Postmarked Jennerstown, PA
May 14, 1945
Transcribed with [comments] and Introduction by
Only recently discovered among the personal effects of my wife Susan’s late father, Richard O. Miller (1920-2015), the following letter is from his mother-in-law Annie Lee Krause (1885-1971), who lived on the family farm next to the village of Jennerstown, Somerset County, PA, to her daughter Hilda Elizabeth Krause Miller. The newly weds, Staff Sargeant (S/Sgt) “Dick,” or “R.O.,” and Hilda were stationed at the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) base in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the final months of World War II. R.O. had returned from overseas, had just been promoted to non-commissioned officer (NCO), and was in a comfortable teaching position at the gunnery school there. Over the next six month’s time, the horrible war would be over and both Dick and Hilda would be back home safely. The German Instrument of Surrender was signed on May 8, 1945, less than a week before the letter below was written. The Japanese Instrument of surrender was signed on September 2, 1945. The couple had been married three years earlier, in Baltimore in 1942, and Private R.O. Miller, after being called up for service the next year, took basic training in Florida. In all, he saw duty in six states, but ended up stationed in England and assigned frightening duty in the ball turret of a B-17 over Germany during and after D-Day, 1944. After 35 bombing missions, he returned to the States, and specifically the air base in Las Vegas. For the full story, read “The Gunner and the Riveter.” I have links to additional articles pertaining to these two families and others mentioned in the letter at the bottom of this site which will give additional context to what was happening back in Pennsylvania.
Annie Krause, or “Mom” as everyone called her, uses a bold handwritten, rambling style across four 8”X10” lined pages. In filling seven sides, she uses every inch of space, omitting paragraphs, often giving side remarks, much the way one would speak. While not perfect, her spelling and punctuation is remarkable for a former Amish girl who completed eighth grade. What’s more, her script is clean and crisp, with some flourishes that are quite artistic. Her colloquialisms are charming, to say the least. It’s unclear what was used for a pen in those days before the ballpoint was widely available, but she occasionally appears to pause, and what follows is darker, especially when the stops are over a period of hours. Mom Krause was 60-years old when she wrote this. If the handwriting is fun and easy to read, her sense of humor makes the letter that much more enjoyable. We hope that this letter will bring insights into that bygone era and that you read the other articles devoted to these unique families. Here is the letter:
S/Sgt. R.O. Miller
Sqd. B-2 LVAAF
Las Vegas, Nevada
I’ve had my bath and it’s only five minutes after three, so I’ll start you a letter. Alma [daughter-in-law, Krause] wrote to Larry [Lawrence, unmarried son in the Navy] and I know she told him everything that happened and is going to happen, so I’ll write to you first. I’m expecting Clarences [brother-in-law from Pittsburgh, King] and maybe Jean [daughter-in-law, Krause] up stairs and her children and Herbs [son-in-law, Adams] for dinner tomorrow and Harrys too [Alma’s husband, Krause]. I have three chickens cooked and a few beans baked and a cake and some beet pickles and apple sauce out in dishes. Now I want to cut some bread for filling yet, then it won’t take me so long to get dinner so long tomorrow. I’m going to have, besides the things i mentioned, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, gravy, and for dessert I’m having fruit salad. Guess that will do. Wish you were coming too.
Alma is feeling some better, but I’m still doing her work. Harry cut his hand on a bottle so I’ve been helping to milk, only this morning I didn’t get out. I had a bad headache. It wore off after awhile. I was away three evenings this week. One evening I went to the show with Fern and Cecil [friends, Kirk], and one evening I went to church, then on Thursday evening I went to Boswell [nearby town] and I saw the high school play. I went on Mrs. Kaufman’s ticket [Alma’s mother] but I didn’t know it until last evening. The play was just ordinary. i couldn’t understand so much of it. Anyway, I would rather pay forty cents to see a good show than fifty cents to see one of their plays. Dot and Sara [unknown] were in it. Charlie and a girl [unknown] were there. He just said hello. I didn’t know the girl.
Pop [husband, Krause] and Harry [son] are sowing oats for Mr. Bittner [neighbor] this afternoon. Gee, I’m glad you are coming home before so awfully long. No, Shirley [granddaughter] isn’t through school. Not for a couple of years yet. Forget about Mother’s Day. It’s alright. I got a very nice card from Ernests [oldest son nearby] and the kids. I didn’t hear from any of the rest. I haven’t heard from Altons [son somewhere out west] for a good while. I got a letter from Pud [son Ralph in Texas], which I didn’t answer. I also got a nice letter from Larry [youngest son in the Navy] the first of the week.
Hope you make out at your new job. I don’t know why I can’t write better. I get in a hurry and I just scribble. I guess it’s alright if you can read it. I suppose you have the check I sent by now. I had sent it before I got your letter. This is a real nice day, for a change. Believe it or not, I haven’t listened to my radio programs for three weeks. I still miss the programs. Guess I’ll not be able to go to church tomorrow. Clarences always come early. Ethel [sister of daughter-in-law from Johnstown, Overdorff-Hodge] asked me to go along to her church tomorrow evening, but you know our company never leaves that early.
