February 14, 2003 Library of Congress Requests Wartime Letters to Sweethearts
Veterans Memoirs Collection Tops 20,000 Items; Love Letters Speak Volumes
Contact: Anneliesa Clump (202) 707-9822; Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
This Valentine's Day, the American Folklife Center requests wartime love letters for the Library of Congress collection of veterans' oral histories through the Veterans History Project.
More than 5,000 veterans have already submitted their stories, and the collection now includes nearly 20,000 items comprising photographs, journals, letters and interviews. More than 550 organizations-including the American Folklore Society, the American Historical Association, the Oral History Association, the Society of American Archivists, the American Legion and other veterans groups-participate in the project. AARP is the founding sponsor of the project.
Joseph J. "Jerry" Brenner of Columbia, Md., submitted 1,261 letters and v-mails sent between him and his wife, Norma, between December 1943 and December 1945. His letter dated June 6, 1944, from Camp Forrest, Tenn., reads, "At last it's started. We heard the news this morning and we haven't done much more than cluster around all available radios all day It's 10 to 9 and we are all going to listen to the President speak at 9 o'clock. The great news has raised my hopes considerably. I feel sure that this nightmare will soon be done with. Then I can once more be with my love."
Mrs. Brenner wrote back with a kiss, imprinting her note with red lipstick. Brenner later saw service in France.
"Some of our most treasured items are the letters written to family and loved ones during war," said Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, director of the Veterans History Project.
Malcolm Harvey Stilson, World War II veteran, served as a clerk in Aircraft Erection in India and then was transferred to the Entertainment Production Unit, where he played the piano. Stilson submitted to the Library his 256-page memoir, "WWII as Seen Through the Letters of Malcolm and Warren Stilson."
Malcolm Stilson writes to his parents from India: "Another difference of this country is that people here all use their heads a lot. I mean they carry everything on their heads, and, also, the women do most of the hard work. (Must tell Marilyn [his girlfriend] that; also add I wish she were here. She'll appreciate that.)
In one of his final letters home, Stilson wrote on March 7, 1946, "Dearest Mom and Dad, Am on my way! Quit writing. Leave tomorrow at 8 a.m. This is it! Your loving son, Malcolm." Warren Stilson, Malcolm's brother, was killed and never returned home.
The Veterans History Project is a project of the Library of Congress through its American Folklife Center to collect and preserve oral histories and documentary materials from those who served in the military or supported war efforts at home during World War I, World War II and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. The project was created by Congress and approved by unanimous vote in both the House and the Senate in October 2000.
Individuals, family members, veterans, civic groups and organizations that are willing to interview veterans are invited to contact the Veterans History Project, whose staff will provide guidance and information. The resulting audio or videotapes and related documentary materials that are collected are preserved at the Library of Congress as part of the permanent record of the nation's history.
Those who are interested in participating are encouraged to e-mail the office at [email protected] to request a project kit. The kit is also available on the Veterans History Project Web site at http://www.loc.gov/folklife/vets.