On Jan. 23, 1943, my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, (photo in uniform, above) reported to the draft board in Chicago to start his training for WWII. So began the correspondence between him and family & friends, comprising almost 300 letters going both ways. I’m posting many of these World War II letters, each on or near the 70th anniversary of its writing. To start with his induction, click HERE.

This blog began in Nov., 2010, when I posted a century-old love note from Josef Gärtz, my paternal grandfather, to Lisi (Elisabetha) Ebner, my paternal grandmother, and follows their bold decision to strike out for America.

My mom and dad were writers too, recording their lives in diaries and letters from the 1920s-the 1990s. Historical, sweet, joyful, and sad, all that life promises-- and takes away--are recorded here as it happened. It's an ongoing saga of the 20th century. To start at the very beginning, please click HERE.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A World War II Draftee––70 Years ago

Blitzbuggy at the Draft Office, Chicago, 1/23/1943
Seventy years ago today, my grandparents and newly married parents faced a foreboding task, one that was shared by just about everyone in America with a  young man of draft age in the family.

On January 23, 1943, they climbed into Dad's Model A Ford and drove the five blocks from their home down Chicago's Washington Boulevard to the draft office, where my Dad's ten-year younger brother, Frank Ebner Gartz, would officially report to begin the training to become a navigator for the Army Air Corps in World War II.

Gartz Family, January 16, 1943 L-R top Fred (Dad), 
Will, Ebner. Seated: Lil (Mom), Josef, & Lisi Gartz
The photo to the right is the first "Gartz Family Photo" that includes my mother. Taken just two months after my parents married, and one week before Ebner was drafted, my guess is that my grandmother wanted a family picture with the "new Mrs. Gartz" as part of the family before her youngest son left for training. 

I know the dates of both  photos because each was labeled, but the car photo had more than a date. Coming upon it, I saw only an unremarkable old car parked on a snowy street, with no identifiable people. But it was on the back where I learned the critical event this photo documented.

Prior to finding the photo of the car, Blitzbuggy had only existed in family lore. My father had probably told us what vintage the dear little car was, but it hadn’t stuck in my memory. Dad’s notes not only identified the car--its year, model, and make--but also recorded the contribution Blitzbuggy had made to one of the pivotal events of the 20th Century -- and our family’s connection to it. 

Here are his exact words--in italics (my comments are in brackets. Parentheses are his):

January 23, 1943

Ebner’s drafting. Saying farewell. Grandma [Dad's mother] in Blitzbuggy (1929 Model A Ford). Lil [my mother] on right side. [Only the back of her coat and hair are visible.]

In front of the Draft board
4748 W. Washington Blvd. Chicago, Ill 

Frank Ebner, (ABE-ner) Gartz, born May 14, 1924, was  my grandparents’ youngest son. His middle name was taken from my grandmother, Lisi’s, maiden name, one you’ve read in numerous past posts.

The photo reveals a familiar Chicago winter scene: the snow is piled on the sidewalks, and greystone apartment buildings, typical of the city, form a backdrop. The entire atmosphere of the photo--its blurry focus, the gloomy, colorless weather, the faces of the two women in the photo hidden or indiscernible, the lone black auto on a strangely empty street--create a visual metaphor for the emotions of a family about to send its youngest off to war.

This date also started a flurry of letters back and forth between Ebner, as everyone in the family called Frank, and his family and friends. I hope to post excerpts of several of the letters, on or close to the day they were written. So keep tuned.

Note: parts of this post were published in February, 2011.


Jacqi Stevens said...

Ah, so this will be the series of WWII letters home from your Frank! Linda, I'm looking forward to reading them--though, of course, not looking forward to the pain he surely went through in this experience. What a life-changer that war was to so many young men and their families.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

How wonderful that he wrote down such detail. This is the first time I have seen a photo of your mother...you look just like her! I can't wait to read more about this time in their lives.

Marian Kurz said...

As I begin to catalogue, pitch or absorb two big boxes of memorabilia of my parents, at least 10 years sitting on the floor in our office, i will think about the great job you have done of bringing your family to life and rescuing a part of history we have all shared. You are an inspiration!

Candace said...

Your pix and stories are always interesting, Linda. Welcome back.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

I also included this post on my Friday Favorites for Jan. 25. Thanks for sharing!

Diana Shoemaker said...

Linda so interesting. My dad was also in the Army Air Corp and trained as a pilot. I'm not sure when he joined but will find out. I wonder if you uncle and my dad were ever together.

Diana Shoemaker