When You Come Home
A Wartime Courtship in Letters, 1941-45
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Foreword: World War II Detroit
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The war began one Sunday when we weren’t expecting it. By Monday the kids in the neighborhood and I had already begun to plan our role in the coming conflict. In December 1941 I was eleven and living with my parents and two brothers in an upstairs flat on Lycaste, on Detroit’s southeast side. When bombs were falling on the American warships in Pearl Harbor ...
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“It could be a true test of our love.” Marianne’s voice was strangely muted, as though she were pondering the awesomeness of such a long separation. Twelve months apart seemed like an eternity. For both of us. We had been “going together,” as they say, for only a few short weeks. And now this. I had been directed by the draft board to report ...
1. Basic Training
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Guess what, honey. I’ve been assigned to the infantry! I had found some ink at the post exchange and could begin sending Marianne real letters. To use a pencil would have been “banausic,” I wrote. (That was one of Harold Basilius’s favorite words of deprecation.) I was sure she would be as disappointed, as I was. I knew also that she would send an ...
2. Pearl Harbor
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The United States will do “everything in our power to crush Hitler and his Nazi forces.” This was Franklin Delano Roosevelt speaking as he addressed the American people on Labor Day, 1941. The same week Herbert Hoover, also in a radio broadcast, countered that the German dictator would be destroyed by the “vicious forces” within his own ...
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On January 6, 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to the U.S. Congress. “The militarists of Berlin and Tokyo started this war,” he said.“But the massed, angered forces of common humanity will finish it....Let no man say it cannot be done. It must be done, and we have undertaken to do it.” During the month that followed, the Japanese...
4. The Old CCC Camp
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July 6, 1942, Marianne wrote about her summer job: You remember that I had turned down an offer from a camp in Cheboygan, because I knew you would be coming home on your furlough? Well, when I got back from California I had a call from the director of the camp, asking if I’d consider a summer job nearer the city. It’s the Methodist Children’s Village, and it’s on Six ...
5. A Corporal’s Duties
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From the CCC camp, January 1, 1943: Here it is, the start of a new year—the second that you and I have been apart. And even though we are apart again, the prospects of being together look better all the time. Twelve months ago both of us made resolutions, mostly to write more often. And though we had our difficulties there, as I go through the stack of your letters to reminisce ...
6. The ASTP
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From Dearborn after the second furlough, July 11, 1943: Here we are, honey, taking up our correspondence again. I hope you will forgive me for doubting, but before you came home this time, I wasn’t sure about us. I was afraid our love was getting to be—it’s hard to explain—sort of apathetic. Just a lot of words. And that hurt very much. I know now that I was ...
7. A Wedding in the Offing
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Settling in, October 2, 1943: It’s a Saturday morning and the end of my third week of school. Well, almost the end. I have a class this afternoon, but after that I’m free. Utah is playing Fort Warren in football this afternoon, and I am going to go. Like you, I now have a home-town team to root for. I don’t know how good Utah is as yet, but they’re probably better than Wayne, ...
8. A Dream Realized
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January 1, 1944, from Marianne in Dearborn: I’m sorry I haven’t written you for the past few days, but I’ve been busy as two bees telling people about our marriage-to-be and planning for it. I told your folks the news on Thursday when I went out to your house. Your mother seemed more surprised this time than when I told her of our engagement. But they all said it was about ...
9. Preparing for Combat
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During the first months of 1944 the Allied nations began to reverse the fortunes of war. In January Soviet forces lifted the German siege of Leningrad, and in the Pacific theater American marines attacked and occupied the important Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands. In Italy units of Mark Clark’s Fifth Army made landings at Anzio to ...
10. Weeks of Uncertainty
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From Camp Bowie, September 2, 1944: It’s hard to realize that you are gone from me, dear, and that once more we will have to rely on our letters and an occasional telephone call. And it seems strange to be spending my freet ime in camp, and in the barracks. I had become so accustomed to rushing “home” to Brownwood every time I was off duty, and being with you prac-...
11. The ETO
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In the last months of 1944 German resistance toughened, as Allied armies threatened to invade the Homeland from the east and the west. At this point Adolf Hitler ordered one last, desperate tactic, totally unexpected by the Allied generals, a counterattack in Belgium to drive a wedge between the British and the Americans, and to recapture lost ...
12. Life on a French Farm
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Gadding about in France, February 17, 1945: I’m late getting started this evening, because I was writing to my mother, and then I was interrupted by the rest of the squad coming noisily into our little barn. They had gone out earlier on a night patrol to see if they could capture a chicken for our pot. Sgt. Peters had scouted around the area and identified the most likely place to ...
13. The Last Days
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Moyenvic, France, March 22, 1945: As I write this short letter, I can see all around me the rubble of war. The Germans were here once, but now they are miles away, across the border, leaving destruction and enmity behind them. And the nearest American troops—the First and Seventh Armies, according to Stars and Stripes—are somewhere in front of us. The population here is ...
14. Winding Things Up
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From Germany, May 9, 1945: The war in Europe must really be over—officially and in every other possible way. We’ll be standing reveille in the mornings, and this afternoon we’re having both rifle and person inspections. By the major, no less. And yesterday an MP stopped our jeep to see if we had a trip ticket. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had to start polishing our ...
15. The Final Days
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Chicago, August 28, 1945: I’m writing you from the USO at the Union Station while waiting for the train to Camp Grant. We were due here at nine, but were 40 minutes late for some reason, so I’ll have to take the 11:30 p.m. train. I’m OK—or I should say, not too late. Since the war is over, I don’t think anyone will get upset by just a few hours. I’ve talked here with ...
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In early November 1945, back once more at Wayne University (present-day Wayne State University), I enrolled in two special classes, put together for the veterans, as well as two more German classes that were already close to the midterm exam week. In addition, the university awarded me a semester’s credits for having served in the Armed ...
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The reader will be rightly disturbed to learn that after I completed this book, I made a sudden decision to shred all the original letters on which it was based. At the time, we were renovating my study, and on the first day the builder pointed to the largest pile in the room and said, “Get this trash out of the way, and we’ll save you some money.” Obviously, ...
Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2007
Volume Title: N/a
Series Title: Great Lakes Books