World War II

November 29, 1942

My brave Tony,

Believe it or not, I declined an invitation to tonight’s concert in order that I might pay “Hello” to you—listen to our mutual friend Dorothy Thompson at 9:45—and read a bit in Herbert Agar’s :”A Time for Greatness”—all of which makes a pretty nice Sunday evening especially when preceded by lobster newburg plus all the trimmings in congenial company and a couple of lovely Paderewski recordings on a new Stromberg-Carlson—wouldn’t you say so?

We received your greeting for Thanksgiving and thank you. I hope your was a good one—very different from any you’ve spent before, I’ll venture. I did not make the customary pilgrimage to the farm—one doesn’t go far and back on three gallons of gasoline.

Letter from Hilda Atterberg to Anthony Aratari

January 9, 1944

My Brave Tony,

Writing to you today is an act of faith—a strong faith—for yesterday’s paper said that you are missing in action. I read and I could not believe, and though your whereabouts are unknown somewhere I know you must be holding fast to life, or so it must be if the wills of those who hold you most dear have power to keep you.

-- Hilda Atterberg to Anthony Aratari

January 30, 1944

Dear Tony,

They have told me… the car as we were driving home from church. It was such a beautiful morning with a brand new winter-blue sky that was dusted here and there with fluffy white clouds……a sky perfect for flying……you would have loved it.

Father was saying that he met your dad quite by accident in a grocery store yesterday afternoon. He noticed a similarity about the white-haired old man as though he looked very much like someone he knew, and when he overheard him mention the word “airplane,” he went over to him and introduced himself. Father was right. He was your dad.

I asked father if he had heard any news about you. It was then that he said quickly: “Yes—they say he is missing.”


I was looking straight ahead. The windshield was misty and the sky had turned suddenly into a sea of blue. Missing. I fixed my gaze upon a cloud until I couldn’t see it anymore. I was not going to bow my head—no—let the tears come—you were missing—couldn’t everyone understand! You were missing.

I looked down at the turquoise bracelet you sent me from San Juan. I looked at the miniature suns carved on it—two of them, one on either side of the turquoise. I looked at it and everything you ever meant to me welled up in a great blur that hurt so much.
Tears fell on the sun, Tony, but it has not stopped shining. You will always be writing to me, my darling, always!


-- Frances Cruikshank to Tony Aratari, POW

Prisoner of War Post to Tony Aratari

January 30, 1943
Camp Young Desert Training Center, California

Dear Mother,

I suppose you were surprise to hear I was in California. I was too when I got on the train. The place is not so bad after you are here awhile. One has to dress carefully as days are warm and nights cool….

We do not wear our olive drab (OD) in camp—just when we go to town. Here we wear the usual army fatigue clothes which are green in color. This is really roughing it here. Cold water, straw mattresses, folding cots, no sheets, field ration dishes for dishes and tents. But I don’t mind it . one appreciates civilian life all the more after this is over with.

March 12, 1943
Los Angeles

Dear Mother,

John and I came in yesterday morning on a two day pass, which they gave us very willingly. We hitch hiked the 160 miles and had marvelous luck. Everybody seems to be so very friendly……in California, hitch hiking is the thing to do since trains are so packed these days. Large signs all along the highways say “Give the soldiers a lift”. We passed through many interesting places. At Pomona we saw the orange center of California. Miles and miles of orange groves—and sad to say due to no help they are rotting on the trees.

This is a marvelous hotel—for $1.25 apiece we have a large room with twin beds, bath and all accommodations. Again, they give soldiers half price.

The USO is very large here. The people in it just seem to feel they cant do too much for you.

April 3, 1943

Dear Mother,

It gets me the way most fellows waste their time in the army—so few read—instead they lie around in their tents (during off hours) and either talk nonsense or shoot dice—it is also startling……to see that our educational system has failed to instill in them the necessity of making better use of their time. John is an exception and I am so thankful we are in the same tent.

August 24, 1943
Camp Pickett, Virginia

Arrived this morning at this camp after 4 days and 4 nights of train travel. The trip across continent was very enjoyable.
Pullman accommodations were excellent on train. Cooked every other day, same as in camp. The mail or baggage car was used as a kitchen. Some fun, but some job to cook and prepare food rolling along at 60 per hour—is no cinch. Gravy always ended with most on the floor. A large staff was kept busy but thank goodness no casualties.

