Raab Announces the Discovery of 115 Letters from an American B-17 “Flying Fortress” Pilot, Stationed in England, to His Wife, Never Before Offered for Sale
The Raab Collection announced that it has acquired and will offer for sale a heartwarming archive of more than a hundred unpublished love letters written by a young B-17 bomber pilot to his wife in North Carolina, nearly all written between missions while he was stationed at Bury St. Edmunds, England, during World War II.
Between the summer of 1944 and April of 1945, J. Andrew Smith flew 35 combat missions to Germany and wrote home on a near daily basis. These emotional love letters reveal his anxieties about dying, his faith in God, and his devotion to his wife and their unborn child. They have remained with the descendants until now and have never before been offered for sale. The archive is valued at $7,800.
“You are my whole world darling, a world that is sweet and beautiful and not a world of war and hell.”
“These private letters touch on love, family, faith and death in a way that is deeply moving and insightful,” said Nathan Raab, president of The Raab Collection and author of The Hunt for History (Scribner, 2020).
The Love Letters: Excerpts from Camp
The job of a B-17 “Flying Fortress” pilot was very dangerous. As an antidote to that, Smith wrote more than 100 passionate letters to his wife, Hilda, reminding her how much he missed her.
October 15, 1944: “I would give a million to just be able to hold you in my arms for a minute.”
December 17, 1944: “You are my whole world darling, a world that is sweet and beautiful and not a world of war and hell.”
Valentine’s Day, 1945: “I need you so much Hilda so terribly much and I love you more than anything else in the world … damn I wish I could be with you but I’ve got to help finish up the Reich with the rest of the boys and then we’ll get home for a while before we go and blast Japan off the map.”
WWII Archive: The Dollar Bill
In addition to Smith’s tender letters, this collection includes special mementoes of his service, including, among other items, his military identification card, a prayer sheet, several telegrams, and two photos of Hilda, one of which he carried with him during missions. Most evocative, however, may be a dollar bill, torn in two and shared with a fellow soldier, to be united after each mission upon their mutual survival.
A sampling of the letters’ content and more details about the archive can be viewed here.
This collection was acquired from Smith’s descendants and was not previously known to exist. To learn more about this discovery, Nathan Raab is available for interviews.