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Memorial Day tribute to Staff Sergeant Edwin Morris Harmon (1920-1943

I wrote this a few years ago about my uncle who was killed in World War ll. I would like to share it today . . . Even though I never got to meet my Uncle Edwin, he will forever be a hero to me. - LEE ANN WILLIS
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By Lee Ann Willis

World War ll took the lives of many devoted American citizens, some of whom were young men who bravely fought for our country.

My uncle, Edwin Morris Harmon, was one of these young men. Although he died years before I was born, I recently got to know him.

I had always known that my mother's brother had died in the war after his plane was shot down somewhere over France. There was a picture of him hanging on the wall in our home.

We visited his grave in the Columbia City Cemetery every Memorial Day, and sometimes attended the service that day at the fairgrounds entrance monument. (That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of him.)

After my mother passed away in 2005, my sister and I were sorting through the many things in our old home. In this process we found an old box that contained the once treasured letters written by my uncle during his training and time overseas to his beloved family back home in Kentucky. They were all stacked and tied with an old ribbon.

At first I was hesitant to disturb the neatly tied bow that had bound these letters together for many decades. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to read them. Little did I know at this point, that these few moments in the life of a young soldier would cause such emotions in me.

"Dear Folks" was the greeting in every letter, and the everyday life of a serviceman in the Army Air Forces was told in his words. Sometimes he didn't have much to say, but I am sure even a few lines were always welcomed by my grandparents and his two sisters.

There were 83 letters written from September 16, 1942, to July 8, 1943. His eagerness to be serving his country was apparent in many of his letters. His stories of training to be a waist gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress to actually arriving overseas helped me to come to know and love him.

His last letter home, dated July 8, was a short one. In the last paragraph, his words were "Mama don't believe anything you hear unless it comes direct from me not even if it comes from the war department. One of the boys in my barracks mother got a letter saying he had been wounded and he is here perfectly well." I don't know if my grandparents received this letter before the telegram stating that he was Missing In Action or not. Either way, I can't even imagine the heartache that they were going through.

Their only son was missing or wounded or dead. A letter from the Adjutant General dated September 4, 1943, confirmed that he had died, Killed In Action, on the 10th day of July, just two days after writing that last note to his mother.

According to information from one of the survivors aboard the B-17, they were on their third mission over enemy territory just outside of Paris, when they were attacked.

Five fighter planes came in at them shooting out their controls, setting two of the engines on fire and riddling the right wing.

Four boys jumped before the plane went into a spin, only one of that four survived. The other 6 crewmen were pinned in the plane until the right wing exploded and tore away the cockpit. Of the 10 men aboard for the mission only 4 survived.

These letters have become very precious to me, as is the Purple Heart that he was awarded posthumously.

We are so very blessed to live in these United States of America and have young men and women so willing and honored to protect our country and freedom.

Even though I never got to meet my Uncle Edwin, he will forever be a hero to me. --Lee Ann Willis

This story was posted on 2017-05-28 05:11:45
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