As America edged closer to war during the last months of 1941, those already serving in the armed forces looked toward the holidays with heightened awareness of how precious their time with loved ones might prove to be. Gunner’s Mate Robert A. Anderson, killed aboard the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor, was one of 2,335 servicemen who never made it home from Hawaii; this letter to his aunt and uncle, written just days before, is one of his family’s most cherished heirlooms.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Nov. 29, 1941
Dear Aunt Lexie and Uncle John:
Received your letter last week and am just now getting to answer it. I sure was glad to hear from you.
I can’t really say now if I will be able to come home for Xmas now or not. It all depends whether the ship goes back to the states next month or not. I hope it does as I want to get home bad to see all the family once more before anything happens that will keep me away for a long time. But the only thing that I can do now is to wait and see if we go back. Yes I think everything is so mixed up that I am sitting on needles & pins. We don’t even know what the next thing we will do when we get out to sea for a little practice. It is better this way because it might fall into the wrong hands and that may cause a little trouble. I wish they could starve Hitler out, then it would save the lives of all those young men that is fighting on account of him.
Well I am glad to hear that Brice is getting along okay with his work and that he is learning how to keep care of so many cattle at one time. I wish I could be out there with him so I could keep him company. I bet he knows how to cook by now since he has to cook his own meals.
I am glad to hear that cousin John & his family are well. I bet those two boys are two regular fellows. When they are at that age they will do anything. I bet they have a grand time with Phyllis Jean don’t they. By the time I get home they will be big boys.
This Aunt Jessie that you got a letter from, is she your sister that lives over in Dundee? If she isn’t I would like to have her name that you call her by, so I will be able to address her in the letters I write to her as Aunt so & so.
If this is my other aunt that I have and haven’t heard anything about her I am very sorry to hear about her husband passing away. I am glad at least that he didn’t have to suffer the way Dad did.
Well I guess they are putting up the Xmas lights around Kansas City already, aren’t they? They have put the lights up in Honolulu already, they really go about perttying up the city for Xmas. That is the biggest event of the year for these people.
I almost forgot. Bill Aethill told me the next time that I wrote to you to be sure and say hello to you for him. He & his wife have been very nice to me. They have taken me all around the Island and shown me the perttiest places in Honolulu. They have had me over to their house for dinner a good many times now. Everytime I rate they want me to come over and spend the day with them.
Well I am receiving some church papers from the church now every two weeks. I enjoy them very much. I wrote Dr. Baity a nice letter thanking him for sending them to me. I will get them at least once a month or maybe twice if they get in the mail on time.
Well I guess I had better close now as it is getting late and I am getting sleepy. So until the next time I remain
Anderson, as with most of the 1,176 men killed aboard the Arizona, is presumed to be entombed within the ship.