“The greatest generation’s most tender moments . . . Poignant . . . Disarming.” —People
A MONUMENT TO THE POWER OF LOVE IN THE MIDST OF A CHAOTIC WORLD
Moving and inspiring, these are the stories of men and women who met amid the chaos of the most devastating war in history and became the loves of each other’s lives. Master interviewer Larry King captures the special feeling of those times in the couples’ own words, telling tales that vary from sweet stories of love at first sight to heart-wrenching accounts of love surviving against all odds. As these couples reflect on the profound experience of the war, many speak of the deep bonds they forged during that tumultuous time, bonds so strong they lasted a lifetime.
A treasure trove of unique reminiscences, enhanced with plentiful photographs and reproductions of the letters that kept the lovers in touch no matter how many miles separated them, Love Stories of World War II offers an unprecedented view into the personal side of the World War II experience and celebrates the incredible legacy of remarkable relationships formed in a time of tragedy. As one veteran put it, “We’ve all got war stories. Some of us like to tell them, some don’t. But the story of how we fell in love with our wives, well, that’s still with us every day.”
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Larry King is the Emmy Award–winning host of Larry King Live on CNN and the author of several bestselling books. He has received numerous broadcast and journalism awards, including the George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting. He lives in Washington, D.C.
From the Hardcover edition.
The bombing of pearl harbor on December 7, 1941, radically changed the plans of innumerable young couples across the United States practically overnight. War had been raging across Europe for over two years, ever since Adolf Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, but strong isolationist feelings dominated in the United States. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to muster all of his considerable cunning in order to convince Congress to institute the first peacetime draft in American history in September 1940. But with the ruthless attack on Pearl Harbor, America plunged into the war. Thousands of young couples got married over the next few months, in order to have some time together before the husband was inevitably called to duty.
Miles and Betty Trimpey
In 1998 Betty Trimpey gave her younger daughter, Linda K. Golby, a battered box of letters that had survived thirteen moves, still tied together with faded fifty-year-old hair ribbons. The letters included many that Linda's father, Miles Reid Trimpey, had written to his young wife during World War II, Betty's own letters back to him, as well as a number written to Miles by relatives and friends.
After she saw the Steven Spielberg movie Saving Private Ryan, Linda began wondering whether her father had been involved in the D-Day landings at Normandy. He never talked about the war before his death in 1990, and she had no idea where he served. She discovered from one letter that he indeed scrambled to the beach at Normandy that horrifying day, and spent his nineteenth birthday in a foxhole after the battle at TrÃ©viÃ¨res on June 9, 1944, three days after D-Day One.
Increasingly intrigued, Linda read through all the letters and decided to type them up and assemble them in two loose-leaf volumes. She illustrated the volumes with photographs and reproductions of postcards and holiday greetings her father sent to her mother while he was in the army. She also included a number of documents pertaining to his service and annotated the top of each letter in her own elegant handwriting, explaining who had sent each letter and providing the postmark date and place. Over the following months, she also read all the letters aloud to her mother, whose eyesight had failed. The letters conjured up such vivid memories of fear and separation for Betty that the reading sessions often became extremely emotional. Linda, too, was deeply moved, as she was getting to know her father in ways she never had before.
Her father's letters were not very legible, written mostly in pencil on any paper he could get his hands on, including one on toilet tissue. Some gave the impression that a hard but not very flat surface-his helmet, his knee-was used as a writing desk. Betty maintained that she felt bad about writing her husband such boring letters, but Linda is certain that her small talk was exactly what her father needed and wanted to hear. Those letters served as his primary connection to the world he was fighting for and longed to come home to. Linda believes that the letters he sent and received actually kept him sane.
Miles trimpey and Betty Romesberg both grew up near Rockwood, Pennsylvania. Betty lived with her parents on a small farm, and Miles worked in construction. They met one Saturday night when both were dining with friends at the same restaurant. Betty always told her two daughters, Nancy Lee and Linda, that it was love at first sight, and Miles would say that he had thought Betty was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen in his life and that he knew instantly that he would marry her someday.
On their first date, Miles took Betty to the construction site where he was working, to show her that he was a hardworking, serious young man. In fact, he was only seventeen, and Betty eighteen. They soon married, on April 14, 1943. Because Miles expected to be drafted shortly after he turned eighteen, they moved in with Betty's parents instead of trying to find their own place. They also decided to have a baby right away. Miles wanted to have at least one child in case he didn't make it home from the war, and Betty agreed.
