Preserving Our War Stories

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My father, 1942

My father, 1942

Some of us are lucky.

Somebody kept letters from World War II in a secret place. Maybe in a dusty album or a hope chest. Probably stashed in a dusty garage. Somebody couldn’t bear to part with the words of a loved one who lived through such an awful time.

When I discovered my father’s letters, I had no idea what a treasure they were. Or even what they were—letters from another age as well as a secret peek into the on-and-off-again courtship of my parents.

And as I read, I was astonished at all the things I still needed to know in order to understand the times, things I wasn’t taught in history class. Back in the fifties, we usually ended the academic year with a quick taste of WWII, barely touching on those years because the war was still so raw. And the country was already moving forward into the Space Age.

And, funny thing. My parents never spoke of the war. Even when I took up ham radio. My father didn’t mention that he had been a radio op in the Merchant Marine.

In his last days, though, Dad made photographic copies of his war memories—ID cards, service bars, letters to and from the Merchant Marine. He didn’t talk about it. Just mailed the copies to his daughters who wondered at an old man’s last thoughts.

As I put my parents’ story into a book, I learned about the history I’d missed in school. I researched the battles, the theaters of war (isn’t that an odd term?), the sacrifices at home. And my life has been enriched with this hidden legacy, the letters and telegrams and postcards of my father that my mother couldn’t quite torpedo. The history hidden in a box that was moved from one home to another over a period of sixty years.

I suspect that there are other daughters who have made discoveries, too. If you have a story, please consider adding it to mine here in this blog. Just click on the reply button and add your father’s experiences. You can even add a photo, if you want to.

We World War II Daughters ought to work together now to chronicle and safeguard these accounts for the next generations.

84 Responses to “Home”

  1. Jenn

    I had to come see your blog – I think this is a great idea. Several years ago, I felt the need to preserve the generation of my folks. It’s become precious to me. I think what you’re doing is neat – I’m interested in your novel as well. I’ll check it out soon … Jenn

    Reply
    • Guy

      Not a problem in my family. We often had the WWII gang in the living room. We have pics, slides, 8MM movies, the works. It’s all being passed on to the children, grandchildren and beyond. You guys keep up the good work on your end. Guy

      Reply
  2. Kathy Quick

    Your blog layout looks great and is compelling to read. Congrats on the book, too!

    Reply
    • Anne Lewis

      Hi, Kathy,
      Isn’t this something! I can hardly wait to read it. Hope you’re doing well.
      With fond memories,
      Anne Lewis

      Reply
    • Lynda Kennedy

      My dad passed away in 2000. We had to move my mother to a nursing home in 2004 due to dementia. When we were cleaning their house out in preperation to sell it we found a similar box of letters from our dad to our mother during WW II. I have read about half of them. He wrote to her every other day for about 3 years. Some of them had been censored and cut up because he wasn’t supposed to let it be known where he was. My mother was in nurses training while my dad was away (they were not yet married) and in one of his letters he tried to discourage her from joining the WACs and becoming an army nurse. He said nurses were treated very badly. He didn’t go into any detail so I could only imagine what he was aluding to. In another letter he explained what it was like to go swimming in the ocean for the first time in his life.

      The letters are so very well preserved and most of them still in their original envelopes. I would love to preserve them some how, but not quite sure how to do that. I’ve even thought about donating them to a museum, but they seem to personal to do that. I’m very open to suggestions.

      Lynda Stalker Kennedy

      Reply
      • Jane Bartow

        Perhaps someone at your local VFW or American Legion can help you find a local place to donate. OR the WWII Museum in New Orleans. My father’s letters are personal, too, but I think some historian who delves into them will find a wealth of information about the times. It’s a tough decision to make, but I have no Very Interested Relatives to take the letters, and I want them in a place that is climate controlled and safe for a longer time than in someone’s attic or garage. Meanwhile, I’m making CDs–retyping the thousand pages of letters–for my family.

      • Eileen lepera

        Lynda. I’m in the same boat. I have two boxes of letters my dad wrote to my mom. They were married the day before he left for war. Not sure what to do with them either but they sure are a treasure to have.

  3. patty flakne

    I remember stories of my Aunt Harriet writing to her three brothers all through the war. The family didn’t have any money but my grandmother somehow managed to scrape up just enough postage money for the weekly letters. I still can see their bright faces and uniforms staring out from the picture frames on top of the dresser.

    Reply
  4. Maggie Arko

    My father fought in WWII in the Pacific. I recall only a few stories about his time over seas. He never spoke of specific events but did tell me he did not believe he would ever get home alive. I don’t recall any letters although he did have some pictures and a drawing of their jeep that a friend had done. When he left home he weighed around 200# and when he finally got back he weighed 130#.

    I am a nurse and did have the opportunity to work with a few WWII veterans. They, too, seldom spoke of their experiences. I do recall one gentleman who sat in my office one day and cried because it was snowing. He fought in Europe, and snow reminded him of experiences he couldn’t speak of but also could not forget. War is a terrible thing.

