April 1942: Message Received

“Japan has had a taste of bombing, too – only a taste.”

Grandpa didn’t say anything more about the Doolittle Raid, in which sixteen B-25s pulled off one of the most daring and consequential air raids in aviation history. Perhaps he did not know what he could and could not say about the raid to his parents. Or maybe he simply didn’t need to: newspapers across the country screamed headlines of the April 18th raid, and Elmer no doubt heard about it on the radio off Oahu. Either way, both the Lucketts and the rest of America were encouraged and emboldened by the attack, which lifted the Allies’ spirits after months of losing ground (so to speak) on the Pacific. “Something tells me the future looks brighter for the good old USA,” he wrote on April 30th. “So keep your spirits up.”

Chins and spirits had been difficult things to lift in past weeks. In late March the Navy’s postal system slowed to a crawl. Letters that usually took a few days to make it to or arrive from the states now came two or three weeks late. On April 8th Elmer complained that he had not received a letter from his parents since March 22nd. On the 12th he wrote again, stating that still no letters had arrived, and that while other shipmates were having the same problem, he was beginning to worry. Finally on the 17th he received four letters from his parents at once, dated between March 26th and April 7th. “It was a relief for me,” Elmer admitted. On April 30th he received another tranche of letters from his parents, as well as some delayed correspondence from family and friends. “My letters have been coming in like bananas.”

Unfortunately, his parents were having the same problem. They hadn’t received any of his since late March, either. “Mom,” he wrote, “it makes me feel bad to know you worry so much when letters are late.”

Part of the problem might have been the uptick in sailor mail and packages in advance of Easter, which fell on April 5th that year. Elmer’s mother sent him an Easter egg cake, and several people shipped him cookies. His shipmates were receiving care packages as well. In return, Elmer sent his folks an Easter card, a money order, a war bond, and his May 7th birthday wish list: slippers and Red Dot cigars.

Image result for red dot cigars
One of Elmer’s favorite cigar brands.

Elmer also received a steady stream of letters from young women. Irene Sykes, Shirley Ryder, and Dorothy Wekking wrote him “every few weeks.” Pat had recently stopped writing him, mainly because Elmer once again stopped responding to her letters. In fairness, he had a lot of correspondence to answer, which promoted him to reassure his worried mother. “I’m not much for reading the Bible or religious literature,” he wrote, “but I do nothing that I am ashamed of.” In spite of Elmer’s aversion to such things, his father announced that he was going to send his son some Christian Science materials, presumably before Elmer could have had a chance to finish reading the New Testament his mother’s pastor sent him weeks earlier.

While Elmer did not necessarily find comfort in religion, he took his self-improvement seriously. At the end of the month he wrote that he was looking forward to coming home and visiting with his parents, but he hoped that he would be “more of a man” than “the boy who left a good home.” Nevertheless, he confessed that he did not regret joining the Navy, and that in spite of him now being in the middle of a war he believed that the experience would shape him in a positive way.

Of course, there was always a risk involved when serving in the Navy during a war. But Elmer wanted his parents to not spend their time worrying about it, and instead embrace his hope for a brighter future. And thanks to the Doolittle Raiders, that future seemed a little more likely than before.

Next Entry:
May 1942: The Royal Treatment

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