The following are excerpts from the journal of flight lieutenant William Pullman, a British pilot of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force in the European Theater, addressed to his late wife, Gwendolyn. She was killed during the London Blitz of 1940:
June 6, 1944
The Americans joined the battle today.
I was assigned to reconnaissance of the Utah beach insertion site with orders to make regular reports on the progress of the campaign inland. All manner of watercraft collided with the waves into the beachhead, slopping their contents of infantry in every direction and igniting a clamor like you would not believe. Beyond doubt to be on the ground was terrible, something far beyond the imaginings of one’s worst nightmare. From my seat aloft in the Channel’s grey gloom, however, it looked as though a most dazzling and brilliant orchestra of motion was commencing an overture. Quick stints of flashing lights and billowing, slate plumes of smoke burst into vision, buttressed at the back by a long ribbon of scarlet saltwater lashing itself against the yellow sand of the shore and the heaps of fallen soldiers.
It took awhile to rend a hole in the German line, but as soon as a fissure opened, all their entrenchments and fortifications fell in swift succession. I relayed all the activity to command, but my mind could do little more than to marvel at the revelry. I wonder, how many families were torn apart below me today? How many honest homes were splintered and shattered like dry firewood with each German bullet finding its mark?
We are such fragile things; delicate creatures with infinite ingenuity and limitless cunning bent toward demolition. Back home, our mothers and sisters stand in front of machines, crafting death and manipulating metal brought to them by conveyor belts. Each piece is constructed with fierce pride and feeble hope that these bombs and bullets will quell the hostility and bring everyone home.
Wars are beastly affairs. Though I miss you, I am thankful you are not here to see this.
All my love,
October 28, 1944
Allied forces penetrated within a day’s march of Paris before the German resurgence overtook us. I could just make the city on the horizon before Squadron Leader Davies ordered the retreat. The Americans abandoned the campaign only last week. Their vacation of Europe extinguished the likelihood of British victory in France. We are left with only the most meager outfit of allied forces. One can hardly blame President Wallace for retreat. The march of the Mexican and Japanese troops into the Texas rangelands was without warning. Defenses were minimal. Now nothing but sagebrush stands between the enemy and America’s heartland.
I gazed at Paris for a moment, glinting bright in the crisp morning light, before I fell back. I thought of you all the while, remembering that afternoon long ago, when we traipsed through the Louvre. Somewhere between Bacchus and St. John the Baptist I fell in love with you. Then we slipped into the brisk and bustle of the Champs-Elysees and in that glimmering Parisian night we kissed long and full. You conquered my heart.
I suppose a full British retreat is imminent as well. Droves of German Panzers advance upon a green patchwork of the fertile French fields below me. It’s only a matter of days before Prime Minister withdraws all military presence. He never possessed the gumption to stand for what is right in the face of wickedness and no one expects him to find the courage now.
The World's hope now lies in the east. The Soviets must stem Nazi tide. Stalin should be regarded as no less a tyrant than the enemy at his doorstep, though.
All my love,
December 27, 1944
The world is changed. Moscow fell on Christmas day. Stalin is dead.
The evening paper boasted a picture of Hitler standing in front of the Grand Kremlin Place atop a podium adorned with the fatal red flag of the Nationalist Socialist Party. The swastika stands obscene against the cheery yellow palace walls.
I spent Christmas at Mother’s house in the wet cold of London. We cooked together and laughed and gave thanks for all the good and decent things the world has forgotten.
The high wail of the air raid sirens sounded as we sat down for supper. Christmas dinner became an abbreviated sort of thing. We spent the evening underground in the bomb shelter, feasting on tinned pears and loaves of hard bread and mugs of small beer instead of the spread of roast turkey and potatoes and plum wine. Mother cried throughout the night. I don’t suppose it was in fear, though, so much as pining for Father. This was her first Christmas since his passing. I consoled her and made assurances that the pain subsides eventually. Perhaps it will ebb if she is fortunate, but there is no waking hour in which I do not consider you.
I dreamt strange dreams that night in the shelter. I can only recollect shapes and colors, impressions of Briton and peace, like looking into kaleidoscope while running a high fever.
The whole of the city was scourged with explosions. The Luftwaffe targeted the Houses of Parliament, turning the clock tower into a smoldering pile of grey matchsticks. The blasts decapitated Lord Nelson.
All my love,
March 22, 1945
I love you. It should have been our seventh anniversary today. Instead, the world will remember this as the day of American surrender. Britain is still unconquered, but defeat is inevitable.
May 2, 1945
I am sitting in the officer’s quarters of the vacant RAF base in Somerset as I write this. It was an air base devoted to experimental avionics before being decommissioned some years ago. The funding became too great to sustain with a war-riddled economy.
Allow me to provide a brief summation of the events leading to this juncture:
P.M. Chamberlain addressed the Isle late last night, making known his intention to deliver Britain’s capitulation to Germany in a week. Furthermore, he ordered a full stand down of all military personnel. “We shall no longer fight for king and country” or so I thought. The Prime Minister was not off-air for more than a half hour when a courier arrived with a dispatch ordering me to report to the Somerset airbase post-haste. The missive did not have the familiar gilded eagle insignia of the RAF. For reasons I will never fully comprehend, I consented to go with the courier (after saying farewell to Mother) and he drove me to the local airfield.
At the airfield, a paunchy elderly fellow in a dark felt dress hat walked out of a huddle of a half-dozen men and shook my hand. He called himself Winston and claimed to be the benefactor of this midnight rendezvous. He explained his need of an able pilot for an expedition to Somerset; someone to transport these gathered men. “My desire is to seek out that which will defend king and country. My most fervent wish is to restore all the good and decent things this world has forgotten,” he said to me.
I consented to pilot his plane. After a short flight, I landed with Winston and his men at the abandoned airstrip and we all slept. Upon waking, I learned the other’s names. There is Dr. Owen, a slender balding geologist and his corpulent colleague, Dr. Brand, an archeologist. The remaining three, George, Terry, and Charlie, are decorated soldiers.
It’s now 7:00 a.m. and Winston has asked us all to reconvene in the barracks in thirty minutes for a briefing. The most any one of us could muster from the old chap was that our objective is to find an undercroft in Glastonbury Tor. When I pressed Winston to divulge further information, he smiled and assured me he means to set out and save God’s most sovereign state from the clutches of tyranny and evil. It’s too little too late.
All my love,