    Reply
  5. Dottie Michel Fagg

    My father was killed in the battle of the bulge in 1945, just 5 days after his 24th birthday. I was just a baby, so I never knew him and my mother was unable to talk about him without breaking down. Imagine my delight in finding his letters while cleaning out my mother’s things after she died. I discovered a warm, wonderful man and I’ll treasure his letters forever.

    Reply
  6. eileen lepera

    I found two boxes full of onion skin paper letters that my father wrote to my mother. They were married in 1942 and he left the next day and was gone three years – he served in the Finance Corps in New Guinea, Australia and the Phillipines- I want to be publish his letters but I don’t have a clue how to start…..

    Reply
  7. Vera Marie Badertscher

    You’re doing a good thing here, by preserving history and encouraging others.
    I was fortunate that my father could not serve in the armed forces, because he was blind in one eye. However, he worked in Civil Defense, and I remember him patroling the streets of New Philadelphia, Ohio making sure everyone’s lights were out. I had two uncles and a cousin in the Pacific with the CBs and we have just a couple of letters from them. I have so many family mementos (including a packet of love letters from my Dad to my Mother during the 1930′s) that I have started a new blog called Ancestors in Aprons.com to show the pictures and talk about memories.

    Reply
  8. Donna Hughes

    My father died last March. He too was in the Merchant Marines. I did finally get him to talk briefly about his service years and he was even able to connect with some of his old shipmates via the internet. I would be interested to know if our fathers paths ever crossed as my father was in many of the same places as yours.

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      If you know some of your father’s ships, we could compare. What job did your father do for the merchant marine?

      Reply
  9. Dennis D. Currie

    Hi Jane,
    My father passed in 2004 and also never spoke of his war time experiences as a submarines in the Pacific theatre in WWII. Even though I had gone on to serve in Vietnam, there never seemed to be a desire to share his story. Finally, in 2004 just prior to his death my sisters and I talked him into sitting down with a tape recorder.. what came out was a fascinating story. I had read stories of the submarines use in the war to ferry marines to the Pacific islands, most notably Makin Island. I was never able to put two and two together until I heard his tape for the first time.
    So I read your story today and thought what a great service you are undertaking. I served with the 220th Aviation Company from 1966 to 1968 and have been helping others tell their stories about their tours of duty. I didn’t know if you posted audio files, however, I would be willing to share my father’s story.

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      Dennis, you have to write this story! I don’t even have the “two and two” to put together. Ferrying Marines to the Pacific islands? On subs? Please write about this and send it to me (see menu bar for how to send in your story).

      Reply
  10. Mary Rosaire Anderson

    Jane
    I saw your article in the newspaper the other day. My father also fought in World War II. Sometime, I will right about it, but the desktop at home is broken down, so I use library & senior center computers a lot. I tried to subscribe to your blog, but I am not sure if my email address, which is veteransdotter@gmail.com, went through.

    Reply
    • Mary Rosaire Anderson

      He went to the World War II Memoiral in 2008, courtesy of the Honor Flight Network. Do other WWII veterans know about this?

      Reply
      • Jane Bartow

        Would you like to write a piece on the Honor Flights? You could do that as a guest blogger. I think the project is wonderful!

  11. bunny reynolds

    Dear Jane,
    I was a toddler but I remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My father and all my uncles enlisted and went off to war. My Grandmother cried and cried. One uncle was sent to the pacific. She was notified of his being missing in action and even killed a number of times. He was on more than one ship that went down. She never saw him again even though he survived. He suffered from “shell shock” and was in the hospital for years and unable to return home. He married someone from California that he met during the war and never came home before she died. She died of her third heart attack as age 49. It happened the day after the war was ended in May l945. I think she died of a broken heart and was a war casualty. She was a loving sweet warm presence in my life . She slept with me in my twin bed and I was beside her on my mothers big bed when she when she passed . Daddy was working on airplanes at the naval air station in Jacksonville, Fla. No EMT or 911 call was available then. My Dad arrived too late.
    Thank you for your book,
    Sincerely Yours , Bunny Reynolds
    ps All of my uncles and my father survived

    Reply
  12. Connie Rose

    Jane. I saved your contact info from the AZ Daily Star article. My dad was in the European theatre, following Patton – as a member of the signal corps. He did not talk too much about the war, but did have a couple of interesting stories. After he died, Mom and I found all his papers, citations, manuals, etc. and I compiled a a book for her. We filed this at a small WWII museum in northern Pennsylvania (Eldred), at the site of a munitions plant. It’s a great small museum and it collects and shelves information of WWII veterans in their library, for future generations to see. I also made the info into a multiple-pg. pdf which I emailed to all the grandkids. It is priceless. My mom also is one of the last remaining riveters, having worked on a Soviet war plane for Bell Aircraft in Buffalo, NY. I appreciate your blog. If you, or your readers would like to see my pdf – I can post it somehow. Thanks for your efforts. Connie Rose. Tucson, AZ

    Reply
  13. Jane Bartow

    I don’t know about posting a pdf, but I wonder whether you’d be interested in contributing a story from your mother’s work as a riveter.

