Monday, February 15, 2021

Amanuensis Monday - My Grandfather Writes to his War Buddies - 1945

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

In going through all of the documents my paternal grandfather saved, in one folder is correspondence between him and his war buddies. My grandfather served as a Field Director for the American Red Cross. When he returned from the war in 1945, and landed in San Francisco, he learned his brother, Mandell, had been killed. Below are paragraphs from several letters where he informed his buddies. 

To Lt. Bernard Samoff - Aug 29, 1945

My return was not the happy event I looked forward to - I suppose you learned that my suspicions about my little brother having been killed were true. But since the return safely of my other brother and the ending of the war, I’m beginning to feel good.

To Kurt Stone - Aug 30. 1945

I don’t know whether you remember my talking about my little brother Mandell - he was with the 41st division. We were at Biak together for about three months. Did you know that I got to Biak just about a week after you left. While I was on my way home, Mandell was killed at Zamboanga and I learned about it when I arrived in Frisco. So my homecoming was anything but the happy event that I thought it would be. It is difficult for me to write about it.

To Zach Levine - Aug 30, 1945

My homecoming wasn’t very pleasant. While I was enroute, Mandell was killed and I got the news when I arrived in Frisco. It happened at Zamboanga. The whole division had a rough time of it, although I understand little or no new got into the papers about it. About a week before Mandell was wounded, he had received the Bronze Star. I wanted so badly to get him out of that outfit. I feel pretty bitter about it but I suppose that doesn’t do any good. When I get to thinking about it, I just can’t think of anything else - so will you forgive me for making this short.

To Col. Chet Lange - May 11, 1946

After I left Morsby I went to Biak for about six months and then spent a little time in Manila. I cam home completely beaten. My littler brother who was with the 163rd Inf. was killed at Jolo. I cam home on leave and before my leave ended the war was over. I got back into law practice around the first of the year and while it was slow going at first I am getting all the business I could handle now. So much so but every once in a while I get to wishing I was back at Morsby. The more I think about it the more I love that place and the more I realize what a swell bunch of people there were.


1) In one day my grandfather went from "beginning to feel good" to feeling "pretty bitter about it," but that is natural for the grieving process.

2) Was Mandell killed in Jolo or Zamboanga? Newspaper reports indicate Jolo. It is possible initial information the family received suggested Zamboanga. It's possible his troop was stationed at Zamboanga and had a mission on the nearby island of Jolo. While officially "Killed in Action" he was killed when a fellow officer was cleaning his weapon.

3) My grandfather saved correspondence to/from individuals stapled, paperclipped, or prong-fastened together. Sometimes including envelopes, sometimes not. The copies he saved of the letters he wrote often don’t have last names of those he wrote to, but these can be determined by other documents fastened to the letter. In the case of the letter to Zach Levine there is no such document, but he did have a separate list of addresses he titled “Overseas Mailing List.”  There is only one Zach on that list. 

4) If by chance you are reading this because you found the entry searching for your relative, one of the letter recipients, let me know. There may be letters they wrote in the folder I could scan and send to you. 

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