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Letters to Loretta: 4th of July brings no happiness to the American prisoners

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American POWs WWII in Philippines
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.

July 5, 1944

My Doll,

It’s in my heart, on the tip of my tongue, and at night, it forms on my lips, I love you. I miss you doll, more than I can say.

Time is going fast, for when the weather permits, I’m outdoors playing ball, and on “rainie” days I read. I would like a few best sellers. Yesterday’s sport events were excellent; the main event being a softball game between the North and South. After a 10-inning struggle, the North won with a score of 3 to 2. I’m looking, these days, for mail containing a picture of you. Although, I see you in my dreams, it’s not enough. I’d enjoy seeing you during the day. That’s about all for the time being, my love to the family and regards to all.

The hamster wheel continued for the men in the overcrowded barrack of German POW camp Stalag XVII-B. For them, there was no celebration of freedom on the 4th of July, 1944. No fireworks, no singing or music. Sure, a couple of friendly jibes were passed through the wires to the Limeys close by, but whatever shred of optimism the American prisoners held onto ended at the moment the lights went out as the men filed in two-by-two to their shared straw beds and empty stomachs.

Related: How one ill-advised radio transmission doomed the Bismarck

American soldiers near Utah Beach in World War II 2
American soldiers near Utah Beach marching through captured German positions. They are supported by a Sherman tank. By July 1944, the Allied armies were advancing in Western Europe. (Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie /Archives Nationales du CANADA)

As morning rose on July 5, 1944, the friendly competition between North and South brought further fleeting encouragement but which would then lead to an eventual low at night. Harold certainly felt the days pass by with a speed he wished reserved for the previous winter, but there was no use in dwelling on the past. This war couldn’t last forever.

He lay in his bunk and was transported through memory to his mother’s crowded kitchen in New York during the summer of 1936. Eleanor, his big sister, was seated at the counter with water, fresh from the tap, condensation trickling along the outside of the glass. How Harold would give anything for a glass of tap water at the camp. Eleanor turned up the radio as it reached the local doughnut store jingle.

“Keep your eye on the doughnut and not on the hole.“

She told him it was a life lesson, but at 16, he didn’t want to heed his big sister’s advice. Harold instead went out into the New York heat wave, on an afternoon that felt endless, intending to go to the local playground in search of his twin, Arthur. Instead, he found Loretta, and his brother found him.

Related: The Welbike – A motorcycle for Nazi-killing British paratroopers

Letters to Loretta
Harold’s July 5, 1944 letter to Loretta. (Courtesy of author)

July 22, 1944

Dear Doll,

Another note to tell you I love you and miss you more than words can say. Each minute is packed with thoughts of you, which makes the time seem to go much faster.

I received another cigarette parcel – March to May – yesterday, and am looking forward to getting my food parcel. Many thanks.

My activities of late consist of basketball, about 4 games a week, and baseball of which I average about 4 games a week. Tomorrow, Sunday, I’m playing 3rd base for our All Star Team. It should prove to be an interesting game. On rainy days, I catch up on reading. I’m still OK honey and I’m hoping you’re having some fun and enjoying good health. That’s all for now sweet stuff.

Regards to all, and Always Love Ha

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