War Letters: World War II Letters from the Legacy Project

By Andrew Carroll
4/24/2008 • Dwight Eisenhower, World War II

The "War Letters" department of World War II magazine features letters written from the battlefields and the homefront, prepared for our readers by Andrew Carroll to honor and to provide insight into the generation who knew the war firsthand.

Andrew Carroll is the editor of several New York Times bestsellers, including Behind the Lines and War Letters, which was the basis of the critically acclaimed PBS documentary of the same name. He is the founder of the Legacy Project, a national, all-volunteer initiative that honors U.S. troops and veterans by preserving their letters and e-mails. To date, the Legacy Project has received more than 80,000 never-before-seen correspondences from every war in American history. He has received, among other accolades, the DAR’s Medal of Honor and The Order of Saint Maurice, bestowed by the National Infantryman’s Association.

If you have a World War II letter you would like to share, please send a copy (not originals) to the Legacy Project, PO Box 53250, Washington, DC 20009, or e-mail WarLettersUS@aol.com.

From the March/April 2010 issue: Nothing Seemed the Same After the Battle of the Bulge—Even Snow
When Frank J. Conwell was a child, wintry conditions meant frolicking outside in the snow. But in the frozen forests of the Ardennes, where much of the Battle of the Bulge occurred, the conditions meant something else altogether… Read Entire Article.

From the January/February 2010 issue: Patrick Hitler Makes a Case to Fight the Reich
William Patrick Hitler, the half-English nephew of Adolf, arrived in the United States from Germany in March 1939, and promptly began exploiting his infamous last name on a paid speaking tour—revealing, as one advertisement trumpeted, “the sensational truth about the leaders of Nazi Germany.” But his first attempt to register for military service was denied because of his kinship to his more famous uncle. After war was declared Hitler, then 29, appealed directly to the president in his effort to join the U.S. military… Read Entire Article.

From the November 2009 issue: A Pilot’s Family Finds a Gift at the End of a Long Wait
"It is now the 26th of the month and I still have received no word,” Lt. Don W. Moore wrote to his wife Doris in August 1943 from England. “I am kind of beginning to wonder a little bit.” The newly married couple was expecting a child, and the 25-year-old B-17 pilot from Toledo, Ohio, could hardly wait. Don’s son, Douglas, was born almost two weeks later on September 7, 1943—the same day Doris received a message from the War Department informing her that Don was missing in action. Now she was the one nervously waiting for news… Read Entire Article.

From the September 2009 issue: An Army Nurse Describes a Deadly Attack on a Hospital Ship
An estimated 460 American women died as a result of their service in World War II. In 1943, U.S. Army nurse Vera Lee came close to being one of them. On September 9, Allied forces launched a ferocious six-day invasion of Salerno, Italy. Lee was with the 95th Evacuation Hospital in the Gulf of Salerno, aboard the hospital ship for the Eighth Army, the HMHS Newfoundland, which was attempting to deliver nurses to the Salerno beaches. Although the white ship bore giant red crosses and was brightly illuminated at night, the Luftwaffe repeatedly bombed it, killing six nurses and all medical officers aboard, and damaging the ship to such an extent that the Allies had no choice but to scuttle it on September 14. Ten weeks later Lee wrote to her family in Lewellen, Nebraska, to describe the attack and how lucky she was to be alive… Read Entire Article.

From the July 2009 issue: A Sidelined General Shares His Philosophy on Leadership
After slapping a hospitalized American soldier in Sicily in August 1943 and then making controversial remarks at the opening of a serviceman’s club in Knutsford, England, in April 1944, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. came within inches of being relieved of his command. Instead, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower imposed a punishment almost as devastating: Patton would be relegated to an essentially minor role during the historic Normandy landings… Read Entire Article.

From the May 2009 issue: An American Pilot Encounters the Ghosts of Buchenwald
On April 21, 1945, 1st Lt. James Carroll Jordan, a 23-year-old pilot from St. Paul, Minnesota, with the Ninth Army’s 109th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, typed a three-page letter to his wife, Betty Anne, just hours after visiting Buchenwald. Troops normally refrained from describing the most horrific details of war, but Jordan—like many other soldiers who observed the concentration and extermination camps—chronicled in graphic and unflinching detail the true brutality of Hitler’s Final Solution…
Read Entire Article.

