On August 23, 1944, newly promoted First Lieutenant Raymond J. Lorenz of the 456th Bomb Group wrote a letter to his girlfriend, Carolyn Krayer, in Memphis, Tennessee, recounting his experiences over the past week. Raymond was a co-pilot who flew B-24 bombers from US Army Air Force bases in Italy during World War II. The letter is significant for the variety of topics it covers. Raymond began by expressing how much he missed Carolyn and went on to tell her that the weather in Italy had been exceptionally hot over the past few weeks. Raymond then related the news of his promotion to first lieutenant and his transfer back to his former squadron in the 456th Bomb Group. He had flown missions over southern France in support of the Allied landings there on August 15, 1944. Since Raymond’s latest transfer he had not flown any missions, but that was fine with him because he explained, “I’m so darn jumpy and nervous anyway—I’m satisfied where I am.” He was probably suffering from the prolonged stress of flying combat missions and the anticipation of more missions did little to calm his nerves.
Raymond’s missive turned somber when he recounted his squadron’s losses. Fellow airmen told him that on one mission “those that escaped from their ship safely were machine-gunned by enemy pilots on the way down.” He lamented how
“it doesn’t seem possible they reached ground alive. It’s a horrible war and seeing a ship go to pieces in midair by a direct flak hit isn’t any fun. Just takes the heart and soul out of me.”
Lieutenant Raymond J. Lorenz
Raymond asked Carolyn if she remembered his two friends Nick and Tony from a night out dancing before they deployed overseas. Raymond sorrowfully recounted, “they are gone—gee, I miss them. A couple months ago when I came to the 744th [Squadron] they were sent back to the 746th and had been flying out of there. I didn’t make the mission but have gotten some idea of the horribleness of it. They didn’t have a chance. God—I miss them now—and it brings tears to my eyes right now.”
Conveying the horrors of the war to those back home was incredibly difficult for American servicemen who saw combat. Soldiers often did not know how to describe their intense anguish at losing comrades or the circumstances of a friend’s death to civilians thousands of miles removed from the fighting. Sometimes, soldiers avoided the subject entirely in order to spare their loved ones the details of combat or avoid the pain of recounting events. Raymond’s letter provides a glimpse of the emotional toll the war took on one airman who lost close friends and how he labored to explain it to his girlfriend back home.