Friday, August 14, 2015

Letter From Bob, August 1945

July, 1945

My dearest Rosie:

Your picture has faded to near invisibility, and I fear it will soon be gone forever. I take it out again, hold it, then tuck it away once more.

The photo tells the whole story of my time apart from you. It is torn and faded from tropical sun and rain, stained from the sweat of malarial fevers and creased from a thousand folds and unfolds to hide it from the Japanese.

There's a hole near your shoulder from the twig that pierced my parachute harness when I bailed out of my spinning P-38 into a carpet of jungle, and a speck of dried blood from the Jap bayonet that hacked off half my foot when they cut me out of the tree. At least I think it's my blood. There was so much from the other poor fellows in the so-called "medical" tent where the Japs left me to work in a POW camp in the Philippines. I suppose I should have been grateful the Japs found a cripple like me useful enough not to waste a bullet on, but I confess there were moments I envied the dead I was burying.

I don't remember much about being rescued. The Japs just disappeared one day, but most of us who were still alive were too weak to do anything about it.

Next thing I knew I was sitting at our kitchen table in Seattle, drinking coffee and complaining about the rain until Stormy ran by with a ball of yarn and made us both laugh.

But of course I wasn't in Seattle at all. It was makeshift hospital in a remote corner of the Philippines.

And Stormy's a grown cat now.

And you have likely found another fellow and moved on.

They tell me I was declared dead. My dog tags were long gone by the time the Americans liberated our camp a few weeks ago, and I wasn't in any shape to identify myself for most of my time in this hospital. I imagine they tried to send some sort of update to you but I don't have much faith in the speed or efficiency of the Army's communications. Given what I've seen in the newspapers they've left on the nightstand I understand MacArthur's had a few other things to attend to besides paperwork on a gimpy flyer.

I tried calling a few times but there was no answer. Perhaps you have moved. Anyway by the time you get this I'll be on my way.

They tell me my ship's supposed to dock in San Francisco in time for the train that arrives in Seattle on the afternoon of August 14.

If this war's taught us anything it's that hope is a luxury few can afford. But yet I do hope.

If you're not there I'll know you've made someone happy and found the life you should have. I'll climb back on board and move on. I will keep the picture next to my heart until it dissolves into memories. But those memories are more sublime than any picture could ever be. And they will sustain me forever.

Your loving husband