The following letter was written on this exact date in 1944 by my Grandpa, Melville James Batt, to my Grandma when they hadn't even met, but were just pen pals. He "met" my Grandma through another Army buddy of his: Ed Szeleski, whom he refers to as "Ski". He had not been to Wilmington before at the time of this writing.
He would not actually meet her until 1945, after he had been discharged from the Army.
July 18, 1944Hello Gene,I suppose "Ski" has told you that we are in France and have been in combat already. Right now we are having a short rest period and it sure feels good.I am sitting on the sun porch of my foxhole, answering a few letters.Thanks for the pictures. I don't think I had better mention them to "Marge" or she may think I didn't believe she was riding a bicycle.Speaking of Wilmington. I sure would like to visit the place sometime, and in the near future too. In fact it couldn't be too soon to suit me.I haven't been right up in the front line, yet, but "Ski" has and take my word for it, he did his share up there too.We are bothered, back here, mostly with German artillery fire and every once in awhile you make a dive for a foxhole and a shell goes screaming over or else lands near and nearly jars you out of the hole. I suppose we will gradually get used to it, but I don't think any of us will ever like it.Well, "Dutch", thanks for writing and sending the snaps and I'll be looking for the one you are sending "Ski".Sincerely "Mel"
"Mel" as he liked to be called, was born in 1919 in North Tonawanda, New York just 30 minutes away from Niagara Falls, and he never lived more than a few blocks from his childhood home. He worked as a stock boy for Remington Rand when he was drafted in April 1941 and sent to the Army. He had a younger brother named Vernon or "Vern" and a sister Marilyn. Vern enlisted in 1942 in the Army Air Corps. Marilyn (who just recently passed away in 2016) was in high school at the time.
Gene was my Grandma. The letter refers to her as "Dutch", I'm not sure why. Gene Stephey (her actual name on her birth certificate, not a nickname and not short for Eugene) was a native of Wilmington, Delaware. She was born in 1920 and grew up in a big Victorian town home on Gilpin Avenue, but by this time she was living in an apartment on North Rodney Street. She graduated high school in 1938. She was a University of Delaware alumnus. She worked for the Hercules Company later in life before she moved to Tonawanda, New York where Dad was born.
Mel & Gene weren't married until 1950.