January 10, 1944
“Great Britain”

Dear Mother and Dad,

Would give one pound ($4.00 to you) for a piece of your apple pie plus some of your extra thick whip cream and oh yes! a cup of real American coffee. British coffee is made with hot milk and different from ours.

Yes! we are in tents but am used to them by now. But if anyone mentions tent to me in civilian life, his “name will be mud”.

Cherrio and loads of love
—your loving son,

April 17, 1944

Dear Ted,

I never find time hanging on my hands and as I get ample time off—make good use of it—a thing which the average GI does not do. There is no doubt that the near future will be an experience worth relating to our posterity. The American soldier here refers to everything or anything British as limey. They don’t resent it but the average American usually says it in such a belittling attitude. The colored soldier at times offers a problem—in as much as they do escort some white girls. Which of course is to be expected under the circumstances.

April 30, 1944

As a favor to me would you send a small box of candy, gum or any other miscellaneous thing to Betty, the five year old daughter of the Davies. They have been so friendly to me and the little girl who is so cute is like so many children here, not able to see much of these things. In fact any five year old child here does not know the meaning of street lights, lighted windows at night, bananas and even grapefruit, ice cream and quantities of sweets such as we in the states.

October 28, 1944
Somewhere near Verdun

They say Mars’ name is “mud.” Only when everybody on earth is made to realize that mud instead of trumpets and banners is the true symbol of war is the world likely to have any real valuable peace. Mud is everywhere here in the rural areas of France. The roads just ooze with soupy mud. French roads are paved and well made but the constant flow of traffic of huge trucks, etc, plus the daily rains has made mud supreme everywhere. Consequently, I do little walking about

November 7, 1944

Just read of a sinking of a transport recently—bound for Iceland—many soldiers lost their lives. War is sure hell at times. I wonder if it is worth the price—the next decade will tell.

March 15, 1945

Have you seen many news reels lately at the movies? Saw one last night on the port of Le Havre, one of France’s greatest ports, which I saw from the ship in 1938. Now it is a mass of ruins. Personally, I think the devastation on the cities and towns here is terrible and the cost of human life so great, that I dislike even to think about it. It greatly annoys me to listen to many of the news reporters on the radio. They ballyhoo devastation like it was a football game. This war has to be actually seen and experienced to realize the horror of it.

April 27, France

On the train to Paris—there was a Russian officer (a young Lt.) who sat in our compartment. He had with him a young Russian boy of 12 years age, who he had picked up somewhere in France and who was liberated from a German labor camp in Germany by the Americans. The boy’s mother and father had been murdered in front of his eyes by the Nazis on their farm in Russia two years ago. What a sad thing that was. It seems that all these atrocity stories about Nazi camps are all true. I have spoken to several front line fellows who have seen them—they say the sights are horrible—dead and dying stacked like cordwood—well, I wont repeat anything more because it is too horrible to talk about. These fiends who pose as Nazis (and that just includes the fanatics) should be lined up and shot with no buts or ands about it. I say give all of Germany to Russia. Was talking to a French lady the other day who told me her only son has been in a labor camp in Germany for over 2 years and seldom can he write. That sort of thing is all over France.

France—April 30, 1945

We are quite interested in the forthcoming peace signing of Germany. But among all here there is no outward signs of enthusiasm. Perhaps there may actually be after it happens. But for many—peace will just emphasize the loss of those who will never return.

Thursday—May 3, 1945

History is sure being made these eventful days. But somehow VE day to me will be a day of prayer and thanksgiving rather than celebration. I have experienced enough mud and blood in the past to know what being thankful really means.

Near Verdun, May 20, 1945

When I read of the racial prejudice that is occuring in the States, I get most heated up. Especially the Japanese question. Why good American born Japs should be treated thus any more than American born Irish or Danes is something most unfair. The evil few American born Japs have been weeded out—so why should the rest be treated so by other American civilians. We must practice tolerance and undersanding—otherwise another war will be in the making.

May 26, 1945, near Verdun

Our medical groups here are all colored, that is the doctor, dentist, both Captains, as well as all the support personnel. Visited the dentist the other day. Had two small fillings. He is a very tall, distinguished looking colored person. An excellent dentist. The doctor is also. There are many of our fellows—a great many—who are prejudiced against the negro. About a week ago, one of our fellows ordered a colored soldier off the floor of a French dance—a great fracas nearly started. The next day—the colored officers went to the Colonel about it—but it was smoothed over. It is a just another example of ignorance and intolerance on the part of an American. Personally, I know of colored people I would rather have in my home than I would some white people. On the other hand there are bad colored soldiers as well—rape cases in France prove that—but education and tolerance on our part so the colored person can raise his or her status or level of education and opportunities will eventually eliminate this sordid situation.

