GA man returns a veteran’s lost World War II service papers to family

World War II Letters

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - An Albany native’s War World II letters are making their way back to his family.

They were stuck and tucked away in a filing cabinet sold at an estate sale until a man found them and looked for the veteran’s family.

The World War II service letters. (Source: WALB)
The World War II service letters. (Source: WALB)

Albany native Wendell Phillips became a war hero in World War II.

His lists of recognition and detailed description of his time overseas may have been lost to his family forever until James Lee accidentally found them and made it his mission to get them back where they belong.

Lee and his wife are moving to Japan for the next three years. Before leaving, he made one random decision that may change an Albany family’s life.

James Lee returned the letters to the veteran's family. (Source: WALB)
James Lee returned the letters to the veteran's family. (Source: WALB)

“I bought a filing cabinet at an estate sale yesterday. I got it home, and going through the files, I found this paperwork stuck inside,” said Lee.

The date, December 7, 1946, on top of one folder, tucked away inside the cabinet, caught Lee’s attention.

“Well, it was his military papers. And anybody in the military, the discharge papers, the DD 214 is his life,” Lee said.

Phillips’ entire World War II career is detailed in these papers. Phillips was a war hero, winning two service medals, two bronze service stars, Good Conduct Medal and a War World Two Victory Medal. Even containing a letter President Harry S. Truman signed.

A list of honors that was almost lost forever.

“There’s no way they would have seen it because it was stuck in between two of these really hard, old files,” said Lee.

James Lee found the letters. (Source: WALB)
James Lee found the letters. (Source: WALB)

Phillips’ stepson and his wife were holding the estate sale after his mom, Phillip’s wife just passed away. They had no idea the letters were in the cabinet, or that they’re gone now.

“I’m going to give the stuff back to them today. They have no idea I’m doing this,” Lee said.

Knowing the significance of World War II letters, Lee drove them back to the estate sale where his fateful discovery began.

Something bringing Phillip’s stepson needed memories after losing his mom.

“He was just really good. He and my mother were a good team,” said Dale Johnson, Phillip’s stepson.

A stranger’s accidental findings preserved a family’s legacy.

“This is history," Lee said. “This is family history. I mean I got the guy’s birth announcement here and he probably doesn’t even know it exists."

Phillips’ stepson and his wife are working to get in touch with Phillips’ son to give him the letters now, as well.

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