World War II Letters: A Glimpse into the Heart of the Second World War Through the Eyes of Those Who Were Fighting It

World War II Letters: A Glimpse into the Heart of the Second World War Through the Eyes of Those Who Were Fighting It

by Bill Adler

Writers from twenty Allied and Axis countries are gathered in this unique collection of letters from servicemen and -women to their friends, families, and sweethearts. World War II Letters gives an unbiased look into the lives of those who served throughout the world-in Europe, the Pacific, Northern Africa, and Asia-and gives an intimate and honest portrayal of


Writers from twenty Allied and Axis countries are gathered in this unique collection of letters from servicemen and -women to their friends, families, and sweethearts. World War II Letters gives an unbiased look into the lives of those who served throughout the world-in Europe, the Pacific, Northern Africa, and Asia-and gives an intimate and honest portrayal of their experiences.

Wide ranging in scope, World War II Letters includes writings by officers and infantry, nurses and doctors, pilots, POWs, those injured in action, killed in action, and those reported missing. Introductory biographies and photographs vividly capture the letter writers' lives before, during, and after the war.

The writers of the letters in this powerful collection express their own views of "the enemy," give their impressions of countries far away from home, describe battle by land, sea, and air, and recount war's atrocities and its rare humorous moments. Ultimately, World War II Letters provides a revealing and unforgettable journey through the war of the century.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Here are two of a growing multitude of works collecting letters written home by military personnel. (Thank you, Tom Brokaw.) One must bear in mind that, unlike diaries, such letters were heavily censored for content, purged of such information as descriptions of battles or current or future locations. Thus, as shown by literary agent Adler's work, they are not always scintillating reading. Written home during World War II by soldiers, nurses, pilots, and doctors from over 20 Allied and Axis countries, the letters collected by Adler are often without much emotional content; descriptions of scenery, customs, local foods, and weather predominate. A few are truly interesting pieces, like the letter from a nun describing what it was like living through an atomic bomb attack. Nevertheless, the work does give the feel of what soldiers' letters were like during wartime. All told, a readable volume but not a necessary purchase. Lowenherz (The 50 Greatest Love Letters) has collected letters written by politicians, soldiers, and civilians in all American wars from the Revolution to Afghanistan. He has chosen well. A letter from Abraham Lincoln defends his Emancipation Proclamation, General Sherman defends the evacuation of Atlanta, and even John F. Kennedy's famous carved message on a coconut is included. This excellent sampling is recommended for all public libraries. (Both works include photographs of the letter authors, when available.)-Richard Nowicki, Emerson H.S., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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World War II Letters

A Glimpse into the Heart of the Second World War Through the Words of Those Who Were Fighting It

By Bill Adler, Tracy Quinn McLennnan

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2002 Bill Adler Books Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7005-1



The Battles


Born on May 19, 1920, in Battle Creek, Michigan, Lt. Col. Louis Laun of New York was a headquarters battalion quartermaster in the Fifth Marine Division of the U.S. Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Laun was part of the first group of Marines to arrive in Japan when the bomb was dropped. He was a captain on Iwo Jima when the following letter was written, but he served as a reserve officer, not a career officer, for the war only. He was advanced one grade after his retirement in 1950. Lt. Col. Laun received the Bronze Star for his service. He later participated in the occupation of Japan. After the war, he worked in marketing as head of Labor and Public Relations for Bates Manufacturing Company, as advertising director of Burlington Industries, and as president of the Celanese Fibers Marketing Company. In the government, he was deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration from 1973 to 1977, a member of the Executive Committee of the Grace Commission on Government Waste, then assistant secretary of commerce for international economic policy. He was president of the American Paper Institute, the trade association representing the pulp and paper industry, from 1977 to 1986 and a member of the Helsinki Commission from 1986 to 1989. He is now retired and serves on several nonprofit boards and as a volunteer consultant for the National Executive Service Corporation. He currently lives in New York.

12 March 1945 Iwo Jima

Dear Marion, Eben, Jimmy, Debbie, and Eben Jr. —

Greetings from Hot Sulfur Springs, Iwo Jima. This is to report that this particular member of the family is still present and accounted for after a thrilling three weeks on this fascinating island. Am sorry to report, Jimmy and Debbie, that I have yet to get that Jap I promised you, but have certainly had the dubious pleasure of being potted at by many a Nip who must have promised his cousins in Japan the same thing. So far the score is even and neither of us has had any luck.

