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May 9, 2013

Looking for Family for World War II American Soldiers' Letters Found in Hatbox

Looking for Family for World War II American Soldiers' Letters Found in Hatbox
Photo courtesy of
An antique hatbox bought at an auction in Oklahoma turned out to be much more than just a simple hatbox. When Pamela Gilliland, the buyer, opened it, she found a treasure trove of letters written by Eural Harvill and Robert Harvill, brothers serving in the military during World War II.

Over 250 letters addressed to Mr. and Mrs. E.H. Harvill of Drumright Oklahamo (Eural and Robert's parents) had been carefully stored inside the box. Ms. Gilliland hopes to find a family member so she can send the letters home.

Those who read my blog know how passionate I am about military history and returning soldier's ephemera and memorabilia to family members. So of course I jumped on this after my friend Lisa Haas directed me to the story.

Lorine's Research:

I found a man in the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) on who is probably Eural, the WW2 soldier.  He was born in 1927 in Oklahoma and died in 1980

Name: Eural Harvill
Birth: 14 May 1927
Death: Aug 1980
Civil: Oklahoma
Other: Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee, United States of America

There is also this listing in U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
Name: Eural D Harvill
Birth Year: 1927
Race: White, citizen (White)
Nativity State or Country: Oklahoma
State of Residence: Oklahoma
County or City: Creek

Enlistment Date: 6 Feb 1946
Enlistment State: California
Enlistment City: Fort Ord

Best of all is the 1930 census record found on for 2 year old Dale Harvill (note Eural's middle initial above) living in Drumwright, Creek Co. Oklahoma with parents Eural and Josephine Harvill.... and brother Robert D. age 7. 

The 1940 census for Drumwright Oklahoma shows Eural and Josephine (misindexed on as HOWELL) living at 301 Maple St with their sons Dale(12) and Donald (17).  So we now know the full names of the brothers (Robert Donald Harvill and Eural Dale Harvill) and there do not appear to be any other siblings. 

Here is Robert's information from U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010

Name: Robert Harvill
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 13 Nov 1922
Death Date: 5 Mar 1990
SSN: 441289789
Branch 1: ARMY
Enlistment Date 1: 16 Sep 1940
Release Date 1: 6 Dec 1945

and here is his brother Eural's information from the same source 

Name: Eural Harvill
Birth Date: 14 May 1927
Death Date: 11 Aug 1980
SSN: 440242847
Branch 1: ARMY
Enlistment Date 1: 25 Jul 1945
Release Date 1: 5 Feb 1946

The question is - did either of the brothers marry? Did they have children? If anyone knows anything about this family or wants to join in the hunt for descendants or other family members please leave a comment on this blog post or write me privately at (replace AT with @)

UPDATE: Please see Update on WW2 American Soldiers Letters Found

Read more about these WW2 letters at Yahoo News and Tulsa World


Intense Guy said...

Robert appears to have married a Jean (Wichita, Kansas, City Directory, 1959)

Mariann Regan said...

Go, genealogy community! You have made a good start in hunting for living relatives. This is the second blog on which I've read about this amazing discovery of 250 letters.

I'll bet that within a month, or maybe a few weeks after all this publicity, a relative will appear who will want to read these letters . . .

Patti said...

What an awesome story! I hope the relatives are found. I know they will be overjoyed to receive these letters.

On another note, though, this serves to remind me that future generations will not be so lucky. Handwritten letters are few and far between nowadays, as we have become largely an email and texting society. I know people who Skype with their deployed soldier. Well, you can't re-read skype and deleted emails and texts. A treasure chest of letters from the 2010's will be virtually unheard-of to future generations.

Barbara Anne Waite said...

I agree about there not being any treasure chest of letters found from from 2010's. That is so sad. I wrote a book based upon the letters I discovered after my grandmother died in 1987. Her diary and vivid letters written from the new state of Arizona told of the adventures of a young single teacher in the Wild West. I am thrilled that "Elsie- Arizona Teacher 1913-16" was voted #1 on Goodreads list "The Old West in 1st person." I do hope someone recovers these letters and does something with them.