On June 6, 2011 I re-discovered two boxes of my Dad’s stuff that I’d been schlepping around sealed, for over 15 years. They were tucked away on a shelf in my storage shed and something compelled me to open them. I often wonder if it was my father poking me from the other side of the grave! (It wasn’t until the next day I read it was the anniversary of D-Day!) What I found astounded me: reams of letters in their original dated envelopes that he had written to his wife (not my mother) before, during and after his service in World War II. I spent the entire day sorting them into chronological order from the first to the last. It was astounding that he wrote to her almost every day!
I was so moved by the letters that I made a commitment to scan, transcribe, and preserve them in archival plastic sleeves so I (and perhaps the world) would have them as long as possible. This was one soldier’s view of the war; an amazing historical record for future scholars. I posted them on my blog as I transcribed them, along with any clippings or photos that were enclosed. This year, in an effort to reach out to a larger audience, I have posted them on Twitter and Facebook on the same day they were written 71 years ago. In this way, I’ve made meaningful connections with other people who have been touched and fascinated by his accounts.
The end of my father’s story is what has made the experience of transcribing these letters so poignant for me. When he returned home from the war, after spending so many years waiting to walk through the door to be embraced by his wife and young daughter, he was horrified to discover she was in love with another man. Sadly, the man I knew as my father many years later, had lost many of the hopes and dreams, “the American Dream”, so beautifully expressed in these letters. These cherished letters have given me the chance to know my father, who passed away in 1995, more deeply than I ever would have dreamed possible. This was an incredible gift.