The cards I am enclosing were mailed to a couple of the members of this ill-fated garrison, and I thought that anybody in the family who is currently running a stamp collection might like them.

This has been a miserable battle for both sides-the Japs have an interlocking series of defenses consisting of thousands (I'm not kidding) of caves supplemented by hundreds (and I'm still not exaggerating) of pillboxes and blockhouses. Our division's engineers have already blown up over 600 caves in our zone of action alone. They hide up in these rocky spots with plenty of food, water, and ammunition, and can't be dislodged by anything but the individual Marine crawling in. Artillery, bombs, and rockets seem to have little effect, and tanks can't operate in the rocky terrain. Grand spot. The Marines on this island fought a superhuman battle and the Japs one that is super-superhuman. I've never seen anything like the determination of these enemy troops. We're all praying for a banzai charge to get them out of these holes where we can get at them. Until we do, the campaign will only make more secure its already unchallenged record as the bloodiest in Marine Corps history.

Have been more scared, more mad, and more tired on this operation than ever before in my life. Have had many a close call from snipers, machine guns, mortars, rockets and artillery, but so far have succeeded in ducking the right way. My warrant officer got killed here about ten days ago which hurt pretty much-the infiltrating Jap sniper carries a knee mortar now rather than a rifle and they've harassed us seriously. Have had many interesting times moving supplies up to the front of the battalionat one time got a little too eager and ran a jeepload beyond our lines, which is a story I'll tell you sometime. Everybody is doing all he can and I know we'll finish this up as soon as it is humanly or inhumanly possible. Without tooting our own horn, my hat is really off to the Marines in this one. I doubt, however, if this island will be completely cleared out of enemy for a month at the least, due to the abundance of places to hole up in, and these Nips are just masters at it. We take very few prisoners, and the ones we take are either unconscious, or so badly wounded that they can't kill themselves, or out of food and water and crazy. They just don't surrender, no matter how great the odds are against them.

Well, I guess I'll catch up on my beauty sleep-hope we get off this dusty rock of sulfur flames soon — that bottle of champagne you're saving would look pretty good right now. Room service is lousy on this place, and with the water shortage I've not bathed since Feb. 18 and have shaved twice. Yoicks — I look like something out of Mauldin.

Best luck to you all-my best to the Ruhms — and Happy Birthday Eben.

Love, Louis

Rottenfuehrer (Squad Leader) Erik Andersen was a Danish volunteer in the Eleventh SS Freiwillingen (Volunteer) Division, "Nordland," named to reflect the Scandinavian heritage of its volunteers. His nephew, Kris Dunn of Florida, who contributed this letter and translated it from the original Danish, says his uncle was born in 1923 in Thisted, Denmark, a small rural town on the Jutland Peninsula, and became a farmhand who "wished to have a life of adventure and glory with the SS. At the time the SS was not seen in a bad light; they were considered to be an elite unit, fighting against international bolshevism. Back in those days Communism was seen as a definite enemy. The Nazis who were in power in Denmark were very socially forward thinking in trying to eliminate the class differences in European societies that were dominated by the aristocrats. They had just fought a successfully orchestrated campaign in the west against Norway, France, and the Netherlands, etc. The Danes basically let the Germans. conquer their country in four hours. So here we have this young man breaking his back on a farm in Denmark, [and] he made the decision to join the SS because it looked good-they had sharp uniforms, good equipment, slick advertising, etc. He went off in late '41 and wanted to go to war with the Russians, who he thought posed a threat to Western civilization." This letter was the last one the family received. Rottenfuehrer Andersen was never heard of again. His nephew says that it is presumed that he died in Narva because of the big battle there but that the family has been fruitlessly searching for nearly thirty years for the facts concerning Rottenfuehrer Andersen's fate.

