By Terry C. Misfeldt
If you are writing a memoir, whether it is your personal history or that of a family member, a great resource can be found in correspondence from that individual.
I always wondered where my father was stationed in the U.S. Navy during World War II. I remember hearing him say something about Norfolk and Brooklyn but never knew when he was there. When one of my daughters told me to look through some recycling, I was shocked to find letters my dad had written to my mom during the war years.
They were rather mundane but provided insight to his military service as an Electrician’s Mate, 2nd Class. What I also found in that box of letters were letters from my uncle who was also in the U.S. Navy but saw combat in the Pacific theater. He was assigned to a minesweeper and provided a snapshot of his service in letters home.
In a letter dated February 13, 1945, my uncle wrote: “Censorship rules have been made more lax and we can tell anything that’s happened up to the last 30 days. The biggest event was the invasion of Saipan. I’ve been to Guam, Tinian, Makin, Eniwetok, and most of the Hawaiian Islands.” Earlier in that same letter he opened with: “I’m in the sick bay under observation for acute appendicitis. They don’t know whether they’re going to operate or not. I sure hope they do because I’d hate to have it act up while on patrol.”
His letter was not postmarked until February 16th. It was received by one of his older sisters in Chicago on February 22nd, 1945. I share this because it is precious information for my uncle’s five daughters who never heard about his war exploits until I have been able to share these letters with them.
Correspondence can be valuable in preserving history and sharing life’s lessons.