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Sharon Estill Taylor on the recovery site of her father’s downed P-38 near Torgau, Germany, in September. With her is Dr. Gregory Fox, a forensic anthropologist with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii.
Sharon Estill Taylor on the recovery site of her father’s downed P-38 near Torgau, Germany, in September. With her is Dr. Gregory Fox, a forensic anthropologist with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. (Courtesy of Sharon Estill Taylor)
Sharon Estill Taylor on the recovery site of her father’s downed P-38 near Torgau, Germany, in September. With her is Dr. Gregory Fox, a forensic anthropologist with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii.
Sharon Estill Taylor on the recovery site of her father’s downed P-38 near Torgau, Germany, in September. With her is Dr. Gregory Fox, a forensic anthropologist with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. (Courtesy of Sharon Estill Taylor)
A photo of 1st Lt. Shannon Eugene Estill taken during World War II.
A photo of 1st Lt. Shannon Eugene Estill taken during World War II. (Courtesy of Sharon Estill Taylor)

Two weeks after 1st Lt. Shannon Eugene Estill became a father, he wrote a letter to his wife and infant daughter from his base in Germany. The date was April 7, 1945.

My Dearest Angels:

I simply can’t express how I feel about our daughter: so happy and glad yet almost afraid. Afraid that I won’t measure up to the shadowy indeterminate standards of parenthood. How I should love to be with you two now. I just can’t understand how [I] happened to land the two cutest gals in the world, but won’t argue. I am afraid that the Big Chief might check the records and discover that you really don’t belong to me at all but perhaps are angels that have sneaked down from heaven to tease this poor mortal.

Needless to say, the 22-year-old lieutenant had a way with words. His letter, offered up 60 years later by the smaller angel, concludes:

Am so thankful that you’re in the States and not over here. Everything, except danger, is scarce. Anyway, sweetest one, I’m so happy and thankful that you are both ok. I want you both to know that when I fly, I feel ever nearer to you and I am unafraid. I pray only that I am doing the right thing and that I will return home to you very soon.

All my love, Gener

Estill died six days later when his P-38 fighter was shot down over Torgau, Germany. The war ended 12 days later.

A member of the 428th Fighter Squadron, Estill was the last man in his unit to perish. He died with a baby shoe tethered to his flight gear.

Supported in spirit by her father’s war buddies, Sharon Estill Taylor traveled to Torgau last month to help usher her father home. Excavation of the crash site was led by Dr. Gregory Fox, a forensic anthropologist with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.

“She only knows him through his letters,” Fox later said. To Fox and JPAC’s credit, Taylor was allowed to assist.

“I wanted to get my hands in the dirt and be a part of it,” Taylor said. What touched her most were the small things they found: shoe grommets, a green button, cockpit switches — things he touched on the day he died.

They never did find that baby shoe, though.

On the day they parted, Taylor went to Fox’s hotel room to thank him. On his bed were five bags of bones.

“It took my breath away,” Taylor said. Sometimes that happens to angels.

To read more on Sharon Estill Taylor’s trip, go to: www.teamestill.blogspot.com

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