Memorial Day: Serving World War II America in combat and at home

Memorial Day: Serving World War II America in combat and at home
Airman wearing oxygen mask.

My Dad, Fred,  is working on a new oxygen regulator that his younger brother, Frank, may very well use at some time. (Dad had a deferment from military service because of his defense work.) He updates his brother on the improvements being made on this essential piece of equipment for airmen, or order to save more lives.  It's an example of how two brothers were closely bound in World War II service, even though only one was actively in the military.

With his science background, Fred Gartz was able to help create new Oxygen regulator, which his brother, Frank ("Ebner") might use in combat

A little background: World War II Bombers flew at about 25,000 feet, so the crew required oxygen masks to breathe. The men also had to don electrically-heated suits to keep from freezing to death in the 60 degree below zero temperatures at that altitude.  The first four paragraphs of the letter focus on the operation of the oxygen regulator, and they are frighteningly prescient of the dangers Ebner will face once in combat.

My dad paints a vivid picture of springtime in West Garfield Park, my grandfather's eagerness to work, even with a bum knee, and a fresh metaphor on how much a little girl talks! Definitely some female stereotyping here, but cute, not malicious.

Note: The family calls Fred by his middle name, Sam, (named after his maternal grandfather); hence the signature. This family had a penchant for using middle names: Frank was called my his middle name, Ebner (my grandmother's maiden name). Only Will, the eldest, was called by his first name.

5-25-44

Dear Ebner:

I’m on the night shift now and have some time on my hands so I’ll put it to best use and drop you a little note. As you no doubt know we are on a new contract with the A.A.F. on this regulator business. Seeing as how you are going to be on the receiving end of this work you probably would like to know something about it.

Most of the regulators in the field now are the old type, which have been tested at 3 altitudes only namely 30,000 ft, 20,000 and 15,000 ft and at these altitudes a “high flow” test is given and a “low flow” test. The low flow is the normal rate of breathing of the human body. It roughly is about 50 liter per min. The high flow is the rate which the body breathes after or during excessive physical action or when it is in a state of excitement such as combat. On the old regulator there was 100% oxygen deliverance at 30,000 ft.; 60-90% at 25,000 ft and 20-35% at 15,000 ft.

Now for this new regulator -- It is tested at 5 different altitudes namely 35,000 ft, 30,000 ft, 25,000 ft, 20,000 ft and 15,000 ft and it is tested for 3 different flows, high, medium and low. The high is the same as before (85 LPM – liters per min). The medium is the average rate (50 LPM) and in addition to these there is a low flow of 10 LPM. The low flow has been added because in several cases a plane has returned from a bombing mission with some crewmen wounded and lying helpless in an inaccessible spot.

Now since the regulator yields oxygen only upon demand many of these wounded actually suffocated to death because their breathing was too shallow to operate the mechanism of the regulator. In the new regulator this has been remedied with this low flow test of 10 LPM. No doubt you will be given some instruction as to its use but if you should want any specific questions answered concerning it let me know and I’ll send you all I can.

I hope that you spent a pleasant birthday weekend. So you are 20 now—imagine that. It seems not so many years ago that I was twenty. I was going to Wright Jr. College at that time and strange enough on my birthday I visited Austin High at the noon hour and met Marie Coleman there. You will be finding that the years are flying by so much faster from now on.

Do you remember Chuck Katz one of our engineers? Well since he was under 26 the Army took him and we have all of his work in addition to our own on our hands. We have a service flag over our office door for him and all of our reports are still signed Stevens Borkin Gartz and Katz with a note on the bottom “in service.” So far no one has said anything about it although there are parties that don’t like it or us for that. His last day here was a picnic. We had a case of beer here in the office and fellows and gals paraded in and out quite happy. Myself, I was sitting at this desk writing out a report with 1 hand and had a bottle of beer in the other. Times like these will never come again in my lifetime. As I said to Lil the other day, we are now living in “Hülle and Fülle.” [a time of "abundance."]

Dad’s leg is getting better. The doctor said that he could work for about 2 hours a day on crutches and of course Dad wants to take advantage of it. He wanted to spade the lawn on the 6 flat and seed it. Well Mom did part of it and I did another part and piece meal it was done just in time for a few hours following a cloudburst. The sky went black fast and down it came. It certainly was a relief for all day it’s been hot and sultry. You should see West End in spring time, it’s beautiful. Everything is green and fresh. Pop was sitting on the back porch and watching a sparrow trying to induce a female to join him in his nest and the little fellow is cheeping and chirping as loud as he can.

Mrs. Ed Brennan was at Mom’s today with little Merrill, who being 7 years old made her 1st communion today. She was all in white like a little bride. My oh my how that little girl has grown and talks just like a threshing machine. But then she’s a woman.

Do you remember that beautiful table lamp that Burt gave us for a wedding present? A friend of his painted it. Well we asked him to get another one for us and he brought it last Monday. Now we have a pair of matched table lamps so all we have to get is a pair of matched end tables. The one we have is very nice and another like it would be just fine except “Where to put it?”

I suppose you are wondering how I can jump from 1 subject to another so fast and get such a bunch of disconnected morsels of information. Well it’s a gift. I never was good at letter writing so I’ll halt this one before I’ll kill it.

Love to you all from us all.

Your brother, Sam

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ORIGINAL LETTER BELOW:

Ebner LTRs 1944-05-25 from Fred Gartz 1-1 Ebner LTRs 1944-05-25 from Fred Gartz 2-2 Ebner LTRs 1944-05-25 from Fred Gartz 3-3

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    Linda Gartz

    I was born and raised on Chicago's West Side, where the Gartz family lived and worked for most of the 20th century. After my mom died in 1994, my brothers and I poked around the the attic of my parents' home and discovered a trove of letters, diaries, documents, and photos that had been saved for almost a century. Taken as a whole, they focus a lens on the history of our city and life in another era, as seen through the eyes of regular folks. Go to Lindagartz.com where you'll find my blog, Family Archaeologist (a clickable link is on the "About Letters of a World War II Airman" page). There you can explore this historical treasure trove that illuminates history and our shared humanity. I started my blog, "Letters of a World War II Airman," on the 70th anniversary of the date my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, was drafted into World War II military service. You can see that first post and the first three months of 1943 letters at my website, Lindagartz.com. All future letters will be posted on this blog. I'm an author, archivist and television producer. Please visit my website, LindaGartz.com, to see my published articles and an overview of my television productions.

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