I’m fairly certain that William and Agnes Tully Stevens were no different than any other American when they received news of the devastating attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I can’t say its effect on their son, Frank, was what inspired him to join the Navy, but it was barely two months later when F. X. Stevens enlisted on February 28, 1942.
Reporting for duty at the U. S. Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois, Frank found himself assigned to Company 162 of the Apprentice Seamen for their initial three week “instruction in the fundamentals of the Naval Service.” While the somber specter of facing war on two fronts must have been heavily on his mind—at least it was on his father’s mind—Frank seemed chatty about anything else but that in his letter home at the close of training.
Well hows the auld wan? Feeling chipper I hope. I swear I’m getting lazier by the day. I’m getting leave on the 21st so if its possible Ed could bring you up. You could see some of the place and also take me home with you. Don’t bring the folks with you if you come as my buddy can come back with us. There is a possibility of getting a 36 hr leave but we probably will only get a 12 hr. I’ll let you know as soon as I know. Did you hear our program “Meet your Navy” on the air last night. Our company was present and we had a hell of a time. Commander Peabody can really play the banjo can’t he? I’m sending this issue of our paper as I think it will be interesting to you. I do hope Maxine feels better and that the baby is still good as ever. John sent me a oil silk tobacco pouch now all I need is the pipe. I’m broke. I have 5/100 of a dollar to my name. Write soon, love Frank
Perhaps in facing the possibilities of future trauma, the path of least resistance in the present was to feign oblivion to what was ahead. Frank, the humorous, the lighthearted, seemed to choose that route for his letters home. Whether that was for his own benefit or out of deference for his dad’s soon-to-be-manifested heart issues is hard to tell. What I do know is that what he chose not to mention in his earlier letters, the government censors prevented him from saying in the later years of his tour of duty.