I have spent the past few posts relating the story of my Uncle Dick Dollen. Yesterday I shared a letter written in 1952 to my grandmother explaining his death. The letter was direct and brutally honest which must have been difficult to write and terribly painful to receive yet so necessary.
Dick’s death was preceded by his father’s death in 1950. I grew up with an understanding of life and death. My unknown grandfather passed away from a massive heart attack in 1950 and a mere two years later my unknown uncle, Dick Dollen, was killed. His loss sealed the Dollen women’s fate, as sorrow was an unspoken companion always close by.
My grandmother spent the remainder of her life struggling with depression; which escalated in her later years. My mother worked tirelessly to protect her family and herself from further loss. Every death anniversary was silently acknowledged throughout her remaining years.
I must be careful. Today I look and read this letter with 21st century eyes. I immediately critique the letter and wonder why the Navy could not have sent a more professional letter.
Here I am, the lover of handwritten letters, unhappy with this letter.
I wish Thomas J. Pike had taken the time to rewrite the letter and eliminate the scratch outs. Does the sloppy inattention to detail in this letter reflect on the attention to safety aboard the ship? Hmmm . . . 1952 was a different time, a more innocent time and investigative reporting that I have become used to didn’t exist. My uncle’s death was most likely an unfortunate accident.
But this 21st century girl needs to find out what really happened. Thomas J. Pike promised an investigation and my grandmother never received any further communication from the Navy. Was there an investigation? I have decided to place a request for my uncle’s military records. As his records are not yet considered archived, it is my understanding that I should be able to receive partial records as the government protects the privacy of those who served. In four short years his records will become archived and at that time I will have access to his full records.
My uncle’s last words, “I still love you all and don’t ever forget it” give me goosebumps.
Written in loving memory of my unknown uncle, Richard Dollen