March 17, 1944

Dear Mother, Father, little Elsa, Per, and Karl,

I am sorry for not writing these last few months. We have been really busy with the Ivans. We are doing fine, it is tough, but we are holding them back. We know that this is a temporary situation to lure them out of the lair and then later on strike the beast at the neck in the summer months. We have the Tiger tanks and some Panther tanks and they are virtually unstoppable; the Ivans have good equipment but no trained crews. I know we will be knocking on the gates of Moscow later this year. The Ivans are real savages; they have no respect for life or death. Out on patrol the other day we came across a body that was mutilated, butchered and shamed; this is nothing new to me, but this time it was somebody I knew from training camp. They will pay for their destruction. Hitler has promised us that the war will turn real quickly with the wonder weapons. No matter how many tanks and artillery pieces the Ivans have, we know that we are better trained, more logical, physically superior and mentally superior to them. They cannot win this war; I know because we kill so many of them they must be running out of reserves real quickly.

Good news. I was promoted to Rottenfuehrer (Squad Leader) 4 weeks ago. I am very proud of my accomplishments and am happy that the SS has placed the trust in me to lead my men into victory. This is really a big step for me in my career, I know.

It has been a little over 2 years since I have been gone, but I feel like I have really grown up very quickly. I miss you all so much especially you, Else; you just turned 6, I know, and I am sorry I could not have been at your birthday party. I know Mom and Dad did something very special for you. I just want to tell you that when I get home I want to celebrate the birthdays that I have missed.

How is everyone? I heard that Karin married some grain merchant in Copenhagen; that is a shame; she was the sweetest girl in town. I was hoping to sweep her off her feet when I came back, but it looks like I won't be doing it anytime soon.

I never thought I would say it, but I really miss Denmark; this country [Estonia] is so damned cold, flat, and very war torn. Denmark is really a land of milk and honey. I was able to tell you earlier of the destruction I saw when I went to Berlin from the American and British bombers. It was truly depressing. I don't understand why they are hurting fellow Aryans like that. Don't they know that there are people fighting and dying here against the Red Wave of Bolshevism so they can keep their society intact? It really angers me that they are not helping us against Stalin. His own people don't even like him.

Well, Mom and Dad, I know you are doing a good job raising Per, Karl, and Else. Please don't worry about me. The war should be over by Christmas, when we get more tanks and aircraft here. The Ivans keep trying to break us, but they will not succeed; we will prevail. When the campaign is complete, I can't wait to be back home with you all. I love you all. Say "hi" to my friends and tell them that I am doing fine, though I sorely miss them.

With love, Erik

Cpl. ClydeA. Richards was born on a farm near the northeast Missouri town of Canton, 150 miles north of St. Louis on the banks of the Mississippi River, on December 7, 1913. He served with Patton's Third Army for the U.S. Ninetieth Infantry Division, 358th Regiment, Company D, Second Platoon, as a machine gunner. His unit arrived at Utah Beach two days after D day. They were involved in a fierce battle at the Merderet River, just outside Chef DuPont and Picauville, France, from June 10-12, 1944, in an effort to secure the river's bridge. There Corporal Richards suffered shrapnel wounds to his back and neck. In the following letter, he writes home to his parents four days after his injury from his hospital bed in Lancashire, England. He returned to his unit on July 20 and was wounded again on November 16. After the war, Corporal Richards returned to farming in 1945, then became an independent insurance agent and real estate broker in 1950. He owned this business until he died at his home in Canton on October 17, 1990. Corporal Richards and his wife, now deceased, were married at Camp Barkeley, Texas, on July 31, 1943, and raised a son and two daughters. The son, Norm Richards of Missouri, contributed the letter.

Dear Mother and Dad:

This is a wonderful day in England-back in England where I can rest and have a chance to get well again.

The past week seems more like a wild dream now than the real thing. It all seemed to start so sudden and it ended the same way.

I was hit by shrapnel Sunday, June 11, on the front lines in France. It struck me in the back along the shoulder blades and one piece struck behind my right ear.

Please don't worry about me for I am not seriously hurt and when I recover I will be in just as good health as ever. I am one of the lucky ones. After the shells stopped landing on us, of the dead and wounded ones, only two of us were able to walk back.

