'I just know he's writing,
Lad's Interest in War Letters Leads to Amazing Discovery
Tom Brokaw called the men and women who fought during World
War II America's "greatest generation." Sixteen-year-old
Brad Roller would agree. His late grandfather, Captain John
B. Roller, Jr., was among them, and Brad has letters to prove
young Roller's interest in war letters that prompted him to
pick up a copy of the book, War Letters: Extraordinary
Correspondence from American Wars, as the family
headed for vacation in August. The cover of the book by Andrew
Carroll features a lone unidentified soldier in the French
countryside writing a letter.
Brad, Bob and Fay Roller made a remarkable
discovery on the cover of War Letters.
and his father, Bob Roller, director of Athletics at Samford, leafed
through Captain Roller's scrapbook of pictures and stacks of war
letters, carefully preserved through the years by his widow, Fay,
who lives in Scottsboro near her daughter, Mary McKinnon.
practically every day," said Brad's grandmother, explaining
the significance of letters during wartime. "Those were rough,
rough days then. There was no television, so we listened to the
radio and read newspapers, but it was the letters that kept us going."
letters would arrive in bundles, and a family often would go weeks
without hearing from loved ones. On one occasion, Mrs. Roller received
45 letters in a bundle.
married Christmas Day in 1941. He was graduated the following May
from Virginia Tech, at which time he joined the 2nd Armored Division
as a 2nd lieutenant. Following basic training, he was assigned to
Co. "D", 2nd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment as a platoon
leader. Six months later, he landed in North Africa, where he spent
his first wedding anniversary under the command of General George
and pictures revealed the horrors of war, particularly during the
Normandy invasion. In one letter, he reported that many of his closest
buddies were killed the first day. In another, he told of holding
blood plasma for a dying buddy. That memory stuck with him until
blood often and plenty of it," said Mrs. Roller. In fact, he
gave 19 gallons during his lifetime, she recalled.
captured equally stirring memories. One was of Roller and
four of his buddies. He was the only one who made it home.
Another pictured Roller and his tank parked in front of a
Holocaust furnace at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
Roller returned home in November 1945, he had been decorated
with three Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.
Rollers settled in Pearisburg in the hills of southwestern
Virginia. They established a successful floral business. John
Roller died in 1995, a half century after the war ended.
knew about his grandfather's experiences in World War II. And
a few days into their vacation, he made an interesting discovery
on the cover of War Letters.
soldier? It was his grandfather, Captain John Roller.
contacted the book's author, who explained that he chose the photo
from thousands belonging to Time company. He promised to get them
a copy of the original.
What did Mrs.
Roller think about the cover?
know he's writing 'Dear Fay,'" she said.