The Greatest Generation – Letters of Love

A few days ago, I read an e-mail from the son of a World War II veteran whose father had just passed away. There were many things he said in praise of his father, but there was one sentence that struck me the most. “We are slowly losing the Greatest Generation.”

My dad was part of that generation – the generation that grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. My dad didn’t speak much about what it was like during those times, and he was especially tight-lipped about his service in the Air Corps. If you wanted information, you had to pry it out of him. It wasn’t until my mother passed away that he felt the urge to tell us about his time during the war. He was a First Lieutenant and part of the 20th Air Corps, 505th Bombardment Group based on Tinian Island. My dad was a navigator on B-29 bombers. He was part of the crew that mined Tokyo Bay and Shimonoseki Straits, and he searched for survivors after B-29 bombers were shot down.

Before my dad left for service, he and my mom became engaged. They promised to write each other every day. And they did. Hundreds and hundreds of letters passed between my mom and dad during those years he was gone.

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After they got married, the letters were stored away. When I was younger, a friend and I found them in the attic. We secretly read some of them and giggled at the expressions of love. At that time, it was hard to believe my mom and dad could be so silly in love. Those letters are now in my possession – all of them. You don’t get letters like these anymore. They’re filled with history – not the history of the war, but the history of what it was like to be alive then. The letters are about love, loneliness, and longing. They’re about meeting new people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. They’re about broadening horizons and learning about the world around you and how to survive.

Those letters are what this post is about. I’m sure my dad left them in my care because he wanted his children to know what he was never able to tell us face-to-face. He wanted us to get to know them (mom and dad) through the words of love they wrote to one another.

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It’s time for me to tackle those letters and read the words written by my mom and dad so long ago. Who knows what secrets I might learn from the Greatest Generation.

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