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  • Writer's pictureDon Milne

WW2 Fallen - Engineer Wallace Zosel - Read his endearing letter to his unborn son

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

Wallace E. Zosel was born on January 1, 1920 in Oregon. His parents William and Ada were both born in Minnesota. Three of his grandparents were from Germany. His father worked as a clothing store proprietor. It appears that his parents divorced in the 1920s. Wallace stayed with his mother who found work as a seamstress. He completed one year of college.

He joined the army in 1939. He was a student surveyor for an engineering unit. The War Department accepted and published a pamphlet he wrote on training procedures for armored units. He was commissioned an officer in 1942. At some point before he left for Europe he married Irma Dobson. He was sent to the British Isles in November 1943.  He became a first lieutenant in the 666th Engineer Topographic Company. His unit was tasked with creating maps for the front line troops.

On August 16, 1944, Lt. Zosel's unit was assigned to an armored division during the outbreak from Normandy. He was probably in a forward position gathering information for his map making duties. He was first listed as missing in action, but his status was later changed to killed in action that day. His son was born twelve days before he died.

Knowing there was a chance he would not make it home, he wrote a letter to his son for him to read in the event of his death. His wife Irma presented the letter to her son on the day he graduated from high school.

Here is the letter reprinted from this source:

March 13, 1944

A Letter To My Son:

_   Hello Buck, I suppose you are wondering what kind of a man your father is. Since there is a chance that you might never see me, I thought I'd better write a few lines to you._

_   I have thought a great deal about you, with hope and pride in my heart, since your mother sent me the good news that you're on the way. It does seem rather strange for me to be writing you inasmuch as you are still an embryo lodged in your mother's beautiful body; but some day you will be a man, someone to carry on with the building of America. _

_   What do I want of you? So many things that I doubt if I can think of them all now. But don't worry about it, if you try to be a good man, you will get along alright. My father before me wanted me to be a better man than he was, and I want you to be a better man than I am. You will inherit a good mentality, so I do not doubt that you will have plenty of natural intelligence; however, one thing I must caution you on: hard work is the key to a healthy, happy life. Always plug along and try to do each job that comes up as thoroughly and as well as you can, and you will get along alright._

_   When we, your mother and I, decided to have you, I wanted someone to carry on my name, my blood, so that my life would carry on in you. But it was your mother who bore the main burden, and she went through a lot of pain to bring you into the world because she loved me so much that she wanted me to be the father of her children. If you are anything like I am, you will probably raise a little hell and have some wild times when you approach manhood, but always limit yourself, keep clean and healthy, for the greatest treasure in life is to have the love of a really good woman. Your mother is the finest woman I have ever met, and by her true loyal love I have the strength to meet the harsher things in life and the desire to be as good a man as possible. If you are as lucky as I have been in the choice of a mate, you will be a very happy man._

_   I am grateful that my son can grow in the best country in the world, and, believe me, we who are overseas really know how wonderful America really is. True, we, as well as you, have seen things about the United States that we would like to have changed, but that is what we hope to do -- by gradual evolution keep constantly improving America as the home of the common man. That is perhaps our chief reason for fighting this war, the hope that afterwards we will have a greater country where everyone can live in the maximum prosperity and happiness. Millions of us over here are working, and fighting, and dying because we want America to be a nation of hope for mankind. And that is why I am trying to impress it on you with a few phrases that may seem trite but are really solid gold, for you as the future generation must realize our desires, the hopes that keep us always striving; for on you will rest the major responsibility of building America's golden age. Never let a few hard knocks shake your faith in your country. The history of America is unique in the history of all Time, for here for the first time in the tale of mankind's upward plodding, we find that the history of the nation is synonymous with the story of the emancipation of Man. Gradual progress is always being made, even though one cannot always see it, because everyone in America desires to have the lot of the common man and they strive for that end. Yes, I too have been kicked in the past many times by vicious circumstances, but I have gained a lot in life, and I realize that all the good things I have, I possess because I am part of the United States of America._

_   Son, I want you to develop your physical abilities, too. I want you to be able to hike, and play ball, and shoot with the best of them. But whatever you are proficient at, never try to impress other people ostentatiously of your abilities for they will see your good qualities and give you credit for it. You must learn a little gambling but do not let the passion overcome you, quit when you have lost only a little. Another social duty is drinking; learn your capacity and then stop at that point. Always hold your liquor, Never let it get the best of you! (Very important.)_

_   As you know, I am a soldier. I am not going to tell you what line of endeavor you must choose, but, since I think we shall have some form of conscription after this war, I will devote a little space to the subject._

_   The first rule to remember is that military service is a privilege. Since each man has all the good things he possesses because the national movement has supplied the protection and nucleus of the cooperative effort which is civilization, it's the duty of each citizen to give certain services to the state._

_   You will find that the greatest pleasure in army live is that spirit of comradeship that always is prevalent because so many people depend upon one another for their mutual comfort, and, in war, existence. The chief value of the military life, though, is the training in discipline. A man soon shows his true colors when he enters the army and must meet varying circumstances without any of the fellows around him. It is the ultimate democracy, everyone starts from the ground up, and advancement depends chiefly on the solid qualities of the man's character. You will learn the simple life, the hardships, the basic, real values, and it all goes to make a better man of one._

_   As for warfare, I don't know whether it is right or wrong, I just know that we have always had it, and, considering myself a professional solider, I have always been interested in seeking to increase my efficiency and capacity to meet it. I do know that it is awfully hard, miserable work and that it brings great suffering and unhappiness to the people who fall victim to it. I hope that you never have to engage in a war. But it does mold a man, temper his character, give him a great appreciation for the things he has formerly taken for granted. I know for myself that when this is over I'll never want to be unkind to anyone again._

_   It hurts the women most. They sit at home not knowing what is happening to their loved ones, and they imagine all kinds of exaggerated horrors that really don't exist. I know your mother is worrying about me right now, and I wish I could reassure her and comfort her, but I can't. And every time a solider is killed and buried, some woman's heart is buried there, too. No, son, war is not a good thing._

_   Well Buck, there are still so many things I want to tell you. I could write a book, but you will only realize them after you have lived them yourself. Remember, my son, that I am proud of you and hopeful the you will be a fine man, much better than I am. But don't try too hard or worry about it, because when one has the stuff in him, he won't fail._

Your father,

_Wallace E. Zosel _

His grave is at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer in France. His widow remarried and died in 2008.

Thank you Lt. Zosel for your sacrifice.

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