I wrote the following column six years ago and yesterday (April 23) I came across two letters again that I used to write that column. The letters are from  my uncle Raynard Mosher that he wrote my dad (L.H. Mosher) in April of 1942 just before he was killed. I’m going to top this column off with some of the stuff that is in those letters because they are important for me to understand. I was just two when he died and I, as you probably know, am fascinated with history.

Here is my uncle penning words to my dad, who everybody called Harold, which was his middle name:

“At the time I received your letter, we were stationed in the grandstand of the Los Angeles fairground at Pomona, California. Last Wednesday and Thursday we moved up here to Fort Ord, distance of 365 miles. We are now just 122 miles south of San Francisco at Salinas, on the Pacific Coast at Monterey Bay.

“From my room, I can look out over the Pacific Ocean. This place is one of the best equipped Army camps in the country. It took eight months to build it and they averaged a building every hour while they were building it. I don’t know the exact capacity of the place, but it looks like it will hold about 75,000 soldiers.

“We left Fort McClellan, Alabama on December 15th and had a grand train ride across the country, arriving in Pomona on December 19th. I enjoyed the travel across Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and southern California. It’s possible to see just about every kind of country in those four states.

“On December 28th, I had dinner with a World War veteran in Azusa, California. He broiled steaks in his rose garden in the back yard between orange trees. After dinner, we left Azusa (elevation 500) in the sunshine and drove up the San Gabriel Canyon into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to an elevation of 5300 feet in one hour.

“We went through snow, rain and finally got stuck in the snow, so we got out and had a snowball fight.

“Winter in southern California consists of nights of about 28 to 50 degrees and days of 50 to 90 degrees. Any night that the temperature drops below 32, all the fruit growers light up their smudge pots and smoke pots and fill the valleys with smoke.

“All the valley land is piped for irrigation and all the mountain sides are covered with grease wood. This grease wood grows up to about six feet high. It burns like tinder so that forest fires are a constant menace.

“Another thing, the soot from the smudge pots settles on the grease wood and if you walk through the stuff, you come out all black and dirty.”

“On the trip up here from Pomona, we passed by the large airplane plants and I saw hundreds of planes stretching out for miles from the railroad.”

My uncle continues on in the two letters and I wish I could share all of his words with you because he is so curious and so concerned about his family. I about cry because I realize this man was a good man who didn’t deserve to have his life cut short. I could see in his letters that he had a huge upside and would have gone on to become highly successful in whatever he tried.

I will give up a few more excerpts from the letters and follow with the story I wrote five years ago.

“Give my regards to Jessie (my mother) and the family and tell her I sincerely hope we are able to finish this war and put a stop to all wars so that your sons and mine will not have to go through the things I have seen and will probably see in the near future.

“If and when you send your boys to college, be sure to send them to a Land Grant College where they will get military training and a reserve commission. The life of an officer carries a great deal of responsibilities, but there are also a great many privileges that are not for the common soldier.  If they must go off to war, let them go as officers.

“I don’t expect to be back from this war for a matter of two to five years, so it looks like my boys will have to grow up without me. Even if this war should end in two years, I may be ten thousand miles from home by that time.

“Then, there will be the matter of Army of occupation to maintain order, feed the starving and generally bring order out of chaos. That will take a couple years and then it may take many months to get ship transportation to the U.S. and be demobilized.

“It’s not a very pleasant picture, but it’s too late to do anything about that now. Keep the home fires burning and I’ll see you all at a later date.

“Your devoted brother, Raynard.”

Well, my Uncle never did come home. I wish he would have. As you could see, he had a clear picture of what was going to happen – Army of occupation and the rebuilding of Europe under the Marshall Plan once the war ended in 1945.

Here’s the column I wrote from six years ago.



I woke up this Memorial Day and started thinking about my uncle Raynard H. Mosher. He was a St. Bonaventure graduate who married, had three children, and then in 1942 was killed in Hawaii while serving his country during World War II.

It hit me like a ton of bricks that it was 70 years ago he died when the jeep he was riding in with his driver hit a bomb crater and flipped over. My uncle was killed instantly. The driver was not hurt.

The fact my uncle was uncommonly tall for that time – he was six-foot-five – probably didn’t help him because his neck was broken in the accident. Uncle Raynard was a Lieutenant and a former athlete at St. Bonaventure. I have a picture of him on the wall behind me and he not only was a good-looking guy, but very muscular and I would guess extremely strong like my father.

My father and uncle Raynard, along with uncle Bob, grew up on a dairy farm in Allegany, N.Y. (St. Bonaventure is just on the outskirts of Allegany) and my father, who was six-foot-three, was the strongest man I have ever known, and I suspect Raynard was also strong.

He was also extremely intelligent. Years ago I found two letters he had written my father when he was in San Francisco waiting orders to ship out to Hawaii. He apparently had been touring the area and wrote in wonderful descriptive words about how beautiful the wine country was and what the two of them might do once the war was over.

Raynard was just 31 when he was killed. My father, the oldest, was 36 going on 37 and I, the youngest of the Mosher brood, was just two years old, so I really didn’t know my uncle.

Some years later when I was about seven I remember being in Rochester, N.Y. with my dad when he stopped at a residence. We went around to the back of the house and climbed outdoor stairs to an apartment on the top floor.

For the life of me, I could not figure out until this morning who we were visiting. I remember being in the kitchen and my father and this young woman with several young children. I have been haunted by those images for over 60 years: who was this woman?

Today it came to me. It was Millie, Raynard’s widow. Dad had apparently stopped while we were en route to somewhere else to check up on her. It would be the last time I would see her. She would remarry numerous times and over the years I would hear about her, and finally a couple years ago I heard she died while living with her youngest son and his wife in California.

