Survivors Remember Historic Moments of WWII

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Center for American War Letters Archives

Millions marked the end of the war with letters home to loved ones

The Center for American War Letters at Chapman University in California, directed by Andrew Carroll, works to seek out and preserve correspondences from every U.S. conflict. Within the center’s collection are thousands of World War II letters. Here are some excerpts:

Medical Officer Allen Boyden writes to his wife from Europe on V-E Day, May 8, 1945

Dearest –

The war is over! It’s hard to believe when I look back on the state of the war at the time I left for overseas — exactly 29 months ago. At that time I’m happy I did not realize that it would take so long….

It is wonderful to know that Germany at last is completely beaten…. The wickedness and bestiality has finally ceased, aside from a bit of sporadic fighting here in this country. These people have been oppressed 6 long years … and their genuine welcome of the Americans brings tears to our eyes. They are truly grateful. We walk down the streets to have flowers thrust upon us, people smiling and waving and saluting us from all sides….

 Seeing the joy on the faces of these people — free again after so long — has taught us something of the meaning of freedom. Enough for tonight. I love you, and know in my heart that we will soon be together.

Allen.

Lydia Klepac, in Detroit, Michigan, writes to her husband, Cpl. Walter Klepac, about their infant son, who was born after Walter had deployed

Dearest Walter: Oh my darling! You are really coming home to see us! Gee, I can hardly believe it and I keep reading your letter of May 28 over and over. But I’ll really believe it when I can touch your face, honey, and feel your loving arms around me once again. Will you please pinch me hard — to see if I’m only dreaming. Okay I’ll wait until you get home, then we shall see.

Oh happy days. Sonny will really be with his dear daddy.

You’ll have to take it a little slow with him at first, honey, but I’m sure it won’t be long for you two to become real pals. This will be the first time he really sees you, Daddy, and naturally you’ll be a stranger to him at first. He has heard “Daddy” repeated so many, many times that I’m sure he knows that such a person exists… Besides, he can say “ta-ta” perfect now and he has kissed his daddy’s picture a millions times already….

I’ll close with God’s blessings and a Good-nite.

Bye, Darling!…

1st Lt. William Lee Preston writes a more reflective letter to his brother John about the news of the German surrender

May 10, 1945

Dear John —

Yes, the war in Europe is over. I don’t know what the reaction was in the States as a whole. Over a patched-up radio, we heard that ticker tape and paper floated down from New York buildings. We heard that there were wild celebrations in the streets in London by civilians, English and American soldiers. But, John, the frontline troops didn’t celebrate. Most of the men merely read the story of victory from the division bulletin sent to the troops, and said something like “I’m glad,” and walked away. Perhaps it was a different story in their hearts, or perhaps they were too tired, or thinking of home too much, or thinking of their buddies who didn’t live to see the victory, to do much celebrating or merrymaking. But I’m sure of one thing — the troops were glad they wouldn’t have to fight anymore — I was.

What our future is, we don’t know, but everyone is sweating out the South Pacific troop movement.

My love to Eleanor and Troy.

Your brother,

Bill

1st Officer Henry “Hank” Ketchum describes to his loved ones on hearing about the Japanese surrender — and the unexpected (and somewhat lighthearted) reaction some soldiers had about returning to the States

August 13, 1945

Dearest Family,

I got the urge to write early this morning and so thought it would be a good idea to get a long letter off to you….

We were in Luliang, China, at a movie when they stopped everything and announced that the Japanese had offered to surrender….

 The whole camp, or rather, base about blew up. Anti-aircraft guns shooting, flares going up, tracer machine gun fire, pistols, rifles, and every noise possible could be heard….

Everyone was ready to go home and be a civilian again, and then most of us stopped dead in our tracks. Be a civilian? Earn our own money? Look for a job? What kind of a job? …

Well, all for now! Love and miss you all.

Your loving son,

Hank

Assistant Army Physician Robert S. Easterbrook writes to his parents about tending to Hideki Tojo, after Tojo’s failed suicide attempt

(12 Noon) 12 Sept. 45

Dear Mom & Dad: —

I don’t imagine you could ever guess where I am as a write this letter. At present, I’m sitting in a chair about 3 feet from the bedside of the ex-premier of Japan — Hideki Tojo.

We were in duty last night, in surgery — when he arrived at approximately 9:40 P.M.  …

As there was no whole blood available at the moment, we gave him 600 cc of blood plasma, after which he perked up enough to make a statement. He told Gen. Eichelberger (thru the interpreter) that he was sorry to cause so much trouble. He had planned on shooting himself in the head, but had been afraid it would muss up his face too much — so had decided on the heart. He used a 38 caliber automatic, & the bullet entered just below & medial to the left breast & emerged from the back about 2 inches higher. I’m damned if I know how it missed his heart.

It’s almost 1 o’clock & time to check him. Back in a few minutes…

2:25 p.m.

Blood transfusion started. It will take about an hour….

3:40 p.m.

The transfusion has ended & everyone except the two nurses, the guard & myself has cleared out. Tojo is resting quietly & the color is coming back a little….

something’s wrong

4:25 p.m.

Phew, that was nice! He developed a severe chill & pain in the heart & wound from the blood given him. It was a little questionable there for a while, but he came out of it OK. (dammit). You know, it’s funny to be taking care of someone & not knowing whether you want him to live or not.

Well, folks, it’s almost time for my relief; so I’ll close off for now, take another check on him & call it a day.

Love,

Bob

P. S. In my next letter I’ll send a piece of his shirt. It has blood on it—but don’t wash it. Just put it away in my room.



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