June 11, 1945

D-Day, June 6th was a double anniversary for me. I have so much to be thankful for, that day was one of everlasting gratitude for me. When I think how I was bounced about in the English channel from June 3rd to June 6th on a 2x4 LCT with no protection against the rain or weather—seasick beyond words, then faced with the assault landing on the worst part of East Red section of Omaha Beach. We were shelled even before we landed—well—I have plenty to be thankful for. We were attached to the 336th Combat Engineers of the 5th Special Amphibious Brigade and at the time under the 1st Army. We are not now though. A piece of shrapnel went in my shoe—but did not touch my foot—another miracle!

-- William Surrey, drafted in 1943

September 7, 1942 Ft. Bragg, North Carolina

Dear Dad,

We had two lieutenants get married. They had a parade and a lot of nonsense for them. I had to drive the band that played for them. After the marriage they went to the officer’s club and really celebrated. By suppertime I don’t think there was one sober officer in the regiment. It was disgusting. Speaking of drunken officers, a week ago last Saturday I was at a lake nearby. I saw a colonel that was so drunk he couldn’t stand up. That’s the kind of men that’s going to lead us stupid privates into battle. A colonel is as high as they can go without being a general. I suppose that was the story at Pearl Harbor.

I am going to take out $5,000 in the government’s insurance. I never even think about anyone collecting it because I know they wont but I’ll take it out just the same. In case I die the government pays off the beneficiary in monthly payments. So I am going to name Helen or Brenda as the beneficiary. In case anyone collects and you need it I want you to have it. But otherwise I want it to go to little Brenda. I suppose in about 5 years I would laugh at this letter but I guess it best to make definite plans for the worse…Don’t forget to pray for me Dad. I know your prayers will go a long way.

November 26, 1942 French Morocco

The French people are glad we are here. The Germans were about starving them. The French soldiers are working with us. We have good food. Most of it comes from cans but its OK. Today being Thanksgiving we had turkey for supper. I suppose you had quite a meal at home.
The natives here are Arab. They are about the poorest people I ever saw. They go crazy over American candy, gum and cigarettes. The French people do also because they haven’t been able to get any here. We have plenty of that with us.

February 8, 1943 North Africa

Sunday afternoon Martha Raye came here and put on a show. It was very good. This afternoon we had a French follies. It was pretty good. This is the way wars should be fought.

April 9, 1943 North Africa

From your letters, I imagine this war is a lot harder on you people than it is on me. You must stop worrying. I’m OK and doing fine.
That’s fine of dad to want to saw lumber and build a house when I get back but I’ve slept on the ground in a pup tent so long that a dog house will do me fine. I’m not complaining though. I never was the type to worry and be certain I won’t start now.

September 23, 1943 (North Africa)

It hasn’t rained in several months but when you are living outside all the time, you hate to see it rain. We are getting a few fresh potatoes to ear. They really taste good when you haven’t had any in nearly a year…I don’t have any hay fever now. I would be suffering if I were in Geneva now.



(sent to his dad and stepmother(?) in Geneva

May 16, 1945 Austria

Dear Dad & Grace,

It seems the more spare time I have, the less writing I get around to do. But I really am busy with a little light duty, movies, sightseeing trips, ball games, etc.

I was very happy to have the war over with. After so long and hard a struggle, peace seems really strange. It’s the kind of strangeness that I can stand plenty of. I guess the Lord was really good to let me through the war without so much as a scratch. A good many times in the past I thought I might never be around to see victory but here I am OK. Capt. Frederick Meyer Friday afternoon 1610 6 March, 1970
We went over to their main military hospital opposite Cue Quan y—“Cong Hoa” hospital. Again, may I say “don’t ever let anyone tell you that the Vietnamese haven’t suffered in defense of their country. Several times, tears came to my eyes as I went through the paraplegic ward, the amputee ward, etc. I stopped by many beds to chat with the aid of some interpreter---what’s the problem? How long you been here? Where you from? Etc. By their standards, it is about the best they could expect to do—and not bad by our standards either—quiet, clean, ventilate, some TV sets here and there, etc. Used to be French, of course. They all seemed to respond to my interest, no matter how bad off—a cheerful word, a good luck sign (thumbs up), a salute, sign language. One of these days, I’ll drag a newsman through and see what they say then! If I can get them out of the bars in their hotels (my suspicion).

