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Friday, September 11, 2015

Chapter 1- The Introduction

William Allen
Dear Folks…Love, Bill
“In memory of our son and brother.”’
Benton and Lura Allen
Elizabeth, Lee, and Benny
Dedication to the book of letters published by the family.

Bill Allen was a graduate of Dunlap High School and Knox College. He was teaching at Galesburg High School when he made the decision to join the U.S. Army and fight in World War II. Tragically, he was killed at the very end of World War II as U.S. troops were within miles of Berlin.

The Allen family had two sons and one son-in-law fighting in WWII. Bill Allen in Europe, brother Lee fighting with the U.S. Marines in Asia, and Bob Arnold (daughter Elizabeth’s husband) fighting in Europe. Tragically both Bill Allen and Bob Arnold were killed in action.

Bill was a prolific letter writer during the war. By all accounts, he wrote hundreds of letters to his family, to teachers in Galesburg, and to friends. He came by this letter writing naturally it would appear, his mother wrote a letter each night to her two sons fighting in WWII. After the War, the Allen family chose to publish letters Bill had sent to the family. The book was entitled, “William Allen: Dear Folks… Love, Bill.”

Copies of the book of letters were given to Galesburg High School, Dunlap High School, and Knox College to be used to help students better understand World War II in particular, and war in general. As a social studies teacher at Galesburg High School, I realized the GHS library no longer had any copy of the books. I started out on a mission to figure out the best way to make the letters accessible to Galesburg students.

I started by reading the letters in the original book. Once I had read the letters, I wanted to know more of the story behind William Allen. I had gone to Knox and then taught at GHS, just as William had done. I could not see myself deciding to give up my career and enlisting in the U.S. Army. I became intrigued about his story. I have spent the last several years trying to find out as much information as I could about William Allen.

I have tried to put together as much information about William Allen as I could find. I apologize for my writing, you will soon realize I am not a professional writer so there are apt to be structural and grammatical errors. And I apologize to professional researchers, as you will quickly realize I am not a professional researcher. I hope my inadequacies don’t get in the way of the story.

The most important part of this work is obviously the letters from William to his folks, and the additional set of letters from William to Aunt Mabel. For the young history student, hopefully the other material will simply provide a background, which may increase your understanding of the letters.

It is my hope to keep the inspiring story of Bill Allen alive among students.  As Americans, we need to be reminded of the sacrifices our ancestors have made.

Evan Massey
Retired- Chairperson Social Studies Dept.
Galesburg High School

Note- This material has not been put together for profit. Classroom teacher may feel free to copy material for use in their classroom with their students. No part of this material is to be copied or reprinted for profit without written permission. 
Contact: Evan Massey, 1535 North Prairie St., Galesburg, IL 61401

Special Thanks--

Knox Archives and Special Collections- Thanks to the helpful staff who helped me find so much material.

Owen Muelder- Knox and Galesburg historian who provided much insight into Knox College of this era.

Amy Massey and R.J.Robertson- They converted the letters to Mabel Allen from handwritten into typed editions.

Linda Giger, Catherine Wiley-Parkin, Craig Hillier- They provided the expertise in getting many items into a digital form.

Frans and Pauline Roukens- They provided pictures and shared memories.

The Allen Family- They patiently educated me on the Allen family and on William Allen.

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