Letters

Seen at the Normandy Visitor Center, this movie tells the story of five men who lost their lives during the World War II Normandy Campaign.

Video Transcript

JOHN CARROLL: To see it, to observe the size of it, and to look at the beauty of it, I can’t describe it. It does have an impact on me. We had to exert such a loss of life to achieve that beach. Normally you get a thought that, Boy, but for the grace of God there goes I, there’s where I would be. You have that thought.

MARTHA MCNIECE: The men shed their blood for France, for the world. But they shed it here on French soil. To me their bodies should be here. And the cemetery is, I think it’s a beautiful and peaceful place.

REGINALD ALXANDER: French people are wonderful, especially here in Normandy, how they remember and how they put us on a pedestal and we really don’t deserve it, the real heroes are in the cemetery.

WAR DEPARTMENT LETTER: Dear Mrs. Carter, It is with regret that I am writing to confirm the recent telegram informing you of the death of your husband, Captain Elmer N. Carter, 0-1697… (Sound Dissolves to next sentence) I know the sorrow this message has brought you and it is my hope that in time the knowledge of his heroic service to his country, even unto death, may be of sustaining comfort to you. I extend to you my deepest sympathy.

WALTER FORD CARTER: At first she was very angry because she found out, after he was killed, that he volunteered to transfer from the hospital staff where he was initially assigned to an infantry division. And he wrote a letter to a friend of his and that friend gave her that letter after the war.

NORVAL CARTER’S LETTER: Dear John, I have been transferred to a battalion which is part of the CT and I am its surgeon. You know what a battalion surgeon is in a regiment that is designed as a combat team. I’ll never tell Fernie, but I requested the transfer. It is impossible to say why. My feelings and emotions are all mixed up about it. But I was unhappy in the station hospital and I am happy here, or as much so as one could be away from home. I don’t fear death, per se, but it really depresses me to think I may never see Fernie, Tom, or Walter Ford again. –Norval.

WALTER FORD CARTER: So she saw for the first time, “I’ll never tell Fernie but I requested the transfer.” And I think she went into a rage, but I think she got over it, out of her love for him which was stronger than her hate… and her love for us boys.

JEAN MIGNON (In French): There was an American Veteran who was there and who said to me if you would have been there right before we embarked for Europe, you would have seen that there were many tanks, cannons, trucks… I looked at him at that time he would have been 19 years old and he had no idea what he was getting into. It’s as if, at that age, I would have been sent thousands of kilometers away from my home to go help people that I didn’t know.

GENE SELLERS’ LETTER: Dear Ruth, How’s everyone, fine I hope. I’m making it swell. We get our wings on Saturday. It’s one hell of a feeling when you jump from a plane. When you jump the prop blast catches you and sends you whirling. Then your chute opens giving you a big jerk. You come down real peaceful then to Earth. You don’t land so very hard. We have learned how to hit and take up a tumble to lessen the shock. Well I had better close, I jump tomorrow at 8:30. Bye, and answer soon. Lots of love, Gene.

CARROLL GOTT: In 1940 I come to Jonesboro to go to school and met, Gene Sellers. He was easy-going, he was just well-liked, and he made everybody smile. I was crazy about the guy, he was a nice fellow. And Gene was a good shot, and uh, in free throws he was, I think was an excellent. I don’t know if anybody could beat him. Every game was a thrill because we was winning and when you’s in high school if you’s a winner and put out, a lot of times you got a chance to go to college and Gene went off to college to the University of Arkansas.

WANDA VANCE: When he quit school, he came home and he told us what he was gonna do. Gene said he wanted to serve his country. He was in the National Guard and the superintendent here had called mom and dad and told ‘em that he could keep him from going, and Gene didn’t want that, he wanted to go into paratroopers.

GENE SELLERS’ LETTER: Dear Wanda, Ann, & Howard, Received your letter and was very glad to here from you. I went to London, had a swell time. You could kind find lots of things to do and many pretty sights and places of interest. I finally got all I wanted to eat. But it’s not like the food you get at home. I’m telling you and Mom are really going to be hurting when I get back. I’ll keep you both busy just cooking. I’m feeling fine and getting along all right. I better close now, so write soon. Love, Gene.

JEAN CONTE (In French): To see all these tombs lined up like that, knowing that all these people were liberators, it’s something very powerful. It was young people who were sacrificed, above all… for a cause that was surely a good one But they thought well of all these people, that’s for sure. At the time the Americans were our liberators and we only thought about that.

BARBARA WHITEHEAD: My father, he was born in Cass, West Virginia and he went to Augusta Military Academy and then, of course West Point. He was kind of a dashing good looking guy that mother fell for and she was quite good-looking herself.

HUBERT MATHEWS’ LETTER: My own sweet wonderful, sweetheart, Oh, I love you more than ever honey. What a time. I was lucky. But I certainly have sore knees and elbows, and a sore tummy from flopping in ditches and dodging bullets and artillery shells. Some experience. I’m just as far up in front as any of them. I duck just as many bullets, too. They can’t hit me though, so don’t worry. I must go to bed now. Oh good night my darling. I love you. Hughie.

