Since I now have plenty of free time on my hands, I have started attending local auctions and estate sales. I enjoy finding vintage pieces or things out of the ordinary that I then list for sale locally or via eBay. Just a hobby since I seldom break even. But every once in a while I come across something that makes me stop and look closer.
This piece is about one of those times.
I was looking through some boxes at a local auction OWN (‘Ol Weird Nancy) and I attend on a regular basis. I quickly realized it was a collection of military items … papers … photos … and a few trinkets. But one trinket quickly caught my eye. I recognized it as a collar device for an Army Air Force uniform.
As the auction was starting, I told OWN (‘Ol Weird Nancy) I wanted to ensure I got that lot of items. At the time, I was interested in the Army Air Corps collar device. And as luck would have it, that lot was near the end of the auction, but I prevailed and brought the collection home.
That night, in that box, I was introduced to 1Lt Basil Manley Grizzell, Jr.
While 1Lt Grizzell’s early life wasn’t there, I picked up with the ending of his high school years with his high school class ring. He graduated in 1943 from Franklin County (Tennessee) High School and his class ring was in the box.
After high school, he joined the Army Air Corps and was sent to Texas for flight school. There were personal photos of he and his friends. There were photos of some of the aircraft. Some of various bases (I even recognized Randolph AFB, TX in one photo). And photos of pretty girls. LOTS of pretty girls. I mean, after all, he was a young, handsome, single, pilot … LOTS of pretty girls.
His official military record was in the box. I looked through and saw his promotion from a Cadet to 2Lt and then 1Lt. There were orders for various temporary duty (TDY) trips. His flight log was in the box. A photo of his flight training class, Class 45A, with all the names logged on the back.
There was a stack of personal letters. Before the days of texting, FaceBook, Twitter, social media, and even before easy phone calls, the “snail mail” was the way to keep in touch. And he kept in touch with his family, friends, and his girls.
There was just a lot of items in the box. The Army Air Corps emblem from his flight cap. His 2nd and 1Lt uniform bars. A small pipe that can be seen in some of the photos. A couple of vintage Army Air Corps patches. His Aviator sunglasses. His Bible.
But further down in the box was a small yellow envelope. It was emblazoned with the Western Union logo. And inside was a message:
Lt Grizzell is missing on a training flight at Panama City FL.
It was dated 7 November 1952.
The life in the box ended with that Western Union telegram.
There was another, official letter, from the Air Force. It stated that, due to the circumstances, 1Lt Basil Manley Grizzell, Jr and his radioman, 1Lt William Bruntzsch Fritz had been interred together at the Mobile National Cemetery in Mobile, AL.
There was a tattered local newspaper from 12 November, 1952 telling of the loss of 1Lt Grizzell.
And to ensure he was with his family, at least in spirit, they added his name to the maker on their local plot in Flintville, TN.
I’m glad that I, being retired military, had bought this lot of military items. Someone else might not have realized the significance of this life in the box. They could have taken out a few items and then tossed the rest … and the story would have ended there.
But I took the time to do a little research. I came to believe that the last member of his family line had maintained his life in a box until they, too, passed. And with no one else to maintain it, the life was sent to auction with everything else. I also saw that his home county of Franklin, TN did’t have a museum that could store this life. So I contacted the Tennessee State Museum and Archives in Nashville, TN. They, luckily, have a Military Branch and are accepting this collection. It will then be catalogued and filed. But it will also be available on the web for anyone researching Tennessee Military … or Franklin County, Tennessee military … or Army Air Corps … T-33 plane crashes … or the names 1Lt Basil Manley Grizzell, Jr or 1Lt William Bruntzsch Fritz.
So now … the life in the box … will take on a new life.
1Lt Basil Manley Grizzell, Jr 1924-1952