Local resident Ruth Pitts will be remembering her uncle this Memorial Day. Sgt. Charles Isaac Templeton, 24, died in Germany on March 9, 1945.
“My father’s brother served for two years and died just two months before the end of the war,” said Pitts.
Bringing the family’s loss to the forefront 70 years later was the discovery of hundreds of letters and personal items saved by Templeton’s mother.
“My grandmother had all this in her cedar chest,” said Pitts. “She kept it after he died. There are more than two years of letters from him. We didn’t know this stuff existed until after my aunt died. We were going through the cedar chest and there was a big box in there. I opened it up and started reading the letters. I just sat there and cried. It was heartbreaking to read the letters and knowing they were from him.”
The letters were dated from Jan. 31 1943 to Feb. 25, 1945. Along with the letters, the box contained Templeton’s Bible, other personal items, the American flag that was draped over his casket, his military hats, the Purple Heart he was awarded and other medals and ribbons.
Templeton was born in Van Buren County on Feb. 26, 1921. He enlisted on Jan. 10, 1943.
Among the letters:
On March 17, 1944, he wrote to his mother stating, “I guess this will be the last letter that I will get to write for a week or more. Please don’t worry about me. I will be all right. We are going to be out in the mountains for about 9 or 10 days. I don’t guess I will get to write. Write to me when you can. You can stand it if I can. Slept against a haystack last night. Got wet. Rained most all day. Came in this morning. Didn’t get any supper last night or breakfast this morning. Pretty good dinner tho.”
On Oct. 12, 1944, he wrote to his father stating, “I have just seen a picture show and will write you a few lines before it gets dark. It’s not very often we get to see a show here. They help a fellow some. I am well and hope that this will find all well at home. I got a letter from Ruth today. Letters from home help more than anything to cheer a man up. I sure am getting tires of all this war. I guess I sound like I am down in the mouth but sometimes I can’t help it. It don’t take long for a man to get tired of this.”
On Christmas day in 1944, he wrote to his mother stating, “This is a fine xmas day and I have just had a fine turkey dinner. Everything was good but not like it would have been at home. I hope all of you are having a good time at home. I am still getting along fine. I got another box from you last night. A box of candy bars. That was just what I wanted. Thanks a lot. I got your very nice xmas card and one from Alma Lee.”
His last letter was dated Feb. 25, 1945, just one day before his 24th birthday, 12 days before his death on March 9, and two months before the war ended when Allies accepted Germany’s surrender on May 8.
To his father he stated, “I didn’t get any mail yesterday or today. I can write more if I get mail from home because it gives me something to write about. I am well and hope that all is well at home. I am sending seventy five dollars home today. Let me know when you get it. I had a chance for a fur-lough to England but Brock got it instead. You know Adie Brock don’t you? He has been with me all the time. I was glad to know that he got it. Both of us couldn’t go. Maybe I will get one soon.”
A Western Union telegram dated March 22 notified the family of his death on March 9, 1945. “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son SGT Templeton, Charles I. was killed in action in Germany 09 March 45 confirming letter follows.”
On April 20, additional information arrived from Charles H. Washburn, office of the Chaplain, that informed the family on how Templeton died and his funeral.
“Charles was platoon guide for one of the rifle platoons of Company F. On 9 March 1945, Com-pany F was in the drive to knock the enemy from their positions near Ossenberg, Germany. Enemy machine gun and bazooka fire was very heavy. While crossing an open field with the platoon, Charles was struck and instantly killed by fragments from an exploding enemy bazooka shell. He was buried in the United States Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland. One of our Protestant chaplains gave your son a Christian burial and read appropriate Scriptures and prayers.”
Family membered had to wait three years before Templeton’s remains were turned over to them. Templeton arrived by military escort on Nov. 5, 1948 in Depot Bottom in McMinnville.
Pitts says she remembers him arriving by train.
“I remember it, even though I was pretty young at the time,” said Pitts. “When they brought him back in 48, I remember the train coming into Depot Bottom. Mr. High’s ambulance was there and they took his body off of the train. It had a flag draped over the casket. The flag in the box was the flag draped over his casket. My grandmother kept everything.”
Templeton was laid to rest in Van Buren County.