At Your Library: Letters To and From a Young Soldier

At Your Library: Letters To and From a Young Soldier


I’m joined today by Seema Kenny who’s
going to talk to us about a wonderful program I hope you all come enjoy
happening here at the library on October 7th at 7 o’clock the program is all
about world war ii letters to and from a young soldier and as i said i’m talking
with Seema Kenny Semma thank you so much for joining by the magic of video
conference it’s so good to talk to you today thank you very much for having me
this is not your first time coming to Quincy we’ve had the pleasure of hosting
you a couple of times before thank you for coming back oh my pleasure
it’s a nice place to be and initially a nice crowd that gathers I’m looking
forward to it so I know you’re a professional genealogist and the
programs as you come before have been helping people do some learn how they
can do that research themselves but this is a kind of a different program on the
the seventh we’re going to be talking about a just some discoveries that you
made that you turned into a book that you published recently right yes exactly
actually two books two bucks no great I was only aware of the one that’s
fabulous so when did you discover the letters when was this when were you
rooting around in your uncle’s attic well let’s see he passed away in 2015 so
would have been or 16 I guess yeah so sometime in 2016 and I was absolutely
fortunate and blessed enough to find hundreds of letters well I think I the
total is close to 300 about a hundred and eighty of those are letters that
were sent to him well and then almost another hundred or so that came came
home from him that he sent that’s an incredible archive that’s really neat to
discover were they all bundled in like ribbons and tied up in a special box or
at what was the situation when you found the ones that came home were bundled
with a ribbon they were saved by his mother she was a schoolteacher before
she got married and many of the letters have her marks where she corrected his
spelling and grammar’ a lot always the level teacher that’s great oh yeah lots
of the envelopes have a market notation on the envelope of the story that’s
inside okay so I can tell which one she shared with friends and then God bless
him he kept a log of all the letters he received Wow
and as part of the log he kept who who mailed it when he
received it and when he replied to it that’s pretty incredible I don’t think
I’ve ever kept that kind of Correspondence myself even when I did
write letters once upon a time yeah so the ones that he’s managed to save that
I found in his attic which looked absolutely horrible at the time were
sent as v-mail female yeah what was v-mail I don’t know I know Gmail but I
don’t think it’s anything like Gmail no definitely not the V stood for victory
okay yeah so it’s victory mail which was an 8 by 10 piece of paper that someone
would write the letter on and then it would be filmed the film would ship
across the ocean and they would print it four by six and deliver it Wow and it’s
just one side or one side all the same size okay which made it very easy for
him to maintain them sure he had a little clip and they were all clipped
together in chronological order chronological by receipt alright so not
by composition no and it’s very obvious that some of them took a very long time
to get to him was he on active front where did he serve in Italy I’m sorry
what was the question where did he serve where were they were
was he writing from I just about anywhere in Italy you can
name that there was army activity Wow yeah he he started in the south and
moved all the way north okay and I don’t want to give too much away but he was
definitely a different type of soldier and had a very different experience than
anything you’d see in the movies or anything I’m intrigued so tell me
without giving it too much away was he artistic was he like it was at his
observational style what like what can you give me a little more of a teaser
how was he different ah well I can tell you that almost all the letters he sent
home were typed well many of them were several pages I was wondering yeah so
obviously he was not writing from a foxhole if he had to access to a
typewriter right and I think some of the most interesting letters are after the
after victory was declared and the additional six months that he was in
Italy waiting to get home okay you don’t really think about the scope of trying
to get all these people home there was a lot of people to move off the continent
yeah yeah yeah yeah it didn’t happen quickly fascinating so and you turn this
so you collected these it sounds like a lot of the organizing was already done
for you but maybe that was there was a day you wanted a different type of
organizing or what did you what kind of work did you do with these letters well
the ones that weren’t typed I did transcribe I did type them up a lot most
of them I also scanned so I have digital copies I love school the books were
mostly to share with my family mm-hmm my sister my cousins and our
children most of whom knew this uncle and the the ones that were from family
that were written to him I’ve also shared with some of the people who
actually wrote the letters that are still alive so it’s been nice
to share with the cousins and things what there aren’t enough and parents
were we’re doing back in 1940 I know a lot of people who had those kinds of
experiences didn’t ever talk about about them a much whence they had come home
was he of that nature or did he talk somewhat about his experiences did you
ever talk to him about this stuff when he was alive the only time I heard him
talk about it was at his 90th birthday party well and and I never heard my
father served in Korea I never heard him talk about it either
except at that same party Wow is there a third book then or are you
collecting a thoughts about the Korean War as well I have found a few letters
that my father wrote home to his brother so I have shared those with the family
as well yeah this is quite a personal treasure and I think we are super
fortunate that you are sharing it with us here in Quincy as it sounds like
there’s got to be just a really interesting human insight into what the
this was like we you know it’s definitely an insight to a different
part of the military than what you normally hear about fascinating well
SEMA thank you so much for for coming and sharing these with us for putting
this and it sounds like a very personal effort you know very personally
meaningful and it’s honestly a bit brave to come and share them with the world so
I applaud that that courage and willingness to share these personal
stories in different perspective because you know our collective histories are
only made richer when people come forward and share this very human side
we think we know so much about and there’s so much that’s been written but
the story is not all written yet so this is great know there’s a lot here and and
one of my goals is to share it with some other defendants that he you know wrote
about the soldiers that he served with and things well maybe some of the people
that will come and attend the program here on the 7th will also be able to
share and connect with other people who maybe knew him even there’s stranger
things have happened absolutely that would be wonderful
great thank you very much oh thank you please
come and join Sima Kenny and learn more about these fascinating letters back and
forth from a young soldier in World War 2 happening here at the library on
October 7th starting at 7 o’clock it’s gonna be quite a night

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