E. ALLEN SHEPHERD: Hubert Mathews felt some invincibility. He had survived against incredible odds in Sicily, and the same was true in North Africa. He refused a promotion so that he could still engage the enemy directly in front of the troops, rather than from behind the troops at the time of Normandy.

HUBERT MATHEWS’ LETTER: My own sweet darling wonderful wife, I love you more than ever. I go into battle pretty soon. I know you and sweet B.J. will be with me. I’ll right again tomorrow if the battle isn’t too tough. Your own, Hughie.

BARBARA WHITEHEAD: You know when people are widowed, especially that young, the rings go off. But you know what, she wore his ring all of her life. She loved him a great deal.

WALTER PERRA’S LETTER: Dear Medrick, I’ve done a little traveling since the last time I saw you and I’m now in merry old England, and like it very much. This has really been a pleasure cruise so far, under slightly crowded conditions, of course. The most unusual part or thing I’ve noticed so far is the lack of noise. Walter.

MARK WALTER PERRA: From stories that I heard as a child, I knew that Walter had been a P-38 pilot. I knew that he loved horseback riding. He had been, you know, grew up on a farm and did work with horses and also did precision horseback riding. And he loved not only what they could do for you, as a farmer, he loved the feeling of the freedom of riding a massive animal and causing it to move in precise ways, like a P-38.

WALTER PERRA’S LETTER: Dear Medrick, Another day comes to an end in the European theater of operation, and a beautiful day as I have ever seen, anywhere. Just like a spring day in California. Yesterday was the same. They are keeping us rather busy here lately. I guess you know why. We have a box seat for the big show, and it really is a big show. But then I suppose you’ll be able to see as much at the theater without half the trouble. We had an uneventful but interesting sightseeing tour over the land of the super race. Every now and then my neck finds itself turning both ways at once. Goodbye for now. Your bro, Walt.

HENRI LEVAUFRE: I tell you when I’m walking in the Cemetery, to me it’s more than a grave, you see. I know the family, I know some of them how they die. The main that I could say, that I thank them. I thank their families because I know how it is when you receive the telegram that the Secretary of the Army wrote and say, “We regret to tell you that your brother or your son was killed in Normandy.” this is why in Normandy, the people don’t forget, you see.

KENNETH HATCHER’S LETTER: Private Kenneth Hatcher, June 2nd, 1944, High folks, I thought this card would explain everything. I’m hoping to hear from you soon. Love, Ken.

NANCY LAMOREUX: He was a fun loving guy, enjoyed a good joke and we used too- we had good times together. No matter what we did we made a, kinda turned it into a fun thing and, um, I thought he was God. You know, I thought he was the best thing ever. He was my big brother.

WILLIAM HATCHER: My dad Ken was a dairy farmer. The Hatcher Farm was a dairy farm, they had a few cows. You know, he was a great family man who loved his family, and he was very much a patriot who loved the land.

KENNETH HATCHER’S LETTER : Dear Mom & Dad, How are you folks? Pretty busy now I suppose. I am too, so it evens the score I guess. I suppose haying is coming up pretty soon. How many pigs did you sell? What did they weigh and bring? Tell Pa to sell the chicks and go farming. Have you seen Betty and the kids? Seems like a year since I saw them, suppose it will be before I see them again. But I’ll see them all again. I sure do miss them. I’ll close with love. Write soon, Ken.

WILLIAM HATCHER: Normandy in June must’ve been familiar to him. I think the hedgerows would have been familiar to him, certainly the small fields with the - you know, the lined fences. And first thing that would have to have connected with him would have been, “My God, these are people like we are, you know, back in Wisconsin trying to make it on small farms, and we’re here to make sure that they’re gonna be able to do that.

KENNETH HATCHER’S LETTER: July 24, 1944 Mom, Just a line to let you know I’m still ok. I hope you are the same. Don’t know when I’ll get time to write another one ‘cause we’re pretty busy. But don’t worry about me, and tell dad I’m giving them Hell for him. I wrote Betty a letter today. First one in 3 weeks. Keep her cheered up. Love to all, Ken.

ELIZABETH MURPHY: I could’ve had him bring back here, but his brother that was in service said he earned that patch of land.

NANCY LAMOREUX: At least I knew he died for a reason. We had to help. We didn’t, as a country, did not have a choice.

JEAN MIGNON (In French): For me, it’s the human being, alone, that inspired the interest that I have. Because, really, that’s what it is. In each case, there are human lives that are lost by the thousands and the fact that these young people came and died like that, six thousand kilometers from where they live, that’s always had a big effect on me.

NARRATOR: They were sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, and friends. Nearly all of them left behind a void in lives of those they knew. For them, time stopped on the day they were killed. They are forever young. To generations that have followed them, and will follow them in the future, they’re graves are living memorials to the past, to what Americans once did in a place so far from home. For what, ultimately did they give their lives? Very simply, they gave their collective future to ensure ours. In the final analysis, there was for them, nothing more valuable or more precious that they could ever give.