Highlights from September, 1943

We still won’t have letters until mid January, but seeing as how many people haven’t had time to read all the letters that we post every day, I thought I’d share a few of the more important dates that Willis wrote letters.  This will give you a brief idea of the era and the struggles the he faced.  I’ll try and do this three times from now until the letters begin again.

September 5, 1943

Churchill at Harvard. 1943

Sir Winston Churchill speaks at Harvard where Willis is attending Chaplain training school.  Willis is not only in attendance, but very close to where Churchill speaks.  One of my favorite lines:

“Some of them were so far away that they couldn’t tell for sure which was Churchill but I was as close as anyone could be, except his immediate party, British generals, and American high ranking officers. So much has happened lately that it almost seems I’m dreaming. I have to pinch myself to really see if it’s true. I never dreamed I would see Churchill and never so close. There are people who would have given $100.00 to stand as close to him as I did.”

Read the rest of the post here:  http://achaplainatwar.org/september-5-1943/

September 23, 1943

Willis and his friend Wayne Soliday on their graduation day from Harvard Chaplain School, September 1943.

Willis graduated from Chaplain Training at the end of September and by the grace of God was able to stop in Chicago for a layover while he headed to his new assignment in Long Beach, California. Several of the men that he met while training at Harvard would become regular pen-pals while they were in their new roles.  Wayne Soliday of Pennsylvania and Alrik Blomquist of Iowa especially wrote many several in the coming years that Willis mentions in his correspondence with Sarah.

From his short letter:

Exams are all over, notebooks all turned in and what a good feeling. All we have tomorrow morning from 8 till 12 noon is time for review and the privilege to check up on things we are not yet sure about. In the afternoon, we will practice for our review (marching) which is to be held Saturday morning at 10 o’clock and immediately following is graduation.

Read the rest of the letter here: http://achaplainatwar.org/september-23-1943/

September 28-29th

Don Reed is in the center. Taken during his first year as brakeman.

As Willis was being transferred to Long Beach for his assignment, he wrote a postcard home to Sarah that he put in the mail at every stop that he could. As a special piece of the journey, his brother Don, who worked as a brakeman, was able to get on the train and travel with him for a time.

From that letter:

Don got on the train with me from Grand Island to Kearney. We had a good visit, all though very short. He looks good and likes railroading. I’m very hungry at present, haven’t had anything to eat as yet. I would enjoy some of your cooking or mom’s right now.

To read the rest of the short postcards visit these two links:




2 thoughts on “Highlights from September, 1943

  • Doris
    December 31, 2017, 12:26 pm

    Thank you for continuing, I do have one question, How did Willis get into Harvard? Scholarship, or did someone pay his tuition? I continue to admire him, as well as As Sara.

    • willisareed
      December 31, 2017, 1:32 pm

      Hi Doris,
      Willis went to Harvard only for Chaplain Training School. It is where they trained most of the chaplains that were going into the war. Chaplains were all volunteers – they were not drafted. In one of the letters, Willis explains how all chaplains had to go to training. There was even one that had been in World War I.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *