Letters from WWII soldiers on view
MILFORD – Winifred Wright never served in the armed forces, but she had empathy and imagination enough to know that soldiers stationed far from home want to remain connected.
In 1942, Wright organized an Army/Navy League of “mothers, wives, sisters and sweethearts” of soldiers and sailors on active duty in World War II to correspond with the servicemen, and a few servicewomen.
The women sent holiday cards, Christmas packages and copies of the Milford Cabinet. Birthday cards each had a $1 money order. Eventually, the League received more than 500 thank-you letters from soldiers, most expressing deep appreciation.
Typical was a letter from Lt. Herbert L. Adams: “If ever there was a time that letters, cards and the home town paper were appreciated by us in the service, it’s now,” Adams wrote from the jungles of India in November 1943.
The most unusual missive came from southern France, from a soldier named George Kimball on Oct. 8, 1944, who returned the $1 birthday check.
The check was not meant for him; he was from Louisiana. The Souhegan National Bank check he received from the Milford Army/Navy League had been meant for George Warren Kimball, of Milford, who eight months later was killed during one of the final campaigns of the war in the Pacific.
“Believe it or not, through a mistake of over a year ago, I received a check from you while serving in Cairo, Egypt,” the Louisiana Kimball wrote. “This check traveled through the victory campaigns of Africa, Tunisia and Sicily and with me in France. Also the Isle of Capri and island of Corsica.” On the back of the check he had written names of all those places.
Among the recipients of the thank-you letters are names Milford old-timers will find familiar: William Ferguson, Charles Guidmore, Waino Kokko, Rosario Ricciardi, Philip Tortorelli and Frederick Lorden.
“It really makes a soldier feel good when he knows that someone thinks of him once in a while,” Lorden wrote.
Pfc. John Luongo wrote: “Keeping our addresses straight so that we might receive The Cabinet regularly is a job in itself, and to receive news from home is just the nicest thing we have to look forward to.”
The Milford Historical Society is in possession of the thank-you letters, and now they are available for viewing in the Milford Historical Society’s Carey House.
Society member Janice Broderick organized all of them in scrapbooks, chronologically and alphabetically.
“I know it took her quite a long time,” said Society past president Polly Cote in an email, “but she felt they should be preserved for future generations. Many, many families have been thrilled to see these letters for the first time and wanted copies of them.”
Winifred Alice (Bowler) Wright is the author of “The Granite Town,” the Milford town history, and “Milford in World War II.”
In her autobiography, she wrote about financing the correspondence by running card parties in the Banquet Hall of Town Hall and soliciting local businesses for prizes.
The Milford Cabinet, she wrote, started sending the paper to the soldiers each week, but soon couldn’t handle the sheer number, so she provided the newspaper with weekly updated lists of addresses and the newspaper printed labels. The women of the League put the labels on the papers for mailing, and the Civic Club helped to pay for them.
Wright cherished and kept all the responses received from her “boys and girls,” as she called them. The letters were donated to the Milford Historical Society by her granddaughter, Denise (Wright) Fox.
“She was quite a character,” said Fox, in an email, “Brilliant, honest, blunt and driven. Everything a granddaughter attempts to emulate.
The Historical Society’s Carey House museum is open the second weekend each month April through December. On Saturday – Veterans Day – there are extended hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Sunday, the museum is open for its regular hours of 2 to 4 p.m.
The Society also will photocopy and mail letters to soldiers’ relatives who ask for them.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.