January 22, 1945, Miss Goldie Bonham, of South Charleston, received a telegram.
In part, it read, “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your friend, Private First Class Ernest Mays was killed in action.”
Two days later, she received another.
“It is with regret that I’m writing to confirm the recent telegram informing you of the death of your friend,” it reads. It goes on to say, “I know the sorrow this message has brought you and it is my hope that in the time, the knowledge of his heroic service to his country, even unto death, may be of sustaining comfort to you.
A 13 News viewer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Bonham moved into his family’s South Charleston home decades ago, after her roommate had passed away.
The family never knew much about Bonham and never met any of her family, he said. When she passed, the viewer said she didn’t have anything of value and donated her body to science.
This year, he found a number of letters and personal documents in the attic of the home that belonged to her, including the above telegrams and letters.
Other documents revealed that Bonham was engaged to be married to Mays.
Mays was in the 101st Airborne Division, 401st Infantry Glider Regiment. According to airborne.us, he was killed during the drive to Thier-du-Mont.
Bonham never married and never fell in love again, the viewer said.
Eight months before his death, he wrote a letter to her. The letter was found in the box.
It reads, “Hello Sweetheart. Just a few more lines to let you know I’m always thinking of you. Darling, these few lines leave me so lonesome. For you tonight, I sure hope this war will soon be over with, so I can come home to you and I never want to leave you again. Darling, I got a letter from Bessie today. Said she was in Cleveland, Ohio working at a plant there and I sure don’t understand that. If you find out anything about it, let me know in your next letter. Sweetheart, I’ll have to close for this time. I will write again soon. Please write often. I love to hear from you. Lots of love, Ernest.”
Following his death, Mays was awarded a Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, American Campaign Medal, and the World War Two Victory Medal. There are other awards and medals he could have received, but are not listed on the website honorstates.org.
Private First Class Ernest Mays is buried at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium- Plot F, Row 4, Grave 73.
If you can provide names and/or contact information for either Goldie Bonham or Ernest Mays, please email 13 News reporter Jessie Shafer.
Special thanks to combatreels.com for footage used in this story.