On June 9, 1943, Miles turned eighteen, and sure enough, the notice to report for induction (Order #12,472) was issued on September 13. He became an enlisted man on October 19 and was sent to Camp Wheeler, Georgia, for basic training. As soon as he got to camp, he started writing the letters that Betty prized so much.
In a letter from Camp Wheeler dated October 22, Miles told Betty that they had watched a movie show at the camp. "They were no good," he wrote, "but if I had you with me they would be better." On October 28, he noted, "I had to stop this letter just now. We were called out for a little training. We had to learn to salute an oficer."
Training quickly got serious. In a November 4 letter, Miles told Betty that he had bought her a souvenir, a miniature replica of the automatic rifle he had been trained to use: "It shoots eight shells as fast as you can pull the trigger. Take notice of the knife on the end. They showed us how to kill a man with it today. You use the knife if you don't have any shells. The knife is 16* long. You run it through the neck or through the guts."
As if realizing that this description might upset Betty, he started a new paragraph: "To change the subject I want to thank you for the Bible you sent me. I will use it and often." Betty still has that small blue Bible, a bit tattered from its wartime service. On the flyleaf he inscribed his name, rank, and serial number, and listed Mrs. Miles Trimpey, Rockwood, Pa, R.D. #1, Box 6, as his nearest relative. On the opposite page was a printed note from the White House: "As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States," it begins, and it is signed Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is clear from Miles's letters that he did use that Bible often and, like many others, learned to pray with considerably more urgency while serving in the war. As for the souvenir gun, Betty wrote to tell him that it was beautiful, and that she had placed it on her bureau as he had asked.
As the seventeen weeks of training continued, Miles wrote as often as possible, practically daily, but sometimes he was too exhausted to do anything but collapse at the end of the day. His letters are suffused with love for Betty and his concern about how she was feeling as her pregnancy advanced. (The word "pregnant" was not used by either of them; Betty spoke instead of "my condition," as proper young women were taught to do sixty years ago.)
There was discussion of Betty coming down to Georgia to see Miles, because he would not be able to come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but both finances and her "condition" prevented that. Miles did not get his first pay, which, after the allotment sent home to Betty was $15 for the month he had served, until November 30, and it was thanks only to dollar bills sent by relatives that he was able to buy much of anything. Betty and other family members and friends also sent him treats like candy and nuts. At one point he asked Betty to send him some "cigs," and more than once he wryly noted, "Another day, another 60 cents." When he did get paid, he went out and had his picture taken in uniform to send to Betty. It arrived with the frame and glass broken, despite his careful wrapping. In response, Betty offered some wifely advice about marking any other pictures "Glass, Handle with Care" or, even better, sending just the photo marked "Picture, Do Not Bend" and letting her buy a frame. But even with a broken frame, she loved the photo and wrote to him, "Boy are you ever good-looking."
When the couple exchanged Christmas letters, Betty wrote that it surely didn't feel like Christmas without him. After describing the family feast, she commented, "I wasn't very hungry for any food. All I was hungry for is your love." Miles described his meal, including turkey and pumpkin pie and "most everything we could think of," adding, "The only time you get a good meal in the Army is Thanksgiving or Christmas." He closed by telling her, "I hear 'White Christmas' playing. Does it ever bring back the good old days. I feel like crying. No fooling. Your True Husband, Miles."
Army realities soon returned to the foreground. In a letter written on the twenty-ninth, Miles complained, "We got a new sergeant yesterday and is he ever hell on earth." It was already clear that he would be "going over," using the phrase for European combat that was initiated during World War I. For a while, Miles had written about trying to join the paratroopers, but when he asked Betty what she thought, she firmly discouraged the idea, since his situation was likely to be dangerous enough without any leaping out of planes.
Like all soldiers, Miles was well aware that he could easily get killed. In his Christmas Day letter, he wrote, "So, Darling, never worry if anything happens to me and I never get back. Always think of these words, 'I will be in Heaven waiting for you, Darling.'" But however much he may have worried about what could happen to him, other letters make clear his pride in being a good soldier, and his delight that his unit had been singled out by an officer as the best around.
As his training drew to a grueling close, Miles had to spend two weeks living in a tent in the woods while his unit was put through combat exercises. Despite the cold and rain and lack of sleep, he was sustained by the hope that at the end of his training, he would get a week's leave to go north and be with Betty. The leave he prayed for came through at the end of February, and he was able to spend the first week of March w...
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