Mystery Date: Pacific War Edition | HistoryNet MENU

Mystery Date: Pacific War Edition

By Andrew Carroll
11/5/2012 • World War II War Letters

Norma Clinton was an attractive young honors student living in rural Georgia. Harry Kipp was a Marine captain from Minnesota who had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor before shipping off to the Pacific. At the request of her aunt, who once dated Kipp, in early 1944 Clinton sent Kipp a friendly letter and photo to raise his spirits. Instead, Kipp fell head over heels and his reply began a whirlwind courtship. Although the two had only communicated by mail, by his eighth letter Kipp was ready to declare his intentions:

July 16
Am sorry I can’t send you a picture now, but you did ask me to describe myself, and threatened me with your anger should I fail to comply. Remembering what you told me of you terrible temper, I hasten to tell you (and this hurts) that I am not at all handsome, am only five feet seven inches tall, have straight blond hair, blue eyes, weigh 170 pounds, and worst of all, have a childishly affectionate disposition. Now you tell me your reaction. As for your reserve in the letters you write to me, of course I understand. How could you write in any other way? You haven’t even seen a picture of me, have never heard my voice, and know so little about me.
There is something I do want you to know. Perhaps you will think me very naive and impulsive but I am sincere in the protestation of my love for you. I do love you. Norma, I want you to be my wife just as soon as I can possibly come for you…. Won’t you tell me frankly, honestly, if you would marry me when I come home, should you find that you could care for me?… Considering everything I’ve already said more than you expected to hear, so “Goodnight”, sweets. Will you answer just as soon as you recover from the shock?

After considerable thought, Clinton penned her reply:

My Dearest Harry,
Yes, yes, yes, I will marry you! Just as soon as you can come for me. I want more than anything in the world to be your wife, forever! I love you with all my heart!
Your Norma

The relationship continued to grow, but so did anxiety over the increasing ferocity of the Pacific War. Kipp did his best to reassure Clinton about his uncertain future:

November 28, 1944
One other thing, sweets, please don’t worry about my safety. I am as safe as you are and I will be for at least a couple of months. After that, if you must worry you may, but just a little bit, because I have a charmed life. If it were intended that anything unpleasant should happen to me, it would have happened long ago.
We are not supposed to tell anyone when we go into actual combat until after we are aboard ship and on the way to make a landing on Jap territory and that letter doesn’t get in the mail until several days or possibly weeks after we leave our base. To let you know that there will be no letters for a long time I’ll end my last letter before leaving by saying, “Goodbye for a while.” Will you remember that?

Clinton did remember, and the letter she had been dreading arrived in spring, dated March 23, 1945. The following week, Clinton was listening to the radio when an announcer broke in to report the invasion of Okinawa. She spent the next month
in agony with no news of Kipp before a letter finally arrived:

My Beautiful Darling!
Turn your back to the mirror and look over your shoulder. Do you see wings? You must, because you are an angel. Today I received nineteen heavenly letters from you. Norma Mine, I hope I shall be deserving of your wonderful devotion…. I’ll write a few lines every time I have a moment to spare and perhaps I shall be able to send a letter at least once or twice a week. I think that from now on our mail deliveries will be quite frequent and regular….

Correspondence resumed, as did plans for marriage. In August 1945 the war came to an end and Kipp headed home. On September 22, he arrived in California and spoke to Clinton on the telephone for the first time. After, Kipp sent one last letter:

8:30 Sunday evening
I don’t remember a word you said, but I still hear the sound of your sweet voice echoing in my heart. How can I wait seven whole days to hear you talk to me again? But this is the end of our long time of waiting. Will you marry me soon? Monday? Tuesday? I’ve never loved you more than at this very moment.
We didn’t say much in our conversation, did we, honey? You were simply breathless and I was nearly the same, and we could hear each other so very faintly, but I wouldn’t have missed it for worlds. The sound of your voice went straight to my heart….
We’ve waited nearly two years now, and if we do find ourselves a bit embarrassed when we meet, it will be no more than it is natural to expect and the awkwardness will disappear in a moment, because deep in our hearts we understand each other, and we know that our two individual lives are bound to each other inseparably and nothing under the sun can ever change that….

One week later, Harry Kipp and Norma Clinton exchanged vows. Harry retired from the Marine Corps in 1953. Norma finished college and became an elementary school teacher. The couple raised two children and remained together until May 1965, when Harry passed away from cancer.

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