Editor’s Note: Sandboxx News presents a World War II series by Kaitlin Oster on the power of hope, letters, and love in seeing us through the terrors and agony of war. You can read the other installments here, listen to Kaitlin’s radio interview about the series here, or visit her website here.
Harold rested his eyes as the train pushed on towards Jamaica Station, New York. The ride down to Keesler Air Force Back three years earlier was so uncomfortable; he recalled not being able to close his eyes for more than an hour at a time. Harold thought back on the kind porter (what was his name again?) who told him about counting sheep. This time, though, he fell right to sleep. He dreamed about Loretta, and his mother — and Arthur his twin brother. There were so many things to do, and so many people to reunite with. He wondered if they all had changed a lot in the two years since he was gone. He also wondered if he had changed a lot. He knew he had put on a good 10 to 15 pounds since his transfer back to the United States, but he felt different; not bad, just different.
When he woke shortly after his dream, Harold crawled over to the window in his car and watched outside as the trees danced in place with the help of a November breeze. Autumn was always so beautiful on the East Coast, and it looked just like he remembered it. The hues of the leaves seemed brighter, though, as if he was viewing them with a new pair of eyes. His bones no longer ached the way they did in POW camp. He thought about how nice it would be to crawl into bed next to his wife and have her be the only person he would be obligated to share a bed with until the day he died. In his final letters home, the anticipation of holding her sparked a passion that was deeper than anything he could think of. It was beyond a physical desire, rather, a spiritual need to be with her. She waited for him all this time, and he wanted nothing more than to be with Loretta. It was finally happening — they were going to finally get the little cottage; the Stork was going to visit and bring them babies; he would wake up to the cleansing air of salt water every morning. Harold couldn’t wait to share those moments with Loretta.
Related: Operation Rype: That time when American agents wanted to hijack a Nazi train and blow up everything on its path
Harold felt unable to breathe as the train drew closer to Jamaica Station. His insides jumped around, his heart raced — his eyes began to well up. He needed to hug and kiss Loretta first, he decided. Then, he would see his mother and father. Then, he would go home and have a hot shower. Then he would sleep next to his wife. Then, he reasoned, they would wake up and go have ice cream and coffee. He would tell her to take a week off of work, maybe a month. She had probably already taken a week off work, he thought. He remained in his seat although every ounce of him wanted to jump out the window of the slowing train and run the rest of the way to her.
The train had barely stopped moving when Harold stood. There was a thundering of feet through the cars of all the other men like himself eager to get home to their loved ones. The steamy smell of Jamaica Station crept through the open windows and Harold felt re-energized. His pace quickened as he carried his rucksack haphazardly on his shoulder and side-stepped his way towards the exit. Once his foot was off the train and onto the platform he immediately began to scope the area for any trace of Loretta. He felt panic in his stomach that she might not recognize him — or he her — although she sent him photos and they were married he was so overwhelmed with the crowd he feared more than anything to miss her again.
Related: Letters to Loretta: A series into the power of humanity to persevere during war
It was as if the seas of people dissipated. Everyone began breaking off into groups with their respective soldiers and that was when Harold saw her. There may as well have been a spotlight on his beautiful Irish bride as she stood on the platform in a tea-length dress, hair curled and brunette, purse clutched tightly in front of her. Her shoulders dropped in a sigh of relief when she saw her husband — the love of her life — stand before her. Harold ran to Loretta and dropped his rucksack to the side as she jumped into his arms. She wrapped herself tightly around the back of his neck. He felt smaller, but strong — still strong enough to lift her off her feet. They held onto their embrace for what felt like forever — the fear of losing one another again was still too strong. He let her down and they kissed. Loretta cried and laughed and Harold did the same.
The moments after his return were bittersweet once Harold entered his mother’s house and learned of Arthur’s death. Irwin looked down at the floor. The family, however, thought the best thing to do was to wait for Harold to be home to hear the news of his twin. “He died a hero, Ha.”
