Letters, Diaries and Tributes

Letters

In this electronic age, letter writing is a dying art.  This was not the case in WWII.  Letters to and from home,  to girlfriends, or just friends, were all part of the war experience.  Some contained good news and others had bad news, but they are all part of the history of the Night Fighters.  This page is dedicated to reliving and remembering the moments captured in those letters.

Letters in this section are organized by NFS member name.

Letters and website dedicated to 2LT Thomas E. Cartmell

2LT Thomas E. Cartmell USAAF,  served with the 417th NFS in March and April, 1945. He and his RO, 2LT Hal Anderson were shot down and killed by friendly fire over the Dillingen Bridgehead. It was their first and only combat mission.

In 2017, Dr. Michael Hughey found a collection of letters and written by his Uncle Thomas to his sister, his parents, and his girlfriend (later wife) during his wartime experience. The letters chronicle his training, from preflight training through transitioning to the P-61 Black Widow.

Dr. Hughey has created a beautiful web site to honor the memories of his Uncle Tom.   You can read more by clicking on this link:

2LT Thomas E. Cartmell USAAF.  A Young Man Went off to War

Letters in relation to Raymond Christensen:

1944 Letter from Raymond Christensen to co-worker E.E. Bauman This letter is a transcript of a letter Raymond sent to his co-worker at State Farm Insurance in St. Paul Minnesota.

1944 Letter from Bill Henderson to Ray Christensen’s Mother This is one of those heartbreaking letters.  Raymond’s mother has received news that Ray has been declared dead even though no body was removed.  1st Lt William Christensen tries to provide more details and insight.

1945 Letter from Bill Henderson to Ray Christensen’s MotherThis 2nd letter from Bill to Raymond’s mother provides more details about then other members of the 417th that Ray served with.

Diaries

Like letters, the diaries that soldiers kept give us a first hand view of what life was like in the war.  Raw, unedited and sometimes not for the faint hearted.

Diaries in this section are listed by the soldier’s name:

David F. Diehl

David F Diehl Oct 1943 newspaper Air Force notice lores

David F. Diehl served in the 417th NFS as a radar operator on a Black Widow (P-61) fighter.   David kept a diary during his time in the service and his daughter Julie has graciously allowed us to share this on the website.  The diary starts on December 13th, 1944 and continues for just about a year.  Due to the size of the diary, it has been broken down into sections, typically by month.  The first 4 parts are below.  More will be added in the future as time allows.

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 1- Dec 1944 thru Jan 1945

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 2 – Feb 1945

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 3 – March 1945

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 4 – April 1945

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 5 – May 1945

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 6 – June 1945

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 7 (July 1945)

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 8 (August 1945) 

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 9 (Sept 1945)

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 10 (October 1945)

David F Diehl WWII Diary Part 11 (Nov 1945-Jan1946)  Please note that there are some blank pages in this section.

Lyle Montbriand – A Soldier’s Diary

Cpl. Lyle James Montbriand’s journey with the 417th started in Kissimmee, FLA.   He was part of the original rostered 417th squadron.  After a number of training trips scattered throughout the southern US (Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida), he boarded a train to the shipyards of New York.  He traveled by boat to Scotland and Southern England and eventually to Northern Africa as part of Operation Torch.  He was sent to the fighting throughout the southwestern Mediterranean, Corsica, southern and southwestern France, up thru Lyons with a brief stop in Germany after VE Day. After VE Day he was sent back to England and on to the US where he was decommissioned.

Lyle spoke French and was good mates with Pvt. Roy “Frenchy” Melancon,  a chef in the 417th.  Frenchy was a Cajun from Louisiana and Lyle was an American Canuck from Northern Minnesota.  They shared a love for singing and playing guitar, often grabbing their guitars and heading to the nearest tavern/pub where the locals paid for their beer and cheese in exchange for music and songs.  They got on well with the locals and would spend their off duty hours getting to know the inhabitants of the areas in which they were posted.   Frenchy died tragically on 6 February 1945 from an accidental poisoning.  His death had a deep impact on Lyle. 

Pvt. Roy S “Frenchy” Melançon on the left.

Of the places Lyle visited, he had a special love for Corsica and had a close relationship to a family living there who “took him under their wings”.   

As part of his journey with the 417th, Lyle was issued a standard War Diary where he kept photos of his time in the service.    His son, Randall,  found this diary and has shared it with this website.   

Lyle also kept a hand-written note listing the names of his war buddies:

In closing, here is what Randall had to say in tribute to his father:

To one of the most wonderful men to ever father a family, to raise his children to share, love and invite others into their lives.  To build a house and home in the new community of Mt. View, Alaska and to take pride in who they became under his watchful, loving eyes.  To share in our education to the point of becoming president of our PTA (grade school), raising funds to provide our school with playground equipment.  Who insisted that we learned to love education and to encourage that love.  To the man who instilled in me my absolute love of other languages; who taught me Quebeçois, who laughed at my use of Standard French later in life.
 
After a long day of work, he still had time to grab us up, hug us, clean himself up and build our home.  An artist, a muscian (our music was his playing his guitar and singing for us after dinner) and we have a dvd of him singing to us in the 1980’s recording he made when my mother told him his children would never forgive him for not providing us with the sound of his voice forever.  And his paintings still grace our original homestead.”

Tributes

The following document is written by Karen Seeman and details the life of Ray Christensen, her great-uncle.  Ray was among the first members of the 417th, but his life was cut short when Ray and fellow crew member Joe Leonard failed to return from their mission on May 13th, 1944.   Even if you don’t know Ray, his story and the details on life in the 417th NFS make for a compelling read.

Raymond Christensen

Raymond Christensen 1914 – 1944

Karen has also provide this website with a copy of Joseph Leonard’s logbook.   Click on the link below to read the logbook.

Joseph Leonard Log Book

JoeLeonard_ServicePortrait

Joe Leonard’s Service Photo

Interviews

Video Interview with Normal L. Keepers.

https://vimeo.com/642143951

2 thoughts on “Letters, Diaries and Tributes”

    1. Thank you for preserving snd sharing these remarkable and wonderful historical pieces. They bring to life these soldiers experiences. Brave young men. Outstanding.

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