I can't tell you just where I was, but we were doing a good job. I have been in some of the hardest and bloodiest fighting over there and we never stopped going forward. The boys are still doing the same thing. The Germans are desperate, hard, dirty and good fighters, but they can't even come close to stopping us. They don't have the guts it takes.

I don't have much paper today, so can't write much. Oh, yes. As you can see by the address, I'm in an English hospital. They treat me swell. Don't worry about me, I will soon be okay.

Love, Clyde

Drafted into the U.S. Army in February 1942, when he was thirty-two years old, Pfc. William Pellicore served in the infantry for Gen. Mark Clark in the Fifth Army for four years from Africa through Italy. Private First Class Pellicore's nephew, jeff Caracci of Iowa, who contributed his letter, says: "While in Italy, Bill was terribly distressed at seeing the devastation and the poverty and hunger of the Italian peasants. He would gather up whatever food, especially large quantities of Spam, which the soldiers detested, and would distribute it to the families along the way. Bill also tried to deter the artillery from using church steeples as targets for shelling. On more than one occasion Bill would say, 'If you do shell the church, when you enter the village, the people will hate you instead of welcoming you with open arms. Instead, why not use the crossroad intersection in that area, and you will thus avoid, not only the destruction of the church, but the deaths of innocent people as well."' This letter was written to Private First Class Pellicore's younger brother, Ray Pellicore, as he got ready to go on his tour of the Pacific. Ray Pellicore would later serve as a medical officer on a patrol torpedo boat in Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Borneo. Private First Class Pellicore was one of six brothers who served during the war.


T/5 WM Pellicore 36321685
Hqs. 77 FA., APO 464
C/o Postmaster, New York

February 17, 1944

Dear Ray,

I got your ten-page effort a couple of days ago. It represents the best thing you have directed my way since the president sent his greetings. I suppose now that you've written yourself out we'll have another interval of silence.

Did you know that in foreign theaters the government, to keep down V.D., sponsors prostitution? Also, along the highway in [illegible] you see signs like this: "Women who invite borders create social disorders — take a pro." Since I've been in the army, I can tell you that I have been a Trappist in my glandular life.

The account you gave of your medical service was certainly vivid and complete. I think you can safely say that that the average doctor in two years of general practice doesn't get the variety you obtained in your internship. This background will stand you in good stead as time wears on. Do you suppose after you have completed the required additional three months they'd permit you to take the State Board? They might if they knew you were slated for overseas duty. Why not make inquiry? And while I'm on medicine, how did you get your assignment to the Cook County Hospital?

The days that lie ahead, Ray, are going to be for you the happiest and most fruitful you ever imagined, so make the most of it. We're proud of you and the record you have made. Give everything you do the best you got and success will be assured.

As I write this I'm in a rest center near [censored] for five days of relaxation-actually three when you deduct traveling time. This is where we get a complete change of clothing, and, what is more important, a hot shower. Because we have been so active, only five from our headquarters were able to make it this time. Our gun batteries sent many more. We had been expecting to be pulled out of the line and the whole regiment rested in one operation, but this arrangement eliminates that possibility. However, I prefer it this way. This is no heroic stuff, but it does seem strange not to hear the blast of cannons, shells exploding, machine guns clattering, and the eerie roar of the "screaming meemies," the German six-barreled mortars called Nebelwerfers. (I just re-read this last sentence. What would Nicholas Murray Butler say about the construction: awkward and clumsy?)

Since I've been here I have had a look [censored] and a few other historical and cultural spots. A sight I shall never forget is the [censored] constructed in recent years to replace an older church on the same site. We have a number of Italian churches in the states called the Church of [censored]. I'm not certain, but the Virgin was supposed to have appeared here, and a number of miracles have been wrought. I don't have the space to tell you about the church. Words can't describe its beauty. Mass there was conducted as you hear it celebrated in the states — as I saw it in Sicily and Africa.


Excerpted from World War II Letters by Bill Adler, Tracy Quinn McLennnan. Copyright © 2002 Bill Adler Books Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Bill Adler is a writer and literary agent who lives in New York. He is the author and editor of four New York Times bestsellers.

Bill Adler is a writer and literary agent who lives in New York. He is the author and editor of four New York Times bestsellers.
Tracy Quinn McLennan is a writer and editor who lives in Boston.

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