Letter to Cathie from Ford Killen



Letter to Cathie from Ford Killen


Long rambling letter where he describes his feelings and activities. Mentions his mental state and state of his country and its inhabitants. Mentions book he had read and how it affected him. Writes of comrades and previous lady friend. Continues with more rambling in the same vein.




Temporal Coverage



Ten-page handwritten letter


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[American Red Cross crest]


Sept. 13

My darling Cathy:

Oh, honey, how I wish you were here; I’m so blue and lonesome that I could almost shoot myself – but that takes nerve – more than I possess at this moment. I didn’t get up for breakfast this morning, so here am I again in the service club – where I was when I wrote you yesterday (only this time I forgot to bring any paper, and had to mooch some from the hostess here;) (so you will please excuse.) I have had (not 1 but) 2 cups of coffee – really good coffee (almost like the French style we get in New Orleans.)

Honey, I’m not happy at all – too many ghosts from the past have made untimely and unwelcome entrances into my gay young (“innocent”) life. Like in my article, I am growing up – something I never wanted (over)

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to do; I am learning (ref. article) that a day spent is gone forever. Oh! I try to tell myself that America is the same; that her people (my countrymen) are unchanged, but as true as there is day, everything is different. Remember when the heroine of “The White Cliffs” came back to her own land for a short visit during prohibition and found organized gangdom, cut-throats, etc. It isn’t exactly like that now, but there is cut-throat in business; each company trying to form & secure a monopoly so that his competitor will die of bankruptcy – People have lost all sense of reason, & the mad scramble for the almighty dollar has made beasts of them. Never in the history of our nation has there been such a national payroll, and for articles that are scarce (not necessities, but things that are absolutely useless – fur coats ($4,000) - £1,000 they’re paying as if it were a shilling -) used automobiles four

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and five years old are bringing 2 and 3 times what was paid for them new.

(From downstairs I hear again Chopin’s Polonaise – it has become an institution here; the greatest seller since “White Christmas,” and “W.C.” has been the all-time history breaking seller in the U.S. (The “W.C.” above stands for “White Christmas” and NOT what you may be thinking.)

As I’ve said before, I am at the crossroads of my life; I soon shall be in civilian clothes (I say soon; things move so slowly on this base it will probably be years!) and I don’t know quite how to accept that life – going into the Army when I was just a kid, before I had a chance to feel any responsibility (and regimentation certainly doesn’t make for promoting the sense of resp.) for the U.S. Army there is no tolerance of individualism – we must work,


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think, act …. collectively, as a bunch of marionettes on strings).

I need advice – straightforward, frank advice from someone who has known & lived; and knows what breaks life will give you; what courses to steer away from; which to follow ….

Experience, they say, though, is a [underlined] dear [/underlined] teacher. So I suppose I must learn the hard way – perhaps that is better after all …..

Yesterday, while browsing through some books in the library, I picked up a class-book published by one of the cadet-bombardier schools in Ellington, Texas. You know the kind of book the graduating classes of schools, etc. always rubbish – with everyone’s pictures, and scenes depicting the school life, etc.

I wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew – but right there (the first picture in the book) smiling, and dressed in his flying rig, was the best friend I ever had – the guy who kept

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me steered on the right trail when I was in my late teens; the guy who meant more to me than any of my brothers. I depended on him (he was older) for all decisions I made – he advised me to join the Air Force instead of the regular Army, because that’s where he was (having been transferred from the army) and he knew how tough & heartbreaking the other was. Perhaps I’ve written all this before, honey, but I’m so depressed I’d jut like to tell somebody, & I think I could find no more sympathetic ear than yours. Stan graduates from school, gets a commission & silver wings (he was an orphan kid & had to work for everything he ever got) and just a month after graduation everything (his plans, dreams, his life) all go up in a flaming liberator.

It was like losing my right arm; my source of advice. Well, we had plans of going to Connecticut (in New England) to breed horses when all this was over – plans formulated by him, because what I know about horses you could put in a mosquito’s

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ear. He was going to take me in as a partner, & teach me the business.

I got the message, 2 years ago – after having just arrived in England, and he was killed back here. Somehow, being so far away, I couldn’t accept his death as a reality, but now that I’ve come back here; gone to all the hangouts where we (always accompanied by a gang of kids – Dolly – the French lass I wrote you about – was among them) used to [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] frequent, it has been like learning all over again that there will be no horse-farm in Conn., no double marriage (we had planned that someday; when the right girls came along).

And seeing this picture (published in 1943) so alive, so real made me wonder if he really were dead?

Here is an excerpt from a letter I received from Stan just a couple of weeks before his crash – so ironic, & prophetic –
“….. Reckon there’s not much else to say. A few accidents around here – a few deaths that don’t bother me in the least. I still fly with the greatest ease, and don’t worry about the thoughts [underlined] that I may have [/underlined]

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[underlined] my crash soon. [/underlined] I imagine if I was to die, it would have been a long time ago. BUT, [underlined] the wicked live on to a ripe old age [/underlined] ….”

That was written 7 Aug.; on the 18 Aug. it happened. And that is the only letter I saved that he had ever sent to me.

The only thing left for me to do is write that book I’ve been dreaming of entitled: “Only The Good Die Young.” And dedicate it to a guy whose theory was upset like an apple cart. He must not have been as wicked as he imagined, or else there’s not a grain of salt in the theory he preached is there?

There it is, and I feel better that I have told someone about it; maybe it’s the second, or third time I’ve told you (There goes THAT song again!) I hope I haven’t been too boring – if you were here I wouldn’t feel like this – you would


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‘nt allow any seriousness. We’d both be laughing. Right now it’s 10 A.M. here; in England at this moment it is 5 P.M. – you’re probably going to “chow,” or having eaten early, you are going on duty. Tell the C.O. or Cpl. or whoever gives you your schedule, not to work you too hard; you’re too small for that kind of labor. [sic] Tell them I said so - & the other girls who work with you, tell them to pitch in & work for you so you can have more time off.

Don’t forget to tell me how you came out in your exam – or test – for the London Academy of Dramatic Arts, or whatever it was. I hope it was okay.

While composing this epistle (which has taken an hour thus far) I have been literally eating cigarettes – if I become a writer THAT will be my greater experience. We were rationed to 10 packs a week (on the base at half price) but that is lifted now that the shortage crisis has passed. They’re

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plentiful in all the stores downtown, & everywhere, where once a voluntary ration was imposed. All that has gone now so there is no need to ration fags for the Armed services

I suppose you get tired of this variation in the spelling of your name: Sometimes it’s Kathie; Kathy, Cathie, Cathy – “but a rose by any other name ….”

Having seen Laurence Olivier’s production (in which he took the title role) “Henry V,” I have checked the play out here at the library & am reading it again. It is a large volume containing Shakespeare’s entire works. I read it in high school; got very little out of it – because it was compulsory; now I want to read it for my own pleasure, and not so I can make good marks on an


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exam. the instructor will give when I’ve completed it.

I went to the movies again last night, braving a REAL rain (it actually rained & now I’m freezing because it is so cold, when only yesterday it was 120 degrees. But I’m glad – this weather reminds me so much of England) to see “Captain Kidd” with Charles Laughton creating a character out of an imaginary legend of England in an early century. It was good, light entertainment with Laughton doing another “Captain Blygh” from “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

Cathy, honey, this is the longest letter I’ve written you in a long time, but all of them must come to an end sometimes, so I’ll just say. Write often, will you. Send it regular mail – they get here almost as fast as Air Mail.

“Tally – hello”

Always, yours



F Killen, “Letter to Cathie from Ford Killen,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 20, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/39850.

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