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Dearest Letty

The World War II Love Letters of Sgt. Leland Duvall

Leland Duvall

Publication Year: 2011

Leland Duvall was a now-and-again farm worker with a grade-school education when he received his World War II draft notice at his father’s farm near Moreland, Arkansas, in March 1942. He departed for training in California, where he began to write to Letty Jones, a Pottsville girl he’d had a crush on for several years. From the first correspondence through the end of the war, Leland sent Letty a torrent of letters, hundreds of careful and undeniably heartfelt missives—utterly tender but never sentimental, reliably charming and gently humorous—written daily from desert sands, pup tents, hospital beds, armored cars, and bombed-out buildings. That Duvall’s writing is a tour de force of wit, elegance, and erudition is all the more poignant because he was a man who was almost entirely self-taught. The letters, discovered by Duvall’s daughter after his death, are here enriched by his longtime friend and colleague Ernie Dumas, who provides facts about where Duvall was and the perils he endured while penning his epistles, information that was often missing in dispatches that were necessarily censored and always guided by Duvall’s effort not to bore or worry his “dearest Letty.” Duvall’s lively intelligence and obvious joy in writing come through on every page, joining the patina of the era and the bright shine of a timeless love affai.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

Listing the credits for this book must begin with Nancy Gately, for it was she, shortly before her death in 2010, who recognized that Leland Duvall’s wartime letters had both literary and historical value. It came about this way: At lunch with other residents at the retirement home, Nancy heard her new neighbor...

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pp. ix-xviii

Leland Duvall was nearly thirty-one years old when his draft notice arrived at his father’s farm in the mountain valley near the hamlet of Moreland, Arkansas, in March 1942, three months after Pearl Harbor. While older men would be taken afterward, thirty-one was then the upper requirement for men to register for the draft. ...

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ONE - All's Fair

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pp. 3-128

When he was inducted into the U.S. Army in March 1942, Leland Duvall boarded a train at Little Rock, Arkansas, for Camp Cooke, California, a new post on a wind-swept mesa jutting into the Pacific Ocean 180 miles north of Los Angeles. Some nine thousand men converged on the camp in February and March to fill out the Fifth Armored Division. ...

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TWO - Waiting for D-Day

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pp. 129-158

By early December 1943, planning for the invasion of Normandy was well underway, although the great amphibious assault would not occur for another seven months. The Fifth Armored Division loaded its gear and headed for Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, which, although it was 150 miles from the Port of New York, was an embarkation point for the army. ...

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THREE - Normandy

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pp. 159-162

An armada of landing crafts left the port of Southampton during the night of July 25 and arrived the next morning on the Normandy beaches. Most of the armor and troops went ashore at Utah Beach, which had been made ready for the heavy equipment. The soldiers of Leland Duvall’s cavalry troop pushed ashore farther east at Omaha Beach, scene of the fiercest fighting on D-day. ...

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FOUR - The Siegfried Line

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pp. 163-182

With September came unrelenting rain, which turned roads and fields into gelatin and made progress by heavy armor nearly impossible. Throughout the autumn, gains by the Fifth Armored Division had to be measured in yards instead of hundreds of miles. ...

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FIVE - Christmas in a Snowy Woods

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pp. 183-218

The snowfall that inspired rhapsodies in Leland Duvall’s letters from the American West and New York turned into a curse on Germany’s western frontier in the winter of 1944-45. Snow would fall almost ceaselessly from early November through February in the coldest winter on record. ...

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SIX - To the Elbe River

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pp. 219-303

With the first stirrings of spring in Western Europe in 1945, the worst of the war was over, except for the German soldier. The catastrophic ending of the Battle of the Bulge sapped the last remaining ability and will of German soldiers to wage offensive war. For them, the only remaining questions were how much they could slow the Allied advance to Berlin and the collapse of the Third Reich, and at what cost. ...

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p. 305

Leland Duvall was separated from the army on October 18, 1945, at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. His train arrived at Russellville the next day. Letty Jones was on the platform to meet him and allowed the public kiss that he had insisted upon. They were married two weeks later. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781610754927
E-ISBN-10: 1610754921
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289766
Print-ISBN-10: 155728976X

Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 787842826
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Dearest Letty

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Subject Headings

  • DuVall, Leland, 1911-2006 -- Correspondence.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Western Front.
  • DuVall, Letty, 1920- -- Correspondence.
  • Soldiers -- Arkansas -- Correspondence.
  • Soldiers -- United States -- Correspondence.
  • United States. Army. Armored Division, 5th.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • Love-letters -- Arkansas.
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