-- Russell Smith

April 3, 1943 North Africa

Darling the dear old desert is changing where we used to be and where part of our outfit still are all of the debris is cleared away. I take it back—I mean old trucks and destroyed tanks. They are salvaging everything so when I bring you over here there wont be nothing but junk strewn through the desert. Now don’t get me wrong, there will always be enough there to make your eyes pop out but you wont be able to see all of the trucks and tanks. All of the airplanes are still there because when they are shot up there is not very much left. I have seen lots of tanks that have been shot up and then caught on fire and burned and you could still see parts of the men still in the tanks but they have been moved back and forth so much that it is hard to tell how long they have been there. In battle it is impossible for the men to find all of the dead and sometimes they miss some. Our old home does not smell as bad as she used to when we were there. You see around each airfield and landing ground there was usually a great battle and many men were killed and about half the time they are in a hurry. They bury them where they find them. So most of the graves are shallow and then the rats dig in and you get the best odor that you ever inhaled

Friday June 11, 1943

My Darling Wife,

You get so damn mad at the wind around here that you could go crazy. If you don’t put a weight on everything, it blows away. Yesterday, I had a knife on my note book and it still blew away and all my stamps were in it. Boy, you could blow your top at times because it never stops—only at night and that is for about three hours. Even my bed I cover the top part with a raincoat so when I pull the covers up over me at night I wont choke to death from the sand. You should see my bed when I take the raincoat off. One half the blanket is white and the other half is dark.

Thursday, July 8, 1943

My Darling Wife,

Well, I now have a confession to make. You remember how I always said I could take all the heat they could put out? Well yesterday it made me back water and I will now try to explain it to you. It gets plenty hot here but most of the time there is a little breeze from the direction of the sea. Now yesterday she went up to 138 degrees, now that alone is bad enough but now listen to this: a wind of about 35 miles an hour started blowing off of the Sahara desert. Now if that don’t make a blast furnace I cant tell you what would. Darling it was impossible to expose any bare part of your body to the wind for it would burn just like a flame. Men with metal wrist bands and rings had to take them off because the metal burned them. The only possible relief we could get was from wet towels over our heads and necks. The evaporation was so great that it made the towels cool and then we could breathe cool air through them. All the water was almost to the boiling point. It was just miserable and unbearable! They tell us that your body could not stand many days of it. Everybody got sick and all of us got terrific headaches but this morning everything is OK again but we feel like someone beat on us.

Thursday, July 19, 1943

My Darling Wife

Now I will tell you all about the fishing trip that we took the second day we were at the rest camp. It was like this.

There were 21 or 22 of us and we were up at 6:30 a.m. and after breakfast we were loaded in a 2 ton truck and then we started to the fishing country. The road winds through beautiful mountain country with plenty of timber but after a short time you have climbed out of the timber and are above the timber line where the mountains are very rugged and also plenty rocky. After driving about 20 miles we turned on what looked like a cow trail but it was not terribly rough. Now we were getting into some real wild country. After traveling on this path for about five miles we came to a barrier across the road and there were two French soldiers there guarding it. There was a sign on one side which was written in French and read “This is the boundary of security”. From there on, you are on your own because there are Berber tribes from here on. We only drove about 20 miles into the country and the natives are friendly this far. By the time we reached the stream, we had climbed to 10,000 feet. This stream is supposed to be the best known in that part of the country and where it is located it should be because very few people can get to it. It is a beautiful mountain stream that really moves and there is enough trout in it to feed all of Springfield. The fishing tackle that they gave us at the hotel is not very good for trout so we used rifles. We caught and cleaned over 200 that one day. I caught four on hook and line and then I started shooting them myself. I said I wish Toots was here to enjoy the fun. It was sure funny to see everyone with rifles and pistols fishing. It sure would have been a field day for a game warden. We could not see them in the rapids so we had to get them out of the deeper holes. The water was as clear as glass and as cold as ice—we cooked dinner along the stream and drank water from the springs that the water hurt your teeth.

My love is yours forever.

