Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Long Letter Meets the Censor

As Frank Stevens continues what turns out to be an uncustomarily long letter, he realizes that perhaps not all of what he wrote that May in 1945 will make it home to his folks in Chicago. He evokes the specter of the ship’s censor, Ensign Jerome Kaplan, grinding his molars. Whether those molars met such a gnashing fate is unknown; however, the fate of his letter was obvious, once it reached William and Agnes Tully Stevens, by all the lines snipped from Frank’s four newsy pages. The gaps only leave us to wonder what happened after that first “stiff invasion” when Frank must have met some sort of challenging action—or what happened to the other ship he alluded to, or what atrocities prompted such a strong reaction.

Frank is keen on getting a copy of a picture of his ship, LCI(R) 707, which must have run in the Chicago Tribune, tempting me to take a whirl through the paper’s archives for those months in search of the item, myself.

The mention of the censor’s name reminds me that I do have a list naming all those who served on this vessel along with Frank. Though so few from this time period are still with us, it makes me wonder if any of these other men’s families might have any corresponding material from the time they all served together with Frank—do any of those wartime relics name names as this letter does?

Guess I’ve been sounding off quite a bit Pa but I’m pretty proud of our old Lady and we’ve called her less complementary names on several occasions but she’s brought me through  one stiff invasion and pretty [censor cut out one and a half lines from the top of page 3] …
            Dad if you can get a print or proof of the picture of the ship please have 50 prints made. They should run 5 or 10 cents apiece but get them made and send them to me as the whole gang wants a copy. We know it’s our ship because we were the only one up here that has those numbers.
            Did you read about the [censor cut out a few words here]…I was on here the day before she left and a pretty good friend of mine was a patient on her. Those lousy so and so’s are going to pay for every one of those atrocities and I mean right through the nose. I imagine I’ve said too much now and the censor (Ensign Jerry Kaplan) is probably grinding his molars at me now but maybe all I’ve said will go through. I hope they do as it will give you a pretty good picture of what’s going on out here. Please ask Joe Burke’s parents to ask Joe what kind of a job we did with our gidgits up at Iwo.


  1. Sounds like Frank had a narrow call with trouble - and was briefly on a ship with a patient friend of his that met a bad end.

    Hmm... I wonder if a hospital ship was sunk around May, 1945... perhaps we can identify it.

    Hmmm... USS Morrison: Sank after four hits by kamikaze aircraft on 4 May 1945 while on picket duty off Okinawa. This might be what Frank is writing about. 152 men died.


  2. This account - of the Morrison sinking says four landing craft ships were nearby


    ...and that "Ingraham and LCS 31 were hit, LSM(R)-194 was sunk and LCS-21 was also damaged"...

  3. That is so cool. I have every letter that my grandpa wrote to his fiance, my grandma during WWII. It has been interesting to see sections cut out and words missing through out the letters. Sometimes I can guess what was said, but others are a complete mystery. It is so neat to have these treasures from the past.

    1. Dani, it was strange seeing a letter like this for the first time--with the sections actually cut out where the censor felt the need to remove anything that might compromise their security. Those gaps really sent the message home in a powerful way, even though the words were removed...


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