Words cannot express how important those who serve our country are.
Their courage and determination have guaranteed the freedoms we enjoy.
This year, I am especially moved by and thankful for all that these
men and women do. They will never be forgotten.


 

Every Era has it's Heros

In every American war from the Revolution to the Persian Gulf War, military men and women captured the horror, pathos and intensity of warfare by writing letters home. Many of them were still teenagers at the time. Taken together, the letters form an epic record of wartime events. Read individually, they reveal the deep emotions of people in the midst of a unique -- and terrible -- experience.

Featured here are excerpts from some of the letters in Andy Carroll's book, War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, dramatized in the American Experience film. Read each excerpt to find out more about the letter writer, and what happened to him or her at the end of the war.

Letter
"Myself and eight other Negro soldiers were on our way from Camp Claiborne, La., to the hospital here at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. ...We could not purchase a cup of coffee at any of the lunchrooms around there... As you know, Old Man Jim Crow rules. But that's not all; 11:30 a.m. about two dozen German prisoners of war, with two American guards, came to the station. They entered the lunchroom, sat at the tables, had their meals served, talked, smoked, in fact had quite a swell time. I stood on the outside looking on... Are we not American soldiers, sworn to fight for and die if need be for this our country?"

Resolution
Trimmingham had been very religious until the incident mentioned in the letter. After the war, he worked as an electrician, repairing sewing machines for Singer, and married a librarian. He died in 1985.

 

Rupert Trimmingham; Date: Letter to <i>Yank</i> magazine, published April 28, 1944; Rank: Corporal; Home: Brooklyn, New York (emigrated from Trinidad, via Wales)
Rupert Trimmingham

 

Letter
"With my Pearl Harbor plates on I had the right of way and I was out there in nothing flat. ...I hurried up to the Surgery and already the casualties were pouring in... It was hell for a while. These poor devils brought in all shot up and burned. Many of them hopeless. We gave them plenty of morphine and sent them out in the Wards to die. The others we patched up as best we could..."

Resolution
When the war ended, Spangler headed to the Philippines on a Navy hospital ship to bring back POWs. Then he started a private practice in Portland. Two years later, he returned to the service and finished out his career as a Navy doctor. When he retired, he went to Asia on a hospital ship, the Hope, and later became a prison doctor in San Luis Obispo. He took up running at age 67, and was an avid competitor until he died at the age of 95, racking up 85 national running records for various age groups and distances.

 

 

Paul E. Spangler; Date: December 17, 1941; Rank: Captain; Chief of surgery, Pearl Harbor naval hospital; Home: Portland, Oregon

Letter
"Jan is snoozing in her afternoon nap & Jay is dragging himself blearily about trying to keep awake. He hardly even takes a nap anymore & is really ready for the sack at night... I think it is high time you are coming home because Jan is beginning to call every man she sees in a magazine 'Daddy'."

Resolution
Duquette's plane was shot down; he spent 587 days as a North Korean prisoner of war. This letter was returned unopened to his wife, Louise. She only found out he was alive after 19 months had passed, via a radio broadcast of the names of released POWs. When Duquette was repatriated, he'd lost 70 of his 170 pounds, had a stomach-length beard, and suffered from a number of diseases and ailments as a result of his ordeal. Duquette continued his career in the Air Force. He returned to Korea in 1998, to visit his son John, a lieutenant colonel in the Army who was stationed in Seoul.

 

 

Norman Duquette; Date: January 20, 1952; Rank: Lieutenant; Home: Plattsburgh, New York (Norman); Traer, Iowa (Louise)

Letter
"...the acres of little shelter tents are dark and still as death, no wonder for as I gazed sorrowfully upon them, I thought I could almost hear the slow flap of the grim messenger's wings, as one by one he sought and selected his victims for the morning sacrifice... Oh northern mothers wives and sisters... would to Heaven that I could bear for you the concentrated woe which is so soon to follow..."

Resolution
After the war, Barton went on to found the American Red Cross.

Clara Barton; Date: December 12, 1862 - 2 o'clock a.m.; Rank: Nurse, Army of the Potomac; Home: North Oxford, Massachusetts
Clara Barton

Letter
"Busy, Busy, as all hell -- Been moving constantly -- Excuse brevity -- I love you -- you make my foxhole warm and soft..."

Resolution
Diamond had proposed to his girlfriend, Estelle Spero, while on a temporary pass home in 1943, a year after he'd volunteered for the army. They never had a chance to get married. Diamond was shot in the stomach in the Philippines in January 1945, just over a week after writing this note, and died ten days later. He was 22 years old.

Sidney Diamond; Date: January 19, 1945; Rank: Second Lieutenant; Home: Bronx, New York
Sidney Diamond

 

Letter
"Being a good platoon leader is a lonely job. I don't want to really get to know anybody over here because it would be bad enough to lose a man -- I damn sure don't want to lose a friend... But as hard as I try not to get involved with my men I still can't help liking them and getting close..."

