Editor’s Note: Sandboxx News introduces a new 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.
May 19, 1943
Received your letter of the 17th and must answer it immediately. I can’t call you up cause I don’t have any time – I’ve too much to say, so I won’t send you a telegram. Here’s the set-up – I’ll write and tell my mom about it today – I know she won’t want me to get married, but she’ll approve and we’ll get her blessings. How about your mom? I believe she’ll approve and hope to get her blessings.
The ring can be purchased when I get home, or, if you care to get it let me know and I’ll send you some dough I don’t know about an engagement ring; if you want one, we’ll get it when I get home. If not, we’ll get a very good wedding ring.
My furlough will begin in June, and I think about the middle of the month. I can’t give you an exact date now, but maybe later on I will. You can get ready in the meantime. You will have to get a blood test and I want you to do it soon. I’ll get my blood test here in camp. That way, we won’t have to waste time but I can get married right away. Where will we get married? I know in your church, so if you can pay the priest a visit and tell him about it, it would be appreciated. We can’t set a definite date yet. So everything will have to be taken care of at the last minute. Announcements will have to be sent (I think) and that will have to wait for the last minute. Sweetheart, as I’m writing, I’m getting more involved and things are getting complicated. I wish I could talk this over with you. I’m going to let you take care of everything. Not that I don’t have an interest or anything, but I think you will take care of everything perfectly. It would please me fine, and whatever you choose to do is approved by me.
Darling, I’m sorry, cause I wrote 2 pages and didn’t tell you I love you yet – I love you Loretta, I love you with all my heart and soul; and will love forever and a day. I’m crazy about you and the thought of marrying you next month is giving me chills and thrills, and already, it seems I’m living in a new world. Concerning Rock Hill, I’d love to go, but whether or not we will, it’s still to be seen. My dreams are going to come true next month. Honey I love you. I love you. Love you. Love you.
Harold told Loretta he’d marry her on a Tuesday if he had to, and he managed to take leave before heading to a base in Maine to wed her on a Tuesday — as promised. On June 1, 1943, Loretta officially gained the title of Mrs. Harold P. Schwerdt, and she couldn’t be happier about it. The ceremony was rather short notice, but beautiful, with Loretta picking a dress right off the rack and Harold donning his Army dress uniform. What a handsome couple, people would say about them.
Since Harold enlisted in the military, he knew that at any moment he would be sent off to fight the Axis powers. Artie, Harold’s twin brother, was already in the Pacific, fulfilling his own dreams. Harold hoped to use his engineering and tinkering skills to remain on the ground while in the Army Air Forces, but it was looking like he would be in the clouds in no time.
He had completed many of the required courses already, always eager to learn and improve in any field he found himself working — but a knot lingered in his stomach. If he was going to be in an airplane, he’d most certainly have to use a gun. And if he had to use his gun, he’d have to kill. B-17s were equipped with five .30 caliber machine guns. He knew he’d be in the thick of things up in a Flying Fortress. Harold had an unwavering love of country and a great amount of pride in being in the Army, and he resolved with himself — without worrying Loretta — that he was prepared to do whatever he had to in order to come home to his girl when all this was over.
Loretta, with very little time to prepare, ran to the boutique three blocks over from her house with Eleanor and one of her sisters.
“It just has to be white, I really don’t care otherwise.” Loretta quickly thumbed through hanger after hanger of dresses, looking for her size.
“Oh, hush! You want something that’ll at least look good on ya, Loretta! I won’t allow you to marry my brother dressed in rags.” Eleanor had two dresses — one in each hand — and held them out in front of her for her future sister to inspect.
“I like that one,” Loretta said. She grabbed the gown and took another one of her own.
“I’m just here to judge,” Loretta’s sister said with a smirk. Loretta gave a huff and went into the fitting room. The clerk followed her in and after about ten minutes both ladies returned, Loretta in front with her choice.
“Wow,” Eleanor gasped. “You look beautiful!”
Loretta gave a twirl, “Not bad for a gal grabbing a dress off the rack, huh?”
“I have to admit,” Loretta’s sister said reluctantly, “you look elegant, Rette. Harold’s a lucky guy.” She smiled. She was proud of her sister.
On the other side of town, Harold was rushing into the court offices.
“Yes, hello sir how may I help you today?” A secretary looked up at the man in uniform and flashed a pleasant smile.
“I need to marry my gal! Tomorrow!” Harold was breathless and eager. His leave was only slotted for a few days and he was desperate to exchange vows.
The secretary looked in her ledger and frowned. “I’m sorry, sir. It doesn’t seem like we have any availability in the next couple of days.”
“You don’t understand, ma’am. I have to marry my girl.” Harold pleaded with her to check again, but she was correct. There were so many soldiers and civilians coming through that court office to marry that they were positively booked.
“Excuse me, soldier. If I heard you correctly, you’re looking to get hitched?” An older gentleman in a tailored suit was walking out of the offices when he noticed the exchange between Harold and the secretary. He was a lawyer in the courts.
“Yes, sir. I really need to. She’s even buying her dress right now.”
“Hmm,” the lawyer began, “could you get married today?”
“Well gee, I think so. I have to go get her. You’re able to do that? Yes. Yes, I’ll marry her today.” Harold was resolved. Loretta wouldn’t mind the expedited arrangement; she wanted to marry him just as much.
“Alright then! Come with me.” The lawyer gestured for Harold to follow him back into the courts. “You! Don’t leave for the day yet. This soldier needs to get married!” He turned to Harold, “Now, son, you got all your papers? Got your blood work and tests done? You’re clean?”
Harold nodded. He got all his medical exams done the week prior on base.
“Perfect! Go get your gal!”
When he looked at Loretta on their wedding day — the woman he was in love with since he was 17 years old — all he could think about was being home with her, starting a family, living in a cottage, and enjoying life. There wouldn’t be a life to enjoy, though, he understood, if Hitler and his followers turned out to be victorious in this war. This sacrifice to be away from his love would be worth it in the end, he thought, to have a guaranteed peace and to serve his country at the same time. He just had to make it home again.
“I got the telegram to go to Bangor, Maine.” Harold sat at the kitchen table, his wife before him. He swirled a cup of coffee around in small, nervous circles.
“When?” Loretta knew this was an inevitable call. She just didn’t think it would be two days after she married Harold.
“Tomorrow, Doll.” Harold looked down, almost ashamed. He wanted nothing more than a few extra days with Loretta. He sat still and waited for her to react, or be mad.
“Well,” she began, “you better come home to me, Harold Schwerdt.” She smiled when he looked up at her.
“I love you. Do you love me?” Harold stopped swirling his coffee.
“Of course,” she replied.
Feature Image: Landing wheels recede as this U.S. Army Air Forces Liberator bomber crosses the shark-nosed bows of U.S. P-40 fighter planes at an advanced U.S. base in China. An American soldier waves good luck to the crew, off for a bombing mission over Japan. (National Archives at College Park)
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