My father had always dreamed of retiring and becoming a writer. To get a head start on his dream, he purchased a thesaurus and took it with him when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps during WWII. He used the thesaurus when writing his poetry while stationed abroad.
When I entered high school, my father gave me his treasured book and showed me how to use it. I did use it through high school, and then I took it with me to college. Having that book with me made me feel like he was close by.
When I had my own children I let my older use it. As the years went by, I sort forgot about the book. With the advent of computers and word processing, it was easier to look up words online than to stop and get a book.
I mentioned that my father used this when he was abroad. I never thought to ask him where he was stationed and after he died, that always bothered me. I knew he was on the Pacific front, but exactly where? Over the years, I scoured over his old letters and researched where his units were stationed. I came up with a possible itinerary. I did know for sure that he spend some time in New Zealand and in doing research, I learned that soldiers were sent there to recover from illnesses or wounds. I also knew that my father had malaria but I did not know when or where in his 4 years of service this occurred. I always assumed he was in New Zealand at the end of his Army career.
In 2017, I started researching my family history in earnest. Before then, it was always a start and stop hobby. In addition to trying to find ancestors, I really wanted to know more about my father’s Army Air Corp experience. I also became sentimental thinking about the thesaurus. I started searching all over the house for it, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I had a few moments of panic each time I searched thinking it was lost.
In May of 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was stuck at home just like everyone else. To fill some time, I decided to clean out my home office a bit. I started taking books off of shelves, and on one shelf, buried in the middle of a pile of books, was my father’s thesaurus! I was overjoyed to find it. The binding was off and it was taped together, but I picked it up gingerly and started looking through it. Would you believe that inside the front cover, my father had listed every place he had been in the war! The information I wanted was right under my nose all of this time. However, his handwriting was difficult read. I emailed some photos to my siblings asking for help deciphering his handwriting. It was a good team effort and we were able to figure most of it out.
From his list of places he was stationed, I realized that some of my guesses were correct, but I discovered that my guess about when he was in New Zealand was wrong. Also, he saw a lot more active duty than I ever imagined. From one of his letters home, I conjectured that he was in the Philippines at the end of the war, but I was not sure. Now I could see that he really was there at the time of the major battle that defeated the Japanese and ended the war on the Pacific front.
Not only did I now have this precious remembrance of my father back, but I solved a mystery that was bothering me for years.