Resolution
Four days after writing his wife, Allen stepped on a land mine. He died three days later.

Dean Allen; Date: July 10, 1969; Rank: First Lieutenant; Home: Pompano Beach, Florida
Dean Allen


 

 

 

Letter
"...Last night one more Marine died. No one will ever hear or care about it except his parents and us... His name was Corporal Lee Clark... He didn't deserve dying in a damn country not worth fightin' for. ...He had about 38 days left in the Marine Corps and in Viet Nam. 38 days to start living again, to see the world, and home... It makes you wonder."

Resolution
Eight months later, Daniel was killed by a sniper. He was 19 years old.

Stephen Daniel; Date: August 9, 1968; Rank: Lance Corporal; Home: Waco, Texas
Stephen Daniel

Letter
"A year ago today I was sweating out shells on Anzio Beachhead -- today I am sitting in Hitlers' luxuriously furnished apartment in Munich writing a few lines home. -- What a contrast. -- A still greater contrast is that between his quarters here and the living hell of DACHAU concentration camp only 10 miles from here. -- I had the misfortune of seeing the camp yesterday and I still find it hard to believe what my eyes told me..."

Resolution
Evers took time to write home while he and his men were setting up a command post in Munich. Finding themselves in the apartment of Adolph Hitler, they discovered some sheets of Hitler's personal stationery. Evers wrote home on this stationery, gold-embossed with an eagle, swastika, and Hitler's name at the top. When he returned home, he resumed working for the U.S. Postal Service. For years, he never discussed the war with his family, but when his parents passed away and he received a number of his old letters in the mid-1990s, he assembled albums of his experiences in the war. His collection includes a love letter he sent home to his wife, also on Hitler's stationery.

 

Horace Evers; Date: May 2, 1945; Rank: Staff Sergeant; Home: Riverhead, Long Island, New York
Horace Evers

Letter
"November 11th 1918 will always be remembered by yours truly...At 10:45 the order came to cease firing... That was absolutely the happiest moment of my life. The rest of the day little groups of smiling Germans came up to the line with tobacco and wine..."

Resolution
Palmer returned home after the war and played for the Western Reserve University football team.

Lloyd Brewer Palmer; Date: November 15, 1918; Rank: Lieutenant; Home: Cleveland, Ohio
Lloyd Brewer Palmer

Letter
"I'm coming home! It's official as of this morning. ...That little house is going to look like a palace to me. ...Is it true some people eat three times a day, or more? And they sit on a chair, by a table. What's the matter, can't they dig a hole in the backyard like everybody else? ...There were times I would have traded my soul for a drink of cold water, or a cup of hot coffee. But I am coming home now. Chuck isn't. He's listed M.I.A. If he's on this side of the line I hope he makes it. If he's on their side I hope he's dead. He'd wish the same for me. ...I am going to tell you now. You'll need a lot of patience with me. Patience, and, understanding. We all will."

Resolution
When he returned from Korea, Puntasecca was stationed in Lewiston, New York. At a local YMCA dance one night, he met a woman from Niagara Falls. They got married a month before Puntasecca was discharged. He went to work in his father's construction business, and started a family. He has two children and three grandchildren.

 

Al Puntasecca; Date: November/December 1952; Rank: Private First Class; Home: Hackensack, New Jersey
Al Puntasecca


Letter
"Dear Sir, For twenty two years I have carried your picture in my wallet. I was only eighteen years old that day that we faced one another on that trail in Chu Lai, Vietnam. Why you did not take my life I'll never know...Forgive me for taking your life, I was reacting just the way I was trained..."

Resolution
Luttrell wrote this letter and left it at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. along with the photograph he'd kept. In March 2000, Luttrell travelled to Vietnam to meet with the daughter of the man he met on the trail in Chu Lai.

Richard Luttrell; Date: November 18, 1989; Rank: Specialist Fourth Class; Home: Rochester, Illinois
Richard Luttrell


Letter
"Men fought to kill, to maim, to destroy. Some return home, others remain behind forever on the fields of their greatest sacrifice. There was a war, a great war, and now it is over."

Resolution
Plush was honorably discharged from service on February 15, 1919. He returned home and homesteaded property in the coastal mountains. He married in 1923, planted apples and raised turkeys on his ranch, and died in 1956 at age 63.:

Lewis Plush; Date: February 3, 1919; Rank: Lieutenant; Home: Pomona, California
Lewis Plush

Letter
"We were all kneeling in among some bush, and every one of us could not refrain from casting a glance at the dying man who lay there trembling in every limb and the blood spirting from his nostrils and the wound in his forehead. In the heat of action such scenes do not much affect one but at a time like this it is awful indeed."

Resolution
Embree survived the war. He joined his father's law practice and worked there until he died in 1877.

David Franklin Embree; Date: February 3, 1862; Rank: Captain; Home: Princeton, Indiana
David Franklin Embree
 

Letter
"We were all subjected to several different kinds of [gas] today, with and without masks... It sure is horrible stuff, honey."

