Grandpa’s Homepage


My paternal grandfather, Elmer Kurtz Luckett, was a steam engineer from St. Louis, Missouri. Born on May 7, 1920, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve in October 1940, and was almost immediately activated for duty. He and nearly 300 other St. Louis-area Reservists were sent to San Diego and then Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where they were stationed on four different Wilkes-class destroyers. Grandpa was on the USS Chew. On December 7th, he and thousands of others were present when the Japanese began attacking Oahu.

Elmer served in the Naval Reserve throughout the duration of the War, and during that time he wrote hundreds of letters to his parents and to his future wife, Rose. He wrote many other letters to a variety of other friends and family members, but these are the ones that survived the end of the war. After my grandpa died in March 2018, I inherited his war correspondence, which consists of over 500 letters to his parents and to Rose, as well as several dozen letters from Rose that he kept in his ship locker.

I am writing a book about my grandpa’s war experiences based on these letters and my three-hour oral interview with him in 2014. His story is both unique and common. Although he did not storm the beaches in Normandy or charge up the mountain at Iwo Jima, he did serve on two different ships, witness Pearl Harbor, participate in the New Guinea campaign and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, travel the world, learn a trade, and meet the love of his life. His letters, which are observant, poetic, and incredibly well-written, paint a vivid picture of what life was like on a ship during World War II. They chronicle the growth, maturation, and increasing worldliness of a young man who like so many others experienced so many things in such a short amount of time.

This blog is a result of my own journey to read, analyze, and understand these letters, and to then fit them together with Elmer’s own story and the bigger picture events happening during the War. Much of this material and information will end up in the book in one form or another, but the blog itself is intended to be a standalone project. I will continue writing about his life in short chunks – usually a month or two at a time – until I reach his discharge date in October 1945.

Below is a list of blog entries in chronological order. If you’d like to read from the beginning, click here and then at the bottom the post click on the “Next Entry” link. Once you’re all caught up, please follow my blog to get regular updates on this series, as well as other things I’ve got in the hopper.

Thanks for reading! – Matt

1940 – 1941

“I suppose you are all worried sick since the war started…”

“When this upset world straightens out we will all be together again.”

The Chew’s Crew: “The best bunch of fellas you could ever meet”

“The Roughest Ships in the Navy”

Things to “Chew” on: Daily ice cream and the process of becoming a “salty sailor”

Dollars and Cents

April 1941: Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fireman

It’s fun to stay at the Honolulu YMCA

May 1941: A Reversal of Fortunes

June 1941: Tiger Sharks and Thank You Notes

July 1941: Day Trips

August 1941: Making the Cut

September 1941: More of this World

October 1941: Our Boys in Blue

November 1941: The Year with Two Thanksgivings

December 2, 1941

Elmer Luckett on Pearl Harbor (excerpted from oral interview, recorded 12-31-14)

The Morning When All Hell Broke Loose

December 10th, 1941

December 16th: “Fighting Mad” with Japan

December 19th: Touching Base

December 21st: No Kisses or Hugs

December 22nd: Revenge will be Sweet

December 24th: “It does not seem like Christmas Eve to me”

History Mystery: Where did my Great-Grandmother Go to Church?


January 1942: Adjusting to a New Reality

February and March 1942: Making the Best out of a Bad Situation

April 1942: Message Received

May 1942: The Royal Treatment

June, July, and August 1942: High Water Marks

September and October 1942: From Pollywog to Shellback

November 1942: Stateside

December 1942: Dreaming of a White Christmas

A Post about Pat


January – April 1943: Last Months Aboard the Chew, Part I

January – April 1943: Last Months Aboard the Chew, Part II

May – June 1943: Two Homecomings

A Shared Place: My Grandpa, My Alma Mater, and Memories of Cape Girardeau

July 1943: The Obstacle Course

August – September 1943: Everything’s Shipshape

October 1943: Doctor’s Orders

November 1943: The Big Easy

December 1943: A Master at Arms

Elmer Luckett and the Shreveport Kid

“Just a few lines to a very swell girl:” The First Letters to Grandma

“The Fellow with the Blue Suit:” Elmer’s Letters to Rose (July 1943)

“Be frank with me:” Elmer’s Letters to Rose (August – November 1943)

As Ever: Elmer’s Letters to Rose (December 1943)


January 1944: Shakedown

February 1944: No News is Good News

The Toughest Campaign: The War for New Guinea (Part 1 of 2)

The Toughest Campaign: The War for New Guinea (Part 2 of 2)

March 1944: The Filling Station

April 1944: The Merry-Go-Round

“My Dearest Elmer:” Grandma’s Letters to Elmer

“Love and Things:” Rose’s First Letter to Elmer

May 1944: Birthdays and Barracudas

June 1944: The Invasion Prayer

July 1944: A Leave Down Under

August 1944: Jackpots

September 1944: The Dead Ones

King II: America’s Return to the Philippines (coming soon!)

October 1944: The Fighting Mink (coming soon!)

November 1944: The Danger Zone (coming soon!)

December 1944: Last Christmas (coming soon!)