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Opening the mystery of 250 WWII letters found in old hat box

James Gibbard/Tulsa World

A hatbox found in Oklahoma that contains more than 200 letters from World War II.

Purchased for just $1 at an Oklahoma estate sale 15 years ago, an old hatbox contained a mystery decades in the making: an estimated 250 letters from two brothers during their time as soldiers in WWII.

James Gibbard/Tulsa World

The soldier in this photograph, included with one of the letters, may or may not be Eural Harvill, who wrote most of them to his parents in Drumright.

Pamela Gilliland, who was unaware of the letters when she first bought the hatbox, just last week enlisted the help of a history buff, Doug Eaton, to find out more about them.

Written by sibling soldiers Eural and Robert Harvill, the letters were addressed to their parents, a "Mr. and Mrs. E.H. Harvill, Box 7, Drumright, OK," according to the Tulsa World.

The letters span from October 1940 to October 1946 with homesickness being the common theme.

Eaton estimates that there are about 250 letters in the collection, along with postcards, photographs, Christmas cards, and even an insurance policy.

The ages of the men remains unknown and the letters provide little context as to who they were beyond faithful sons.

"It's like putting together pieces of a puzzle," Eaton told NBC News on Monday.

One mystery of the letters revolves around the mention of a woman. "I don't know if she was his girlfriend or his wife," Eaton said.

Eaton hopes that someone who knew the family will reach out and provide some background.

But rediscovering the lives of World War II soldiers isn't new territory for Eaton. 

He was drawn a few years ago to the story of a woman, Wilma Connely, who received long-lost letters from her brother when he served in World War II. With the help of Connely, Eaton published a book, "Letters from Walter."

The book caught the attention of Gilliland, who had stored the Harvill's letters in her closet for 15 years.

Now Eaton is carefully sifting through them.

Eaton's interest in these soldiers was fueled by his involvement with the Oklahoma Honor Flights, a program that flies veterans to visit memorials.

Still employed as an accountant, Eaton says that this is just a hobby. He doubts if he decides to write a book on the Harvills, he hopes to use the profits to help veterans.

"If I can donate money to the Honor Flights, that's just icing on the cake," he says. But his first priority is finding a person who may know more. "I really hope to find somebody with the family who knows these two soldiers."