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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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‘Let’s never forget – what he did matters’
News of WWII soldier’s death reaches home
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Courtesy Photo: Earl Frank Love was killed on Feb. 26, 1945, in Europe while serving in the U.S. Army.

Friday, May 23, 2014

By JAMES LOVE - Special to the News-Post

Emmett and Ellen Love began a family near Sydnorsville in what is known as Briar Mountain. Their fifth child was a healthy boy named Earl Frank Love.

Seven more children were to follow, making a total of 12. I, James Robert Love, the one writing these memories, was the last child.

Now 75 years old, all of these memories seem like yesterday.

I was too young to remember Earl's younger years, but my older siblings said he was a hard worker, loved to go to dances, was a hit with the young girls and was fun to be with.

He began his teen years working away from home, cutting timber, working at sawmills.

Henry Powell's son, "Slick" Powell, told me that Earl lived with him for a while and Powell had a steam-powered sawmill. He and Earl would have to get up at 4 a.m. to get the fire going so the engine would have steam at 7 a.m. Then they would go and eat breakfast and be ready to saw lumber.

He was only about 16 years old at the time and was about 7 miles from home, coming home on weekends.

Earl reached his 18th birthday on Sept. 6, 1943. In March 1943, he received a letter from the draft board to report to Roanoke for a physical exam, and he was classified 1-A. He was soon called to become a recruit in the U.S. Army and was sent to Camp Polk in Louisiana.

I try to imagine what fear he felt to be taken from his mountain environment and being this far away from home.

After three months, he was given a 30-day furlough. This was the summer of 1943.

I can remember him telling me about the armadillos in Louisiana. We enjoyed his time home and it was sad when he left.

No mail was received from him for months, and when he did write, his mail was censored. He could not say where he was or what he was doing. He could only say he was in Europe and was seeing some action.

The letters he wrote would take 3-4 weeks to arrive and they were on v-mail. I don't know how the paper could be 8 inches by 12 inches and be reduced to the small v-mails. They were very difficult to read.

His letters indicated he was in battles and a lot of mud and rain in 1943 and 1944.

Earl wrote my two older sisters who were married and lived in Fieldale. They baked cookies, made fruit cakes and mailed them to him. He would write back how much he enjoyed them even though he sometimes was in a foxhole, covered with mud and cold.

He never wrote where he was but said he had seen action, and he was getting used to it. He would mail a type of money order to mama to help out at home.

Daddy worked for the highway system, now VDOT. He walked 4 miles to Sydnorsville and would work 8 or 9 hours for $1 a day.

Mail would arrive very sporadically after Earl wrote before we got it, which was not uncommon. Letters were received in early March that were written the 20th of February, so all seemed okay.

Us younger children 16 and under were at Briar Mountain School.

I think it was Cecil who came and said a telegram had come and Earl was killed on Feb. 26, 1945. This day was March 10, 1945.

The news was delivered by a taxi driver who walked down what we called the Orchard Hill, from the state road to the house. During a wet and muddy time, you could not drive a car to our house so John Cooper, the taxi driver, gave mama a telegram that read: "We are sorry to inform you that your son, PFC Earl F. Love, was killed in action on Feb. 26, 1945."

Oh, what a broken-hearted family, and to see my mama sobbing when we got home from school, which took about 20 minutes, was heartbreaking.

As I stated earlier, daddy had to meet the road crew at Sydnorsville, so late that day he came home and we were all running to tell him the news. Daddy got the kerosene lantern and began a 4-mile walk to Sydnorsville to the nearest phone to call my sisters in Fieldale.

I wonder what went through his mind on that long walk through those dark woods.

A few days later, mama got a letter from Earl that was dated Feb. 24, 1945, saying he was in a wet, cold foxhole but doing okay. He wrote for mama to pray for him -- two days before he was killed.

Later, a letter came from Earl's commanding officer describing the battle. Earl was firing his machine gun to cover the retreating U.S. soldiers. He was wounded by German fire, but moved his machine gun to another position to help give his comrades more time to retreat. This time, he was fatally shot.

Many months passed before mama and daddy knew where he was buried -- in a U.S. cemetery in Margraten, Holland. This is a huge cemetery with thousands of white crosses.

Mama and daddy received a formal citation signed by President Harry Truman awarding Earl the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.

Sometime around 1950, our family had an opportunity to have Earl's remains exhumed and brought to the U.S. for reburial, but mama and daddy declined to do this.

Sometime after the telegram arrived Earl's personal belongings came -- a New Testament, some coins, a bracelet made from Dutch coins and pictures of two girls.

His burial flag was also sent.

This was an article that was published in the Franklin News-Post:

Mrs. Ellen J. Love of Sydnorsville has been informed that the Silver Star Medal has been posthumously awarded her son, PFC Earl F. Love, who was killed in action while serving with an armored infantry regiment.

The citation reads:

"For gallantry in action against the enemy, PFC Love, light machine-gunner from his platoon, was wounded. Disregarding his wound, he set up his gun and directed fire of tanks and tracers. Despite enemy observation, he moved forward to get a better field of fire. When his platoon withdrew, he remained in position to cover the withdrawal. While doing so, he was again wounded, this time fatally. His gallant action was the final factor in making possible an orderly withdrawal and reflects greatest credit on himself and the military service of the United States."

Let's never forget -- what he did matters.

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