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Letters to Loretta: Preparing for the inevitable

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81mm M1 mortar training
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 listen to Kaitlin’s radio interview about the series here or visit her website here.

As the weeks drew on, Harold and Jack pushed through their assigned classes and training. New Orleans was on an even higher alert than before, with the military stationed to defend against any impending U-boat attacks as the two friends made their way west to Seattle. In the meantime, Harold continued to write his letters home to Loretta, the only static in his current wave of uncertainty.

He was scheduled to go to gunnery school; he was determined from the beginning to engage in groundwork and repairs on the B-17, what he affectionately referred to as his baby. But it looked like as each day passed, and as tensions grew, more men were needed to operate weaponry. This conflicted Harold. He knew what he had signed up for, and God only knew he would do anything he had to do to protect the ones he loved.

From the great Pacific coast, just beyond the Boeing factory, Harold found himself pondering how much Seattle reminded him of home. The salty sea air poured over him and brought back memories of Seaford, the lake house, the weight of Loretta’s hugs. He would do anything for her. Along with Jack, these two boys from Jamaica, Queens kept up the good work. They were going to become tech sergeants.

B-17 repairs in WWII
USAAF performing maintenance on a B-17 Flying Fortress in Manston, England. (World War Photos)

October 17, 1942

Friday night

2:00 am

Dearest Soldier,

Good evening or shall I say good morning. The reason I am writing so late is due to the fact that I was gabbing over the coffee pot. Mrs. Aub and Virginia were here. Both of them are looking very well. They both were asking for you and wishing you well.

As usual, I was two to ten tonight. They are giving out furloughs so I got tomorrow off, pretty good eh! Perhaps I might stop up and say hello to Bob and Irene. Irene has been pestering me to come up but I never got the chance.

I got your card from Seattle today. Tell Jack I said thanks for the kiss he put on the card. “Your Baby” is beautiful. That plane certainly looks enormous. You must certainly feel proud to actually learn what makes it run, etc.

Tomorrow is confession again. The priest must know me by now. Every other week I say the same words. I enjoy going to church especially for the October devotions. John Harrington was given a Rosary by the priest at the Great Lakes. He’s so proud of them.

You seem to be making out very well with the course you have taken. You certainly deserve a lot of credit for having no complaint after being in Mississippi. Jerry wanted to know if you were out of there yet.

Did you visit your Uncle John’s sister yet? That should be interesting to meet a person like that.

Well, my sweets, be good and remember that you will be forever my only love.

Your very loving,

Loretta   xxxxxxx

P.S. Good night dear! I love you.

P.P.S. My regards to Jack and may the two of you keep up your good work.

Related: Letters to Loretta: Heading for certain death on a Nazi train

(Courtesy of author)

What words could Loretta have possibly had to repeat over and over in confession? It could be that she had a vain desire for her beloved home beside her, and not traveling across the country to prepare himself for the inevitable.

Loretta at times felt like the lady in waiting, and as the daughter of a strong Irish policewoman, that feeling was foreign to her. She understood somewhere – she had to have known – that her correspondence with Harold and his brother was crucial for both of them, not just herself. Loretta was the hub for the twins, and who was she kidding? She’d wait as long as needed. She would write letter after letter, and receive the very same in return, to read the scrawling of her love in his own voice and collect each parchment like recordings. Stories, sonnets, small talk – it didn’t matter. Touching the page was touching Harold. Sleepless nights and late-night gabbing with the girls was just part of the job.

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Kaitlin Oster