Letters from the Greatest Generation
219 pages

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219 pages

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Victory and defeat, love and loss are the prevalent realities of Letters from the Greatest Generation, a remarkable and frank collection of World War II letters penned by American men and women serving overseas. Here, the hopes and dreams of the greatest generation fill each page, and their voices ring loud and clear. "It's all part of the game but it's bloody and rough," wrote one soldier to his wife. "Wearing two stripes now and as proud as an old cat with five kittens," marked another. Yet, as many countries rejoiced on V-E Day, soldiers were "too tired and sad to celebrate." While visiting a German concentration camp, one man wrote, "I don't like Army life but I'm glad we are here to stop these atrocities." True to the everyday thoughts of these fighters, this collection of letters can be as amusing as it is worrying. As one soldier noted, "I know lice don't crawl so I figured they were fleas." A fitting tribute to all veterans, this book is one every American should own and read.

1. Pearl Harbor and Bataan
2. Training Camps
3. North Africa
4. Italy
5. England
6. France
7. Germany
8. V-E Day and After
9. Alaska and the Aleutians
10. Southwest Pacific
11. Central Pacific and the Philippines
12. China-Burma-India
13. The Ryukyu Islands and Japan
14. After V-J Day



Publié par
Date de parution 03 octobre 2016
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780253024602
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Signal Corps photo from Acme
Sgt. John H. Parks, of Mill Creek, Indiana, was voted the Man of the Year by his fellow G.I.s in the European theater of operations because his appearance typified the war-weary soldier. As winner of this distinction, his picture appeared in Stars and Stripes , Dec. 22, 1944. The next day, the twenty-three-year-old tank man was killed in Luxembourg.
Edited by
Foreword by
Bloomington and Indianapolis
Originally published as Letters from Fighting Hoosiers by Howard H. Peckham and Shirley A. Snyder, Indiana War History Commission, 1948.
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2016 by Indiana University Press
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z 39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Peckham, Howard Henry, editor | Snyder, Shirley A., editor.
Title: Letters from the greatest generation : writing home in WWII / edited by Howard H. Peckham and Shirley A. Snyder ; foreword by James H. Madison.
Other titles: Letters from fighting Hoosiers
Description: Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2016. | Includes index. | Originally published as Letters from Fighting Hoosiers by Howard H. Peckham and Shirley A. Snyder, Indiana War History Commission, 1948.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016019849 (print) | LCCN 2016021072 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253024480 (print : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780253024602 (ebook)
Subjects: LCSH : World War, 1939-1945-Personal narratives, American. | Soldiers-United States-Correspondence.
Classification: LCC D 769 . L 45 2016 (print) | LCC D 769 (ebook) | DDC 940.54/8173-dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016019849
1 2 3 4 5 20 19 18 17 16
Pearl Harbor and Bataan
Training Camps
North Africa
V-E Day and After
Alaska and the Aleutians
Southwest Pacific
Central Pacific and the Philippines
The Ryukyu Islands and Japan
After V-J Day
Here are the voices of fighting Hoosiers , the women and men who served overseas in World War II. Their letters home range from sophisticated insights to the tiny details of everyday life. They wrote of planes over Pearl Harbor whipping down on us with the red sun of Japan on each wing tip, of the Normandy beaches and hedgerows-simply a bad place, and of the kamikaze attacks off Okinawa where they just sweated it out. Here are firsthand, moving accounts of war. 1
World War II was the bloodiest war in human history. Letters home tended to be positive and hopeful, yet through them, twenty-first-century readers can still glimpse the brutality, which was not reported in newspapers at the time and was not always present in later public memories. There are vivid descriptions of the dead, including friends and comrades, and laments of rain and mud, cold and heat, the weeks without a change of clothing, the weariness of combat. Often it is the small things that stand out, as when Ernest Ellett told his parents a month after Nazi surrender that he was now gaining back the twenty pounds lost in combat.
Most of these writers were young, homesick Hoosiers. Many had not traveled outside Indiana, and their longing for family and home runs deep. I ll bet I m the only person in Decatur who has flown across the Atlantic, Jim Christen wrote from North Africa, as he asked his mother for news from the little old town. Jim Rosenbarger regretted that he had not received a copy of the Corydon Democrat since arriving in France. 2
