Letters from the Greatest Generation: Writing Home in WWII

Letters from the Greatest Generation: Writing Home in WWII

Letters from the Greatest Generation: Writing Home in WWII

Letters from the Greatest Generation: Writing Home in WWII

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

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.

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.

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