WORLD WAR II was the great abiding fact in the lives of my parents and me. As an only child, I soon realized that our relationship was an eternal triad: three loving and competing and needing forces. And the whole thing gets going with World War II.
Very early I understood this. There would have been no me without World War II. There might have been somebody else, doing something else, or maybe not. To think about such things just creates a headache. There was just this collection of letters written by my dad to my mother during WWII. She kept them in a suitcase in the attic. I knew about them since the time I was big enough to explore the upper regions of the house where things get tucked away. I never had the guts to read them until they both were dead, he in 1996 and she in 2001. In 2003, somehow the war in Iraq stirred me to sit down, read them, and type them up, word for word as Dad wrote them.
Perhaps the most revealing letter is one dated September 17, 1944. It makes a vague reference to “getting the shoes out of the shop” on Tuesday. Since they got married on September 22, 1944, in Bennettsville, South Carolina, I think this is a sort of code to her indicating that he is coming to Kinston to pick her up. This letter, and only this letter, is not neatly folded back into the envelope. It is sort of wadded up as if in excitement. As I unfolded it from the envelope I could almost sense my mother’s emotion.
The saddest letter is the one from Mrs. Daly, whose son Jimmie was killed on Iwo Jima while walking beside my father on the beach. After the war, my parents visited Mr. and Mrs. Daly in their home in Mississippi. We received annual Christmas cards from the Dalys until the late 1960s, when they just stopped coming.
The photo of my father with Bernard Maloney on Iwo Jima was printed in various U.S. newspapers. Bernard died a year or so before my father. I am still in touch with his son, Pat.
— John Sime
Editor’s note: Following is an unedited sampling of the letters from Henry Sime to his wife.
August 28, 1944 – A.D.
Really, I shouldn’t or should I drop you a line? After all you promised me last week you would write, but did you!! So not changing the subject any, we will just skip it for now, aye what?
I was glad to get on the bus in front of the house Sunday nite. I had a seat all the way to Jayville or I mean Jacksonville, N.C. Got there at 12:30, and then there were about 4 or 5 other guys going to the Rifle Range, so we took a cab out here. That way I did get some shut eye, from about 2 o’clock on to 8.
[On the back of the first sheet, written sideways up the page]
To make doubly sure you get this, I’ll send it air mail even if there hasn’t been a plane between here and there in the last 22 1/2 years. Beg your pardon, it’s 2/3 air mail, Air mail is 8 cents.
“Hank” Sime PhM2/c USN
Inf. Bn. Schools Reg.
Training Comm. and FMF
Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Lottie, I’ve got a lot to tell you, but I just don’t know how. Especially for me to put it in writing is almost beyond my means.
You know I think a lot, in fact the world of you, don’t you? But on the other hand Lottie, I think I’ve been coming up just too often. I must be keeping you away from your boy friends, or should I say the other boy friends. You know I’ve been up there every weekend for the past month, and when your boy friends come to see you, you’re out. Isn’t that the truth? You’ll have to admit it. You know its hard for me to stay aboard, because I’ve told you that before. I get thinking of you and where do I end up? In Kinston of course. If it wasn’t for me being broke this week I’d probably have been up about every nite. In fact its a good idea that I am broke.
I’ll probably be up one nite before the weekend though, but I have the duty this weekend. I’ll stay aboard, and it will give you a chance to go out and have a good time. You know with some one with a nice new car like you used to.
I hope you understand this ok, and if you don’t, well read between the lines, but I think you will.
LOVE and kisses
P.S. You’d better answer this, o.k.
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