My epic war letters book project is finished! Well, it’s at the printer; I’ll get a proof in a couple days. I began writing the conclusion—the correspondents’ “after stories”—on the 75th anniversary of the day my father left the coast of France to sail home. Reading their words and creating this book has been a legacy journey for which I am profoundly grateful.
As you may have read here or there over the years I have been working on it, I came into possession of 1500 letters written from 1942-1946 by my mother and my father and his siblings and spouses and their parents. I have been excerpting and compiling them, along with a brief history of the war (most of which is more information about events both at home and abroad mentioned in the letters—do you know what “air conditioning” is? No, not to cool your heels) for what seems like forever.
The book was compiled primarily for family. The 8.5×11, 530-page book (self-published, professionally printed and bound) will not be offered for sale. But while I’m taking orders from family members, I offer it to anyone else who has followed the story (or not) and would like a copy. As one someone said,
“These letters stand for all the letters written during that war and not saved. It is the story of all of us of a certain age, descendants of those who lived through those challenging years.”
It is designed so that the reader can read every word, just the letters, just the history, or just the brief call-outs from the letters. Even reading the quotes gives a flavor of their experiences at that unique and terrible time in history.
Order deadline is June 20, which happens to be my birthday, and Father’s Day! The cost is $35 including shipping. The price reflects only printing costs; my time and “creative talent” are a gift to the ancestors and their descendants. Contact me if you would like to order a copy.
The following is from the back of the book.
Six children came of age on a Michigan farm: the eldest with a young family, the youngest starting college, one just married, one already widowed, one with a brand new college degree, one an essential farm worker. War is in full swing in Europe and the Nazis are winning. The United States has a neutrality act in place and is strongly isolationist. Surrounded by water and out of reach of foreign enemies—like a moated castle—the war has nothing to do with the US.
Until . . .
Just before eight o’clock on the morning of December 7, 1941—a Sunday—hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descend over Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii, catching the naval base completely off guard. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asks Congress to declare war on Japan. They approve nearly unanimously. Four days later, on December 11, Germany declares war on the United States.
Plans for the future are rearranged. Lloyd, his wife Mary pregnant with their second child, takes a war-related job. Donald quits his teaching job and he and Lena move back to the farm. Helen, a newly-capped registered nurse, enlists in the army nurse corp. George leaves his first job and his new blond girlfriend and reports for officer training. Ruth and Joe move to an army base far from home. When the selective service age requirement changes, Melvyn quits school before he’s hardly begun. Soon the close-knit family will be scattered around the country and the world, writing letters home.
Seventy-five years later, fifteen hundred letters are pulled from the deep recesses of closets where they have been turning yellow and musty, waiting for someone to find them and be interested. They tell the behind-the-scenes story of a world war as the writers send longing letters to their mother, to their true loves, to each other. They complain about the army, agonize over the slow mail, ache for husbands and wives, exclaim about their first rides on trains, ships, and planes, describe their observations of the effects of bombing and fighting on the land, the people, and the soldiers, pine over wartime romances, deal with rationed food and tires and failed victory gardens, and share views of a world they never dreamed they would see far from the corn fields of the home they yearn for.
Alongside a brief chronicle of the events of World War II, Letters Home is a compilation of excerpts written by six siblings, their spouses, and their parents caught up in fighting a war from behind the lines in Europe and on the home front. It is family history nested in world history; a family of voices, all gone now but set here to be heard and treasured by their descendants and any who are interested in the conflict that is the cornerstone of the world we still inhabit.