    Reply
  14. Julie Bighouse

    My father is a Korean War veteran and still living. I came into possession of the letters he wrote to her during his time at war. It was their courtship. He sent her an engagement ring for Christmas and they married 2 weeks after he returned.
    I would like to put his letters into a book with some of his pictures and memorabilia. What advice would you give me in this endeavor. I am not looking to get published but rather to get the letters in book format for my father to have and the rest of the family to enjoy.
    Thank you.
    Julie

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      Well, it depends upon how many copies you’d be needing for your family, to start with. Otherwise you could simply make a scrapbook of the letters, stamps, memorabilia, photos. A good scrapbooking site can help with that.

      But if it’s for more than one person, you need to think of something that can be mass produced. I hate to tell you this, but my book began as simply retyping my father’s old, crumbling letters for my family. I thought they’d enjoy reading them one day on a CD, a simple way to save fragile letters. However, I discovered codes (Dad was a chief radio operator aboard ships delivering materiel into war zones) and so I began to write islands from the home front in between Dad’s letters to help explain some of the secret messages. You might not have that problem.

      Could you scan letters and photos and memorabilia to put into a CD scrapbook for the relatives? And your father would probably love a hard copy book. Lots of work ahead. Lots of tears and chuckles, too. Good luck!

      Reply
  15. Becky Feldman

    My dad was at Pearl Harbor, a youthful 19 year old new Navy man, on that fateful Sunday. We have heard bits of his story, only since the Oklahoma City bombing, when he realized he had PTSD. He’s 91 yrs old right now! He talked nothing about it for almost 40 yrs. He’s done a lot of healing; much has been so difficult. Thank you for speaking for the daughters!

    Reply
  16. Barb Herbster

    What a great story! My Dad was a marine during World War II and ended up on Iwo Jima. I remember the only time he talked about it was one night at the dinner table with my Mom and Dad and all of us kids (5) sitting around the table eating dinner – pork chops and mashed potatoes. He said he was in the midst of fighting when he commanding officer asked him and his buddy to go up the hill and help raise the flag on Mount Suribachi, but he said he wasn’t going to get out of his fox hole and have his head shot off, when the guys in the next fox hole were lying there dead. He said he was glad he didn’t go as all the marines who originally raised the flag were killed and the now famous photo of the G.I.’s raising the flag was taken the next day when the fighting had ended. And at that point my Mom started throwing the pork chop bones at him and told him it wasn’t the type of story to tell at the dinner table or to tell his kids. He said it was no place for anyone to be and that he hoped there would never be another war. He never talked about anything else about the War, and did not mention what it was like for him other than that one night at the dinner table.

    Reply
  17. Sherri McKee

    This is a terrific thing you’ve done, and are doing. I’m very fortunate that I have about 500 photos, a diary and a goodly sum of material that my dad kept during the four years he was in the Pacific, culminating with 44 days in a fox hole on Iwo Jima. I also am lucky to have my mothers ID and a couple other things from the Air Service Command, out of Wright-Patterson. I think that we, the daughters of WW2 ( great name!) need to do what you’ve done, and I’m doing- so that this treasure is not lost.

    Thanks for this.

    Sherri

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      Part of my problem, Sherri, is where these treasures go from here. I’m not convinced that I can just pass them down to the next generation, hoping that someone will preserve them. I’m turning my letters and artifacts over to the World War II Museum in New Orleans. Do you have stories to share from your parents’ war years?

      Reply
  18. Mary Hammersley Tellefsen

    After my father died, we found his documents from when he was in the service. They are priceless to us, but I wonder if there is a place, a museum or something, that would be interested in preserving or displaying these articles as well?

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      I think the World War II Museum in New Orleans might be interested. Or a local or state museum. My father’s university, for instance, would like the collection of his letters. The local American Legion or VFW might be able to advise you. I, too, think that a place like that is the safest spot for these treasures. At least, with my father’s letters which are deteriorating over the years, the climate controlled air in a museum would be better.

      Reply
      • Ansley

        Mrs.Jane, I found this blog on yahoo news talking about your parent’s letters. I am now 12 years old and I am very interested in war stories. Sadly I don’t know much about my great grandparents to know if they served in the war. Also if they had letters or anything along that line I couldn’t get them because their house was torn down. I search ebay for things like letters and diaries from the war. Even though they are not emotionally attached to me. I am going to the World War II Museum next month for school! It would be very interesting if I saw your letters. Great blog. I wish I had a story to tell. Sorry.

  19. Julie Blackwelder

    This is wonderful and the timing brings tears to my eyes. I will be back to write more, and I believe my sister will as well. As I type this I am awaiting the call that Dad has died. He is 95 and contracted MRSA in his lungs while in the hospital for a minor infection. He is in the Hospice House in FL, with my sister caring for him. I am in SC, battling health issues of my own which prevent me from being at his side. I leave in the morning to begin the long drive as I know his funeral will be soon.

    Reply
  20. Julie Blackwelder

    My sister posted this on a Florida Facebook page on Veterans Day, for my Dad. Feel free to delete or repost as you wish.

