A Solder’s Letters To His Wife

These are excerpts from letters written by Staff Sergeant Jack B. Hyland of Charlotte, N.C., to his wife, Nell Kiser Hyland, in 1944 and 1945, from France and Germany.

Jack’s letters barely mentioned the war. Instead, he talked about his love for his wife and daughter; food [he had learn to like bacon]; a hot shower; the weather; his faith in God; why he was fighting; and, yes, toilets.  Jack was a plumber, before and after the war.  He told his wife that he had only seen “3 or 4 toilets inside houses” in France.

  • Jack B. Hyland
    Staff Sergeant Jack B. Hyland

    “I love you with all my heart sweetheart and always will.  Darling I hope you and Donna [their two-year-old daughter, now my wife] are well. I am.

  • “We were going to go to Belgium but couldn’t go because of the break through at Bostonge [Bastogne, December, 1944]. We were given as replacements to the 3rd Army there in Luxemburg [Luxembourg] around Ettlebrook [Ettelbruck].”
  • “We really get good food here. We always had French toast or hotcakes in Co. F., but yesterday we had egg omelet and this morning fried eggs with bacon. I have learned to eat bacon. It is good.”
  • “I guess you think it funny but darling I got 32 letters of which most were from you and 6 Christmas cards. They surely did me good to read them. That’s all I did for about 2 hours this morning.”
  • “We each got two bars of chocolate candy + some gum. That really hit the spot out here where we are. The candy especially. You know how fond I am of it.”
  • “I’m going to a school on anti-tank weapons. I hated to leave Co. F [81st Infantry Division] but thought I’d like to learn more about anything I could in the Army.”
  • “Darling I pray all the time nite and day that I can do God’s will Day by Day and that he will guide me in my way so I know he will take care of me and He has planned my life which I hope and pray includes a safe return to my love ones there in the States.”
  • “This evening 10 or 12 of us went to get a hot shower and clean clothes.”
  • “I am just thinking and looking at your picture and longing to take you in my arms and squeeze you and love you sweetheart. Your picture is really beautiful and every time I look at it I seem to be much closer to you darling. It will be so wonderful when this mess is over and we settle down to another normal life.”
  • Jack, Donna Joy and Nell Hyland
    Jack, Donna Joy, and Nell Hyland

    “…you and Donna Joy mean the world to me and that is what I’m fighting for, to come home and start living our normal lives again.”

  • “Sweetheart, it’s getting a little warmer over here. Today was really a sunshiney spring day, no clouds in the sky.”
  • “Your letters mean everything to me sweetheart. Have you been getting any of my mail? Have you gotten any money orders yet? I love you darling.”
  • “Well today I went to church. We had an open air service. Today was Palm Sunday. The preacher…preaches a sermon that us boys can understand. We had such a large crowd we could not find a place large enough to hold them all. It would really surprise you how the boys here attend church.”

Postscript: Jack’s prayers were answered –he came home.  He and Nell had two more children and stayed married until his death on Sept. 29, 1986.

Jack had a good sense of humor and you can see it on display in a story called “Vintage Jack Hyland,” published on Jan. 13.

Coming Friday: Their Honeymoon Was Over



Vintage Jack Hyland

Take a long, careful, look at this picture of Jack and Nell Hyland, my wife’s parents. You see what I see?

In the fall of 1963 Jack and Nell drove from Charlotte to Chapel Hill, N.C., for their first overnight visit with their newly-wed daughter and her husband.

Jack and Nell Hyland
Jack and Nell Hyland

We grilled on the patio at our apartment on Airport Road and Donna, my wife, took pictures — doesn’t she always?   This picture of that happy occasion puzzled me for years.  Why did Jack look like the picture of health while Nell looked like, well, a corpse.

Back then the color on colored photographs was quirky, which could explain why Nell’s face looked washed out.  But his face wasn’t washed out.  He looked just fine.

How could that be?

It was a long time before I noticed Jack’s hand.  It looked just like Nell’s face, washed out.   This is so Jack Hyland.  He loved to play jokes. He had been holding his breath, forcing blood to his face, making himself look healthy — and his wife look dead.

Coming Monday: “You’re Fired!”