Staff Favorites - December 2006
Welcome to the second edition of Staff Favorites from the Veterans History Project -- a Web site feature showcasing some of our most treasured collections. These may be small collections, perhaps with a single item, or they may not fit into an easily defined theme. But each one left a deep impression on us. Please check back regularly for new additions to this site.
View previous staff favorites: September 2006
Edward L. Pierce
Go to Edward L. Pierce's Collection
From the time he was drafted in the summer of 1952, 20 year-old Edward Pierce kept up a regular, well-written correspondence with his parents back home in Calumet City, Illinois. Writing almost every day, he penned his letters from boot camp, from the ship taking him to Korea, and finally from the front lines of the war with North Korea.
Pierce’s letters provide a wealth of detail about the life of the ordinary American soldier in Korea. He reflects the little documented international character of the Korean War when he writes in March 1952 of the Battle for Old Baldy, “The Ethiopians took Old Baldy from the ‘Chinks’ but when they turned it over to us, we lost it again. The Ethiopians are going to try to get it back.” The letters are also preoccupied by the drudgery of Army life and the weather, which nearly every soldier who served in Korea described as the coldest they had ever experienced in their lives. Writing in February 1952, Pierce says that he minds it most when he has to go to the toilet in nothing more than a trench. “Let me tell you,” he writes, “when it’s 20 degrees below zero, it’s mighty cold on a person’s ass.”
Pierce’s letters also detail the poignant homesickness felt by every soldier who has ever served in a war. Writing on February 26, 1953, Pierce tells his parents, “Tomorrow I want you to go to Milikan's record shop and buy "Mom and Dad's Waltz" by Lefty Frizell. Please!! Listen to it and tell me if you think it's wonderful. If you would play it when you read my letters it can save a lot of words.” This classic country song conveys a sentiment that many soldiers in a similar situation can relate to: “I’d fight in wars, do all the chores / For my Mama and Daddy / …Because I know I owe them my all.”
Chosen by Matt McCrady, a member of the Digital Conversion Team responsible for digitizing veterans' collections for online display. He has worked for the Library of Congress since 2002.
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