    My dad is at least a 4th generation rancher/farmer. I’m sitting here with him at Hospice House so we are about to lose one of Florida’s old-timers. He taught us kids to shoot before we started school using a .22 rifle. He would tell us, “If you’re going to shoot a squirrel or a rabbit, you want to shoot them in the head. That is a sure kill and you don’t waste any meat.” He taught us to fish and clean fish, how to read tracks, and sign, and know how old it was, how to listen to the sounds in the woods because those sounds carried a lot of information. He also taught us that you help your fellow man making no difference what the race, a person in need was not to be ignored. He also taught us not to use or abuse any animals, and not to let them suffer. He taught of God and how his word was good and to be followed. My Daddy is a true Florida Cracker and I can go to his closet at home and show you his bullwhip that he could still crack up until about 3 years ago. He said, “I can get it to crack but it sure hurts my shoulder.”

    Today, Veterans Day, I would like to take a minute and tell you about this old veteran I’m sitting here with. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Daddy and 4 of his friends joined the navy. When Dad got to boot camp and they started their daily routine drills the sergeant asked dad what he did before he arrived at boot camp. Dad told him he farmed. Some of the guys that were in boot camp with him wanted to know what he was made of. Because dad had worked so hard on the ranch and farm and did so good in the exercises they told him he didn’t have to do the morning run, he was in good enough shape and a little underweight. When asked about what he did, he told the sergeant that he and Papa would plow 16 to 18 miles a day behind a mule. So, that meant not only did he walk 8 or 9 miles a day but it was handling a plow and a mule. Like most southern young men of the time he chopped wood, wrangled cows, and hogs, and any other daily work needed.

    Also in boot camp they wanted to know who could drive and Dad said he could, so that was how he got his driver license. They also asked who could shoot and Dad could shoot so well they made him a gunner.

    The first ship he was on was the USS New York (BB-34) for the invasion of Africa and was then transferred to the USS Monterey CVL-26 a brand new ship that went to the Pacific. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Monterey_(CVL-26)

    Dad said on a few occasions the Japanese planes would get so close to the ship you could see the pilots and in one of the battles the guy who loaded Dad’s gun was killed. If you read about the Monterey you will see Dad was on board ship with President Gerald Ford. When Ford ran for office Dad recognized his voice. Dad told us, “He made announcement on the Monterey and came by and talked to us gunners. He was our division officer.” We laughed and said, “Right dad, you’re pulling our leg.” But, sure enough he knew Gerald Ford personally and credited him with saving his life. Dad said they were stationed at their gun during the typhoon and Gerald Ford came by and told them to hunker down best they could out of the storm and he was going to see if they could leave their gun because the storm was so bad nobody could attack. They were strapped on the gun the whole storm and during the fire. Dad said when the first plane exploded the whole ship rattled. Not mentioned in the story is the fact when the first plane tore loose and exploded it was by the ventilation to the engine room and the vent sucked fire and smoke into the engine room and killed a bunch of men there.

    Dad said after the typhoon was over the deck was burned and they placed the dead out on the deck and a ship pulled up beside them for them to unload all the injured and burned. He said it was a horrible sight and he knew many of the transported men died. Also because of the typhoon some ships sank and 573 men drowned. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_Cobra_(1944) Daddy had a really good friend on a sister ship that told dad that when the report came in that the Monterey was on fire he told Daddy bye because everyone thought the Monterey wouldn’t survive. Dad’s ship came through, largely because of Gerald Ford’s excellent leadership, and he survived more than a war.

    To all the men and women who have served, not one of us can understand what it is truly like to be under fire. To all the men and women who have served that never carried a gun or seen a battle do not think for one minute you are not as important as those that did. You were the people who insured they that what they needed when they needed it. We owe gratitude to all veterans.

    Reply
  21. Carol Naslund

    My father is a WWII Marine on his last tour of duty guarding the streets of heaven. He was in the 4th Marines in the Pacific Theater, a Battling Bastard of Baatan, captured at the surrender of Corregidor by orders of Skinny Wainwright after MacArthur abandoned our fighting men to flee to Australia. Dad spent 42 months in 5 POW camps, was beaten, starved, tortured and forced to watch his POW buddies be executed. I first learned of this as a senior in high school. Over the years I taped “interviews” of the events as he remembered them. I wrote down everything I could squeeze out of him. I made a small book of his words, nothing edited out, totally politically incorrect for these times. Copies were made for my mother, brothers and all of his grandkids. Although it was a feeble attempt on my part at putting his words on paper, each booklet is treasured by it’s owner. I put on paper the story of a WWII hero, my Dad.
    Haven’t read your book yet, but I intend to!
    God Bless you.

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      What an amazing thing you’ve done for your family. Any stories you can share with us? (See the menu at the top of the page for how to write it and the collective on the menu bar for other stories.)

