Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Letters From The Front - Part I

     Every once in a while I read where people discover old wartime letters.  These letters can provide insight into the lives and thoughts of soldiers and their families.  There are a few projects whose purpose is to save wartime letters. See The Center for American War Letters (CAWL)  &  The Legacy Project.
     My parents saved letters that they had written during World War II, however these letters somehow got destroyed when my mother passed away.  I was extremely upset to learn of the fate of the letters. 
     So last week was I surprised when I received an email from Rick Platt, opened the attachment, and found images of three letters written by my father to his sister Dorothy.  (Dorothy is Rick’s grandmother.)  A huge amount of gratitude goes out to Rick for sharing the letters with me.
Below is an image of the first letter followed by a transcription and some notes about context.

23 May 1943
Dear Dorothy,
     Sorry I haven’t written more but I figure you and Everett are getting to read my mail home & I don’t write many letters.  There is not too much to write about.  
     How do you like the picture of Diane by now?  I sure wish I was home with them.
     Some day I’ll be able to tell you what all we’ve been doing here in Africa but for now I have to keep quiet. The place reminds me of Calif. but not enough to make me feel at home.  We might (?) be going elsewhere soon.  We’ll get to see a lot of the world I guess before we get home.  Everything you see though makes you want to see the U.S.A. again ( ?).         Love, John

Notes:  My father, Lt. John B. Armstrong, had departed from Norfolk, Virginia with the 3rd Division on Oct 24, 1942.   Dorothy Armstrong married Everett Naylor two days later.  John had left his wife and young daughter in Southern California, while Dorothy and their parents were in Ohio.  In early November the 3rd Division took part in the invasion at Casablanca.   Earlier blog on this topic.
    By the time he wrote this first letter on May 23, 1943, his unit had moved east and was in the region around present day Skikda, Algeria (along the coast, just west of the border with Tunisia).
     He couldn't tell where they were going next, if he knew, for security reasons.  We know now that they were preparing to invade Sicily in early July.  
     My father referred to a picture of Diane who was about 2½ years old at the time. This picture of Diane may be the picture he referenced.

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