What I Learned From World War II Love Letters Between A Soldier & His Girl

Photo: Courtesy of the author
World War II Love Letters Between A Soldier & His Girl To Honor Veteran's Day

Veterans’ Day cannot go by without me thinking of my Grandpa Charley.

He was a sweet, quiet, cigar-puffing Archie Bunker look-a-like with the whitest hair and bluest eyes you ever did see. Yes, my dad got to be Meathead, but this isn’t about him.

My grandfather wasn’t a big talker unless you were sitting with the men arguing politics, which I was not.

I knew he was a proud and active veteran of the U.S. Army who served during World War II.

I knew he had been stationed somewhere in Europe, as part of a unit that backed up the men fighting on the front, fixing their equipment as needed and essentially tossing them back into the field.

I knew he hated cheese so much that when the only rations available included cheese sandwiches, he not only gave away the cheese, he even cut away any portion of the bread on which he saw some of it stubbornly remain.

I knew he adored my Grandma Mary and that she was the light of his life. And she knew it too, right up until the very end.

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When he passed away, my grandmother invited us over to choose from old pictures and memorabilia before she threw it all away. There I uncovered a pile of perfectly preserved love letters they had exchanged after they first met.

He had left Europe, stopped home in NYC, met her while he was there, and then continued on to Camp Hood in Texas to await further orders.

Their letters span the period of August through November 1945, during which time she turned 21 and he was about to turn 22. They married shortly after and stayed happily together until his passing.

These letters are, for me, pure magic.

Each had separately kept every letter they received from the other in pristine condition, his having been sliced open precisely across the top and hers look like they must have been steamed open at the seam.

Her letters contain the adorable ramblings of a teenage girl in love, frustrated by “grown-ups these days,” and closed with a perfect kiss pressed in hot pink lipstick.

His contain rundowns of his routine at the base, support for the stories and events she shared — a lot of information about bridal showers and her friends’ latest dramas with their respective beaus — all interspersed with “I love you I love you I love you!” in between every 4-5 sentences.

Here are the 10 pearls of wisdom the priceless love letters between a solider and his girl toward the end of WWII gifted me.

1. Men — even men at war — have as much love to offer as women do.

If you think of men in a stereotypical fashion, you might expect the sappy side of their love letters came from my grandmother, but my grandfather's letters positively dripped with affection and warmth for his beloved.

2. Men in love — even men in love while at war — are capable of communicating as much vulnerability and empathy as women.

My grandfather didn't hesitate to fill every letter with his hopes, fears and dreams, both for their future as a couple and for our country.

While most of his letters were hand-written, he took the time to type a more formal missive on April 13, 1945, the day after President Franklin D. Roosevelt died.

3. There is no better way to open a love letter than with an enthusiastic “I love you!”

While some may wait to say I love you until the end of a letter, my grandpa couldn't wait to say those words, opening his letters with phrases like these: “Hello Honey! I love you!” and “Hello me darlin’ — I love you very, very, very much!”

4. You can never tell the person who means the most to you that you love them too often.

“Mary," he wrote, "I am sure I told you before, but I don’t think you are getting bored, if you do let me know. I love you! I love you! I love you!”

5. It is never too early to respectfully share financial decisions and information with someone you plan to spend your life with.

Regarding whether they should plan a trip for her to visit him, my grandfather made sure to fill my grandmother in on the details of his thinking.

“I have four hundred dollars in the bank, but that wouldn’t last long, the way living expenses are pegged around an army camp. Of course, I’ll be drawing about fifty eight dollars a month, but this month I owe…”

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6. Love and respect for each other’s family is of paramount importance to a lasting bond between lovers.

“(I was awfully blue) my dad and the rest of your family took the train to Freeman St. like I told you over the phone Friday morning," my grandfather shared. "Your mom invited us up to your house for supper since we had…”

And regarding the same idea of their planning a trip for her to visit him, he wrote: “Mary, what about the money angle on coming down to Texas, you know it is pretty expensive, and what would your father say?”

7. You can never use too many positive adjectives when telling your love how much you appreciate them and a gift they have given you.

On my grandma's side, she made sure to let my grandfather know how proud and appreciative she was of him.

Speaking about her engagement ring, she wrote: “… and all the girls thought the ring was beautiful, lovely, gorgeous, out of this world, stunning ad infinitum (whatever that means)…”

8. Supporting each other in even the most seemingly inconsequential moments builds the layers of trust and intimacy you will need later to support each other through the hardest times.

After what must have been a somewhat garbled phone call, my grandpa wrote: “…and it was wonderful hearing your voice even though you couldn’t hear mine very clearly. I was really shouting but as long as you heard me say I love you the rest was unimportant.”

9. Your grandchildren will want to know who you were. Tell them. Or even better, show them.

While holding onto your old love letters may sound like hoarding to some, I think even Marie Kondo would agree they not only spark joy for you, but that they will continue to do so for your family for generations to come.

My grandma (holding me) and grandpa (with my brother)

10. You can never go wrong with hot pink lipstick kisses.

Dedicated with love and kisses to my beautiful, lovely, gorgeous, out of this world, stunning ad infinitum Grandma Mary, who just recently passed away, and to my brother, Major Mark Koransky, MD, and my uncles, Steve Koransky and David Turchin, also veterans of the U.S. military.

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Deputy Editor Arianna Jeret, MA/MSW, is a former family law mediator and recognized expert on love and relationships. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN, Bustle, Parents and more. You can follow her on Twitter.

This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.