Resolution
Lukert was wounded in France, but he did return home to his wife. He spent 36 years in the Army and was a regimental commander in World War II.

Ed Lukert; Date: June 18, 1918; Rank: First Lieutenant; Home: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Ed Lukert

Letter
"For the Nth time, thanks for your package. Please don't send me any more underwear, socks or candy...This week they are teaching us to kill... I know how to break any hold or grip and throw a man flat on his face -- They even teach us how to scientifically stomp on a man.... Confidentially, I'm tired."

Resolution
Elevitch fought under Patton in Germany. He sustained serious injuries from mortar fragments, and was hospitalized for six months. Under the GI bill, he went to college and graduate school after the war. He lived in Europe through the 1950s and 1960s. A writer, professor, and traveller, he published 3 books of fiction. He also founded a magazine, First Person, that featured personal narratives, including letters and diaries.

Morton D. Elevitch; Date: November 23, 1943; Rank: Private; Home: Duluth, Minnesota
Morton D. Elevitch

Letter
"Take a combination of fear, anger, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, disgust, loneliness, homesickness, and wrap that all up in one reaction and you might approach the feelings a fellow has. It makes you feel mighty small, helpless, and alone... Without faith, I don't see how anyone could stand this."

Resolution
This letter, sent to his younger brother from Anzio, Italy, was the last one Curtis would mail home. Three days later, as the Allies approached Rome, he was killed.

Paul Curtis; Date: May 28, 1944; Rank: Private; Home: Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Paul Curtis

 

WASHINGTON (Nov. 8) - For 20 years now, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has 
helped heal a war torn nation and inspire tributes to other victims of tragedy.

The 58,229 names of those killed or missing in the war from 1959 to 1975 - all inscribed in black granite - 
are being read aloud over four days to help mark the memorial's anniversary.

Michael Milan's uncle, Army Pvt. George W. Milan of Atlantic City, N.J., is among those names.
 His should be read sometime this weekend.

Pvt. Milan was 22 when he was killed. His death came before his nephew was born.
 The wall bearing his name went up when the younger Milan was only 9.

Still, Michael feels a connection to his uncle and the service he gave his country.

``He's the reason I went into the Army,'' said Michael, a specialist from Evansville, Ind., 
as he used charcoal to rub his uncle's name onto paper in the blustery hours 
Thursday before the name-reading began.

``This memorial makes it permanent, what they went through,'' Milan said. ``
As long as this wall is here, people know what these soldiers fought for. They will know what they died for.''

The recitation of names is part of the healing process that designer Maya Lin envisioned when 
she sought to build a memorial that would separate the nation's political divisions over the war 
from the human loss that resulted.

Its V-shaped arms were intended to draw people together at a quiet spot that dips below 
ground-level where, she hoped, people would grieve for those lost.

The past and present, Lin said, would meet on the shiny surface, where the chiseled names 
of the dead would mingle with the reflections of living visitors.

``This was something that gave Americans the license to mourn publicly,'' said Jan Scruggs, 
founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund that is sponsoring the anniversary events.

A concert Wednesday was followed Thursday by a ceremony that opened the name-reading 
at the memorial. That endeavor was expected to take 65 hours over four days,
 ending at midnight Sunday. Veterans Day will be observed there a day later.

The names form the structure's emotional centerpiece. Inscribed in chronological order of death, 
they make the war's cost personal. First listed is Army Maj. Dale R. Buis, 37, 
of Pender, Neb., one of two killed July 8, 1959. 
The last is Air Force Lt. Richard Vande Geer, 27, of Columbus, Ohio, 
one of 18 who died May 15, 1975.

On any given day, people leave notes, flowers and other trinkets. Someone left a can of beer
 Thursday, in a tribute to a soldier lost. Many make charcoal name rubbings to take home.

As a teenager in California, Carolyn Squires wore a bracelet bearing the name of 
Air Force Col. Stanley Scott Clark, even though she had never met him. On Thursday,
 she stepped back from rubbing his name and marveled - at the time passed, the expanse 
of names and the unexpected feeling of being soothed by the sight of the wall.

``I was angry for a long time because when they came back, people treated them badly,'' 
Squires, now 45, said of returning veterans. ``But now they are being honored.''

The memorial has inspired the creation of others, such as one across the Potomac to 
the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.

Choosing six finalists last month from some 1,126 entries, the Pentagon memorial's jury was struck 
by some familiar characteristics in the designs - quiet gathering places, visitor interaction, 
the inscription of every name.

``We began to realize what a powerful effect or influence the Vietnam Memorial had on our thinking,'' 
said jury member Terence Riley, chief curator of the department of architecture and design at 
New York City's Museum of Modern Art. ``It has changed everyone's thinking about what a memorial is.''

 

In Memory of my Dad Vernon Stuart
1915 to 2000
USMC

In remembrance of those We've loved
who have left this life. they shall always
live on in our hearts...

Candle

                                                           

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