      Reply
  22. Bev McCormack

    My Dad was like many others who never talked about the war. I have only heard a few stories. He said that before a battle( never said which) he had been stationed aboard a British warship and that because he was an American aboard a British ship the ship was provided with food and that they had eaten very well. I also knew that he laid the smoke signals for the troops while landing on the beach. After many of the battles were over and the Americans were freeing those in the concentration camps. he helped and was driving a general (Eisenhower?). Because of that experience he never liked Hogan’s Heroes and refused to watch the show. Unfortunately there were never any love letters between my parents, he had been her boss in the local shoe factory and was engaged to another girl, so they were writing as friends which thankfully became more.

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      Funny how love went during the war. Being so unsure. Or grabbing on to someone when you could. Or waiting until the whole thing was over to plan a life. And I thought my mother’s engagements were amazing until I read 1942 Emily Post. It wasn’t thought “polite” to send a man off to war AND reject his proposal. So my mother tucked the rings away in her jewelry box and let the men down after they returned from the war. I’m glad your parents found each other.

      Reply
  23. Carol Naslund

    Looking forward to reading your book!
    I don’t have letters to share, but I do have my Dad’s actual words. I recorded and wrote everything I could about his experiences as a 4th Marine in the Pacific Theater during WWII. The hardest for him to talk about was his 42 months as a POW. He is now on his final tour of duty, guarding the streets of heaven, a United States Marine!

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      Is there a story you could share with us in the Collective (see menu bar)? Being a POW must’ve impacted the rest of his life. Where was your father?

      Reply
  24. Alisha

    I saw your story on Yahoo & I believe this is a wonderful idea. I am 19 years old & have been fascinated by WWII since I can remember my dad giving me history lessons. I know my great uncle fought & never returned home. Little is known about him because it is very hard for my grandma to talk about him. However, she has one photograph of him & two unidentified men. I’ve always wondered who these men were & if they were able to make it home to there families. I think it would be neat to find out who they are. This is an amazing thing you’re doing. Even though I’m not a daughter of WWII, I am a grandaughter & it is very important to teach my generation about the war. Reading these stories are bittersweet but they are all beautiful. God Bless you all. ♡♡♡

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      A grand granddaughter of WWII you are, Alisha. When I was your age I knew virtually nothing about the war. Every year in history we’d get close to WWII just as school ended. Perhaps people didn’t want to talk about it any more. We were into the cold war then. And in my grade school, we were hiding under our desks in bomb drills. As if . . .

      Reply
  25. Sally Wooldridge

    My father passed away January 2012 at age 92. He was a Royal Merchant Marine. He joined the Merchant Marines just before war, and made the decision to stay in the Marines instead of enlisting in the other services. After my father passed away, our family found his MM papers that he had saved. His papers listed all the ships he served on plus the dates of his service on each ship. I was able to research all the ships, found pictures of most of them, and what happened to the ships, whether they had been sunk, bombed or fired on. I was amazed at the information I was able to find. I was also amazed to learn what my father evidently went through but never spoke about. I’ll include a few quotes I found during my research from various people.

    “They know, these men, that the Battle of the Atlantic means wind and weather, cold and strain and fatigue, all in the face of a host of enemy craft above and below, awaiting the specific moment to send them to death. They have not even the mental belief of hoping for an enemy humane enough to rescue: nor the certainty of finding safe and sound these people and those things they love when they return to their homes, which may have been bombed in their absence.”

    “No British Merchant ship was ever held in port by it’s crew, even at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, when to cross the ocean in a slow moving merchant ship was to walk hand in hand with death for every minute of the day and night.”

    For me, this explains a lot about who dad was as a person. I always knew that dad didn’t display fear for anyone or anything. He took life as it came and “went with the flow”. Nothing seemed to shake him or undo him. I’m sure his time during the war had a lot to do with his attitude toward fear. He had seen the worst, lived it, and nothing else compared. I found out during my research that my father volunteered to be a gunner and was trained on many different types of large and small guns. None of us knew that. In fact, we really knew nothing about this time in his life except for the funny stories he used to tell us.

    In Jack’s war, he saw great cities, traveled the world, and got drunk when on leave. Maybe he preferred to remember the war that way, but I believe he just wanted to protect us from some of the more horrific things that take place in our world.

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      And I think the men wrote home about the war that way, too–great cities, traveling the world, getting drunk. And my father was impressed with whatever meals he got on board the ships he took. He really had been hungry during the Depression and having food at every single meal showed up in many of his letters.

      Reply
      • Julie Blackwelder

        My father mentioned that often. He said he had gained weight in bootcamp because it was easy work and for the first time in his life he had all he wanted to eat at every meal. Dad said that living on a farm during the Depression was hard, but said he thought that city life was worse. He said they may not have had an abundance, but they never missed a meal. It was the fact that the pots were never empty and there was no concern that if he ate more then someone else might go hungry.

        However, while in the Pacific, his ship, an aircraft carrier, sometimes stayed on the move and under radio silence so much of the time that the supply ships sometimes did not resupply and they got very low on food. He said they ate powdered eggs that were green, spam at every meal, and oatmeal with worms floating to the top to skim off before they ate it. It was a long time before he could eat oatmeal again and he never again ate any kind of processed meat.