Ordinary details of living fill the correspondence. Writers often mentioned food. Hubert Kress wrote that he couldn t stand to look at another can of Spam but also admitted he was part of the best fed army in the world. This Clay County farm boy expressed his astonishment at seeing Italian farmers eating dark bread and washing it down with wine. 3
One reason soldiers picked up their pens was to encourage responses from home. The mail they received was an essential morale booster in an age before long-distance telephones and electronic communication. 4 Complaints about not receiving letters were commonplace. Frank Woltman grumbled about slow mail but admitted that he had received twenty-three cards and letters in the two weeks after Christmas 1943. The American military was keenly aware of the importance of mail and worked hard to speed the flow. Improvement came with V-mail, short for Victory Mail, a process that photographed letters onto reels of microfilm. The reels were flown quickly overseas, where they were printed onto photographic paper and delivered to recipients. War propaganda posters encouraged home front and overseas correspondents to use V-mail and to write frequently. They did-soldiers received more than a billion V-mail letters.
While some letters were written in the voice of a loved one talking quietly in the kitchen or front room, censorship stood in the way of frank conversation. I can t say anything about our engagements. The censor would just mark it out, Vernon Hobbs Jr. wrote from the Philippines to his parents. From the South Pacific, Charles Putnam Jr. lamented that he couldn t write anything at all except, Hello, I m fine, goodbye. Military men and women also self-censored not only to meet regulations but to spare loved ones the worst of horrors. Even love letters were often restrained. Writers also seldom noted instances of bad behavior by Americans. Historians now know that life overseas included drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, crime, and frequent use of profanity, with chickenshit and the f-word commonly deployed. These features of war were only hinted at, as in Red Cross volunteer Mary Sinclair s comment that there were many wild raucous youths in the army. A leave to liberated Paris tended to elicit racy observations. For instance, Karl Price reported seeing nude female dancers in a city that holds honors when it comes to immorality. 5
There were traces, too, of Hoosier modesty. A. Ebner Blatt s description of parachuting with the 101st Airborne on the night before D-day was straightforward and full of telling details, though he did not boast of the genuine heroism and courage that we now know marked the Normandy landings. Similar was Kathryn Snyder s humorous description of abandoning a sinking ship with fellow nurses who used their helmets to bail out the lifeboat.
Mixed with the minutiae was the sense that these young Hoosiers knew what they were fighting for. Gee, but I m glad I m an American, Laverta Baldwin wrote from India. Their patriotism often included a hatred of war. Many developed a deep bitterness toward the Japanese and Nazi enemies, though writers sometimes distinguished between Nazi leaders and ordinary German soldiers: pretty much like the soldiers of any other army-flushed in triumph, bewildered by defeat, wrote Charles Bailey, who received a Silver Star for action at the Remagen bridge. The strongest feelings came from those who encountered the Nazi SS who were simply killers, those captured by the enemy, and those who liberated the German camps. Dimly glimpsing what we understood later as the Holocaust, Myron Burkenpas wrote his father a description of bodies piled high. That smell, Dad, is something I will not forget soon . I don t tell you folks everything, he continued, but I m not exaggerating . Tell the boys at the shop what it is all about. 6
Some of the letters have sophisticated literary qualities. That s certainly true of the two examples of Ernie Pyle s writing included in this volume. World War II s greatest American correspondent penned a superb sketch of Tommy Clayton from Evansville with the accumulated blur, and the hurting vagueness of being too long in the lines, the everlasting alertness, the noise and fear. Ordinary writers sometimes came close to Pyle. 7
The Indiana War History Commission gathered and published these letters as part of a cooperative endeavor organized in 1942 by the Indiana University Department of History and the Indiana Historical Bureau to explore sources of both military and civilian life. The commission s work is an outstanding example of contemporary history that looked forward to the needs of future generations. Letters from Fighting Hoosiers , the original title of this collection, is one of ten volumes the commission planned and was the first to be published. It has the most enduring value, along with Max Cavnes s The Hoosier Community at War . 8
The commission editors, Howard H. Peckham and Shirley A. Snyder, began with solicitations through Indiana newspapers. They received some 3,500 letters and selected 131. They chose to exercise a free hand in editing ; that is, they cleaned up the writing. With living wartime memories all around them, it seemed wise to minimize

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