May 10, 1945
My Darling Wife;
Again I will make an attempt to write a letter that is more than a jumble of words, yet I feel I will fail for my thoughts are confused and I’m afraid to arrange them in an ordinary fashion lest I wake and find my looking glass made of steel. My darling, I’m happy – happy beyond words of expression yet the slightest glance at my face would prove to you that which I am incapable to express otherwise. Believe me, then doll when I [say] an old Army saying, “I never had so good.”
My health is good and the only medical treatment I’ll need is to have my teeth fixed. All other ailments are well taken care of by my diet. In approximately two weeks I’ll be home with you… the thought of home doll gives me the shivers of joy and I feel my patience is, at last, giving out. I love you doll, I want you doll, and I need you doll to make my happiness complete. I’m hoping that our 2nd anniversary will see us on our 2nd honeymoon.
Today I cleaned up and once again feel like an American soldier; my friends say I look like one too which makes me proud and happy. The food I’m getting is excellent, and in many cases the best I’ve eaten since July 30, 1943 (Damned if that makes sense but you know what I mean). I believe I’d better wind this up, I can no more write now than I can cry.
Please inform me of the condition at home. I would like Eleanor to phone, telegraph, cablephone, or send by pigeon all details of Arthur as soon as I hit the States.
That’s all for tonight doll, I’ll see you in our dreams.
I love you.
June 2, 1945
My Darling Wife,
I hope to achieve in this letter that which I so unsatisfactorily failed to accomplish yesterday; our anniversary. What a mess I made of that letter but as I said, it was dark thus making it difficult to write clearly. At present, I’m in the Red Cross tent where there are lights, but should this letter fail to express my thoughts then I’ll attribute it to the overcrowded conditions. It is difficult to write and listen to about 8 guys talking at once. Not to mention the G.I. sharing my chair. Now that I’ve made my excuses I’ll proceed with what I know will turn out to be a “dud.”
Upon completion of yesterday’s letter, I resumed the horizontal position. I hit the sack to dream of you dear while the ink was still wet on the words I had written “I love you sweet stuff.” When I get home, remind me to retrace those words in ink so we’ll have no misunderstanding later on. Honey, let me repeat “I love you,” love you more than life itself, for without you I do not live. T’was but the thought of you (deliciously alluring) that has been my food of preservation for the last two years. My survival can be attributed to knowing someday I’ll again be with you; forever and a day. I love you Doll.
Well anyhow, I hit the sack, or better still “I hit the bag.” You see sweets, I have a sleeping bag. It’s quite the thing too, comfortable, cozy, and warm. It is however, difficult to turn and it was even more difficult to maneuver around last night cause I had my sweety with me. I dreamed of you Doll, I do so very often, but last night was something special. Gee but I love you Doll.
Well, I don’t have it anymore. If it’s not too much trouble, I wonder if you can pick me up another. I’ll certainly appreciate it and what’s more, I’ll give you a big hug and squeeze (that’s extra of course). Now that I think of it Doll, I’ll have you hugged and kissed within an inch of your life. I hope you’ll be able to take it.
My precious jewel I’m going to leave you now so I can dream of you. My imagination carries things a bit further than I’ll ever be able to put on paper. See you in our dream.
Good night my love.
I love you always.
Love, Ha xxxxxx
How did our wedding pictures turn out; pretty as a picture?
October 2, 1945
My Darling Wife,
I love you more than lots honey. I miss you very much. I’ve been trying to find out the story about discharge but am unable to get anything definite. The latest flash is a rumor about discharging all ex P.O.Ws. I hope they release me soon, Doll, cause I’m anxious to get started on a lot of things. There are a lot of xxxxxxx I have to collect. I love you my baby doll.
I went to the show last night and saw “Love Letters.” A very good picture with remarkable acting. Tonight I saw “Abbott and Costello in Hollywood” which I enjoyed a lot. After the show Doll I had a “Grape Soda” and came back to my barracks. When I finish my (this) letter I’ll go to sleep and dream of you.
See you in my dreams darling, at Our House. I love you lots and lots.
I love you whole lots. Nite now.
I LOVE YOU
x More Love x
Feature Image: American troops returning home. (Creative Commons)
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SSgt YEPES says