Letters from my Son: A Texas Boy's Journey to the RAF, Dolcie Suggs Ehlinger & Karen Guelfo Ehlinger

Letters from my Son: A Texas Boy's Journey to the RAF, Dolcie Suggs Ehlinger & Karen Guelfo Ehlinger

This book is based on a collection of letters written to his parents by Early Willson Jr, an American who volunteered for the RAF before the United States entered the Second World War. The letters start when Early was only seven and end just before his tragic death in 1941. During this period Early Jr went to and then dropped out of college, then moved to New York to study photography, but a constant threat is his love of flying, from his first flight as a passenger, to his first flying lessons, the purchase of his own aircraft and eventually the decision to join the RAF.

The letters provide the framework for the biography. They were discovered amongst his mother’s effects by his niece, Dolcie Suggs Ehlinger, and gave her a window into the life of an uncle she had never known. Early Jr’s character comes through very clearly, and the reconstructed background feels very convincing. Early himself comes across as likable but a little reckless and prone to sudden decisions (dropping out of college and running to sea or indeed joining the RAF). Some of his letters from college will be familiar to anyone who has been away to university (including asking his father if he’d ‘forgotten’ to send the requested money).  

The later parts of the book are a somewhat melancholy read, knowing as we do that Early won’t survive (although the tone of the book itself doesn’t change). Although the RAF section only covers a small part of the book, for me it is valuable work, helping to explain why one Texas boy chose to give up everything he know to volunteer to fly with the RAF.

1 - The Baby Years
2 - The Boy Years
3 - Summers Away from Home
4 - The College Years
5 - The Big City
6 - Flight
7 - Back in Texas
8 - On His Majesty's Service
9 - In Her Arms Forever
Postscript - Ever After
70 Years Later

Author: Dolcie Suggs Ehlinger & Karen Guelfo Ehlinger
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 281
Publisher: Safe Goods
Year: 2010

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