History of World War Two Told Through Letters
My computer is back in hand and we can continue our time traveling!
Let’s take a trip back to the fall or winter of 1943. The last letter you saw was a heated one from the end of the war in 1945. In this letter Alex is still in training and based in Virginia.
Here I am at my new base. We arrived this morning early, and we’re terribly tired. Up till now we had work to do with our gear welcome speeches and being assigned to our company and barracks. Now I am very tired and won’t write lengthily.
Out of the men who came down a group of us has been selected for special training and instead the usual 4 weeks we shall remain here for 5.
I’ve been appointed as the captain for my crew. I hope I’ll do well. We are six in the crew among whom a former member of my old company at Sampson.
The place is a new one, formerly an infantry camp, and the navy took it over, the barracs [sic] are not so nice as the ones in Sampson. When we got here we all felt pretty bad because we were hungry, dirty and cold, but now I feel in much better humor because my good luck in having been assigned to the special training, which is an experiment for future sailors to follow if we make good.
This is my address:Alex Rosner S 2.c Gun Crew Polaroid #6 Arm guard School Camp Shelton Norfolk (11) Virginia
The officers treat us nice and usually ship out with the group, which they train, and are courteous. I think I like it. They give us here too some statistics which I am sure would make you feel good about us and the enemy.
Darling, I am very dull tonight because of weariness, so forgive me if I am not long in this letter. I am including a few lines which I jobbed [sic] down on my way but which I was prohibited from mailing from the train.
Tomorrow I’ll write again.My love to you my dearest sweetheart
A two-year jump is a big one in these letters. They read so differently. First of all, the war is still an abstract idea. Alex says he was told some statistics about “the enemy” which are encouraging. Alex takes pride in his appointment to captain of the gun crew, and they are still getting settled and hearing “welcome speeches” at their new base. Alex even says that he thinks he likes it at the barracks.
I don’t know if it is because Alex is tired, as he says repeatedly, or because Alex’s English actually improved as he wrote over the next two years. His sentences are constructed as if they were translated from another language. They are not written as if he is thinking in English. He writes, “we are six in the crew,” and “forgive me if I am not long in this letter.”
Having known Alex so much later in his life – when he had reflected on his experiences and become quite staunch in his political views – it is fascinating for me to see that he was not always so set in his beliefs. The Grandpa Alex I knew was strictly opposed to war and the stories I heard about the Navy were rarely positive. When I was in 7th grade he gave a copy of Mark Twain’s “A War Prayer” and wrote in it that it was a “most precious book.”
In this letter Alex seems young and idealistic. Even though he went through a tremendous amount of hardship before this time his words sound youthful: “I’ve been appointed captain of my crew. hope I’ll do well.”
It is clear that when Alex began his naval career he hoped to be a successful and valuable member of the crew. While this letter is caring and loving, I would imagine it was difficult for Sylvia to read about Alex’s hopes for the navy from her home in Brooklyn with her less than 6 month old daughter by her side.