<U.S. Army Air Corps Lt. Cal Jansen was a B-26 Martin Marauder pilot during WWII. He flew 26 missions, including the Battle of the Bulge, and was awarded the Air Medal. His bomber group's missions were protected by Mustang fighters, but he never had the opportunity to serve with the Tuskegee Airmen. He wrote to his sweetheart, Lanie Peacock, at least twice a week from the time he entered flight school in 1943 until his last letter dated 21 November 1945 telling her he was coming home and they were going to "splurge on Christmas presents!" They married 20 September 1946. Cal left us on 25 June 1997 and Lanie on 16 Dec 2002.>
My beloved Princess,
My beloved Princess,
H'lo darling. Merry Christmas. Was Ol' St. Nick good to you or were you a bad girl?
I haven't been doing much of anything. Between cutting wood for our stove and trying to insulate our tent against the cold, we've kept ourselves occupied. The last couple of nights have been bitter cold. When our fire goes out while we're asleep, when morning rolls around, the only thing that convinces you that you aren't outside is that you haven't any frost on you. I also put on my long underwear and when I do that, it has to be downright cold.
Last night I slept in my winter flying suit but my feet got cold. I could do like Murph did and sleep with my flying boots on too but that's carrying it too far. I'll think of somethin'.
Murph got stinkin' from drinkin' last night. He also cut his hand when a champagne bottle broke in his hand. They had a sort of drinking party at the makeshift officers club and there were few fellows who weren't drunk. Some of 'em unlimbered their 45's and carbines and cut loose with a few rounds causing everyone around to wonder when a bullet would come wizzing through their tent or themselves, including me. They're a playful bunch here.
We wash and shave using our steel helmets for basins. Just like in the movies.
It's rough in the E. T. O.
I had a Christmas present of sorts by getting to fly. We went up for a test hop for an hour & 40 minutes and saw what part of France looks like from the air. I can't wait until we go on our first mission. I'm going to take my camera along to take pictures. If I get to Paris, I'll be able to get some film.
We had a swell supper tonight and I ate turkey till it almost ran out of my ears. They had cranberries too which made my Christmas a happy one as far as eating is concerned.
Sweetheart, I can never be really happy unless I'm with you. I'm not really unhappy but sometimes we get fed up with this army life and have to beef a little.
We know how we feel about each other and to me, that's all that counts for now.
G'night my darling
I love you and miss you terribly.
Cal and Lanie were my parents. I have all of his wartime letters to her and thought you'd enjoy reading this one as it is a snapshot of a soldier on duty during wartime at Christmas, far away from those he loves. The year doesn't matter, the name of the war or military action doesn't matter - what matters is that men and women have felt the same loneliness and appreciation for reminders of "home" (cranberries!!) while serving their country that Cal's letter reveals. We at the CAF Red Tail Project wish all military personnel and their families a safe and memorable Christmas and thank them for their sacrifice.
Robyn Feld, writer - the CAF Red Tail Project