Somewhere in England, August 30, 1944

My Darling Wife,

George is getting out of hand. He is our pet crow that we have had since he fell out of a tree. He steals everything in sight and then hides it. He flies into everybody’s room and carries things off. We caught him hiding a watch under some dirty sox the other morning. We have been giving him some instrument flying. With this fog as thick as soup in the mornings he gets a lot of time. We throw him out the second story window when there is a heavy fog and so far he has spun in twice. He just cant use his instruments in this fog. We have had him drunk quite a few times. When he is drunk he is a sight. He flies into things and falls off everything he tries to sit on. He goes in and out of the mess hall anytime he wants. In fact, he acts like he owns the place. You might be walking along and he will fly up and land on your shoulder and ride for awhile. He can catch coins when you toss them to him and he immediately hides them.

August 24, 1943

My Darling Wife,

Tell mom I think of her chow every time they shoot the Spam and Vienna sausages to us so that makes it every day. You know that you are going to get one of them during the day but it always keeps you guessing as to which meal it is going to be. Toots, do you remember how I used to like Spam. Well now it turns ,my stomach to see it on the table. We have a picture here that shows the final victory and it is B-17s bombing a Spam factory. After the war is over, they might just as well close up all of the Spam factories.

I am so sorry, darling, when I read where you said that Singer’s wife wrote Mildred that the latest rumor over here was that we were coming home, because Singer is never coming home and neither is (Al?). They were both killed in action. You might know some more of them but I am unable to tell you any more.

Somewhere in Sicily, Thursday November 11, 1943

My Darling Wife

Major Wannamaker and I have bought an Italian radio and it is a very good one. It is small and has five tubes and has a very good short wave reception. I have it on now. you know how much enjoyment that I get out of a radio. Well, I have not changed a bit. I now am listening to a German broadcast. It is a very funny thing over here about broadcasting. Over here, the Germans always have the best programs. Every nite they have one and always play American pieces. The whole program is in English. The announcer every once in a while says the following, “This program is coming to you through the courtesy of your enemy.” As you sit here and listen to them, you think how foolish it is to be killing each other. You see Italian soldiers everywhere and you stop and think that if you had seen them two months ago, you would have killed them and now they are your friends. It will probably be the same with the Germans when they are beaten. Put us all in a room and take our clothes off and no one would know who to try and kill.

Somewhere in England, Thursday November 16, 1944

My Darling Wife

This morning makes us two years overseas. I am glad I did not know that I would be here two years when I left the states or I should have died. That is a long time to be away from you my darling wife.

Last night I went over to the enlisted men’s barracks and took popcorn along and then we had a session. There are very few of the original bunch left. We had a lot of laughs about things we done in the desert. It is a wonder that we are still alive. We were more of a menace to ourselves than the enemy were to us. How we used to go out in the mine fields to look for motorcycles and guns and other equipment gives me the shudders. On top of everything else, someone was always setting an ammunition dump on fire and then we would really have a show.

-- 2nd Lt. Robert Uhrig to his wife

Sunday November 12, 1944

Blonde Darling,

Because the censorship has admitted the V-2 rocket bombs—and feeling that publicity would be given in the NY papers to the (Yarman?) claims and Mr. Churchill’s statement, I can tell you that on occasions I have heard them bang off but like in a thunderstorm, rarely close—and these remarkable people who have been through so much worse with the fly bombs and bombing pay absolutely no mind to them.

Monday November 20, 1944

Regardless of what you may hear from German sources, London is not under constant bombardment. Perhaps one—and I don’t recall more than 2 of the V-2 rockets—land in a day and of late they have become more infrequent. None have been anywhere near and I don’t know anyone who has ever seen where they landed but of course you hear them when they burst. Actually, they cause no more damage than a fly bomb…do not get on the nerves for there is no warning and after you hear one its over—and the next will not come for hours or several days. The paper says they are fired from Holland near the Hague so they will be permanently silenced in due time.

As to fly bombs they are practically extinct t.y. (thank you?) and in my five weeks here I’ve only heard one and seen none…….so please honey don’t be disturbed about me for no one here including yours truly is concerned and in fact the risk is no greater or as great as crossing Madison Avenue. People are so casual that no one takes notice during an alert—traffic goes on—business goes on—and shelters are used only by homeless.

Sunday January 7, 1945

Dear Flo-Flo and Fred,

Your Xmas gift was thoughtful to the extreme for I was “scraping the bottom of the barrel” when your cartons of Phillip Morris arrived. Long hours of work plus being away from the home base cause you to reach for a cigarette more often than is perhaps good for you. The supply here—as at home does not meet the demand and I’ve been supplementing with Gold Flakes and Players which give little satisfaction.

