Mail Carrier Drives for Five Hours to Hand Deliver Lost World War II-Era Letters

When Alvin Gauthier found several letters written by a veteran in the 1940s, he went on a mission to return them

USPS Truck
Alvin Gauthier drove more than 300 miles to personally deliver lost letters from a World War II veteran. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images

A postal worker in Texas has personally delivered eight lost World War II-era letters after discovering the mysterious missives in his parcel hamper.

Alvin Gauthier, who has worked as a mail carrier in the city of Grand Prairie for more than 20 years, didn’t know where the letters came from. Some were typed, while others were handwritten. All had been sent by a veteran named Marion Lamb in the 1940s. The only recipient address listed was “Jacksonville, Arkansas.”

“I was getting ready for my route and found some letters that were dated back to 1942—so World War II,” Gauthier tells Noelle Walker of KXAS-TV, a local news station. “My main thought was, ‘I have to find this family.’”

When he searched for Lamb’s name, he found an obituary for a veteran who died on July 10, 2010, at age 89. During World War II, he served with the 96th Infantry Division in the South Pacific.

Gauthier was determined to safely deliver Lamb’s letters. On April 26, Tylisa Hampton of the local station KARK-TV ran the story. Gauthier explained his dilemma and appealed to the public for help. As a veteran himself, he knew how important the letters were. “I was in Iraq,” he said, “and I wrote my parents’ home.”

Viewers immediately identified Lamb’s sister: JoAnn Smith, an 84-year-old resident of Jacksonville. Minutes after the piece aired, she started receiving calls.

“I was shocked,” Smith tells the Washington Post’s Sydney Page. She was also touched by Gauthier’s efforts, adding, “The most amazing thing in this story is Alvin, and his determination to get the letters to the family.”

The letters had been lost—but not for 80 years. Smith’s nephew had been keeping them safe for decades. Recently, he decided to mail them to Smith’s daughter, Debbie, who lives in Grand Prairie, according to the Washington Post. He placed them in a priority package that hadn’t been properly sealed, causing the letters to spill out.

Once Gauthier learned about the family, he drove for nearly five hours on his day off to deliver the letters to JoAnn Smith in person.

“I could have stuck them in the mail, but … sometimes you have to go above and beyond,” Gauthier, who also paid for his own gas and hotel, tells KXAS-TV. “Just go the extra mile—or 379 miles.”

When Gauthier showed up at JoAnn Smith’s door, she and her daughter, Debbie Smith (who also made the trek), were there to welcome him. Together, they read the letters.

JoAn Smith is one of six siblings, but she is the only one still alive. Lamb was the eldest, and she was just a toddler when he sent the letters. She says she was moved to tears. “In the letters, he inquired about me more than once,” she tells the Washington Post. “It made me feel good.”

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