The London Telegraph reported today about a find in Belgium.
They have lain unopened in a horse manger in a forgotten part of the Belgian countryside for more than 60 years. But now, a set of incredibly well-preserved letters, prayer books, cigarettes and cartoons abandoned by American troops days before the Battle of the Bulge have been discovered.
The items were left between October and December 1944, just before Germany launched its final -and ill-fated - offensive of the war as the Allies fought their way through France and Belgium.
American soldiers of the US Army's 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment of the First Infantry Division were resting in farmhouses in Belgium close to the German border. On December 16, they were called to the front line for one of the bloodiest encounters of the war, involving one million troops.
Everything that was not strictly essential was abandoned, leaving letters half-finished and mail unopened in the manger of a stable in the village of Froidthier. They were rediscovered when the building was being renovated.
I have an hour-long (or more) commute each way to work, and what I used to do before I started working so late I couldn't make it to the library anymore was check out audio books. Usually non-fiction. A lot of what my library has in terms of history and biography is World War II books, so that's what I've listened to during my commute. I've heard Ghost Soldiers (on which the movie The Great Raid was based), Band of Brothers, In Harm's Way, and The Inextinguishable Symphony.
Having listened to these books and become involved in the lives of the men and women described in them, the discovery of the letters in the Belgian feels personal. And though I know it wasn't the "Band of Brothers" whose letters were found, the men these letters did belong to were a lot like the men who have been written about.
In [one] letter, Cpl H F Drawdy was told by "aunt Florence", who it seems he had never met, that his home town was lining up a choice of women for him for when he returned.
"I am your uncle Davis's sister-in-law. We are planning a big blow out when the war is over," she said. "We are going to have so many pretty girls there you'll be undecided which one you would like."
The letters will go on show in the Remember Museum in Thimister-Clermont, near Liege, later this year. "We have lots of US soldiers visiting us," said the curator, Marcel Schmetz.
"We like to show them they are still loved. We will always remember what they did for us."
I'd love to go.