On May 26, 2006, one month and one day after her father’s death, Teresa Irish raised the lid on the Army trunk that had resided in the family home her entire life. There, nestled in row after row, were her dad’s nearly 1,000 handwritten letters from World War II. Carefully tucked away and visited only by him over the course of six decades, the letters were postmarked from November, 1942 to December, 1945. In the top left corner of each was the signature of the sender, Aarol W. “Bud” Irish. The fragile and yellowed pages were addressed to Bud’s parents and to the sweetheart who would later become his wife, Elaine Marie Corbat.
From lonesome, moonlit nights listening to the Hit Parade, to the foxholes and front lines in Germany where Bud would receive the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, to correspondence from the heartbroken mothers whose sons died by his side, “A Thousand Letters Home” is a moving and historic story of life and loss, hope and perseverance, unwavering faith and true love.
This firsthand account through the eyes, heart and words of one soldier mirrors the journeys of many who served in WWII. From training camps across the U.S.A. to Ports of Embarkation where they boarded ships and crossed the ocean to fight on foreign soil, millions of young Americans were abruptly pulled from civilian life and thrust into the unfamiliar world of a military at war. At every opportunity, Bud poured out his thoughts and feelings in these letters, all amidst reassuring words to loved ones a world away. As the reader turns the pages, the transition from boy to man is apparent in the passing of the weeks, months and years.
Unable or perhaps reluctant to recount what they had experienced, many veterans chose to spare their loved ones the detailed atrocities of war – these would be their own personal burdens to bear for the remainder of their lives. Bud foreshadowed this in a letter to his parents written from Europe on February 4, 1945:
“…Heaven knows they [soldiers] don't want anything more on earth than to get it over and go back to their loved ones…We don't want anything extra when we get home, but just want to find everything as we left it and forget everything that's happened or we've seen over here…”
This book is for the children, grandchildren, and future descendants of WWII veterans.
This book is for all Americans…lest we forget.
Note from the Author
I began working on this book in late 2006. Over the course of the next five years, many people, including me, were skeptical about whether or not this would ever come to fruition. Although I was completely captivated from the very first letter, reading and working with the letters in the first 12 – 24 months after dad’s death proved to be very difficult. Not only was our loss still too new, but I struggled with an immense sense of regret about how little I really knew or understood about his war experiences. You see, my dad was not one of those veterans who didn’t want to talk about the war. In fact, we had heard his stories so many times over that I assumed I knew them. In the end, I realized I had heard them, but clearly I didn’t hear them. In 2008, I attended the last reunion of the 102nd Infantry Division Association in my dad’s honor. I had missed the opportunity to appropriately acknowledge dad’s service and sacrifice, but I could still express it to those remaining veterans and their family members. The only word that adequately described that experience was “humbling”.
The story of the letters was reported in the Saginaw News (Michigan) on Veteran’s Day, 2007. The article and its author, Justin Engel, were awarded “Best Feature Story of the Year” by the Michigan Associated Press. Over time, I received many inquiries about how and where to purchase the book. I was grateful for the interest generated both from the article and at the reunion, but year after year I still had not yet produced the finished product. The organization of the thousands of pages of letters and hundreds of corresponding photographs was at times overwhelming. Added to that was my desire to deliver a “perfect” final tribute to my dad, a self-imposed expectation that often hindered my creativity and progress.
As I selected letters for the book, I routinely sent my two eldest sisters and friends, Linda Irish Larsen and Constance Irish Schneider, packets containing their "typing assignments". Often as we typed, one of us would be so deeply moved by a particular excerpt that we called the other two and read to one another. We laughed, we cried, we reminisced - what an awesome shared labor of love.
Over time I began seeing familiar names in the “Taps” section of the 102d Division newsletters that I continued to receive after dad’s death. Sadly, the audience for whom I most wanted to publish the book, the WWII generation, was a dwindling population. At one point I simply had to make peace with the fact that the book would be done when the book was done. I continued to chip away at it over the weeks, months, and years and am pleased the finished product is finally in print.
This book is dedicated to my parents...
- To my wonderful mother, Elaine Marie Irish, a strong and exceptional woman, the beautiful object of Dad’s affections, and the inspiration for his wonderfully romantic letters. Every woman should be so loved.
- To my eternally optimistic father, Aarol W. “Bud” Irish, for fighting and persevering, for believing in God, country and freedom, and for finding his way home to my mom. He continues to teach and inspire me to this day.
Teresa K. Irish