1st Lt. Elizabeth G. Georgeson
Unit: Women's Army Corps
War fronts: Traveled the United States serving at different Army stations. She was stationed in Long Beach, Calif., working for the Army Transportation Corp. Sailed to England three times transporting Army war brides to the states.
Master Sgt. Jay Joseph Georgeson
Unit: Enlisted in the Wyoming National Guard 115th Cavalry in 1940 was inducted into regular Army in 1941.
War fronts: Patrolled the western coastline until 1943, sent to Germany in 1944 to pursue fleeing SS soldiers.
Decades had passed since they read the letters, stacks and stacks of them, exchanged a lifetime ago.
Elizabeth and Jay Georgeson sat in front of the fire one winter night and read the letters to each other.
The Georgesons met in the war. She was from Florida, he from Wyoming. But they made plans to marry even while separated by the Atlantic Ocean.
They wrote letters.
Elizabeth: “Every day. We said we would.”
Jay: “We got to know each other by letter.”
Elizabeth: “The mail clerk would come past my desk. ‘Not today,’ she’d say. Then one day she said, ‘Well, maybe this will brighten your day.’ She had a huge stack of letters.”
In 1942, Elizabeth was working for Air Service Command in Mobile, Ala. She and three of her friends made a pact during a coffee break: “Shoot. Why don’t we join the Army?” All swore up and down they would join together. Elizabeth signed up. All the others backed out.
She signed up for all the WACS schools she could, traveling across the country. In 1943, she signed up with the Army Transportation Corps and went to Long Beach, Calif.
“A lot of men had gone overseas, and there was an influx of men to replace them. That’s where I met this guy,” she said.
Jay is native Wyoming, born in Worland, raised in Torrington. In 1940, he joined the Wyoming National Guard's 115th Cavalry, training for three weeks in Fort Lewis, Wash. When he came home, he had a notice waiting: Uncle Sam needed him for a whole year. He'd be patrolling the West Coast, protecting it from the Japanese.
“That started a career of almost five years in the service,” Jay said.
Patrolling the coast, the soldiers used World War I equipment and ate World War I-era crackers. The 115th was inducted into the Army in 1941.
By '43, Jay knew he was headed to Germany, but was sent to Long Beach, Calif., to await transport.
He met Elizabeth on a blind date. Their first sergeants were going to a company dance together and brought Jay and Elizabeth along. Then, he haunted Elizabeth’s supply depot. She was a supply sergeant; he was a regimental supply master sergeant.
“He ripped my system down and put his up,” she said. “He’d been doing it longer than I had, and he thought he knew more than I did.”
Jay transferred to Texas. Twice he went to Los Angeles to see Elizabeth. He promised to write.
In January 1945, he landed in France.
In Munich, Germany, he hunted SS soldiers hiding in German forests. You could tell SS by taking off their shirts -- "SS" was tattooed on the inside of their arms. Sad thing was, their parents were often the ones turning them in.
“You'd go into a little town, and they didn’t like you in a way that you knew they were your friend," Jay said. "They weren’t your friends. But we changed a lot of that. We really did. Just by talking to them."
A head-on car crash sent Jay to the hospital for several weeks. His helmet went through the windshield, and he ended up sitting next to the truck's motor. But his only injuries were a dislocated hip and back. No broken bones.
Elizabeth got stacks of letters in those weeks.
By then, she had transferred New York to lead a Women's Army unit. But she was a "signer-upper," and volunteered for Operation War Brides. The effort transported to the U.S. more than 70,000 European brides of American servicemen at the end of World War II.
She sailed to London on the USAT President Tyler, a U.S. Army transport ship converted into a passenger vessel. Elizabeth staffed three of the trips, each carrying about 700 women.
Once, she remembers, they'd spent the whole day loading the brides and close to 50 newborn babies onto the ship. The lights went out just as they'd boarded the last of the passengers. All had to be unloaded.
"This is typical of the way they would do things in the Army,” Elizabeth said. "After that, they checked the ships’ batteries pretty good."
Elizabeth was only 22 or 23 at the time, and those European girls didn't always cooperate. They broke curfew, delighted in skirting the rules.The British constantly complained about the coffee.
So the Americans called a meeting.
“OK, I know you’re going to be happy about this,” Elizabeth told them. “You’re going to make your own coffee. And you can drink it because I don’t think I’ll like it.”
Back in New York, Elizabeth waited for Jay's notes. They decided she would meet him when his ship brought him home. They would marry.
But it didn't work out.
After Jay landed in New York, the Army put him a train to Utah. Elizabeth went to meet him, but promised her mother she'd wait a year to marry him. Her mother wanted Elizabeth in Florida for a while.
On May 7, 1947, Elizabeth and Jay met halfway between Florida and Utah and married.
They had one son, Elizabeth's pride and joy. She made scrapbooks of their service and watched two grandchildren grow into adults.
They kept their letters all these years, never looking at them.
“But we weren’t going to throw them away until we did read them," Elizabeth said. "So we had a big fire out here in the fireplace one evening and we started.”
They took turns reading a letter out loud. Then, they threw it in the fire.
The words they wrote to each other were theirs and theirs alone, Elizabeth explained.
But they saved a few from the fire anyway.