On May 1, 1945, John Byron "Harry" Bowden of Belton was among the first American soldiers to enter Hitler's personal study in Munich, Germany.

Taking a moment to rest after helping storm Nazism's cultural capital on the same day the German government announced the Fuhrer had taken his own life in Berlin, Bowden pulled a piece of Hitler's personal stationery out of a desk and penned a letter to his cousin, Aleen Lynch Dillard of Rogers.

Before her death in 2009, Dillard left the cherished note to her son, Douglas Dillard, who donated it to the Bell County Museum in 2011.

It reads as follows:

Munchen, Den.

 

May 1, 1945

 

Dear Aleene and family,

 

Just a note to say hello to all. Should have dropped you a line long ago but have been rather busy. Things are about to come to the great climax over here. I never dreamed that one day I'd find myself sitting at the Fuhrer's desk but right now here I am in his study. His stationary isn't bad either.

 

I haven't had news from any of the folks for ages. I heard that Parks has been home. I guess Ted is still in the states. I hope so. I'll try to write again soon.

 

As Ever,

 

Harry

Harry Bowden's two brothers, Parks and Woodrow Bowden, also served in World War II. They went on to become officers, while Harry earned a Ph.D. in education and served as principal of San Antonio's Harlandale High School. He passed away in 1966.

The letter is just one of many priceless treasures on permanent display at the Bell County Museum, 201 N. Main Street in Belton.

The museum is full of amazing stories and artifacts that paint a vivid picture of Bell County's history and heritage. It's definitely worth checking out.