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General Gavin's Normandy Letter

A Letter to his Daughter Barbara Gavin

Sunday June 5, 1944

Dear Barbara,

It is now evening, we take off tonight. As well as we can foresee our needs; everything has been provided for. I thought that before going I would drop you a line and perhaps give you some idea of what makes Pappy tick at a time like this or for that matter what makes them (troopers of the 82nd Airborne) all tick. It does appear at this stage to be about the toughest thing we have tackled. Remembering the exhausted state of most of us the first morning in Sicily I have tried to get some sleep this afternoon but to no avail. Too many well-meaning well wishers have come by to get in a last word. The boys all look fine, Zips, Roys, and the old crowd they all are in tiptop shape. This has been quite an experience working with them the past several months. I have never seen, heard, or know of soldiers like these combat experienced parachutists. For us older professional officers it can be taken for granted that we will do whatever duty requires but for these young lads, just from school, the farm, or home, it is quite an undertaking. With few exceptions they are highly idealistic, gallant and courageous to a fault. They will take losses to do anything. Needless to say it has been a source of considerable gratification to have the privilege of working with them. Someday you will no doubt wonder why in the world I got into this business when there are so many apparently safer ways to go to war. And I expect that by the time you are old enough to wonder in an analytical way the reason will be evident throughout our service. Because, you see, someday most of army will be either airborne or readily capable and trained to be airborne. Nowadays one reads in some newspapers that bombing will win the war without the aid of ground forces, and in other papers that the ground forces can accomplish anything without the Air Corps. Manifestly someone is wrong, actually neither of them completely. Because the answer lies in combining the air bombing with air transporting of troops. During this present phase of our development the participation of airborne troops in the form of parachutists offers particular hazards because of the newness of our technique. But in time parachuting, or what will take its place, will be now more dangerous than riding a tank is today. Until then therefore if progress is to be made risks must be taken, and of course will be taken by those who believe in what they are endeavoring to accomplish. The presence of danger in present day airborne operations isn’t the bad thing that it is made out to be anyway. It is an essential in that it exacts of the participants peculiar qualities of courage. These things all contribute to making a soldier what a soldier is, reputedly supposed to be, and what we especially need in an airborne soldier.

I will write you as soon as I am able. I am enclosing some invasion money, by the time you receive it the shooting will have started and so I am sure that I am not violating any security. It should be an excellent addition to your collection. I hope that summer camp is everything that you want it to be, I am sure that it will be. When you return next fall and start school again keep up the good work of this past year. I would like very much to know that you are applying yourself to the best of your ability in everything that you undertake.

Love to everyone,




*According to Barbara Gavin, the General signed his letters to her "Pappy" in reference to the popular comic strip "Lil Abner."



Letter courtesy of Barbara Gavin Fauntleroy

Sadly, Ray passed away this summer. He will be missed by all.

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