It’s Memorial Day weekend, and for us members of the Kassel Mission Historical Society, it’s another time to pause and remember the sacrifices of ALL those who participated in the Kassel Mission. So much was sacrificed by those who perished, as well as those who survived the mission.
As part of our remembrance, I thought I would share an example of why we should never forget - including those who did not necessarily fight, but suffered and sacrificed as much.
I have a letter written to my mother, Mary, dated January of 1945, which I came across maybe 6 or 7 years ago shortly after my mother’s passing… she had kept this letter all those years. The letter was short and very bittersweet then as it is now.
It was from a mother who was inquiring about her son, Joe Gilfoil, knowing that he was on the same crew as my father, Frank Bertram. She had been informed in early October of 1944, (my mother had been advised of my father’s MIA status at that time), that Joe was also MISSING IN ACTION.
However, my mother received another confirmation 6 -7 weeks later (on Thanksgiving Day of ’44!) that Frank was “alive and safe” in a German prisoner of war camp… a telegram that Mrs. Gilfoil never received about her son.
That January 1945 letter to my mother simply said:
"Hello Mary, I hope you are well. I understand that my son Joseph was on the same mission as your husband. Have you heard any word about our boys?”
That was it; that was all she wrote in her sweet and hopeful letter. Short, but to the very most important point she cared about. Sadly, unbeknownst to Mrs. Gilfoil, her boy Joe lost his life over 3 months before she composed her letter, and she spent an unknown amount of days not knowing his fate.
I have no idea if, or how, my mother responded… she was 20 years old at the time. My mother only knew my father’s fate as a POW; but she probably deduced that it was not likely good news with no word on Joe so many months later.
It is hard to imagine what Mrs. Gilfoil must have gone through once she did receive official word. She, too, paid the sacrifice.
I must have read this letter a dozen times and the effect is always the same. Over the course of this war, or all wars, how many mothers and fathers wrote such letters, unaware of the doomed fate of their sons or daughters
So, a Memorial Day toast of Thanks to all those who have sacrificed in defense of our country and our freedom! But let us also toast all the Mrs. Gilfoil’s for the faith and courage they demonstrated as well!
Jim Bertram, Chairman
Kassel Mission Historical Society
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