- So Long for Now: A Sailor's Letters from the USS Franklin by Jerry L. Rogers
A new book that centers on the correspondence of World War II servicemen appears every few years. These works are always welcome in the field, as each addition expands the availability of primary sources, but each is executed with varying degrees of success. In So Long for Now: A Sailor's Letters from the USS Franklin, Jerry L. Rogers produces both a rich historical resource and a touching legacy to his late brother, who perished in service on the USS Franklin in 1945.
The framework of the text is primarily a series of correspondence between U.S. Navy sailor Elden Rogers, his mother, Grace, and his sweetheart, Virginia. These letters will prove to be interesting and valuable to historians who focus on World War II and will undoubtedly be used as primary sources in other works. The narratives included before each letter provide some insight into the persons and events being discussed and help the reader understand the full context of the messages. Additionally, Jerry Rogers's thoroughly researched book is a pleasure to read. Rogers invites readers not only to become intimately acquainted with his family and his hometown of Vega, Texas. This work also highlights several aspects of war that are often omitted in works of this sort, including local pressures to serve in the military, the value of fraternity in war, and the significance of leadership. Likewise, home front issues of transportation, work, [End Page 241] rationing, and genuine worry for friends and family abroad are skillfully woven into the narrative.
As readers come to feel they know the Rogers family via the text, the true significance of Elden's untimely death on his nineteenth birthday while fighting aboard the USS Franklin comes through--something sorely missing in many military history works. For military historians, composing a work that makes the deaths of millions in war affect readers can be a struggle. This book successfully does that. Rogers's extended narrative explaining the aftermath of Elden's death also reveals the important ways a military death can continue to affect a family for generations.
So Long for Now is an impressive work in which the research fills large gaps left unanswered in the letters themselves. Rogers's diverse sources, which includes correspondence, oral histories, autobiographies, familial remembrances, local newspapers, and military records from the National Archives, makes this book relevant to a wide variety of scholars and readers; it should be a must-read for anyone interested in Texas history, World War II, or naval history.