        Everyone on the ship was underweight when they put into Pearl and the kitchen at the hotel where the ones who were the most underweight stayed had instructions to cook them what ever they wanted round the clock. He said they had a lot of steaks and some of the best food at all hours. He over did the pineapple and it was many years before she would eat pineapple again. He was never fond of it.

        One of the men he knew said, “I’m going home. I am never going to sea again.” He starved himself while everyone else was eating and at the end of their time, the guy was sent home as unfit for duty. Dad didn’t blame him. He said the guy had just seen and been through too much.

  26. Patricia Venning

    I have been organizing and reading the letters that I never saw either, until my parents passed away. My father and mother were living in California during WWII, when he joined the navy, just a week before being “drafted” into the army! He knew this was impending and chose rather than going to the army. He was sent to Manicani Island in the Philippines, where he was stationed from 1944 to 1945, I believe. I am very excited to have found this blog; how wonderful for all of us who have found these letters as a family history.

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      My father was so excited when the Americans got control back in the Phillippines. Dad was there, too, but delivering supplies. His “station” was always some ship or other, in the radio room.

      Reply
      • Patricia Venning

        My dad said in a letter that they were being followed by a Japanese submarine for no less than 24 hours on their way to Manicani (could have been 48 hrs., I read this a year ago..) They all thought that their goose was cooked, and weren’t sure why they were followed for so long. This was “resolved” at the last minute, by another American ship coming by that they had sent out an S.O.S to, but there was no firing from or back to his own ship; don’t know why. I was thinking from what you said that your father must have had similar situations come up if he was actually out on the ocean a lot? Do you know what island he was delivering supplies to in the Philippines? He certainly must have been privy to some dramatic information if he was based in the radio room most of the time!!

      • Jane Bartow

        Well, you know a guy couldn’t write what was really going on. But Dad did talk about all the “fish” in the sea, and we got the idea. Once, when he was heading into port, he wrote about some of the action he’d seen. He knew he’d be mailing the letter home in the States and it wouldn’t be censored. You’re right. In the radio room there were a lot of secrets. Dad wrote that the other men on the ship were always asking him where they were going. And sometimes, he wrote, they asked him where in the heck they were. I have no idea as to specifics of his journeys–just major ports like Aden, Alexandria, the Rock, etc. He named the Phillippines and the Australian Bight, where they nearly always had a storm.

  27. Carol

    Saw your post and so glad I did. What a beautiful creation. It is clearly a labor of love. I too have two large boxes of letters between my mother and father from WWII.
    When I get them out to see what is in them I will post more. I do not know what ship my father was on but he was in the Navy and they were at Japan. My father never spoke of the war but in over hearing conversations by my mother I do remember two stories. One is that the ship my dad was on was bombed. He was under the wing of a plane and after the bombing was over he found that the guy taking shelter under the other wing of the same plane had died. The other was that if the Japanese were captured, they chose to die rather than to be captured. They considered it a great humiliation to be captured. I think I remember a story about a cliff that they jumped off of. I am looking forward to creating my own book. I am an only child and my son is my only child. I have talked at length about my father to my son, but he never got to meet him. My dad died one year before my son was born. Maybe he can meet him now. I never would have thought of this without your inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story. Carol

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      I’m excited to hear what you find in those letters, Carol. Mine were so out of order and not all were dated. Luckily, my father started numbering the letters as he left the States. But I found a lot of Letter Tens, etc. It took me a few years to get the timelines and ships and dates in order. I lived in WWII for about three years until I felt I had put the puzzle together.

      Reply
  28. Kathy Huber

    My father passed away January 2012 and we have some of his letters to his mom, my Grandma he didn’t meet my mom until 1962 and they where together up to his passing on their 49th wedding anniversary. I too served in the Army like my Dad and he shared very little stories about his time in the Philippines and Japan, he shared a story about seeing General MacArthur too colorful for this page and one about his buddy taking his steel pot off only to find a bullet hole straight thru it. Veterans like my Dad who saw the worst of their fellow human beings tend to keep all of those stories to themselves, which unfortunately for my Dad later in life he had frequent nightmares about. I wish he would of shared more, but I respected him enough to not bug him about it. He was 88 years old when he passed away. I miss him so much as I know my Mom and the rest of the family does too.

