It’s a sobering thought to know that these letters, sent from the site of such a devastating battle, were written by a serviceman not yet twenty-one. As of the letter posted below, written March 4, 1945—just after the initial attack on Iwo Jima was winding down—Frank’s birthday was still over eight months away, not to occur until November 13.
In the face of the multiple casualties sustained in this battle—after all, serving as a Pharmacist’s Mate, Frank must have seen the full spectrum of the injuries sustained on those beaches just beyond his ship’s position—it seems that the grisly experience would reflect in his letters. However, surprisingly, this first note home post-battle seems “up.” Frank even enlisted some puns to help slip past the censors on this one. I can only imagine that the crew was pumped about the victory, no matter how much it cost them, and that the grim reality had yet to sink in.
On the other hand, perhaps the experience had rattled him more than he thought. His sister-in-law, Maxine, must have wondered what he meant by his comment; her birthday was nowhere near the February date he had in mind. No matter whose birthday it was, though, I’m sure it represented a date Frank would never forget.
Dear Mom Dad + All:
I’ve got a little time to myself so I thought I’d write you a letter even though I’m not sure when it will be mailed. As you can see in the papers we have been pretty busy and tell Maxine that even if I couldn’t send her a gift that I remembered her birthday and that I’ll never forget it again as long as I live!!! Get it. The weather is a little nippy but it’s not bad so don’t worry about me, I’ve still got the luck of the Irish and it doesn’t show any signs of deserting yours truly. Wrote a letter to Grandma and one to Mary Fitzpatrick. Haven’t heard from you folks for over a week but then I’ve been to sea for quite some time. There’s a rumor going around that we are going to Australia for a rest in a few months – sure hope so. I’d really like to see that part of the world and meet some of its people.
If he were alive today, on this day, Frank would have turned eighty-seven. There are not too many from that generation still with us. With the passing of this Veterans Day—originally designated to honor those serving in the Great War, and subsequently also those serving in World War II—we memorialize the wars of now-bygone generations. Should History wish to repeat itself, let our remembrance of its past failures temper its intentions.