“I thought of you in church on Christmas Eve and all the fun we used to have on Christmas morning at home. I wondered if Benny got up as early as we used to do and if Dad had gotten up to build the fire first and to make sure that Santa had arrived before the rest were allowed to come downstairs.”
Bill Allen in letter sent home on December 26, 1944
|William (college age), Lura, Lee, Benny, Benton, Elizabeth|
Benton and Lura Allen had two sons and one son-in-law fighting in WWII. Bill Allen in Europe, Lee Allen 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.
|The Allen's farm house- it was just outside of Alta when headed to Dunlap.|
Benton (“BC”)- 1894-1991
Bill’s father was 41 years old when Bill was killed. Benton Charles was a veterinarian and farmer. He first had to go to Champaign to tell his daughter of the death of her husband, Bob Arnold, and then received notification of the death of his son. Bill had sent uniforms and war materials home, with the hope of using them in plays when he returned. Family members say that upon hearing the news of Bill’s death, Benton went and got the war materials and burned them. Granddaughter, Mary Lemons said, “We all knew not to talk about the war in front of Grandpa.”
Benton was known as a leader with his church, service organizations, and in the community. He regularly visited shut-ins.
Bill’s mother was 38 years old when he was killed. One cannot imagine the emotion she experienced with two sons and a son-in-law gone to war. Lura had given birth to two daughters and three sons. Lura was a prolific letter writer to her two sons who were gone to war. She wrote a letter every night before going to bed. She died in 1956, eleven years after Bill.
Bill’s sister, Eunice died at the age of 9 in 1931.
|Front- Elizabeth and Eunice. Back- William and Lee.|
Elizabeth (Beth)- 1918-2010
Bill’s sister was 26 years old at the time of Bill’s death. Elizabeth married Robert Arnold in 1937. Elizabeth had her two brothers and her husband, Bob Arnold fighting in WWII. In the spring of 1945, she lost both her husband and her brother. There is a gripping account of her father taking a bus to Champaign where she was a student to tell her of the loss of her husband. Courageously the push to publish the letters from Bill came from Elizabeth. Elizabeth wrote the “Introduction” and “Forward” to go with the letters. Elizabeth later married Thomas Lemons in 1951. They had two children- Steven and Mary.
Major Bob Arnold- 1912-1945
Bill’s brother-in-law had married Elizabeth in 1937. Bob served in the medical corp. Bob regularly visited the Dutch family, the Goettgens. He had instructed his driver if he was killed to let this family know. The family has continued to maintain the graves of both Bob and Bill at Margraten.
|Elizabeth in 1948 at the grave of Robert Arnold in Holland.|
Lee- 1923- 2007
Lee was 22 years old at the time of Bill’s death. Lee was in the 2nd Division of the U.S. Marines during World War II. He fought in Asia in the Marianas Campaign in Saipan and Tinian. In the letters home, Bill frequently takes brotherly jabs at Lee and the U.S. Marines. Son, Brian says, “Typical of a lot of veterans, Dad never really talked much about being in combat.” Lee married Patricia Bird while stationed in Ann Arbor after the war. They had four children- Lawrence (deceased), Shirley (deceased), Brian, and Karen (Conway).
|Lee in his Marine uniform.|
|Pat and Lee after WWII.|
Benton (“BC Jr”, “Benny”, “Jr”)- 1932-2012
Benny, Bill’s youngest brother was 12 when Bill died. In his letters home, he refers to young Benton with multiple nicknames. Ben became a third generation veterinarian. In one of life’s ironies, Ben moved to Galesburg, where Bill had lived before enlistment. Bill taught in Galesburg, and Ben went on to be elected to the Galesburg School Board. Bill’s last address as a civilian was within a block of what became Ben’s vet office. Ben married Ruth Large. They had four children- Amy (Massey), Curt, Amanda (Robertson), and Brad (deceased).
|William and Benny outside the Alta farm house. This was right|
before William left for Europe- his last time at the farm house.