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About Johnny Waller

John C. Waller was born in Buffalo, New York, on March 24th, 1921. In 1942, he volunteered for service. Although he hoped to serve in the Air Force, he was enlisted in the United States Army and was placed in the 717th Railway Battalion, which was activated on December 1, 1943.

The army hasn't given me any further news in regard to my army service but I'll be ready when they are.

- Johnny Waller to Geraldine Rowbottom

April 6, 1943

Sometime in the early 1940s, Johnny had met a Canadian girl named Geraldine, and began a courtship that was carried on almost exclusively through letters. Before his deployment, Johnny kept her updated about his life, his work, and his enlistment.

When he left for training in September 1943, he continued to write to Geraldine, carefully phrasing his letters so that they would not be censored. He described the training procedures and his progress through the obstacles courses, rifle training, and specialization in railway maintenance.

Once stationed in England, Johnny continued to send letters back to Geraldine; because he couldn't describe the work that he was doing or mention specific places he visited, Johnny described the landscapes he encountered, the rolling hills and quaint villages through which he passed. He also wrote about his trips into the local towns, where he was able to get meals at the Red Cross, see films at the local cinema, and hunt souvenirs to send home to his family.

Although the total number of Johnny's letters is unknown, seventy-five letters, written between April 1943 and May 1945, were stashed in a shoebox and were later discovered in the mid-1990s. On this site, you can read some of those letters, especially those that mention Johnny's leisure activities while station in England.

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