History Behind the Walls of Fort Meade Barracks
Letters written during World War II recently turned up at an old barracks building on Fort Meade.
Nearly 70 years ago, Wanda Hester wrote from Oklahoma to her son, Sgt. George Hester, lamenting his father’s poor health. She and George’s sister had hoped to move to California to find work, but changed their mind. Money from a $25 bond was on its way. She wished she could do more.
George Hester got the letter, but didn’t keep it. It was lost to history, until last month when a maintenance worker at Fort Meade found it nestled behind a wall in Building 429, a former barracks now undergoing renovation.
The letter, along with seven others and a pair of Christmas cards, had rested behind that wall since the middle of World War II. All arrived in the fall of 1943. Three were unopened. Some were filthy. All were still readable, and offer insight into the lives of soldiers during the period.
“It’s kind of miraculous to me,” said Barbara Taylor, an exhibits specialist at the Fort Meade Museum. “I’m surprised these letters survived.”
There are letters from the Bronx, Tennessee and Ohio. There are letters from parents to soldiers, officers to officers.
And despite the tumultuous time in which they were written, the letters are striking in their mundanity.
“This could be today,” Taylor said. “They could be written in the 60s, they could be written in the 80s.”
One letter features correspondence from one Army Private, Harold Cornish, asking fellow soldier Paul Sperbeck about married life. The tone is casual, as if there was no war raging.
Another letter features officers complaining about bureaucracy and the fitness of their men, while going over ordinary details of their lives.
“Seems like you had a whale of a time in Baltimore,” Sgt. Henry Corvatz wrote to his friend, Sgt. Chet Caudhill. “Must be nice to be near a big city like that and get all the liquor you want … or is it rationed too!”
There are requests for money. Requests of prayers for the health of family members. Virtually no mention of the Japanese, the Nazis, or anything related to the war.
“Technology changes, politics change, but what individual people care about doesn’t change,” Taylor said. “It’s amazing to me when you read these letters, they’re writing about family, they’re writing about their health.”