The barter value of a package of Phillip Morris is great and I traded two for a fresh egg last week—the first I had had in 3 months.

-- Douglas Townson (worked in London to coordinate food distribution/war relief, the Mission for Economic Affairs)

Saturday February 24, 1945

You know that this months and these months are flying by. Pretty soon it’ll be George’s birthday. That means induction proceedings. For god’s sake don’t wait until then. With the time my birthday came I didn’t have much of a chance to do anything but you have, George. Don’t get with this here army if you can avoid it and I think you can. Arthur did and so did Bee—they’re in the navy with the gravy. Find out about getting in that navy of ours. You can get in and Dad, you can find out and help him. See that Navy recruiting station now and for goodness sake do something while you have a chance. One of us going through this hell over here is plenty. I’m counting on you and you count on yourself—they need sailors and you might as well be one of them as the rest of those birds who are “sweating” this war out in ease and comfort.

May 28, 1945 Munich

Dear Folks

I wrote to you yesterday and I know that I forgot to tell you what I wanted to tell you about the contents of the package I sent a day or so previous to that letter. Save this information because it is necessary to have it either in your minds or in front of you when the package arrives. Mainly because of one article in it: a watch.

Its only a cigar box full of odds and ends but in the left hand side of the box wrapped in a thin piece of cardboard and a cellophane bag from a K Ration—all inside of a couple of small brand new swastika flags is one of the watches I took from a few German soldiers on the night we reached the Danube River. It’s a very nice watch—not too valuable you understand but a nice watch—modern and with an interesting metal strap. It needs cleaning and a crystal and a frame for the crystal—that’s what I lost! So if you will see what you can do about having it fixed for me Dad—I will appreciate it very much. I can’t remember whether or not I told you about getting three more watches besides the pocket watch I’ve had since the Seigfried Line. Well, we were on trucks for nearly three days after Nurnberg, heading steadily south towards Dachau (a few miles from here) and Munich our objective. We reached a small hill overlooking a fairly good sized valley—we had caught up with the artillery which was all set up in advance to cover our crossing of the river.

There were three small towns in our path to the river and supposedly Germans—SS on top of that—in each of them. Naturally our job was to take those towns. With the 2nd Battalion there are 4 companies, E, F, G and H (H is heavy weapons: they’re always split up and attached to the three rifle companies for support). Well, E, F, and G were each to take a town. There were three you see and one for each—G would take the first, F the second and E the third. At that you can see each one of them would push the Jerries into the succeeding town—ours! We’d have the hail storm to face. Well, again, my friends, E Company played sucker. We were the first troops in all three towns and if the enemy had been in each one we would have had a whale of a reception: E Co. alone! But what happened was they had run so fast that they beat us each time and reached the river and started to cross before we caught up with them. but we did catch up with them! Our second squad actually caught up with those huns so closely we could hear them crossing the river in their motor boats! It was a dark night that night—dark and sort of moist—we were plenty tired and we didn’t dare proceed, that is our 8 man 2nd squad alone, down to the banks of the water. Because we didn’t know who or how many were there. So we waited.

Pretty soon, (nearly an hour later) the enemy—about 20 I’d say—sent a patrol up a road alongside of where we were crouched—they were marching in double file in a group! Perfect targets! We waited and waited till they were plenty close—close enough so we couldn’t miss. Then !!!!!!!!!! We let em have it as much as 7 M-1s and a BAR (mine jammed) would release. But we never hit a one. Those are the misfortunes of war. But it was dark and that is frankly the only excuse I can offer. You may ask why they should march up a road we were guarding in such a beautiful but asinine formation. Obviously they didn’t know we were there. They didn’t even realize we had the town!

When the company joined us, we moved down to the river—in a wide skirmish line. The Jerries had beat it. And except for four of em that we shot that night there weren’t many hanging around the next morning when we crossed.

To get back to the watch. In one of those aforementioned towns we did meet a helluva lot of German soldiers and Hungarians who were POWs theirs. But these Jerries were not in the mood for fighting. They came out hands high and only too willing to surrender. The “boys” usually hand me all the rifles and then go search the prisoners themselves—that was because I had the automatic rifle and was supposedly the chosen one to do the guarding. This time I did the searching and the pilfering. That is how I got those three other watches. Three Jerries, one after the other. There were a few others in between but their time pieces were miserable so I let em keep what they had.

