World War II pilot's letters returned to children after yearlong search

Published: Sunday, July 7 2013 4:36 p.m. MDT

Ann Nunez, of San Diego, talks about receiving letters her father, Roy Gee, wrote while he was serving as a fighter pilot in World War II, at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Gee is a Salt Lake City native, and the letters were found at a distant relative's Salt Lake home.

KUSI-TV

SALT LAKE CITY — A World War II pilot's children have received new insight on his experiences after finding letters he wrote while he served.

Salt Lake City native Roy Gee, a fighter pilot who also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, chronicled his experiences in the service in letters home to his mother.

Gee flew fighter planes in the Pacific before eventually being shot down by enemy guns. He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

Gee died in 2009 at the age of 89. The letters remained in the Salt Lake home of a distant relative, Kathleen Duran, who died last year. Duran's daughter, Pat, works at KSL and decided to put the story of Gee's letters in the news, hoping to locate his children and give them the letters.

Word of the letters, photographs and newspaper clippings eventually reached Gee's daughter, Ann Nunez.

Nunez has lived in San Diego for years and didn't realize her father still had belongings stored in Salt Lake City.

"It was either Scott (her son) or my brother (Roy Gee Jr. of Virginia) who told me about this thing they did on TV in Salt Lake City about finding these letters, his letters home to his mother," Nunez said. "And when I saw that, it made me cry."

Nunez said that she had heard stories of the war from her father and mother while she was growing up, but that the letters added many details to her father's experiences.

"I opened them all up one day and just started reading them," Nunez said. "I was amazed about all the things he was talking about."

Gee, who joined the Navy while he was a student at the University of Utah, had written detailed accounts about everything he did during his years of service between 1940 and 1955. He wrote about his days at flight school to his assignment as a fighter pilot on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.

"Gosh, it certainly is a swell ship," Gee wrote in one of his letters. "It's very big. Everything is just wonderful."

In another letter, he assures his mother that he is doing well.

"Now, Mother, this war business is not very good, but every single American has got to defend our country," Gee wrote. "Please don't worry about me because I'm safe."

Nunez said she is still able to still hear her father's voice when she visits the USS Midway, now a museum in San Diego. Gee recorded his voice for the audio tour of the ship, talking about the planes he flew during the war.

After he retired from the military, Gee and his wife settled in San Diego to be closer to Nunez and her family. When he died in 2009, a memorial service was held on the flight deck of the Midway in his honor.

Nunez said she has always considered her father a hero, and all these letters and photos only confirm that for her. She also said she wants her father's grandchildren to know him better, and what he meant to the family. The letters will certainly help do that. Her brother is in the process of putting together a family chronology.

"He's doing a project," she said. "He's got most of my dad's things with him now because we sent them back East to him. But he hasn't seen these, and he really wants to get his hands on them."

email: kmccord@deseretnews.com

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