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Front Page » August 12, 2003 » Scene » A Voice from the Past
Published 3,908 days ago

A Voice from the Past


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By COREY BLUEMEL
Staff Writer

Claude Scovill displays his scrapbook of correspondence with France.

On July 3, Claude Scovill of Orangeville received a letter from France. A letter that had some answers to questions he has thought about for 58 years.

In 1943, Scovill went into the US Army during World War II through Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City. He was headed for the fighting in Europe. Included in his issue was a small brown book with an inscription from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The book was the New Testament. President Roosevelt had given the instructions for all soldiers to read from this pocket sized book regularly in the coming months and years.

Scovill began his experience with the Enzio beachhead in Italy. He was assigned to the 83rd chemical mortar battalion. They then moved on into the Alps and crossed over into France, with Germany as their final goal. During the winter of 1944-45, the snow began to pile up and became so deep that the men had to stay in the Vosges Mountain area of France and wait until they could move.

It was during this winter that Scovill says he misplaced his New Testament. He didn't realize it until much later and had wondered for 58 years what had become of his book.

The letter Scovill received was from a Florent Georges with an inquiry as to where Scovill had served in the war. Florent mentioned that he had found a small book in his fathers possessions after the father had passed away. In the front of the book was Scovill's name and service number along with the Fort Douglas ID stamp.

Florent was asking if he had located the right Claude Scovill. Scovill was very excited with the possibility that he would finally get the answer to what had happened to his New Testament.

During the course of the three weeks of correspondence via email, Scovill learned that Florent's father, who owned the house where they had stayed, was held in a German prisoner of war camp during the war. After Florent's father was released, he went home and found Scovill's New Testament and had put it away.

After his passing, the son came across the book in his father's belongings and set about finding the owner. His search led him to a small town in Utah.

With the help of several friends and a daughter-in-law, Nancy Scovill in Arizona, who had a friend who could translate French, the email messages were exchanged along with pertinent, brief family histories. This led to the package that Scovill received through the postal service on July 26.

Scovill received an email from Florent on July 15 stating that the book had been mailed, and he anxiously awaited its arrival. "If this book could only talk, we could find out what it had been through for the last 58 years," said Scovill.

At 81, Scovill and his wife Jeanne, can now close this chapter on his New Testament. His children are encouraging them to return to France and meet the man who made it possible.


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