Transcribing letters of WvS. Met with Robert Wack, who is writing a time travel novel focused on WvS.
August 8, 2011 - John Tepper Marlin is making substantial progress on transcribing and editing the letters of Willem Jacob van Stockum for possible publication in spring 2012. Anyone interested in being on the email list for notifications about the publication date and ordering information should send an email to email@example.com. He met with Robert Wack, a novelist writing about Willem and time travel from two perspectives: (1) Willem was an early pioneer in time travel based on Einstein's relativity equations. (2) Willem was also a promising mathematician who chose to be a pilot and was killed. What if he had not volunteered or had not flown? What might he have achieved?
August 1944 - 54 Years Ago in 2008
August 2008 - Hilda's brother Willem Jacob van Stockum gave his life in the summer of 1944 helping to make possible the event that occurred below, the liberation of Paris. He was the pilot of a plane on a mission to attack landing strips, roads, bridges and railway junctions south of Normandy, to prevent Nazi-Vichy troops coming north. He was shot down over Laval.
The Liberation of Paris from control of the Third Reich began today, precipitating the complete withdrawal of German forces from France a few days later.
“Speedy American reconnaissance patrols stabbed nearly into the suburbs of Paris yesterday and columns of the American Third Army reached the Seine River 25 miles west of the French capital as the Allies fashioned a tremendous knockout blow against the German armies in France,” reported the Kingsport Times on August 20, 1944. Between the advancing Allied army and the French freedom fighters inside Paris, the Nazi army was forced to retreat from France by August 25. “Heavy explosions echoed through the streets of Paris and dense columns of smoke hung over the tottering city today as Allied armies pressed coordinated assaults through the suburbs of the French capital and along the Seine river to the west,” explained the New Castle News. This battle was the largest tank campaign of the war to date.
Links to News Headlines
Both of Hilda's brothers died as a consequence of World War II, Willem in action and Jan as a result of TB acquired in Holland during the Nazi occupation. Hilda's husband E.R. (Spike) Marlin was recruited for Bill Donovan's O.S.S. in Dublin (code name Hirst) during the war, and was then posted to London. Hilda had two brothers-in-law in the U.S. Navy - Maurice serving as quartermaster at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Herbert with the Allied fleet on the west coast of Italy. Alice Tepper Marlin's late Uncle Fred Comins was on the ground at the time with General Patton's Army.
Gregory Grene Makes Contact, Son of Willem's School Friend David Grene
2/13/08 Email from Gregory Grene, NYC: "Was just looking back through the marvelous set of letters from Willem. He mentions David (my father) a few times, including in the very funny mock story of the robbery. At the bottom the notes mention him as a contemporary of Willem’s at TCD – they were in fact extraordinarily close friends from a fairly young age – they went to St. Andrew’s together, and my father was immediately delighted by Willem, his family and all the vivid, exotic (for that era of Dublin) excitement of the sophistication that they brought. They went on a long trip through Spain together, I think during the time they were at Trinity." NY Times obituary of David Grene here.
Education: St. Andrew's College, Dublin 1929-1933 Trinity College, Dublin, B.A. Mathematics. Sizar (1929), then Scholar (1931). Won a large gold medal. 1934-1935 Dept. of Applied Mathematics, Toronto University (M.A.: funded by Trinity, Dublin). 1935-1937 Edinburgh University. Ph.D. "Axially symmetric gravitational fields".
Career: Willem's main academic achievement was to solve Einstein's field equations for an infinite rotating cylinder. See Proc. R. Soc. Edinburgh, 57, p. 135 (1937). The solution is known as Van Stockum dust. His work has frequently been cited by those interested in the idea of time travel.
Between 1937 and 1941 worked variously as a Mathematics instructor at Maryland University and an actuary for Prudential.
Joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in June 1941 (according to his sister, he was asked to join the Manhattan project, but chose this instead). Taught mathematics to pilots. Then became a bomber pilot himself. Moved to Britain in the spring of 1943 and joined no. 10 squadron at RAF Melbourne in Yorkshire. Flew a Halifax Mk-III, MZ684, ZA-'B' bomber. Completed 6 missions before being shot down by German A.A. fire near Entrammes in France on the night of 9/10 June 1944. All seven crew were killed and are buried at the Cimetière Vaufleury at Laval, Dept. Mayenne, France. Other information: Wrote this article on his reasons for becoming a bomber pilot.
Here are various letters for the period 1934-1936.
The following excerpt from his sister Hilda van Stockum's book The Mitchells, is about Willem (NB: he is "Uncle Jim" in the book and I have replaced his name and others with their real names). It describes his visit to his sister's family in Washington D.C. during the war:
"Uncle Willem certainly was a wonderful person, and it was a delight to have him back again. The house rang with his laughter and high spirits; cigarette smoke spiralled up to the ceilings and mother's rugs served again for ashtrays, since Uncle Willem had many more exciting things to think of than where the ashes went to. All of life was a party to him. He carried celebrations around like the lady with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes. As Randal said, Uncle Willem was better than a birthday. Perhaps it was because no comfort seemed too humble for him to enjoy. He loved grannie's open fire and played with it like a child, throwing on bits of paper and kindling to make it flame up and quarrelling with grannie about the best way to keep it going. He loved good food and a glass of beer and he must have read all the books in the world, thought Olga, for he could recite so many poems and sentences by heart. He had a flute, too, on which he played a little, and after dinner he would ask grannie to sit at the piano and then they would stand around and sing Drink to me only with thine eyes, his favorite song.
"Uncle Willem was interested in everything. He made jokes with Birdie in the kitchen, he taught grannie a new game of solitaire and learned one from her. He made paper aeroplanes for Randal immensely superior to those Randal made himself. He inspected Olga's hut and pronounced it unsafe, working a whole morning to fortify it. He replaced all the severed arms on Sheila's rubber doll, which was a test of will as well as muscle. He romped with Johnny, talked politics with Miffy, read fairy tales with Brigid, and praised the children to their mother until there wasn't a nook or cranny of the house which hadn't basked in the rays of his presence. But sometimes Uncle Willem would snatch his cap and go out on an errand of his own. Then the Marlin household would relax into its humdrum grooves, the day having lost its glamor."