As I was researching some data on the Mosher family early this morning, I came across this online in a long story on the history of Rochester during the war years.

“…. War widows such as Mrs. Raynard Mosher who dropped off her three children, ages 5, 7, and 8, at the School 28 child care center at 6:30 a.m. each day while she assembled optical instruments for the armed services ….”

Those three children would be Phillip (8), Vance (7) and Lynn (5). Phillip died of a heart attack while one day walking to school. He was 15, which would have placed the year as 1951.

Vance, who lived for a while in Vancouver, WA, died a year ago in Alabama of cancer. Lynn, a retired professor at San Luis Obispo, continues to live in California except for the summer months when he farms on his property in Bliss, N.Y.

It is only natural to wonder how different things would have been if my uncle had not been killed. The same could be said for the estimated 60 million killed because of the war, which includes 416,000 U.S. soldiers who died in the terrible world conflict.

I was too young to remember this but homes whose families lost loved ones in the war would be so noted with a gold star on a service flag hanging in windows. If the star was blue the son or daughter serving in the war was still alive.

What I do remember is pulling a little red wagon around looking for scrap metal to help with the war effort. I’m betting I didn’t find any, but that’s just a guess. But I do remember doing it as some sort of patriotic effort.

That patriotic environment was clearly evident in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s in my part of the world – southwestern New York State. Drum and bugle corps at various American Legions in little towns around the area used to practice almost every night and march in various parades during the summer months. I can still hear the wonderful music of those drum and bugle corps echoing throughout the valleys in the foothills of the Alleghenies.

My oldest brother, Ray, said the drum and bugle corps may be gone, but those little towns back there still have patriotic parades on Memorial Day. They all end up at the small cemeteries that dot the landscape, with the same officials speaking at them all.

He lives in the little village of Richburg, N.Y. (population about 500, maybe) and the small parade this year consisted of the awful sound of the local school band, three military vehicles from the armory in Olean, N.Y., a few veterans, and flag bearers. When the flags appeared my brother set aside his beer, rose and saluted.

Patriotism still exists in his heart and mind. He served on a bomber during the Korean Conflict, remembers better than me what life was like during World War II, and played a trombone in the drum and bugle corps for the American Legion in Portville, N.Y.

I remember food was rationed during World War II. We had some sort of stamp system for food. They were little green ones. The terrible thing about all this is that I was just a young kid who even in these terrible conditions did not realize at the time they were terrible. I was just developing a personality and to me everything was fun and wonderful.

Obviously, that was not true to the adults who were losing sons and daughters and had to balance family life with conditions imposed on them by a national war effort that was taking not only lives but also tremendous time and materials to fight.

Wars like that are not fought any more. Although, sadly, wars are still fought. I don’t know if we will ever see hundreds of thousands of soldiers massed to make a big effort like the Allies did for D-Day in Normandy, France. Massing troops like that only invites a nuclear strike.

But that is not to say the world is any safer now than when Hitler was going mad. It is not. It’s just that we have grown used to being on alert all the time and spending a large part of our Gross National Product on the military.

We humans are strange. We find ways to fight no matter how hard we try not to. I maintain that if you put two people in a locked room who don’t like each other that they will find a way to compromise and learn quickly how to get along.

But if you put three people in a locked room who don’t like each other, two of them will gang up on the third.

That theory is the reason why no matter how hard we might try – or the United Nations might try – there will always be countries waging war on each other. It’s in our DNA.

What I don’t quite understand is how the powerful in a country like North Korea can keep its thumb on a population of 25 million without some sort of backlash against that power. We are living in an era when access to technology makes it almost impossible not to know what is going on in the far reaches of the world beyond our own borders.

Yet, the dangerous dingbats in power in North Korea somehow have managed to isolate their citizenry from influences beyond its borders. Amazing. Maybe it’s that North Korean citizens are like the son who is being hit by his father every day and after a while the son comes to believe it is very normal to be hit every day and conditions himself to it.

Yes, I had a childhood friend who lived under those exact conditions. He grew to accept it as part of his day. I was livid, even for a 10-year-old. I used to taunt the dad, tying to provoke him so others could see what I saw. He used to threaten me if I crossed over our neighboring property line, and I would, of course, go right up the line and say things to him.

Not bad for a crazy 10-year-old, don’t you think?

The worse day of my life up to then was when my dad agreed to build a detached garage for that unbalanced and alcoholic nut job. I idolized my father, and I tried to talk him out of it, but he went ahead and did it.

I watched in dismay and disgust from our side of the property line.

Actually, as I recall now, I helped my dad push up some of the wall he had constructed. So I did cross the property line. But my friend’s drunken dad was not home.

But that little snapshot of a moment in my life can be view in the larger picture of what I talked about above. Conflicts are a part of the human condition, our DNA. It’s sad that we have to have Memorial Days to keep the memories alive of those who lost their lives because we are who we are: conflicted people who at our core are warring animals.

It’s also difficult for me to comprehend that it was 70 years ago my uncle was killed. The moment he took his last breath the lives of others around him changed forever. As it turned out, his two surviving children did well for themselves and the families they created.

But, tell me, what would have happened to them had my uncle survived that last drive in a jeep?

It’s one of life’s mysteries, isn’t it?

And what happened to my friend who got used to his dad beating him with his fists?

He forgave his father. I do know that.

But I also know he spend many of his days in the bar at his local American Legion. Like his dad, drink followed him.

I just hope his fists didn’t follow the same path as his dad’s.

As for my uncle, his picture will continue to hang on the wall behind me until the day I leave.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there.

Have a great day.

You are loved.