When World War II broke out, Stewart Miller was living in Pennsylvania, working in the shipyards of Bethlehem Steel.
"He was upset that he wasn't part of the war effort and felt he should have enlisted," said Fran Snyder, who lives in Laurel.
So Miller enlisted in the U.S. Navy, leaving behind his wife and a young daughter.
Many of his letters home were sent to reassure his parents, who were terrified that he would not make it back from the war.
In a way, Miller came to Montana because of World War II. As he traveled across country, he was mesmerized by the Rocky Mountains. A Navy buddy was from Billings and asked him to visit after the war. He fell in love with Montana, and moved his young family to this area.
Snyder's uncle, Francis Crilley — Miller's brother-in-law — was killed in the Battle of Okinawa during the Battle of Sugar Loaf Hill. His story will be featured in the next installment of "World at War."
It was only after her father died that Snyder came across the letters he had sent. No one in the family knew about them.
"I got to know him in a way that I never knew him," Snyder said.
Dear Mom and Pop,
... I have a few darn nice suits to wear so you and Pop can strut your stuff cause when I come back I'll strut my stuff right with you, past a few of those goddamn Republicans who think it's so darn bad to have their sons drafted. Don't forget to remind them that your boy enlisted and isn't afraid to face the music.
... It's about time to shove off to bed. It's 8:45. So Long, Stewart.
Jan. 25, 1944
"... By all indications, you took my leaving quite hard — well, I can't blame you. It was rather a surprise for me, too. I was counting quite a bit on coming home for a few days and then it really didn't make any difference to me where I went for I joined the Navy to see some of the world and they certainly gave me a chance so far.
"Now that I am over 3,000 miles from home and don't expect to come back till it's all over, let's try and make the best of things and everybody will be more happier when I return. I have quite a bit of faith in the saying, 'Everything happens for the best.' How about you?
"... I hope you don't get seasick from just reading this. I wonder how Pop would feel riding this (Laugh). Well, I love it. That's why I joined the Navy. Now a word or two about my traveling the country.
"I can't remember much of our trip South but I can assure you that you haven't seen anything until you see the West. If I were you two, I'd pack up and take a trip west. I know that you would marvel and wonder at just the very few things and places I saw so far. That's why I am anxious for Doris and Joan to come out.
"When I look east I can see the foothills of the Rockies about 40 miles out and on the tops the snow has the ground and rocks covered that it makes a very beautiful picture."
April 27, 1944
"...There are two things that I have to contend with and they are what they are.
"First, the censor and secondly, what is there to write about?
"Now the censor doesn't want me to tell where I am, why and how long we are going to stay here. After that's out, you may know the rest.
"...I'll try to give you as much dope as possible I feel you might be interested in."
"...We are having a very nice time and making the best of everything but naturally everyone is waiting for that day when we will all be hitting the States again and as we hear they are trying to get it over with in a hurry. We had a nice trip across, only I and the rest of the gang were as sick as dogs for the first two days and spit over the rail more than once. They say, 'You're no sailor till you spit over the rail,' so at that rate, I am one. It really is swell being a sailor and the living conditions are very nice and plenty to eat and good."
February 16, 1945
"I have a little news that I think you all and maybe pop will be interested in. We are repainting our ship so I was one of the fellows who didn't have to help. They painted (sprayed) all morning so this afternoon I asked if I could help. The officer was quite shocked when I volunteered (something that doesn't happen every day in the Navy), so he gave me the go sign. I tore into it and enjoyed every minute of it. It really was just swell to handle a gun again and do the work I was brought up to do. I sure enough will have a full day tomorrow again. We intend to complete it by four tomorrow. Just for Pop's information mostly — two of us used up 20 gallons of paint in just about four hours so you can figure we covered quite a bit of surface. After I was through this evening, I had just about a gallon of paint on myself and my mouth tastes as though I had s--- in it."
August 17, 1944
"Everything is just about the same. I figure you know about as much as I do especially with the election coming on this fall. You'll all be quite busy. Although I don't think "our" man will have any trouble. What I hear from all these fellows with me seems as though they're all for him.
"... The way I hear these days and read in the papers, the boys over there are making a mess of Hitler's boys. Here's hoping they keep it up and get it over with so we can all get back and start where we left off."
April 16, 1945
"Just a short note to let you know I'm still very much on the go, although we received the shocking news of our President's sudden death, which needless to say was quite a blow for all of us. I feel quite certain that personally it won't interfere with us as individuals or slow down our efforts to bring this darn thing to an end but I can think of a few that could have very easily taken his place and we would not have given a second thought to it. I feel sure that our final victory is near at hand."
November 23, 1945
"Just a short word this evening to give you as much information as I can about the next few weeks.
"Tomorrow morning we are leaving here (Manila) for San Francisco. We are expected to arrive there sometime on the 12th of December. If things turn out the way I expect them to, I will give you a call on or around the 15th.
"... This is one helluva job to make plans and arrangements when things are as uncertain as they have been for me for the past few weeks.
"We are quite excited and anxious to get home and we finished loading troops about three this afternoon. We have a variety of men such as Navy, Army, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force personnel totaling 2,000 so you can imagine the joy and happiness that we are sharing with them."