The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 11, 2004

Features

Letters home from the troops in World War II

With so much talk of war these days, it seemed a good time to share with you a collection of letters in the archives of the Carlisle Historical Society. The letters, dated from 1942 to 1945, were written in response to packages sent by the Carlisle United Service Committee to local men and women serving in World War II. Headed by George H. Nobbs, a Spanish-American War veteran and active member of the community, the Committee provided Care packages for those on duty in the U.S. and overseas. The packages contained articles like soap, candy, and cigarettes — things soldiers were grateful to receive during the difficulties of training or in the dangers of a war zone. But it was the fact that the package had come from home that was so meaningful to these servicemen and women. The thanks they expressed was in response to the articles, but far greater was their gratitude for a little piece of Carlisle received at a base far from home. (All letters are transcribed exactly as they were written.)

It is with mingled feeling that I begin this letter, for your package arrived yesterday, quite as a surprise. Indeed, any package from Massachusetts, and particularly Carlisle, is the occasion for a quick breath, and feverish opening. Yours, likewise, was truly set upon, and may I here say that it symbolized one of the nicest gestures that has ever befallen me.

Frits A.S. Winblad, Lt. (19) DC-V(G) USNR

November 1942

They were stationed everywhere. From rural Carlisle they were sent across the country and then around the world. Letters are postmarked from bases in Laramie, Wyoming; Victoria, Kansas; Miami, Florida; San Francisco, California; Gulfport, Mississippi and many others. The soldiers had names we recognize from town affairs: Wilkins, Currier, Lapham, Malcolm, Lovering, and Ricker among them. Their ranks ranged from private to captain and they served in various branches of service in the air, on the ground, and at sea.

We have all been classified as pilots, bombadiers, or navigators now (I had the good fortune to be classified as a pilot) and are waiting for an opening in some pre-flight school to begin training.

Larry Lunt
December 1942

I would like to relate my present activities, but due to the fact that I am now in a combat zone there is little I can write due to existing censorship regulations.

Corporal Horace N. Ricker
January 1944


And their letters could indeed be censored. One, from P.F.C. Lafayette "Fay" Currier, was written on American Red Cross V-Mail and includes a place for the censor's stamp, although all the letters in the collection are intact.

Not all of the service people were men. Several Carlisle women served, including Priscilla A. Currier, Doreen I. Young, and Margaret Gauthier. Margaret, a member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, wrote:

I was greatly envied by the girls in my barrack as they said I must feel like a real soldier with the good people of my community sending me a Xmas parcel! This is a marvelous organization and I hope that I shall prove a good soldier and serve my country well.
I must ask you to please not publish this letter in any paper as it is contrary to our rules.
Aux. Margaret Gauthier
November 1942


The letters vary from the simplest "thank you" to the work of a more creative writer, somewhere in Burma:

We are quartered in one hundred percent, well, ninety-five percent, at least, bamboo bashas: bamboo uprights, rafters, ties, woven bamboo mats for the walls and roofs- the latter covered with thatch- the doors themselves turn on bamboo hinges, that is: there's a joint of the stuff stuck in the ground and another tied to the wall above the opening to hold the vertical length of bamboo on the hinge side of the door. The shacks themselves are tied together with strips of the stuff. The camp is one of many hacked out of the jungle on a road to Mandalay, and along the stream behind the motor pool are tracks of all kinds of deer, of cats and of monkeys; along the road in front there is an endless stream of vehicles, pack animals, cavalry, and even an occasional elephant.
Private Charlie L. Little
February 1945

Or this observation from Horace N. Ricker:

Not much to tell about this place, except that coconut, rubber, and palm trees will never take the place of New England oak and pine.
January 1943


Charlie Little was prophetic when he wrote in February of 1945:

I don't expect that you'll be giving out gifts next year, we'll all be home long before Christmas.

And he was right, they were. Of the Carlisle residents who served in World War II, all came home but one. He was Louis A. Rivard, an orphan from Lowell who had lived with the McAllister and Kierstead families as a foster child. Rivard, a flight crew member, went down on a training flight off the East Coast. The wreckage was never recovered.

The real meaning of a gift from home was thoughtfully conveyed in these lines from Private Joseph Beaudette in December of 1943:

It makes a soldier want to fight all the harder when he knows down inside his friends are thinking of him.

Or these from Frits Winblad, written in November of 1942:

Again may I reiterate my appreciation for your gift. Since time immemorial man has tried to avoid oblivion, or of being forgotten. To know that the folks back home think of us who are in the service makes one feel swell. Thanks a million.



2004 The Carlisle Mosquito