It was 1953 and then-Pvt. Bob Rodgers had just arrived at Fort Campbell, Ky., for basic training when he sat down to write a letter to his wife after the post's power went out.
Sixty years later, that letter finally turned up, when the U.S. Postal Service gave it back to Rodgers, who's now living in southwestern Michigan.
In the June 13, 1953, letter, the 20-year-old told his wife, Jean, about the routines of life in boot camp. "All you do is march, KP, shine boots, shine boots and shine more boots and brass and more brass," he wrote.
On March 7, New Carslisle, Ind., Postmaster Connie Tomaszewski hand-delivered the letter to Rodgers, now 79. She did so the same day it arrived at her office, she told the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/WQ0Zo5 ).
Rodgers was bemused by the return of the letter.
"I asked if they had found the remains of the horse and rider and got the letter out of the saddle bag," he said, smiling. "She just shook her head."
Tomaszewski said it's hard to even guess what might have happened to the letter over six decades.
"There are a million possibilities. ... It could have sat at Fort Campbell," she said. "The important part of it is it did get delivered."
Mary Dando, spokeswoman for the Greater Indiana District of the U.S. Postal Service, said the letter may have actually been delivered, then ended up at a flea market or antique store where a collector latched onto it.
In such cases, people sometimes put them back in the mail for reasons unknown, Dando said.
Rodgers said even if his wife didn't get the letter, it wasn't a big deal.
"She didn't miss it, and I didn't miss it, because I wrote her about every day," he said.
Jean Rodgers died of cancer eight years ago.
The letter bears a Fort Campbell postmark and the date June 15, 1953. It also features two 3-cent stamps.
Asked what her reaction would have been to the letter's final arrival had she still been alive to receive it, he said, "She'd have got a kick out of that."
Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com