Veterans column: A mother's letters proliferate and a son goes missing during World War II

On Aug. 1, 1944, 2nd Lt. Frederick Wright wrote a letter to his mother, Mary, telling her he had arrived safely in England and asking her to send cigarettes and chewing gum.

Mary questioned him in a letter dated Aug. 16 if he was serious about wanting these items since he didn’t smoke or chew gum. She probably learned these were hot commodities to trade for other things.

She also wrote of the excessive heat in Ohio that August — over 100 degrees with 85% to 90% humidity — and asked him what he wanted for Christmas, claiming that packages would need to be mailed by October if he was to get them in time. Gas rationing came up in her letter, too, and she mentioned that it was going to “cramp her style.”

Two days later, she wrote him again and began it with the words, “Merry Christmas,” referring to the fact that “after 54 days of sweltering heat and no rain we have better than two days of rain” and a severe drop in the temperature.

At the end of the month in a letter sent on Aug. 31, she asked him “if (he) dared to tell her what unit he was with.”

Wright was assigned to the 458th Bombardment Group. From Aug. 25, 1944 to Oct. 12, 1944, he completed seven successful bombing runs over Germany.

His mother wrote faithfully to her son a few times a week. We know how many letters she wrote because she numbered them.

On Oct. 31, 1944, she wrote her 101st letter. The next day she received word from the War Department that her son had been missing in action over Germany since Oct. 14. The letter she numbered 102 was dated Nov. 8.

“It was just a week ago tonight, dear, that I got (the) word you were missing in action. Ben was here with me – but it was pretty bad for a while, Freddy. Then it occurred to me, that I ought to be spanked – it wasn’t nearly as hard on me as it must have been on you – and I don’t know why – but somehow tonight I have just an obsession that you must be either back at your base – or well on your way there – and when you get these you won’t have had a letter for the whole past week – Don’t do that again honey – it’s too hard on both you and me –

“Everyone here has been so concerned about you – The telephone and door-bell ring all the time – and I tell everyone that I’ll let them know just as soon as I hear from you – You see, Freddy, I have so much faith in you – and so much confidence in your ability to handle unexpected situations that I know that where ever you are you will be capable of meeting any emergency and will know just what to do —

“You always said that I thot (sic) you never could do anything as well as anyone else – but honey you were wrong – I always thought you did everything better than anyone else – but I never wanted you to know I felt that way – for fear you’d grow up to be a smart aleck – and too cocky – Don’t ever forget, son, that I think you’re tops! I’ll get back in my regular stride in my next (letter) – I’ll keep writing until I hear from you Son. ‘Night now, and God bless you.”

Doug Stout is the Local History Coordinator for the Licking County Library. You may contact him at 740-349-5571 or His book “Never Forgotten: The Stories of Licking County Veterans” is available for purchase at the library or online at &