Right now I have one of the watches on—wearing it since I found it and one is kaput (that’s pronounced ka-poot—means gone there is no more, ruined, wrecked, and a few other things). The third as I said long ago in this letter is on its way to you.

I hope you’ll forgive me for telling about a few of the experiences we had—I thought perhaps you might like to hear about those few. I tell them not in the form of a script but as information which isn’t printed in the papers or told over the radio.



-- Warren Doremus

Leo Henehan

Feb. 28. 1944

Dear Kate and George

Your letter made me feel alive once more—an inspiration, so to speak, for one existing in a place so remote from even a resemblance of civilization. I bow before thee on bended knee, offer my many thanks. You mention the presence of my good spirits. Might I add, in good spirit or in bad spirit, we live “only in spirit” over here. Hopes for the future, of course.

How come this fellow you mentioned could tell you in such great lengths about this place? We are strictly prohibited from it. I wouldn’t want you to know anyway. Of course, its not the paradise that so many people think it is. I, for one, think it affords one, especially a “youth” like myself, great opportunities. It is virtually a vast domaine of unexplored territory. Perhaps his tale covered the New Gujinea front. I have attended that place but am no longer there. I have advanced to another island which, at present, is of an undisclosable nature. Exciting as it is, we are all enjoying it very much. Again, I repeat, plenty of experience available to the up and coming young man with hopes for the future.

George, congratulations on your 2B classification. I wish to hell I was one of those damn 4Fs.
Take it oozie, kids and don’t forget “If you don’t write you are wrong.” Kate Smith and I agree.

Much Love, Leo

-- Leo Henehan, one of 7 brothers serving in WWII. Only one didn’t make it back

June 10, 1944 US Navy, Sampson, NY

Hi folks,

How is everybody in civilian life? Things are going along pretty good down here. The final week was the worst. It is damn hard to change overnight to be a sailor but I guess I made it. I wouldn’t advise anyone to get in—stay out as long as you can. It isn’t what I thought it was. I am counting the days already. I want to see my family. Tip a beer over for me now and then. I don’t get any here. We don’t get much time to ourselves.

-- Cliff ??, married to Helen Henehan who had 7 bros. In WWII, writing to in-laws

Sunday morning, April 16, 1944 Fort Ord, California

Dear George and Family,

From my address you can probably figure out what I am doing here, just in case you don’t I am in an amphibious tractor battalion. What they plan on doing with me is beyond me. I have had six hours of driving a tank so I guess I am supposed to be good, yeh! I don’t even drive a car—that is, I never have. And I certainly am not a sailor. For one thing, these tractors have a different motor in them than the M4 tank did. (after the birth of a son Al had not seen)

One of the Hanehans

Sat. April 29, 1944

Dear George, Kate and girls,

I’m just fine but would damn sight rather be home where I belong. Have you gotten to see the baby yet? Boy, wouldn’t I like to be able to see him and Liz. They expect me to be able to keep my mind on school but I just cant. I’m damn sick of school anyway. So far, I’m getting by but that is all. I understand Cliff is going in the Navy. I’m sorry to hear that. If he doesn’t do any more than I have he wont do anything. I’m the school kid and when not in school the K.P, kid. That makes a fellow feel as though he was doing an awful lot to get his war over. You can see what I mean. How do you stand in the draft, George? I hope you don’t have to come in. you can do more good where you are.

New Guinea, 30 July, 1944

The Henehan Brothers

Kate, George, and Family

I have been informed by my mother that you people have a very enjoyable week at the lake, some class I call it. But don’t start bragging to me about hose luxuries or I will really pour my good fortune on. In the first place, a while back I took a short ocean cruise which ended here in scenic New Guinea. After my arrival I got for myself a home on a long white sandy beach with ocean at my own disposal.

Every time I feel the urge for a dip in some cool refreshing salt water I merely don my bath attire and proceed on my merry way. I had better stop now or you will all pull claims and venture into this very luring tropical paradise. Now you tell me about your wonderful vacation at the most beautiful of the Great Lakes.

If you are interested in the voyage across the blue Pacific, it’s a great experience. To get the full enjoyment of it you will have to cross it yourself. As for myself, I enjoyed every minute. Perhaps because the ocean remained calm almost the entire time or else I was used to the water from my stay at Monterey. One thing: the ship’s crew made a big fuss about crossing the equator. They had the usual ceremony of initiating all the scallywags. I am now one of the tried and true shellbacks.

