Last month, 90-year old Laura Mae Davis Burlingame visited the National World War II Museum in New Orleans because she believed that there was a display commemorating the service of 22-year old Marine Cpl. Thomas “Cotton” Jones, who was also her high school sweetheart.
She was right. There is a display that honors his memory at the WWII museum, and it features many of his personal belongings from his service in the war, including his diary that he had asked be delivered to Burlingame as his “last life request”. Only it never was and Burlingame‘s visit to the museum on April 24 was the first time that she had ever seen it.
“I didn’t have any idea there was a diary in there,” said the 90-year-old Mooresville, Ind., woman. She said it brought tears to her eyes.
“I figured I’d see pictures of him and the fellows he’d served with and articles about where he served,” she said.
She was stunned to find the diary of the 22-year-old machine gunner.
Curator Eric Rivet (rih-VET) let her take a closer look, using white gloves to protect the old papers from skin oils. It was the first time in his 17 years of museum work that someone found “themselves mentioned in an artifact in the museum,” Rivet said. (Via the NY Daily News)
After Jones was killed by a Japanese sniper in the U.S. assault on the Pacific island of Peleliu, the diary made it back to one of his sisters with his other belongings, but Burlingame didn’t know her very well so she never received it. Eventually, Jones’ nephew donated the diary and other belongings to the museum in 2001, and he told Burlingame that when he received them in the years after his uncle’s death, he didn’t feel it was appropriate to share the diary with her because she was married.
Burlingame left the museum without the diary, but officials scanned it from front to back and mailed her a copy. She also added some photos and Jones’ class ring to the display.
(Banner via the National World War II Museum)