Military Service

Letters from Larry – An overview

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.

pops letters chart

Letters from Larry – 1 January 1946

1 January 1946 – San Francisco, California

My Darling,

Here it is New Years night aboard and its as quiet as a church.

About five minutes ago the word was passed that we’re shoving off for Washington tomorrow morning so I guess I don’t get any liberty in Frisco.

Was trying to find out if there is any dope on who is staying aboard in Reserve Commission but there isn’t any dope as yet.

Gee I wish I could be with you for our anniversary but it don’t look as though I can.  Although time seemed to go slow when we were at sea it hardly seems like we’ve been married a year. It sure will be swell to be toether for more than a month or two.  By the time I see you and Jimmy again I’ll bet Jimmy will be pretty big.  You know the more I think of it the more I feel we should have been married while I was in Newport [late 1942 to 1943].  Don’t you?  I wonder if we would have had Jimmy right away like we did. I still wish we didn’t have to use those damn rubbers.  It a lot nicer without them but we can’t have anymore children till 48 or early 49.

J.J. and Cimarolli, Pete Smith and Pete Pruchnik and all the boys were asking how you were and also send their best wishes.  Well what di dyou do last night honey?  Were you home all alone or did you and J.T. go uot New Years calling?

Before I forget it your money order was here when I got back.  I’ll keep hit and send you may pay this Saturday.  Well baby I think I’ll close now.  Give my love to J.T. and the folks.  I love you and miss you sweetheart.

Your loving hubby,

Larry

over

P.S. Enclosed find some post-cards for your scrap-book.

LAA

XXXXXXXX

 

Letters from Larry – 24 July 1946

24 July 1946 – Washington, D.C.

My Darling,

Didn’t receive that letter you wrote last week.

Well I tried to get a stand-by for the week-end but its no soap.  These guys down here won’t stand-by for a man no way.  Well at least the weekend after next you won’t have your sister with you, then will we have fun.

To-night is the Gunner’s Mates dance and I have the duty, in fact I have the watch again 4 to 8 in the morning.  The fellows that have the duty tonight will be able to go Fri. night though.

How is your eye hon?  I hope it gets better.  If it isn’t though please get it fixed.  It worries me honestly.

I applied for your transportation to-day.  The yeoman had to fix the date of your departure though. Being that I only arrived here the 8th he put down that you left Seattle on the 10th of July at 8 p.m. and arrived in Wash. D.C the 14 July at 9:00 a.m.  Keep this handy in case they should send anything to you wanting to know when you left.  The check more than likely won’t come thru for 6 months or more.

I also checked on changing the allotments.  They are not allowed to change any allotments until further notice.  That’s all throughout the Navy.  The bureau is too busy they claim.

Well darling its about 9:30 now so I think I’ll turn in and get some sleep.  Good night honey.  I love you.

Your loving,

Larry

Senate Tribute to Pop

On May 24, 2018, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York paid tribute to my grandfather, Larry Reilly, on the floor of the Senate.  Video clip of the comments below:

Lawrence John Reilly Sr. – One of the Greatest Men of the Greatest Generation, May He Forever Rest In Peace

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On Wednesday, May 23rd, the world lost an amazing man.  Just short of his 94th birthday in June, Lawrence John Reilly, Sr. passed away at 3:30 Eastern, due to complications with pneumonia.

Since Wednesday, I’ve been struggling with finding the words to express my deep sorrow and to explain to the world who this man was.  Because the world should know.  His death should not be noticed by only his family and friends.  There was so much honor, goodness, love, and forgiveness in him.  How do I describe his boundless life and do it true justice?

I am the second of this five granddaughters, sixth out of the twelve grandchildren.  He was the patriarch of a beautiful family, of which he lived to see the latest addition to the next generation born about a week before his death.  She is his 21st great-grandchild.

Fortunately, my strong desire that the world knows about his passing from this life has been met.  The Associated Press wrote an article that has been picked up by agencies around the world.  The U.S. Senate heard a tribute to his passing, in marking the beginning of this Memorial Day Weekend.  Friend and author Louise Esola penned one of the loveliest eulogies I could have ever imagined.

My grandfather’s obituary

The tributes to my grandfather following his death:

Fair winds and following seas, Pop.  Forever loved and always missed.