From the March 2009 Issue: A Father’s Thoughts on the Importance of a Uniform
On the day he turned 18—May 3, 1943—a high school student named William Fee rushed to the local selective service office to register for the draft. Throughout William’s childhood, his father, Dwight, who had fought in the devastating Meuse-Argonne offensive in World War I, strove to instill in his son the values he held dear: duty, honor, and integrity…
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From the January 2009 issue: A Sailor’s Horrific Tale of Life as a POW
Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Alvin A. Andrews died in 1961 at the age of 42, his life cut short by hardships he suffered while being held by the Japanese as a POW for three years during World War II. Andrews spoke little to his family about his wartime experiences, but his daughter Denise, who was five years old when he died, remembers his refusing to allow rice in the house. After his death, his family discovered a trunk containing memorabilia from his days in the Pacific. Among the items was a long letter by a fellow sailor named Arthur D. Emard, who apparently had been captured along with Andrews in Corregidor. Soon after the war, Emard wrote in vivid detail about what he and his fellow prisoners endured…
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From the November 2008 issue: Sure, War is Hell – But Just Try Writing a Love Letter
Crafting the perfect love letter can be difficult under any circumstance, but for normally stoic GIs, the muse could be especially uncooperative. Newly married William Waldeck, a machinist’s mate who served on the USS Baldwin, found this to be the case when he struggled to write an affectionate missive to his wife Mary after leaving for naval training in the spring of 1943. Waldeck ultimately relied on his somewhat mischievous—and gently bawdy—sense of humor to get him out of the pinch. The letter is undated but believed to have been written in March 1943…
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From the September 2008 issue: Welcome Home. Now Brace Yourself…
As American troops over the years returned to the States following lengthy tours overseas, the culture shock that many of them experienced has become the subject of widely circulated humorous letters. One recent e-mail offered advice to the spouses of troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on helping their loved ones acclimate to a more comfortable — although potentially disorienting — life back home… Read Entire Article.

From the July 2008 issue: Words of Reassurance from a Brutal Front
Just two months after the Battle of Guadalcanal, twenty-five-year-old Arthur W. Hodan, a sergeant in the Americal Division, handwrote a sixteen-page eyewitness account of his regiment’s fight to take Hill 27. Hodan had the letter smuggled home to his parents in Cicero, Illinois; in it, he describes in vivid detail what he and his men endured
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From the April/May 2008 issue: A Soldier Strips the Romance Out of Life at War
Military censorship and a desire not to worry loved ones at home kept most troops from disclosing the strains and hardships they faced in battle. But when they heard stories of war fatigue on the home front or sensed that the public did not fully grasp the enormity of combatants’ and civilians’ suffering, a spark of frustration could emerge
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From the March 2008 issue: An Immigrant’s Plea to a Powerful Man
The plight of Japanese immigrants and Japanese American citizens interned in the 1940s is well known. But German and Italian immigrants in the United States also faced possible internment, relocation, travel restrictions, and property confiscation
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From the January/February 2008 issue: A Chaplain’s Saga of Love, Valor, and Loss
Valentine’s Day was fast approaching, and Alexander Goode wanted to make certain that his beloved, Theresa Flax, received his letter in time. Goode would go on to become a legendary figure in World War II as one of the four “Immortal Chaplains”
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From the December 2007 issue: ‘Life Gave Me a Christmas Present a Couple of Hours Ago’
For servicemen and women far from their loved ones during war, holidays often prompt mixed emotions. Thoughts of friends and family gathered together trigger fond memories, but they can also make the troops all the more homesick
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From the November 2007 issue: A Soldier’s Death Far from the Field of Battle
Thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines lost their lives in World War II during training exercises, their sacrifices often overlooked. On August 28, 1944, a woman in Quincy, Washington, Mrs. W. C. Grigg, witnessed one of these casualties firsthand
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From the October 2007 issue: A Combat Nurse’s Exhausting Sorrows, Unexpected Joys
Army nurse June Wandrey stood five feet two inches tall with, in her words, “finely honed muscles that were dynamite ready.” That forceful spirit was evident in her wartime letters as well; Wandrey did not mince phrases
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From the September 2007 issue: A Downed Navigator Flees for His Life Behind Enemy Lines

“My darling Cornie — This is my first letter to you in almost five weeks!” twenty-three-year-old Lt. Richard G. Fowler, a U.S. Army Air Forces navigator from Minnesota, wrote to his wife Cornelia on May 25, 1944. “And I’m writing it not knowing when I’ll be able to mail it, since believe it or not, I’m behind enemy lines…"
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From the July/August 2007 issue: Two Letters Frame the Moment Paradise Lost Its Innocence
“There is a pineapple field right outside our window,” twenty-four-year-old Guy Bair wrote in an October 17, 1941, letter to his mother, describing a lush island oasis of palm trees, tropical flowers, and cloud-encircled mountains…"
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