This posting is a continuation of Mail Call 1942. If you have not read that posting, I will advise that you should. This is a story of a family and their lost letters of World War Two.
The end of the year 1942 brought to a close America’s first full year in the war. As the number of American causalities begins its’ slow, sorrowful climb, Americans start to gird themselves for a long and uncertain war. Rationing was the law across the land. The last automobile was made with no more produced until 1945. The “Dear John” letter was named for all the broken relationships that were done by mail. Our soldiers were to learn to appreciate Spam, powered eggs, and other culinary delights courtesy of the armed forces.
The first few days of January finds Lola sick, and bed ridden. She writes on January 11, 1943
“The doctor just left. I’m swell. I wanted to go downstairs, but he won’t let me get up until Wednesday. Isn’t he mean? My temperature went down to normal about 3 this morning. Mother slept with me all night. Its normal now, so, I’m fine. He said I had tonsillitis. My throat has even gone down to normal. He doesn’t want me to have a relapse, so I have to stay in bed. Yesterday my temperature was up a bit above normal it was just 102, he said. … Father McCarthy is sick again. I wasn’t to Mass myself, but they said another priest was there.”
Father McCarthy from the letters I have read was a friend as well as a spiritual advisor. I found in the letters a strong belief in God. Letters were anticipated and read and re-read daily. A typical start to a letter is given in this letter from Lola to her George.
“My Dearest Husband, OH! Honey I received the longest and grandest letter from you today. Gee it was swell. I’d never in a million years be able to write so much in one letter. Really. I don’t know how you do it.”
The picture above is of St. Francis de SalesChurch in Herkimer, New York. This was the faith center for the family. In the letter below dated February 24, 1943, we learn of the death of Father McCarthy.
“My Darling husband…. I went up to church to see Father he looked awfully nice. I might go to the funeral tomorrow.” On February 25, Lola writes the following. “My darling husband. It’s the old woman again…Today I got out of work at ten o’clock. Miss Papeno and I went over to the funeral. Was it ever crowded, only 800 were there, including nuns, priest, and people. I rode back with her too, so, I was in time for work this afternoon. Sure, am getting around with my boss. She was a close friend of Father too. I use to have more fun with Father. I’d say anything to him. Rita was right when she told you, I did. I use to tell him I would get lipstick on him, golly, he’d laugh. I could get away with anything I’d said. I could tell him joys, troubles, and everything he was always the same.”
On Friday, March 5, 1943 Lola wrote her husband the following.
“My darling husband, hello hon…. Father Kehoe from Mohawk is taking Father McCarthy’s place. You probably have seen him. I saw in the paper tonight where we can eat meat for the duration except Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.”
Catholics at that time had to reframe from eating meat on Fridays. This is what Lola is talking about. George was to receive a letter from his brother Edward, who was stationed in England. It still showed how naive many of us was at that time. Date of the letter is March 8, 1943.
“Dear George, Received your letter of February 14, yesterday and as usual was glad to hear from you…. Rationing must be getting plenty tough in the states according to your letter. I doubt that they will draft all men 18 to 38 at the end of this year because I don’t think the war will last that long.”
On April 17, 1943 Lola writes to George a letter that may give a hint that his brother Edward is on the move and may be heading toward the front lines. She writes the following.
“My Darling Husband,… Today Bea received a card from Eddie. Remember my telling you about Rick being over there? Well, Ed wrote a card to Bea and had him mail it when he got back in the states. It was from Baltimore. He told her not to worry as he wasn’t near a combat area. Rick must have just left there, you know he’s in the Merchant Marine. Please don’t mention it to anyone. It might get them in trouble. Bea said they aren’t suppose to take mail like that…. Maybe, hon you better burn this letter.”
The letter shown above was written on a very important date. It also showed that Edward was where the action was. Edward was with the 815 Engineer Aviation Battalion. Their job was to build and repair airfield runways. The 815th arrived in North Africa on November 8, 1942. They were to go to Sicily August 10, 1943 and was with the action in Italy on September 28, 1943. They were not to return to the United States until May 1945. Edward was to spend just days short of three years overseas. Much of it in combat areas. The date of the letter is they day that Germany surrendered in North Africa. Estimates put Germany’s losses at one million. It seems that the word has not gotten to Edward yet as he says nothing about it in his letter. He writes.
“Dear Pa, Just a few lines to let you know I’m safe and well. I haven’t been able to write anyone in the past few days as we were busy moving. …I’m glad to hear you saw Jack Rich, so you know just about how it is over here. Don’t worry about me as I am still in a safe place…Eddie ”
In a letter dated July 24th, 1943 George writes home to his father You can feel the concern he has for his brother. But only gives a casual mention of it in his letter. I am sure he does not wish to upset his Father any more than he must be already.
“Dear Pa, hope you are well and getting along ok. Lola always mentions that you are fine…. Haven’t heard from Ed since June 15. I suppose he has moved again since that invasion of Sicily started. The way it looks now the war with Italy will be over soon. The Italians never seemed to really want to fight anyhow. Hope Ed gets through this battle in good shape. Once the boys get busy on Germany from one side, and Russia on the other side war won’t last too long. I sure feel a lot better if the European war would be over, and I expect it will by next year at the latest. I expect to see everything finished in a couple of years. Guess, if it wouldn’t take any longer, I could stand being away from home for that length of time. Your son, George”
I was about this time that Lola sent George a picture a friend took of her. This is the photograph shown above. Edward wrote his father From Sicily August 22, 1943. He tells of a conversation he had with German prisoners. Given his German heritage I wonder if he spoke with them in the German language. He writes.
“Dear Pa, How are you today? I am fine and just got back from church a little while ago. The bishop said mass in a little chapel near camp…. I talked to some prisoners after Tunis fell, and they thought they still held Algeria and Oran. One guy asked me what I thought about the German bombing New York. When they are filled full of that “bunk” it is no wonder they keep on fighting. Eddie”
George was being kept busy training all through the year. When he had finished at Camp Polk, Louisiana he was sent to California for desert training. From there he was sent to Fort BenningGeorgia. He was to rise in rank from private to sergeant. He has been looking forward to a furlough for some time now. The letter below he is talking about his third attempt to get his furlough. He writes to his father on September 23, 1943.
“Dear Pa,… I’ve been pretty busy lately for five of us were transferred on Monday. It came as a surprise for I didn’t expect it for a week or two longer. I am a real doughboy now for we are in the infantry the roughest and toughest , outfit in the army. So far I am still in the dispensary, and it isn’t too bad. I don’t know what is going to happen next. As you probably know by now, I haven’t had my furlough date decided on. It was all changed by the transfer. I sent Lola a telegram that I wouldn’t leave Sunday. She has probably told you by now. Boy, it sure was a big disappointment for me. I haven’t gotten over it as yet. This outfit isn’t giving furloughs for they are out guarding German prisoners. George.”
In a letter dated December 24, 1943 from Ed to George it seems that the furlough never came through. Instead, Lola went to Georgia to steal some time together. From Italy Edward writes.
“Dear George,… Tomorrow is Christmas but with the exception of the turkey dinner it will just be another day. Did you have a good time when Lola came down?… I got a swell picture that I’m keeping of a Jerry air raid. It was taken one night and you can see the flares they dropped and the sky full of tracer bullets. Eddie”
We come to the end of 1943. The family is scattered all over the globe. While not being shown in this write up they have brothers, uncles, and many cousins engaged in the fighting of this war. Please look for my next posting Mail Call 1944 / 1945 in the next few days.