I was drafted into World War 11 right out of high school in 1943. This is my story as told in the letters I wrote home. They’re all here, all 192 of them. Spend some time with me and you’ll learn a lot as you read or listen to the letters. They were written in an attempt to help me feel close to my family and to let them know what was going on in my life. It’s the first time I was away from home and I have to confess that I was homesick. Quite an experience for a Kosher boy!
“When my husband, Benjamin M. Kaplow, was drafted into the Army at age 18 on June 26, 1943, little did he imagine that his many descriptive letters would become a part of WWII history. I am proud to say that I have many letters about his months of training at Camp Croft, ASTP school at the University of Connecticut, the Tennessee Maneuvers, and Fort Jackson written before he was shipped out to the European front, plus his experiences he had in the countries he served.
His letters are innocent to begin with, some humorous (about a raid), some poignant (when he turned 20 yrs. old and still in Europe), one I just read about a developing romance with a Czech girl (I felt a pang of jealousy), letters of war torn cities, the surrendered prisoners marching as far as the eye could see, the night a pregnant girl gave birth in the house they took over (the medic said he always wanted to deliver a baby), the ambush he would never forget.
Topics he wrote about bring the reader into his world of a young soldier. Sent by one page Airmail letters, V-Mail, and even one on captured German stationery, the letters, all in his beautiful handwriting, were lovingly saved by his family and returned to him when we married in 1954.
My plan is to make a web site as a tribute to him for all to read. A nice Jewish boy who in those precious letters would ask for pickled herring, sardines, Fanny Farmer Candy, Campbell's soup, Tootsie Rolls, as well as articles of clothing for protection from the frigid weather. He felt sorry for other soldiers who were being sent only Spam. He even thanked his brother for the pipe he sent (apparently pre-smoked to get it to taste right.) One can only imagine how his family on the home front were carefully packaging and sending any items he requested, not knowing if they would successfully traverse the ocean and find their way to Ben in the 3rd Army, 26th Infantry (Yankee Division), 104th Infantry Division as they raced to the Battle of the Bulge.
I have not read all the letters stored in a box beneath his desk, and now, sadly, I cannot question him about their content. Yet they are mine now to ponder about the atrocities he experienced. Like so many returning soldiers, he never spoke about the war. Ben was awarded the Bronze Star for courage under fire. These letters are a testament to his strong family ties, and he was known for his gentle ways which, not surprisingly, truly captured my heart.”
More letters will be published shortly.
BY Florence Kaplow, Ben's wife