virginia get married? She was supposed to get married the 25th. I am afraid I don’t know the guy but I hope to meet him in the future.
How is Tommy getting along? I bet he is a very big boy now. I sure miss him and all of you. But I don’t think there will be a chance of seeing any of you until this is over and how long that will be I don’t know? How is the news from home? I haven’t had any mail for about a month. But I expect to get some very soon. It is very hard to keep my mind on writing this letter. Because it seems to drift back to my duties and other things. Sometimes I start to write but I get to thinking and begin to feel hurt inside. I don’t cry or anything. But sometimes I think it would do some good if I could. But this life makes a hard man out of some guys. I hope you will understand what I am trying to say. So don’t feel bad if some days you don’t get mail. It is just because I am in no condition to write. I hope you are not tired of reading this letter but all I can seem to write about is myself. Why I don’t know. It’s just that I want to forget the other things over here. Please tell all to write.
Love to all,
Pfc. Robt. Sampsell 33540636
Co. “D” 4th Ranger Bn. Apo 464
c/o ? New York City