    Reply
  29. Vani Joy

    My grandfather served in Panama while they were building the Panama canal, but I’ll share the only WWII story I remember hearing about. Having already served his term in the military, with a wife and three young children at home Paupy (as all the grandchildren called him) wasn’t supposed to get drafted but he was anyway. Refusing to leave his family, the military police came to arrest him and forcibly make him serve. My aunt remembers as a little girl of three or four, tugging on the pant leg of one of the officers and asking them ‘please don’t shoot my daddy’. I don’t remember if she ever told what their response, but he was taken and held for only a short while. The war ended before he had a chance to be sent oversees and he was allowed to return home. I guess I need to get the full story from my aunt before she passes, but it still chokes her up to this day. Suffice it to say, my grandparents had a total of six daughters, the youngest being my mother born as a change of life baby in 1950. Paupy died the year I was born ,1977, several months before, so I never got to meet him while he was alive. I hope to meet him in heaven someday . From the stories my aunts tell, he was a good man who worked hard and loved his family.
    As for your story, I saw it on Yahoo and I think it’s incredible. It’s a good thing you have so much as many veterans, no matter the conflict, don’t like to talk about their experiences. I’ve heard WWII was the worst. A lot of men can’t talk about what happened because of the horrors they saw, not all of them from the enemy. I’ve heard that our soldiers did some pretty atrocious things that they later regretted. I hope to purchase your book as it sound like an excellent resource. I’m a writer myself and have plans to write a book about the women who remained behind while their men went off to war. It will be interesting to read your parent’s romance story as mine is also a romance. Other people have written about the horrors of war, I had hoped to write about the lighter things and your story really stood out to me. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and to everyone else who shared theirs with you. I can’t wait to read them.

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      While my story is about WWII, and my book contains a lot of excerpts from my father’s letters, I think the story is really about the home front and the story of my mother, who, like other women of that time, must’ve had so many conflicting thoughts about love and life. The men were (at least in my father’s case) gung ho about the war at first. And where did that leave a guy’s girlfriend? Another thing that I think was a frustration of sorts was that the men were writing home about the big wide world–a place that most women couldn’t/didn’t go. And when the war was over, it was back into their homes while the men took back the jobs. Doing the laundry, ironing on Tuesdays, making meals, tending children. There was evil in the war, but something a bit exotic, as well. Good luck with your book!

      Reply
  30. devis

    My father made a scrapbook out of his WWII letters to home and other things. There were ration cards, newspaper articles, etc. I talked to the Commander at my local VFW about giving them to the VFW which I did. He contacted the county and state historical society and they were excited to have the box. They will preserve the items and display them as part of the local and state history of a WWII solider.

    Reply
  31. Betty Arnold

    My father served in the Army/Air Force in Europe during WWII. He married my mother in September of 1946 and I was born in 1947. They were married for 40 years and had 5 children altogether. He met my mother when he followed my mother’s brother home to Louisiana after they returned from the war. My Uncle Herman told me that DAd spied mom walking down a street. As she passed them he commented that she had great legs. Of course, Uncle Herman introduced them. My mother, Uncle Herman, and her younger brother who served in the Navy during the war all married within three months of each other. After my mother’s death, we found a large box of letters they exchanged in the early years of their marriage and some letters Dad had written home to his mother during the war before he met and married mom. They each wrote two or three times a week from 1946 to about 1954. Their letters revealed much about them. My dad was the romantic, expressing his loneliness while he was away on Temporary tour of duty for months at a time. Mom’s letters were filled with the concerns of everyday life of a new mother left to cope with small children on her own when she did not know how to drive and was subsisting on Dad’s enlisted man’s pay. They often had to “rob Peter to pay Paul” and often relied on friends to get them to the next payday. Even so, they discussed all the spending from kids’ shoes to cars. They continued the practice of budgeting together throughout their married life, but including us children in the monthly bill paying sessions round the kitchen table. Mom’s letters were usually lengthy and written on onionskin paper to save on postage. Dad’s letters were short and sometimes written in haste. He had very little education, having grown up on a North Carolina farm during the depression. Mom did not finish high school, either, and grew up on a farm in South Louisiana during the depression. As I grew up, I listened to my father’s war stories- most of them told to teach me some life lesson. I chafed at having to sit still and listen; now I wish I had paid more attention to the details. My dad was not afraid to talk about his war experiences candidly. He hated the idea of war, but he was a patriot and believed it was his duty to serve. I have often thought I should stop procrastinaing and tell my parent’s story through these letters. You have inspired me. Thank you.

    Reply
  32. Phil

    You all should be very proud of yourselves, sharing these wonderful stories. It makes me want to help in some way. I am a Vietnam Combat Veteran and I am always fascinated by stories of our WWII and Korean War Veterans. I only know (my Vietnam experiences) and very little more. Many of us do not share our stories either. Thank you so much for providing your blog. I will return to read more stories after today.

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      See if you think this is right or sexist, Phil. It seems to me that most (not all) fathers protect their families, and esp. their girls, from brutal war stories. And, therefore it seems to me that we daughters/granddaughters of the war need to open up the conversations and dig through the artifacts left over and tell the stories for those who did the service.

      Reply
  33. Cynthia Riordan

    My dad was in the Pacific Theatre (Philippines, New Guinea) from 1942 – 1945 (Army); he was 19 when he went in. He never liked to talk about the war, but he did tell my mother about some traumatic experiences he had. He passed away in 1975 at age 51 from cancer (I was 14). A few years ago, I acquired a binder that contains the letters my dad wrote home during the war, and it’s a treasure to me. I keep thinking I would like to make a book out of it somehow. It really shows what a smart guy my dad was. Reading the letters in chronological order, you can see him change from being young and naive into a person dealing with the reality of war. His language becomes coarser, and you can feel his depression and despair, but he always remembered to put “kisses” in his letters to his youngest sister and niece, who were very young at the time. The other day, I randomly opened the binder, and read a letter where Dad asked his parents to send him a pair of sunglasses, and to see if they could get the Ray-Ban kind. I thought that was hilarious, because I live for my Ray-Bans!

