I’m really emotional today – this find is probably the hardest yet, even harder than my grandfather’s commitment papers. I found a letter – well, parts of a letter – from my great-grandfather Wilfred to my grandfather Joseph. I’m pretty sure it’s the last communication they every shared. It’s incredibly sobering, in the middle of all these bizarre happenings, to get a solemn reminder that I’m delving into my very real family history, and that my Grandpa Joe lost his father when he was so young – not even twenty, I think. I know my great-grandfather died young – this sheds a terrifying new light on that long-known family history. This letter – what there is of it – just hit me like a ton of bricks.
What I have of the letter seems to be two partially burned pages, badly stained with age. I can tell one of the pages is the last page, as I see my great grandfather’s signature, but I can’t tell how much more there was. It seems like it’s handwritten in what is most likely pencil – that’s what I assume it is. It could be ink that’s faded out quite a bit – I’m not an expert in these sorts of things.
It’s hard to read and even harder to understand, since so much is missing. The main points I’m able to get out of it seem to indicate that my great-grandfather was somehow ambushed in Germany and most of his squad died. He hid for a while in the forest, then stumbled upon the three others – Roberts, Donahue, and Andrew, who had apparently also escaped.
The second page is more disturbing – it doesn’t make much sense, but certain phrases like “… you never know the truth of them” and “I have found a way to stop what is happening, to stop the thing that has followed us from Germany” – he says he found a way to stop it, but I know that it didn’t stop, because it ended up putting Grandpa Joe in a mental hospital… Did my great-grandfather sacrifice himself in vain? That’s even more tragic, it’s too awful to even think about.
I just wish there was more to it – it’s so frustrating to have this piece of the puzzle, but have so much missing. And I can’t stop thinking about Grandpa Joe. Did he know that the letter was going to be the last thing he ever got from his father? Their last communication? Were there instructions or more explanation on what was happening, how to stop it? Why did someone try to burn it? Why was it pulled out of the fire?
In the interest of documenting everything, I’ve done my best to decipher what the letter says. Maybe someone can make some sense out of it…(Page 1) (…) were terrified. We started (marching?) back the way we came, (…) friendly territory, when we stumbled upon a German patrol. We were clumsy, disoriented (…) Germans weren’t taking any chances – they opened fire as soon as they saw us. I saw men fall – saw Gardner and Jenkins die in an instant, in ways I cannot bear to recall. It was chaos, Joseph, and I did the only thing that my mind and body would let me do; I ran into the woods and I hid. I’m not proud of it, but I won’t apologize for it, because I survived when so many others died. I stayed hidden in those deep German woods, partially buried, for over a day, until I couldn’t hear anything or anyone and felt I was finally safe – or as safe as I could be under the circumstances. It was dark and I was cold and hungry. I started trying to make my way roughly in the direction I thought we were headed, but I was still disoriented and afraid. I stumbled through the woods for hours until I saw a light, like a campfire. I crept to it and saw Roberts, Donahue, and Andrew, all men from my squad, sitting around a small fire, all silent and alert, holding their weapons. I made myself (…) (Page 2) … you never know the truth of them. I dare not detail what things transpired there, the world would be (…) just know that whatever happened, we made it out of Germany and the four of us made it home to (our?) families. We believed it would be worth any price, but how could any of us have known the real cost, Joseph? I have found a way to stop what is happening, to stop the thing that has followed us from Germany and protect you and your mother, but the price is high. It is a price I have to pay, for my sins. I hope I have been an adequate father to you, and I am proud of the man you have become. May God have mercy on my soul, if that is even possible now. Wilfred Martens