Friday, June 9, 2017

Passed By Naval Censor

On the anniversary of D-Day I received a serendipitous text and blessing. My cousin, the son of my father's sister, Helena, contacted me. Jerry had letters from my dad his mom had kept safe for decades. Jerry sent them to me and they arrived today.

Dad enlisted in the U. S. Navy as a sub-mariner at 17 years old (he had to have his parents sign a waiver). I've been perusing them, imagining the voice of my father as a teenager. Post marks on the first of the letters date back to 1942 and were sent from Portsmouth, N. H. where dad began training. Seventeen years old... how does one of such naivety and innocence prepare to wage war in a world that is at war?

Letters began back-and-forth around Christmas time.H e was a homesick teenager far from his hometown of dirt roads, pastures, and potato fields. Tremendous melancholy washed over him when he heard the song "White Christmas." Several times he referenced the Christmas season as "White Christmas." He used the word "awful" a lot. In one of his letters, the man's genuine gratitude and humility (which he never lost) comes through as he thanks Helena, who is older than him, for sending him a pen and pencil set. "He was awful thankful." Up to that point he had been borrowing a pencil from a friend...

As the war raged on, dad and Helena continued to write. By 1944 he was fully engaged in warfare. From a steel tube beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean and China Seas dad's sub played a big part in finishing a fight the Japanese started. They would receive a Presidential Citation for Bravery.

In the lower left corner of each correspondence between dad and Helena during 43-44 was a hand-stamped circle that read, Passed By Naval Censors. Every correspondence was screened. Loose lips sink ships.

Seven decades have passed... Dad has passed... But today he spoke again...