Emmett Stewart Epley
Emmett Stewart Epley was born and raised in Great Falls, Montana. He graduated from high school in 1942, and began attending Montana State University. After completing one semester, he enlisted as an infantryman in the U.S. Army. He later transferred to the Army Air Forces and became a navigator on B-29s. He flew 35 combat missions over Japan, logging 549 combat hours.
During his time in the service, letters were exchanged between Epley and his family almost daily. This correspondence provides a very personal and moving account of the lives of a soldier/airman and his family during this critical period of American history. Mrs. Epley encouraged her son to “attend to the spiritual side.” Mr. Epley offered frequent financial advice. There are detailed descriptions on everything from dinner menus to combat missions. The Epley letters are filled with the love and respect shared by all members of the family, as well as pride in their country.
Emmett Stewart Epley was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters. After the war, Epley, now known as Stewart, continued his education at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, from which he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1949. After a distinguished business career, he returned to his beloved Lexington and Washington and Lee, where he served as Treasurer of the University until his retirement in 1986. After Epley’s death in 2004, his widow, Nancy, donated his wartime letters to the George C. Marshall Foundation.
This collection consists of letters exchanged between Emmett Epley and his family members from the fall of 1942 through the end of the Second World War. Epley served as a navigator in the Army Air Corps, and his letters provide descriptions of his training and service when he was stationed in Guam, and flew 35 combat missions over Japan. His family letters offer details, often quite colorful, of life on the Montana home front during those years. Below are only a few of the letters of the collection: