Photo: Robert James Sanner

My father-in-law brought a large, blue Rubbermaid storage box to the house a year or so ago. It was filled with his father’s genealogy research (there’s one in every family, right?) It was unorganized, but filled with fantastic family information … and a Nazi flag.

When I saw it, I had to walk away. I had a hard time even touching it.

I only knew Grandpop Sanner briefly. He had a wonderful smile. I’m 5’10’ and had a nice view of his shiny bald head. He liked to keep his house warm; hot, really. He was a hit at my wedding because at 85 years old, he was cutting some serious rug! I wish that I had spent time getting to know him better before we lost him in 2002.

Robert James Sanner enlisted in the U. S. Army in Feb 1937 when he was 21 years old.1)Robert J Sanner I, personal journals and research, privately held, [address held for private use.] All Robert Sanner’s military records are from his personal files, unless otherwise noted. He was assigned to the 34th Infantry Band out of Fort G. G. Meade in Maryland. Grandpop Sanner was a great musician and played in bands throughout most of his early life. He served through World War II (hence the flag), Korea and ‘retired’ in 1959. Then he started work for the N. S. A. Yep, that N. S. A.

But, let’s get back to World War II. Robert Sanner organized and led the 6th Armored Division, 68th Armored Regiment Band. Grandpop himself noted that band musicians, while ETO played various roles including, combat infantrymen, truck drivers MPs and prison guards.

Robert J. Sanner, band leader is on the far left.

Among the many photos, newspapers and research files was hidden this one page, typed letter.2)W. A. Meehan, U.S. Army, Camp Chaffe, Arkansas, to Robert James Sanner I, letter, 11 May 1942, inquiry into Sgt Band Leader’s female acquaintance; Robert James Sanner I, Personal Genealogy Research, privately held, [address for private use.] It’s one of my favorite items.

It’s a letter from William Aloysius Meehan of Bronx, N. Y. He enlisted in Oct 1941 at Fort Dix, New Jersey and served as a clerk in the Army.3)“U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records,  1938-1946,” William A. Meehan, enlistment date 2 Oct 1941, Fort Dix, New Jersey; online database, Ancestry, (www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 Mar 2017), citing U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, National Archives and Records Aadministration, College Park, Maryland, Record Group 64.

Mr. Meehan writes to inquire of the sargeant who lead the band regarding the beautiful woman at his side (my grandmother-in-law, Hazel.)  Her refers to her as a “bundle of loveliness who has so captivated me.” She apparently turned him down for a dance 3 times. He notes the ring on her left hand, but calls himself a “patient waiter.” He closes his letter with the plea: “in the interest of better morale among the soldiers. ” It’s an incredible letter… humorous and sassy, bold and articulate. It’s a classic representation of the Greatest Generation.

These two great items, a photo and a letter: I can almost hear Glenn Miller playing in the background. My foot is tapping and my head might be bobbing a little while I type. And while both Grandpop Sanner and William Meehan survived the war, their service and sacrifice weren’t trivialities. The soundtrack to their lives might be closer to “Taps,” than “In the Mood.”

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References   [ + ]

1. Robert J Sanner I, personal journals and research, privately held, [address held for private use.] All Robert Sanner’s military records are from his personal files, unless otherwise noted.
2. W. A. Meehan, U.S. Army, Camp Chaffe, Arkansas, to Robert James Sanner I, letter, 11 May 1942, inquiry into Sgt Band Leader’s female acquaintance; Robert James Sanner I, Personal Genealogy Research, privately held, [address for private use.]
3. “U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records,  1938-1946,” William A. Meehan, enlistment date 2 Oct 1941, Fort Dix, New Jersey; online database, Ancestry, (www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 Mar 2017), citing U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, National Archives and Records Aadministration, College Park, Maryland, Record Group 64.

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