Below is the text of Anne Black's Letter to Tom Brokaw at NBC News,
part of which was read in an interview in November, 1999.
August 19, 1999
Mr. Tom Brokaw
NBC Nightly News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
Room 300 S
New York, New York 10112
Dear Mr. Brokaw,
I wanted to write to thank you for the autographed copy of The Greatest Generation for my mother's
90th birthday. She is enjoying the book immensely - and it has led to some important conversations
that we have never had before. Our story - my mother's and mine - is different from the ones you wrote about
in your book. Our story is about a man who didn't come home and the family he left behind.
My parents, Ceal and Ed Moloney, had been childhood friends in Englewood, New Jersey. They fell in love in
their 20s but, because of the Depression, postponed their wedding till their early 30s, the coming war
propelling them into action. During the four years of their marriage, they lived with my maternal grandmother
in Englewood. My father enlisted early on in the war and was an MP on the docks in New York.
In January 1945, with the end of the war in sight and my mother four months pregnant, my fathered, at the
"ancient" age of 34, was called overseas as part of the "mop up" effort as the Allies moved across Europe.
He was a sergeant in the 273rd Infantry Regiment, 69th Infantry Division. On April 14 he was killed in action
near Aachen, Germany.
One of his buddies wrote, "We were attacking on A.A. position and 88s opened up on us. We were pretty far out
from the town and we got orders to withdraw. Ed was at least 300 to 500 yards out front. On my way back, I
noticed a medic working on one of our boys but with the 88s still coming, I didn't stop to look. When the
medics got back, they told us it was Ed who had got it. They said, "He never knew what hit him."
Six weeks later, while the world was rejoicing at the end of the war in Europe, I as born in New York.
About to leave the hospital, my mother wrote the following to her brother: "I have neglected to write you
lately but I've lost whatever pep I ever had ... the baby arrived on May 26 and I hope this kid has been born
under a luckier star than Ed and I were. She weighed 9 lbs. and 8 ozs., so I did pretty good for an old dame.
Mother is so nervous lately that she can't keep her hands still. Guess I haven't helped much with all the
weeping, but I can't help it. I miss Ed so much, I can't imagine what I'll ever do, and can't find much
reason for breathing. Everybody tells me that now I have the baby I'll feel better, but they don't know
what they're talking about."
My mother had lost everything she was waiting for. She lost her dreams. There were an awful lot of perfect
linen tablecloths in our house that never got used. So many things being saved for a future that was never to be.
And then there was me, born in the wake of my father's death, yet ready for life. I grew up living with my
mother, grandmother and an ongoing parade of cats and dogs. I had a loving, stable childhood. I was close
to my aunts and uncle on my mother's side and I had fun with my many cousins. I was also very close to my
father's family - his brother, aunts, uncles, and my one cousin. And then there were my father's many friends
and war buddies who kept in touch with my mother over the years as best they could, sometimes just dropping
into her office to chat, to see how things were going.
Growing up, it seemed to me that everyone else came from nice, perfect families made up of a mother, father
and children. But, for my mother and me, our family was just the two of us. I always felt a strong need to
protect her from unhappiness. On the subject of my father's death, there was for the most part silence.
For me, this silence led to feelings of great shame. Shame that I did not have a father, shame that he had
been killed when everyone else came home, shame that we'd been left behind, shame that we were "different".
I was a freshman in college when President Kennedy was assassinated. His death was a turning point in my life
because it initiated a mourning for my own father - something I had never done. Three years later I went to
Europe for the first time and found my way to my father's grave at the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten,
Holland. After all these years, we were finally in the same place at the same time. He really had existed. It was
good to know where he was at long last.
One morning in 1992, while sitting in my kitchen drinking a cup of coffee, I read in the Washington Post about
a group of WWII "orphans" laying a wreath in Arlington Cemetery in honor of their fathers' sacrifices. I had
only known one other person who had lost her father in the war and it was startling for me to read the interviews.
People talking about how, as children, they had imagined that someday their dads would come home, having been held
captive in some foreign country all these years. People recalling how no one ever talked about their father's death.
And a woman named Ann Mix saying that for years she and her brother had always thought that when they said their
prayers, "Our Father who art in Heaven", meant their father. I sat and cried my eyes out.
The next day, with the help of the Post, I was able to contact Ann Mix and her wonderful organization, the American
World War II Orphan's Network (AWON). My life then changed forever - and for the good. I found others who were
like me. Over the years, I have made good friends, friends with whom WWII is now just part of the conversation.
And the shame has mostly gone away because now, at last, we've finally talked about it - and some days even laughed
I am proud of my dad, and proud of what he did. My dearest wish is that I could have held his hand, looked into
his eyes and heard his voice - just once. But that was not to be.
My father left a legacy of love, good humor, courage and standing up for what you believe in. Mom carried on
without him, leading a productive life, working until she was 87 and retiring (finally!) to live near me in
Washington. At 90, she is "with it", reads two papers daily, does some volunteer work and is eager to visit all
the sites the city has to offer. From time to time, she dreams of my father vividly. She misses him always.
I have been a successful corporate executive and, now in my second marriage, have found great happiness. And
guess what? We talk about everything!
With kind regards,
Anne Moloney Black
American World War II Orphans Network,
901 Princess Anne Street, Suite 301,
Fredericksburg, VA 22401.
Phone: (540) 310-0750.