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      Isn’t it sweet to see how you’re connected to your father even now? I wanted to share my father’s letters with the rest of the family, too. So I’ve retyped them (they’re faded and the paper is brittle now) and will burn CDs for everyone. I’m feeling a bit unappreciated because most of my family isn’t interested or is too busy. The letters may never be read again in their entirety. And they are so special.

      Reply
  34. Brenda M Black

    I’ve always been interested in everything about WWII.This has been great reading today,I remember pictures of my brother standing on a porch that had been bombed in Germany he was in the army, and pictures of my uncles in the navy,I remember in the middle of the 50′s it was still hard times. Y’all keep up the good work we don’t need to forget them.

    Reply
  35. Roger

    Forgive me for posting in a “daughters” site because, well I’m a son of a veteran. Growing up my brothers and I were never allowed to have play “Army” or “war”. Cowboys and Indians was fine but not war. My dad never talked about his service. When we grew older I remember asking him over and over “What’s war like?” His reply was always the same, “I hope you never know”. I must have asked him that question thousands of times His answer never wavered. His anger, quick temper, instant physical reactions and demand for perfection broke up my parents marriage. It also embittered me toward him. I refused to see him losing track of him and went forward in life without him As I grew older I joined the Army spending three tours in Vietnam. When I arrived home after my last tour and was discharged I went home, took off my uniform swearing never to wear it again. I’d been home a few days and was approached by my younger brother to go with him to see dad. Still holding on to my anger I refused for a couple weeks. Then my brother asked if I’d go see dad “For him, not for dad”. I agreed, because he had a really nice car and there was a special girl I wanted to ask out. A deal was struck, I’d go see dad with him but I got to use his car for a date. Then he hit me with “wear your uniform”. That was good for a second date using his car. So on a nice sunny winter day we headed off to see the father I’d last seen 14 years before. I didn’t know what to expect as I rounded the corner of dad’s kitchen into his living room I saw an older version of the dad I’d done my best to forget. He got up walked to me, looked down at the three rows of ” ribbons” on my uniform then looked back into my eyes. His eyes were filled with tears, his voice cracked “you know don’t you?” I knew what he meant and I felt tears form in my eyes, I nodded my head and with tears running down both our cheeks we hugged. Twenty years later I was diagnosed with PTSD because of my anger, quick temper, instant physical reactions and a demand for perfection. I wish he was still here so I could hug him and tell him it wasn’t him, it was something his generation wasn’t allowed to talk about.

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      This is an amazing story, Roger, but I think it was all too common. Thanks for enlightening us about PTSD and war, and welcome to the website!

      Reply
  36. Ansley

    I sadly have no war memories from my family. I am 12 years old and I don’t know much about my great grandparents to even know if they were in the war. I am in envy over how so many people have emotionally connected letters,stories,and diaries. I search Ebay for things along those lines even though I am not emotionally connected. I am going to the world war 2 museum in New Orleans. It would be a great pleasure to see your parent’s letters there. Sorry I don’t have a story to tell.

    Reply
    • Julie Blackwelder

      Ansley, Thank you so much for posting. Many of us who heard the stories first hand when we were small children and then repeated all of our lives did not realize what a privilege it was until we were much older and the memories began to dim. Because of the interest by young people like you I have hope that the first hand accounts will be tracked down and remembered. We are grateful. I hope your trip goes well.

      Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      Well, Ansley, you’ll see many things at the museum, but the letters aren’t there yet. I have to finish typing the ones from 1945, and that will take about a year of my time. I hope you’ll write to us about your experiences in New Orleans at the museum.

      Reply
  37. Judith

    My father left me a paper trail which took me years to follow and understand – a diary, photos, mementos, a couple of letters (sadly my mother burned hers). How to preserve this legacy? I’ve turned them into a book – Inside Operation Pharos: the Journal of Major
    Cyril Cooper, Royal Engineers. My father coordinated the construction of a fuel distribution system for an air field on a tiny coral atoll in the Indian Ocean. This meant overcoming many challenges to build an undersea pipeline from the deep water where the fuel tankers could tie up, 6 big fuel storage tanks and the pipeline to the gas pumps where the airplanes (Mosquitos and Spitfires, later bigger planes) could fuel up. These planes ran many bombing and reconnaissance missions over Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia, and, when the war ended, dropping food, instructions, and news to prisoners of war in Japanese camps including the infamous Changi jail in Singapore..
    Book available about early September from Amazon

    Reply
    • Jane Bartow

      Congratulations on the book! I know how much work that took, how much emotion was involved as you remembered your father and thought about the risks he took and the things he did during the war. He sounds like an amazing fellow!

      Reply
  38. Carolyn Williams - June 4, 2014

    Thank you for your valiant pursuit to see that your father’s WWII letters have a final resting place in the archives of a museum to preserve your family’s history for the next generations to look up on and reflect.

    Reply

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