Partial letter to Kathie



Partial letter to Kathie


Several sectioned letter. Long description about how he feels in himself possibly over breakup. Feels sorry for himself. Talks of his dreams and relates his feelings through the war. Continues philosophising at length. Writes a lengthy story about girl and American airman.




Eleven-page handwritten letter


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his world was shattered, he had, strangely, anticipated it.


Hello Again, Dearest Cathie –

There’s a hollow, knawing, aching inside my stomach – there’s an infernal ringing in my head – my brain seems lax, useless – the situation is (to me) unfathomable. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe in ten years I’ll get it through my head that I am not witnessing some far-fetched drama being depicted by a couple of amateur thespians – but ME! ME! I’ve got to get it through my head – this is ME!

You can afford to be compassionate – you’ve found your happiness – and I’m glad – in this way only one gets hurt – the one who should pay the penalty. I dashed to the telephone the minute I received your letter today - & dashed with a fury and hope, then the d – connection – of all times – had to be distorted – and I yelled into an endless tube that brought back a garbled echo, a strange, sweet, aching echo which, added to the pounding of my heart, blotted all sanity from my mind.

Why? Why? To me it seems only yesterday that the B-24 winged its way over Sea/land, to Iceland, and to Connecticut. I couldn’t take a ship and linger in England a few hours longer, I had to take the fastest mode of transportation known to man – I had to fly – fly – FLY –

Then supposed rehabilitation – well, you’re looking at one that couldn’t be rehabilitated – he didn’t have what it takes – you know the kind that goes through life trying to escape reality, shunning that which was tangible –

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[missing words] foundation – wanting no seats. He [missing word] 22 years old when he was returned to [missing word] family. 22 – what a wonderful, innocent, [missing word] – compared to the next 40,000. 22 – ready to conquer the world with his brain, his infernal pen. God, but I wish I had never learned to write my own name – I’d be satisfied to be a ditch-digger, a garbage collector, a truck driver, a farmer –

Now – he’s supposed to be a writer – a writer without inspiration. He had to edit a newspaper – after receiving a letter – a letter he knew one day must come – so like an automaton he wrote news, edited news, made appointments for photographers, wrote captions, made layout sheets, advised the printer – It’s a little later now and the shock has diminished and replacing it has been a dull painless pain – a pain that no physician could place a finger on ….


Hello No. 3 –

Maybe this man that I knew could have straightened his life out but he built himself an enormous bubble – a great vacuum containing only those ideals, those dreams he wanted to remember – somehow anything, anything in the future had no place within that bubble – he pushed it to the outside world and shut the door against any intruders. He selected a small, well-picked circle of friends – idealists most of them, and was set to go through life allowing the present – the actuality – not to touch him –

This sphere – this dream – began in 1941 and contained ever so many incidents; it began just before Pearl Harbor – I think the boy was 18 or 19 at the time – he had lived a rather cloistered life, and then the ominous war cloud rolled, enveloping most of the small figurines of the world. He did not escape. He

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saw in war the release from tedium, a boring existence, an ounce of excitement – How he prayed that he would be accepted for service; even pictured a teen-age dream of a glorious death as a hero – (what boy hasn’t) Oh yes, this “mighty warrior” was anxious to sacrifice his life for his country, for the cause of democracy.

War, he found, offered a certain excitement, a change of face, but still it was monstrous – this boy found that heroism or a chance to display it wasn’t the opportunity of every American serviceman – Hence, he discovered, were made because of proximity & yes, fate –

By early 1944 this bubble our “hero” had constructed for himself was patched and repaired – once between 1941 and 1944 the great ball almost completely collapsed. That, the “author” cannot delve into without more time and writing paper.

Not the least of the figures in this ideal was a girl he met quite by chance on foreign grounds – a tiny wisp of a pixie with hair blowing in her face and her eyes crinkling. He actually never discovered the color [sic] of her eyes – he never looked closely at anything. He could see the general panorama, but minute details bored him. Also in his dream was a great, obese “lady” who used to run her fingers through his hair and the fingers on her other hand through his wallet. There isn’t much laughter in the man’s world – his world of remembering – but incidents such as this often provided him with a chuckle when he turned the pages back.

