Sunday, August 5, 2012

WWII Letters Home

Not too long ago, my parents gained access to a collection of letters written by my father’s father and his family during WWII. To help preserve the collection, and to share the letters with family and whoever else would like to read them, I created a blog and have been posting them all online. So far I've only posted the letters from 1941 (the year he was sent to basic training), but I'll continue to post the others -- and there's LOTS -- as I get the chance to scan them all in.

The earliest letter we have (which I recommend starting with since, when read in order, these letters read almost like a book) is somewhat heartbreaking because JD (that's my grandfather) is talking about how horrible boot camp is and hoping that he'll be able to get out of it. He mentions in the letter that a bunkmate of his has even threatened to cut off one of his hands (the bunkmate’s hand, not JD’s) when he goes home on temporary leave so that the army won't want him back. Not all of the letters are as "heavy" as the first one, but throughout that first year of letters, JD and his family continue to search for ways of getting him out of service.

My father initially wanted me to omit the letters that spoke of trying to get JD discharged, but for me, those letters make the people in them seem more real, tangible, and sympathetic because they show the reality of the situation they were in: a son and brother drafted into the military who, just like every other man drafted at that time in history, is justifiably and undeniably afraid of going to war. Admittedly it's not the most honorable or flattering side of the story to show, and I know this aspect is not one often talked about when it comes to the Greatest Generation, but I found it to be so relatable and almost like a window into these people’s lives.

Fortunately my dad and his brothers decided to allow these letters to remain on the blog so that others can see in them the same thing that I do. Because ultimately JD did end up serving his country, and he did so honorably and bravely.