After my grandfather’s death in May, my father collected all the letters Pop had written to Nan during both World War II and Vietnam, during both of which he was active duty Navy. I’ve been going through the letters putting them in archival sleeves and cataloging them. I hope to eventually transcribe all of them. I’ve just finished cataloging all of the letters from World War II, and they fill 8 2″ binders.
The letters are on a variety of paper – anything from his ship’s stationery to sheets of onion skin. His handwriting also varies considerably, depending on the time of year. He wrote letters about every other day and were generally 1 or 2 pages long. His longest letter was 14 pages, while his shortest was a postcard with only a couple of words on it.
The letters start in 1941 before Pop joined the Navy when he was only 17 years old and Nan was only 15. They were already in love, and in one letter, he asks her to marry him for the first time. They did not become officially engaged until later in 1943, but he was sure that she was the one for him.
His most prolific writing year was 1945, a year in which he wrote 182 letters covering 245 sheets of paper. They were married in January 1945 while he was on leave, and Nan quickly became pregnant before Pop had to return to his ship. Most of the letters are from the Pacific and cover the news of her pregnancy and how much he misses her and is looking forward to being a father. As her due date in November approached, his anticipation and anxiety increased steadily, and his worry about Nan and the baby is very apparent.
His second most prolific year was 1943 when he wrote 122 letters covering 212 sheets of paper. This is the year he was assigned to the USS Oakland when it was commissioned in July and he departed for the Pacific. Many of the letters appear to have been mailed together, as he would write, but wouldn’t be able to send them until he had access to a supply ship or port.
1944 was his least prolific year, with only 44 letters on 122 sheets of paper. There are two possibilities: either there are some letters missing (which seems unlikely based on how the letters were kept), or as seems most likely from the letters, he was engaged in prolonged combat from late 1943 to the end of 1944. He was present at most of the major battles of the Pacific, and as a gunner, was directly involved in the combat. I think he just did not have as much time to write to Nan that year as he would have liked. I think this is also evident from the fact that his letters averaged 3 sheets of papers vs only 1 sheet on average in 1945 and 2 sheets in 1943. He couldn’t write as many letters, but he wrote longer ones.