HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thomas Charles was a 22-year-old sailor when he witnessed the Japanese surrender of World War II aboard the USS Missouri 75 years ago. That day, he sent a letter to his parents in Philadelphia about the war’s official end, detailing what he saw up in the crow’s nest of the battleship.
He didn’t take any photos of himself the day of the surrender and rarely spoke voluntarily of his past, so the letter was one of only a few memorabilia from his service during the war.
“A lot of the World War II men weren’t really forthcoming on telling stories,” said Carol Charles-Ball, Thomas Charles' daughter. “He told a couple stories about the kamikaze hitting the ship, and how he was in Okinawa and Iwo Jima, but you really had to pull it out of him.”
Those stories are what Carol Charles-Ball holds onto even more tightly after her father died in July at 97, just months before the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
But in a twist, the letter that Thomas Charles wrote to his parents ended up in the hands of someone in Hawaii 75 years later ― after it was sold on eBay.
Carol Charles-Ball and her family are pleading for that person to return it.
“My father just passed on and it’s a piece of dad, and gosh, I could never put a value on it,” Charles-Ball said. “To us, it would be like having a piece of dad back with us, something that he obviously cherished because he was looking for it for a number of years, and we certainly would love to have it.”
Charles-Ball said she didn’t know much about the letter until it appeared on eBay, but her dad frequently spoke of how he had sent it to his parents and it somehow got misplaced. She said her grandfather had a stamp collection, so she believes it was mixed in between stamps that he later sold.
Charles-Ball learned that the man who sold the letter on eBay was, ironically, also a stamp collector in Philadelphia and purchased the stamps along with the letter.
He said he had kept it for 27 years in hopes of finding its rightful owner. But after years of searching with no luck, he decided to sell it on eBay for the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
He finally found Thomas Charles' family — but only after seeing his obituary pop up on Google. But by the time he got in touch with Carol Charles-Ball, it was too late. The letter had already been sold — to someone in Honolulu.
“Of course, I was heartbroken when I found out,” Charles-Ball said.
Charles-Ball said the seller tried numerous times to contact the buyer but never heard back, so she’s hoping her father’s story will compel that person to come forward to return it.
She said the family is even willing to pay the $72.11 that it sold for.
She said they already have a small memorial of her dad, with some of his possessions during his service, including his USS Missouri hat — that he continued wearing until he died — along with his dog tags and his favorite photo of him as a sailor.
But the letter is still an important part of her dad that will help keep his memory alive.
“What makes dad so special is just because he’s very personable,” she said. “He’s a kind of person you would want to live next door to, the kind of man that, from the greatest generation, that he always put others before himself.”
Charles-Ball is asking that the person who has the letter, or knows about its whereabouts, to contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.