An Invitation to Readers: Letters from Korea

I’ve finished transcribing the letters from Korea. All the pages are open to comments, although I must approve all comments before they are published.

Let me say a word about my transcribing methods/choices:

Mostly, I want the letters to be readable, so I did not, for example, indicate where words are misspelled—I just assumed that readers would understand what word was meant and that I probably know how to spell them correctly. I don’t think there are any cases where misspellings affect understanding.

The author often corrected his own misspellings, usually by putting parentheses around them and then crossing them out. I did include those in the transcriptions, just for an accurate picture. I don’t think they affect understanding, but in some cases they show how the author changed his mind in a sentence.

A few words were illegible, like the name of the silk scarf purchased in Tokyo, and some words that were completely scratched over with ink. Rather than skip over them, I did write illegible in square brackets.

And about all those dashes. I wrote a blog post a while ago about the colon + dash in so many of the WWII letters: “the dog’s bollocks, you say.” But it doesn’t stop there. There is a dash between almost all the sentences in these letters, even if a period is used. At some point, I had to make the decision of whether they should be represented by a hyphen or a dash and whether there should be spaces around them, as it may look in his handwriting. I decided to go with dashes with no surrounding spaces, just for consistency and my sanity, and because dashes do grammatically separate complete sentences—just not so often, please.

My own mistakes: I noticed that I often typed food for good, and while I think I caught them all, please let me know if you spot one I missed. My father often wrote tho for though, sometimes with a period indicating an abbreviation. For some reason, I started typing an s on the end, resulting in thos, so correct me on that as well.

If you aren’t interested in old war letters, please refer them to your friends. You can find a link to the letters from Korea here or individual links here

Missing Pieces

Wedding: December 24, 1942
Wedding: December 24, 1942

You know what happens when you’re dealing with an overwhelming amount of material–you just dive in and get started until you can see some kind of pattern emerge or feel ready to impose one. That’s what I’ve done several times in this project. Recently, after scanning all the Korea letters, and with about half the WWII letters left to scan, it seemed possible to put the remaining ones in chronological order and get an idea of what remains.

Why was it a surprise to see that there are no letters from 1943? The 1942 letters are full of references to getting married, with lots of angst about whether it would be possible or if war would interfere. Marriage did prevail–and I knew it–but it never occurred to me that there would be such a huge and decisive gap in the letters. They pick back up in September 1944 and continue to the end of the war in August 1945, but what happened in that first year of marriage? I may never find out, but I can piece together that they must have lived in San Antonio, with my mother returning to Ohio some time in 1944 before the writing begins again, so perhaps they had more than a year together in the interim.

Logic also tells me that my mother returned to San Antonio after the war, perhaps in 1945, because my brother was born there in late 1946.

I guess you always miss what isn’t there and I’ll be wondering what happened in that year, but it won’t be the last missing piece. There are no letters between 1945 and 1951 and I really wish I knew what those years were like.

another era heard from

The Korea Letters

I found a box of the Korea letters today, which go up to at least June 1951 (they couldn’t go beyond early July), so that presents a whole other dimension to this project, because I would have existed when these letters were written. But don’t hang on tenterhooks waiting for revelations from these letters, because I’m still scanning and filing, and these will be the last to be uncovered.

Will I have to stop calling them Walt and Ruth when I do get to these letters? We’ll see.