Thursday, May 04, 2006

War babies, reunions, and letters from home

This picture was taken in 1946, within a month or two of exactly 60 years ago, and these two little girls are the daughters of American soldiers. The child on the left is me, and the other little girl is my cousin, the daughter of my father's sister. I was born a little less than a year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and this little cousin was born about 16 months after me.

As nearly as we can figure it, we haven't seen each other since about 1956. Separated by miles and years, we've come together recently through e-mails, and for the past few days she's been giving me a daily synopsis of what she's been reading -- and I am enchanted.

Unlike my own parents, whose marriage didn't last much beyond the war, my cousin's parents have stayed married all these years. And the marriage isn't the only thing to survive; they've saved all the letters they wrote to each other during World War II. Their children have organized the letters chronologically, and my cousin is reading them and passing on pertinent bits and pieces to me. Her e-mails plunge me back into history, letting me see it on a personal level for the first time through the eyes and words of my aunt and uncle.

My mom and my aunt hung out together while their husbands were away, so sometimes my mom and I were mentioned in my aunt's letters. It's fun to read about their daily lives and the things they did together to pass the time. What's really interesting, though, is hearing about the experiences of the soldiers in the field.

In September of 1944, my uncle wrote about a week-long ocean voyage that ended when his company arrived in France. Within a day after landing, he learned that my dad's company was less than a mile away. My uncle walked there and found my dad. Can you imagine how great it was for these men to find family so far from home?

In the 1990s, my dad talked to me on several occasions about the war, and each time he talked about it, he cried. It wasn't until that late in his life that I had any inkling of the long-term effects of his war experiences. He didn't go into too many details, but he made me understand that war really is hell. From that frame of reference, I was incredibly moved when reading of his reunion with his brother-in-law in France, and their adventures together over the next few days.

God bless my aunt and uncle for saving their letters. God bless our soldiers.

5 comments:

  1. my father servied in the navy and landed on the first wave on Iwo JIma, after he came home he talked about the war all the time and then he put it away but while he was dieing he had night mares about the war. I think anyone that is in war never fully recovers from it. War is hell and people who glory in war are with out knowledge of what it is.

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  2. Wow Linda,

    What an incredible story. I never new that about our dad because he kept that part of his life from me. I always kind of knew it was hard for him and I'm thankful he found your shoulder before he passed away.
    I'll email you in the morning.

    Love you,
    Andre

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  3. Daddy's last days were on Iwo Jima
    Island again. He would say...look
    out they're over there. Watch out!
    His eyes were wild with fear. I
    wanted so much to protect him, but
    children can not protect a parent
    from there own past. Dad was an air
    craft mechanic. The Japenese continually tried to bomb the shop they worked in. When they landed on the Island and took it, quickly. They found that many soldiers were hid in caves on the Island. They came out at night and tried to destory what the Americans
    had built. We needed the Island as a fuel stop for planes. Our planes could not make it all the way to Japan without refueling. We did not fuel in the air as we do today. Iwo was not inhabited by
    individuals...it was just a military post. It was a lava Island and was full of caves.

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  4. I amy be late in reading this post but I am loving your blog and can't get enough of your writing. This is my daily fix and I'm going back through all your posts to get all I can. This one brings back memories for me because I remember the day the war was over but not the day of Pearl Harbor I was too young. My Dad served in WWI and was in France. He never, ever talked about his experiences but always just sat in his chair lost in his own thoughts and I remember my mother saying "Don't bother Daddy right now". He was always sad and suffered from depression. My brother always thought it was the war that caused it. I was 7 in 1945 when WWII was over and remember the rejoicing and people running in the streets and honking car horns. War has devastated those who fought in it and survived just as much as the countries where it was fought. Thank God there has not been one fought in this country in our lifetime - so far!

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  5. Well that second word should have been MAY. Sorry about that, my thoughts are ahead of my fingers.

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