You are about to read a letter that was written seventy years ago. To me it is a priceless document and a piece of history, both of my family, of my country, and the entire world. V-J Day was August 14, 1945. After suffering the devastating effects of two horrendous atomic bombs, Japan surrendered. World War II was over. There was relief and rejoicing in the Navy. Until I read this letter that was sent to my mother and grandmother by their former neighbor, I had never really comprehended how our servicemen felt when they received the news that they had lived through a seemingly endless war. What follows is a transcript of that letter. I have left out the addresses he gave and his name. Only the portions in brackets were not in the original. The rest of the letter is reproduced here, word for word.
15 August 1945
Your letter of the thirteenth (of July, naturally) reached me while we were in port, but I had liberty on the brain, so I didn’t answer it right away, as I felt I would have plenty of time out “here”.
Yesterday should have made you all feel a lot better. I can tell you for certain that it did me. There had been a couple of false alarms about the peace, but when it was officially announced, there was just something in the atmosphere that seemed to clear. I really felt a sense of relief. I was sitting in the office doing a little work – for a change – and one of the officers came in and told us and about that time they passed the word over the P.A. system. The ships sounded like a cell full of screaming Mimis. Last night in the compartment below us, the fellows were still celebrating long after the lights went out. But I think it’s something to celebrate.
The thing that gets me is that we had to be out here when it broke. We heard that the women in San Francisco were chasing the servicemen and kissing them. I’ll bet the men weren’t running very fast! It must have been very convenient finding yourself in the way of some good-looking blonde. Now I want the Navy department to put out some kind of discharge system – one that will include me. If dependents have anything to do with it, I’m going to find a widow with eight or ten children and marry her. I’m ready to return to [my home], the Jones-Sutton feud, the Hurley Chatter Hour. You’d be surprised how much I’ve missed those little things. I’m sorry that we don’t have better neighbors between us and [the other neighbors]. I wish that you had stayed down there. [My grandparents and mother had moved from their home next door to his to a new house my grandfather built.] But, there I’m only repeating Mom’s wishes. In about every three letters she states that. I’m going to promote the idea of Mom and I moving to a small house on the East Side of town, however, cause I’ll be there to drive her around, etc. – that is, when I get my new atomic-powered, plastic, convertible, station-wagon car.
How are you and your mother feeling these days? The day I get my leave I promise that I’ll make the second visit to you. The first stop, you can easily guess. We can have one of our long, famous bull sessions – it may be one-sided until you chloroform me, but that’s just something you’ll have to put up with.
[My brother] has sent me several pictures of his baby daughter, but they have always managed to hide her face in them. The last one I got was an enlarged snapshot – tinted – she was laying on her stomach with approximately a third of her eye showing. It was a grand picture of her rear end and legs though. One can see that she is a healthy baby, but I’m wondering if she’s as good looking as they say. If she looks like her uncle as you say, there’s no doubt of it. I like me. Who do you like?
You, too, should have a lot of time for reading. When we get things straightened up for a trip in, we have a lot of time to read, and we take advantage of it. I’ve read so many mysteries that I feel like I’m a criminal, so now I’m going into the humorous vein. If you haven’t read Strange Fruit, don’t. It’s not one of those humorous books that I mentioned I was reading. It is very prejudiced. I read about seven chapters and couldn’t go any further.
It’s just about time for chow. We should have a good meal today. We are having a holiday in celebration of the end of the war, so let’s hope that it will have some effect on the meal.
Write me when you have the time. It will take a good while for me to answer, as we don’t get mail too often these days. Notice the new rate after my name on the envelope. It becomes effective tomorrow.
[Your old friend]
When I was a little girl, my father, a sailor like his father before him, took me aboard the Battleship Texas. He taught me the horror for those on all sides of the war. If only no letters like this one will ever be necessary again. If only….
©Jill Teresa Farmer