I have the garden half planted. It has been too cold to work in the garden. Well, I guess I would better go and cut that bread or it will be suppertime before I get done. I trimmed my corn and I cut my toe. It bled some, but I hope it doesn’t get sore. my feet hurt like the dickens anyhow. I started to read “Hungry Hill.” I believe I’m living there. I’m always hungry. I’ve even chewed nearly all of the chewing gum you sent. Maybe soon we will be able to buy more since Hitler doesn’t chew anymore. Or do you think he still chews? [meaning unclear-humor?]
[New part to letter] This is evening now and I’m waiting for Harry to get ready to go and get the groceries [usually in nearby Jennerstown]. It’s after eight now. They [Pop and Harry] didn’t get done with the oats until late, so the boys [probably grandchildren Ron and Jerry, but unclear who] and I got the cows in and I milked six of them. Harry went out to milk the one that doesn’t stand very good.
I got a nice card from Clyde and Jean [son and daughter-in-law] this evening. They wrote that my Mother’s Day gift would be a little late. Jean got your present and she said she was going to write and thank you for it, but you know she never gets around to it. Some people are so busy. It looks very much like rain again but maybe it’s just getting dark.
Kirk’s [friends] house looks pretty nice with its new dress on [humor]. They covered the outside with something that looks like brick. Guess I’ll get Cecil to mow the yard next week. Only one pansy stood the winter. I suppose the rest froze. The little rose bush is just as nice and green and grows just fine. I guess it will soon need some kind of trellis. My house plants aren’t so nice. The tiddlewinks [probably tiddlywinks, a form of mountain laurel] are lousy again. I’m going to pull them out as soon as it gets warm enough.
I believe Harry is ready now. [She stops writing for the night.]
This is Sunday morning now and I didn’t go to church because I thought Clarences would come early. It’s 9:00. Maybe they won’t come. I sure hope they do since I fixed for them. The boys [probably grandchildren, unclear who exactly] are going to S[unday] S[chool]. Pop is listening to the radio. Alma doesn’t feel so good this morning. I have all the work done up here and downstairs. Dorothy [unknown] told me last evening, in the American store [unclear but probably the grocery store], that she expects her man home now. I don’t get many bargains like I used to since the man [unclear] is there instead of Margaret [unknown]. Dorothy told me that Margaret is working in a bakery. I don’t know where, but I guess in Philadelphia.
It’s dark and gloomy again this morning after a very nice Saturday. It rained last night. Guess you can tell what’s wrong with Alma without me telling you, but don’t say it when you write. I told her [that] I didn’t tell you. Guess I can still say [that] I didn’t tell you [unclear, but probably humor]. I sure hope Herb’s come today. Guess I’m sorta homesick to see Olive [daughter in Johnstown, Adams]. I haven’t seen her for a long time. Maybe they didn’t get their license yet [unclear]. Well, I’ve talked to you for a little while now. I must go and get my shoes on and do a few other things, then this evening I’ll finish this letter. I sure wish I could come to see you while you are living in the desert [Las Vegas]. I’ve never seen a desert. I would gladly help you do your work. [She stops until later.]
This is evening now and the company is all gone, and it’s after nine o’clock. Clarences were here for dinner, then this afternoon, Overdorffs and Ethel Lou and her girls and Herbs came. They were all here for supper. Harrys too. I really enjoyed the day. It was an old-fashioned day. Mrs. O[verdorff] said there was a woman who had a big family, and she spent the whole day before Mother’s Day cooking and baking. Then on Mother’s Day they all came home and they brought her a nice box of candy, then also a pair of stockings. The boys sat in the living room eating the candy while the mother cooked dinner, then the daughter borrowed the stockings to wear home, and they all said, “What a wonderful day it was for Mother.” [humor?] I told Mrs. O. she wasn’t talking about me. Mr. O. laughed when he thanked me for the wonderful Mother’s Day dinner. Well, I believe they all enjoyed it anyway. Olive gave me a pair of stockings and Sadie [sister from Pittsburgh, King] brought me a beautifully decorated cake. Harrys gave me $2.50 to spend on myself. It’s over again for another year.
Tomorrow, I want to wash for both of us [Harry and Alma and Pop and Mom?]. I don’t get much more done until I bring the clothes in [from hanging outside] an fold them and cook and wash dishes. I’ll have to clean up a bit in here tomorrow. You know how it looks on Sunday evening. Mrs. O. thinks Altons are coming home first and that Gennevieve [daughter-in-law in Texas, Krause] intends to stay until after she has her baby. How in the world would she go to California with four babies, alone? Olive says she must answer your letter. They don’t have their car fixed yet. They came out with Overdorffs. Sadie got your address and she thinks you owe her a letter. Well, I guess it’s bed time for me. I’m tired. I want to send this with Ronnie [grandson] in the morning.
Love, [signed] Mom
[PS] They [the people at the house yesterday] all read your letter, and Sadie said she sure wishes you would come to see her. I told her maybe you won’t be able to stay very long. Just so I get to see you. I’m not much concerned about the rest. Isn’t that nice of me? [humor]
Autobiography of Hilda E. Krause Miller (under construction)
Last revised 3/31/18