The passion and poignancy of wartime love letters
Carroll has collected more than 100,000 war letters. He has letters from American conflicts from the Revolutionary War through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which now come in email form). He has often picked up old letters in person, earning him the nickname “the historian who makes house calls.”
There was a book compilation of the letters, a PBS documentary, and a play that made it to the Kennedy Center. The latest iteration is a podcast, called “Behind the Lines,” with journalist Barbara Harrison.
Other than descriptions of combat, the most common subject of the letters is love.
I didn’t write to you last night, Honey, but I guess you won’t miss one letter. You get my mail in bunches anyhow. Besides, I always write about the same subject, hundreds and thousands of books were written about it also. I’m talking about ‘love.’”
Months later, the letter was returned to her unopened with red letters on the envelope: “Deceased.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” Carroll said. “Because they weren’t married, she was not officially notified. His parents got the official notification, so this was how she found out the love of her life was gone forever.”
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