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A soldier's letter, mailed in 1944, is finally on its way home

Comedian Red Skelton gets a cameo role in the case of the lost letter from World War II.

March 09, 2011|By Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times

A woman whose brother sent her a letter in 1944 will finally receive it — with a little help from officials at California's Camp Roberts and one of the post's most famous enlisted men, the late comedian Red Skelton.

Last month, the errant letter mysteriously arrived in the daily mail at Camp Roberts. It was postmarked in Montgomery, Ala., and addressed to Miss R.T. Fletcher at the base's Red Cross hospital, which had been torn down decades ago.

Gary McMaster, the curator of the base museum, alerted the Montgomery Advertiser, the city's biggest newspaper. Other media outlets, including The Times, published stories about the long-delayed letter. One of them caught the eye of R.T. Fletcher's daughter.

"She said her mom always told the family that she'd been in a play here with Red Skelton," said McMaster, who recently mounted a display highlighting the comic's stint at the sprawling post. Yellowing programs confirmed it: Pvt. Skelton, a major star when he was drafted, was the show's top banana. But among those appearing with him was R.T. Fletcher, a volunteer who coordinated entertainment for soldiers recovering from combat injuries at the camp's 800-bed hospital.

To prove that the letter was meant for her mother, the woman's daughter also sent McMaster copies of wartime letters sent by R.T. Fletcher's brother, who was stationed at an Army air base in Montgomery. The handwriting matched, McMaster said.

R.T. Fletcher is 90 and living "back East," McMaster said. He declined to say where or to give further information about her family, saying they'd asked for privacy.

As for the still-unopened letter, McMaster sped it on its way — via registered mail.

steve.chawkins@latimes.com

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