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Family Matters: Relatives at War

The Stilson Family

Written fifty years after the Armistice, Frederick Stilson’s 1968 memoir details his time in France as part of an engineer battalion during WWI. While he was spared from combat in the trenches, he still witnessed many of the tragic hallmarks of the Great War, including gas attacks, shelling, and the Spanish flu. Twenty-odd years later, Frederick’s two sons Malcolm and Warren were both involved in the next global conflagration. In a series of memoirs, Malcolm recounts the brothers’ vastly different experiences during World War II. Due to his poor eyesight, Malcolm spent much of his service stateside, while Warren shipped out to the European Theater in 1944. Malcolm’s narrative includes snippets from letters written by Frederick to Warren, cautioning him to be careful in his role as infantryman. Tragically, Warren was killed in France in December 1944, just after his 19th birthday. Frederick wrote in a letter after his son’s death, “I never thought [at the time of my own service] that both my son and I would shed blood on the soil of France.”

Image of Frederick Clarence Stilson

"I will never forget my first night at the front." (Letter to Warren included in Malcolm’s memoir, page 163)

Frederick Clarence Stilson's story

Image of Malcolm Harvey Stilson

"Here’s to a bright future, and a quick cessation to this disastrous war."(Letter to Warren from Malcolm included in Malcolm’s memoir, page 145)

Malcom Harvey Stilson's story