Naturally, I cant tell you where I am, what’s here or what, if any, our plans are. In a nut shell, anything military. That only leaves the ocean and the jungles and perhaps how little work I have done. I have finally got my mansion on the beach set up which I share with five other persons because of the war.

-- Al Henehan, one of 7 brothers serving in WWII. Only one didn’t make it back

February 1, 1945

Some of the boys here are shooting deer. They are plentiful but quite small. I havent any desire to hunt animals. I shall be glad when I never see or hear any kind of gun.
I must close for now. My candle is burning low and I’m nearly out of space anyway. When the groundhog comes out tomorrow, I hope he doesn’t see his shadow in America or France either.

20 April 1945

Dear Kathy,

Daddy is finally getting around to answering your sweet little letter. The one you wrote so long ago. It seems such a long time ago and yet its even longer since I last saw my little girl. Mommy sends me your pictures all the time and I can see that you are getting to be a big girl. Pretty too. Daddy loves you so very much. All I ever think about is wanting to see you and wondering what you will say and do when you see me.

How did you like your first train ride to Buffalo? I hope you were a good girl and didn’t give mother any trouble. I’ll be Grandma was glad to see you and made a big fuss over you. Your two aunts too. Wait until I come home. We are going for lots of train rides, auto rides too. Just mommy, you and I. We will go all over and make up for all the fun we have missed since I’ve been away. Mommy tells me that you are a spoiled baby but I don’t believe her. (Don’t tell her I said that or she will be mad at me). If I were home I would rock you to sleep every nite and I wouldn’t let her stop me. It would be swell to hear you say “Daddy take your baby”.

Don’t forget to be a good little girl always. I miss you so very much and cant wait until I can see you.

All my love and kisses,

-- Kathleen Knab’s dad who wrote to a little girl he hadn't seen in 3 years

December 12, 1945
Yokosuka, Japan

Dearest E,

I made it, lovely. I leave the Bennet sometime tomorrow for the Sanborn. Don’t know when she shoves off for home but know it will be in a few days.

I’m on my way home, lovely and I’m so damn happy I don’t know what to do.

Love as always

Your Joe

June 29, 1945

Hello dad,

This is your daughter, Margie writing to you. I hope this letter finds you in all the best of health. Mother and I are the same.
Daddy, I have not played out any today. It was a bad day and mother wont let me go out.

Dad, I have never seen you but my mother shows me your pictures and I know I am going to like you for mother sees I see your picture every morning when I get out of my bed. I wish you could be here with mother and I. We could go out have some good times. I hope its not long, dad. I am sending you a picture of me and you can see I don’t have on anything but you can show it to the boys in your camp. I know you will anyway.

Your girl, Margie

PS dad don’t you and mother let any of the boys see this picture when I get up around 16.

January 1, 1945

Dear Family,

Well, I didn’t go anywhere as I thought I would however you were almost minus one son as of yesterday. We escorted the bombers in an area I have never been to before. We encountered enemy fighters in the target area. We were flying about 29000 feet and those bastards were about 5000 feet above us. There were only 20 of us against about 100 of them. We dove into them and my flight leader bounced one. I followed him through but lost control of my ship when I hit compressibility. I lost 20,000 feet before I finally pulled out in an 8 Q pull out. The plane was going down at upwards of 650 mph and I sure thought I had had it. That wasn’t anything though with what happened next. I was going so fast that I couldn’t get control of the plane. When I finally did, there was an FW 190 on my tail shooting the hell out of me. I lost half my rudder and the wing was so full of holes you could have used it for a sieve. I pulled around sharply and got a shot at him. He went down in flames and I pulled up and rejoined the squadron. Even as I write I am still sweating. I flew the whole way back alone as the squadron got broken up again when we were bounced for the third time. I flew at 33,000 feet in a plane which I thought was going to fall apart at any minute. I have never been so scared in my life. I didn’t really feel it until I got back and took a good look at the damage. I found one hole in the canopy right over my head and I almost collapsed. Last night I was so shot the Doc gave me a couple of sleeping pills and sent me to bed at 7:00. Today I was up early and in another big fight with a new ship. Well I now have one Kraut to my credit anyway.

-- Lt. Donald Fisher to his family