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.