Somehow – only God knows – this man I know – met the diminutive, crinkly-eyed creature – He told himself laughingly that she was the girl he was going to marry. He told himself this so often he was convincing himself. – Still in America he had a fiancee – a real, hot-blooded New Orleans French girl, and she wanted

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to hear him say “I do” –

This story sounds like the eternal triangle, but this guy I know was too smart for any such complications. He would tell neither the hot French flame nought of the other love, nor would he tell the new-found sunshine of that which was awaiting him on his glorious return. But fate has her little tricks … the hero wasn’t immune to fate – kismet – He was enjoying this new satisfaction, this new alliance. From hundreds of “dashing” American airmen she choose this one – still God can only answer why – and often he betrayed the trust she had in him – that the writer will ignore for the present – moments, rare moments of being together for fleeting moments – between shifts – slipping away from the base on bicycles when the American commander had strictly forbidden his troops to exit themselves of the base’s confines – How do I know all this? This man – I shall call him “Joe” – so many Americans earned that name during the war – told me only yesterday. And this story was tragically true –

Joe said that he and the foreign girl, on their one day off each week, would cycle away – Across the fertile lands of this little country – sometimes they would go into the city for dinner, and he was so homesick for anything American he would sit through long, double-feature pictures – stinkers – from America; they’d often get confused because there were numerous tiny lanes and

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roads in this country. Joe told me that on a 11-mile bike hike to a city once, they, knowing no better, took a 17-mile route. They found a short-cut on the return trip, however, a path winding through glen and over hills, and along darkly shaded lanes with flowers abundant on the wayside. Joe said they discussed all the plants including one he could not pronounce, not to speak of spelling – rhododendron, but they were softly purple in the twilight and Joe was fond of the color [sic] because his mother – born in February – loved lavender – her birthstone was amethyst –

There were more of these rendezvous – she used to sing a line from a song he’d heard his “bad aunt” sing when he was a child of six, and though they said she was bad, he loved her more than any of the others, because she showered all her devotion and sweets on him – The line was: “When the things you plan, need a helping hand – I will understand – always” – They didn’t talk about it, but somehow this song became theirs – theirs alone – and years later whenever Joe heard it, he never failed to remember the tiny figure beside him, valiantly pushing the pedals of the bicycle, [deleted] up [/deleted] sending the vehicle up hills that taxed Joe’s strength – He had never ridden a bicycle before he went to this foreign land, and he learned – the hard way, by piling into a ditch on his head, but he picked himself up and started all over again.

They – Joe and – I shall call her Jane – Jane

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would run away to an inn near the airdrome where both were stationed after the day had ended – Joe told me he remembered one instance when he said something unkind to Jane’s friend, and Jane was crying – which hurt Joe – He gave her a black tie which was no longer allowed in the USAF – and he saw the happiness in her eyes – and he thought of the French girl, but his conscious irked him …

She went away. Yet on her iron stud she pedaled [sic] back and they’d share another stolen moment; stolen from the cruel hand of fate. Then he transferred to another American base – yet luck was with Joe then. He was sent back to his old base for school and chanced to meet her.

Then the war was over –

Home – disappointment – out of love with the French girl, a nostalgic love for what he’d left behind in the foreign land – Separation from service –

How long would the chameleon public remember these kids who had died and suffered, who [deleted] had [/deleted] would live the rest of their lives in nightmares, remembering the buddy they couldn’t extricate from the burning wreckage, watching him roast until his screams were drowned in the blue flames?

Joe went to work for a newspaper in N.Y. state – a place he hated, a job he hated, a staff he hated – because Joe actually [deleted] had [/deleted] was dead! Joe died in August 1945. His world ended when the Japanese armistice

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was signed. War – from 1942 to 1945 – was the greatest thing he had ever known, it came at the age when he was most impressionable – in his late teens and early 20s. The sirens and whistles screaming, blowing, the horns shrieking the end of hostilities also were announcing Joe’s death –

Because that’s when he drew the curtain around him, he quit living – instead of going forward he turned his path backward – allowing it to go as far as 1941

Joe never told this to anyone except me, because Joe was and is a very good friend to me. He had no one to confide in. Although he loved his mother dearly he knew that he could not remain there forever. He had grown to know a world almost totally alien to his family’s – He couldn’t talk to just anyone – this Joe – he’d appear insane, trying to explain that his world had died – that he was refusing to accept or live the present and dreaded the future.

All mixed up in this confused pattern were the girl on the bicycle, the hillsides, the tiny farms, the inns they had visited. If he had only had her, perhaps there could have been hope, perhaps he could have talked to her. Maybe she would have understood, helped him snap out of [deleted] the [/deleted] his dream world. He wanted her more than life. His widowed sister, his invalid brother-in-law, his mother, his nieces who adored him, all

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[indecipherable word] [deleted] to [/deleted] in the trick which lost her to him, He would save enough money to send for her, then he would remember his sister with the crippled husband – her three kids – and perhaps they needed food, clothes. No, he didn’t find all the money for these purposes. Money had a way of slipping through his fingers – even before he was aware of the fact.

