Travel back to 1944, and look at World War II through the eyes of a 22-year old father of two, shipped off to Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois. Homesick and in love, Ray Langen wrote two or three letters a day to Rose Rita, expressing his feelings and describing his daily routine—through Navy school, troop train travel across the West, VJ Day celebrations in San Diego, a typhoon aboard the USS Kent Island, shore liberty in Honolulu, engine room watch on the USS Hamul, exploration of decimated Okinawa, and many more eye-opening experiences.
How the war affected civilians in the United States of America is captured through Rose Rita’s letters as well as those of Ray’s brothers and sisters. These detail how they coped on the home front in the German/English/Irish/Swiss farm town of Hokah, Minnesota, waiting for their loved ones to return.
In a letter written while in Buckner Bay in Okinawa, Ray wrote: “There are lot of souvenirs a guy could take home if he had room, but most of the things left to take are so big they ain’t practical, and I don’t want a skull or anything like that. One guy smuggled a skull aboard and wants to take it home. I don’t want any. Some fellows took a couple of bigger bones (probably leg bones) out of a tomb and also a skull and made a skull and cross bones on a rock and had their picture taken next to it.
This is sure a gruesome letter, but everything on the island is gruesome. I only saw two buildings that were still standing in the four miles we drove. There are lots of walls that stick out of the ground a couple of feet. Whole villages that are just leveled. Even the trees are shot up and burned.”