Joe had another reason for hesitating. He had never asked Jane her age, although he was aware she was a few years his senior – he didn’t want to know her age – I think Joe was a little afraid. He still doesn’t want to know, nor does he care, because love has no age, Joe found out too late [symbol]

But before he realized this, he was determined that the best thing for Jane was for her to forget him. He remembered Jane telling him that she was terribly hurt once. He knew his faults – he wasn’t stable, he was impetuous, and that was no foundation for a home to be built on. For a solid year he forgot her – whenever she appeared on his mind, he hurridly [sic] brushed her away – he had that faculty – to forget what he wanted – to remember what he wished. At the end of that year he found it was no use – he couldn’t blot that image from his memory … no matter how hard he attempted, it kept recurring –

Joe had lived with his dream, in his bubble about as long as he could. Perhaps – if he returned to that enchanted land – just – maybe –

He broke the silence, wrote Jane of his intentions – waited – waited –

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Joe said you were familiar with the rest …. a letter, someone else … a story as old as time itself – [missing word] telephone call, embarrassing, but pride had no part of his makeup now – static, interruptions – bad connections – he heard a cold, sweet voice, sweet, yes, but nevertheless cold, calculating – Perhaps it was the voice that brought the stars crumbling to his feet –

He remembered in one moment that they had planned to meet in London under Nelson’s statue in Trafalgar Square – what a heel of a dream – silly, foolish, crazy dream!

Joe still will return to London, to Norwich to Ipswich, to Framlingham, to Oulton, to Alysham. He’ll visit Chettingham, and that last base where he was stationed, and from where he flew home – ironically Joe can’t even recall the name of that station …

He’ll rent a bicycle in the village, and, alone, recapture or kill a dream that has been haunting him for four years. He’ll go back again to see mom in The Queen’s Head in London, he’ll go to the Buckinghamshire (what a name) Arms … he’ll return again to the little pub in the little town where he first spoke to her, where they had a fantastic conversation about a couple of imbecilic characters in one of their favorite [sic] books – and he acquired a name that has remained with him until this day; he’ll go to Norwich and have dinner at a hotel where they once ate & paid a fabulous price for brussel sprouts and a bottle of wine, and he’ll think how he used to tell her that her countrymen were the worst cooks in the

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world. Yes, Joe will go back to all these places. He’ll stand under the one-eyed admiral, feed crumbs to the pidgeons [sic] and wonder what would have happened, how their lives would have been shaped if he had met here there. Of course he’ll scan all the figures and his heart will beat faster when he sees someone who reminds him of her; she’ll pass – maybe speak – and his heartbeat will return to normal. He’ll go there at 4:30 – the time he was supposed to have met her four years ago – every day that he is in London. Joe always loved London. He said it had the biggest heart of any city in the world, so doubtless he’ll make that city his headquarters. He’ll hear the Cockney bells ringing, after dark, he’ll close his eyes and picture half a million young Americans swarming over the streets, in the pubs (mostly) in the cafes, a bunch of guys who didn’t want war, but were in an English speaking country now and wanted friendship, wanted to be friendly with a retiring people. He’ll imagine he hears the drone overhead of a lone German plane, or the swoosh of a buzz bomb.

He'll go back to Oulton and spend several days there – not only did he meet her there, but “Big Noise” and Robin and “Mr. Moto” (how did Joe ever remember that name, which he hasn’t thought of in years?) He’ll remember the first night he came to that base – it was raining – as usual – there was only a handful of Americans at Oulton then. Joe’ll walk down by the Americans radio buildings – alongside the road to town, and he’ll remember how he used to stop her & her girl friend

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the girl-friend whom he met first. He’ll laugh at the tactics he used – a pretence of speaking to the girl friend when all along he wanted to see her, to dare ask her if she would – if she might – he just wanted to see & talk with her.

[deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] Joe expects this bubble to burst; he hopes it will – he hopes he hates the country and everything connected with it. He’ll probably be hard to get along with – bark at waiters – and everything that will irritate the people toward him. He said he’d like to see Jane, to see if he is nursing a nostalgic longing which is tied up with that country but Jane said in her letter she didn’t want to see him. Frankly Joe needs help, he needs guidance. But from where? From whom?

Yes, he had the moon, this guy I know – he had the moon in his possession, but he wanted the stars …. this guy I know



F Killen, “Partial letter to Kathie,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 22, 2024,

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