“I so often wonder when I’ll be heading home and it seems like years…my thoughts are constantly of home and the pleasant things and people I left behind.” –PFC Arthur Hersh, Guam, October 1944.
Arthur Abraham Hersh was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on 26 November 1915, to Isaac and Yetta Hershkowitz, orthodox Jews who had emigrated from Romania in 1902. Arthur grew up in Jersey and Brooklyn along with his elder siblings David, Ruth, and Simon, and twin brother William, my grandfather. He was inducted into the Army in March 1942 at the age of 26 and spent his military service with the 77th Infantry Division in the Pacific Theater.
The Fighting 77th, as it was known, consisted mostly of draftees from New York City, and trained at Camp Upton, NY. They were assembled in less than forty days and endured intensive training for a year before their deployment to the South Pacific. Known as the “oldest” Infantry unit in the Army, it was activated for service in World War II on 25 Mar 1942 and sent overseas on 24 Mar 1944.
The troops were commanded by Major General Robert L. Eichelberger from March to June 1942, Major General Roscoe B. Woodruff from June 1942 to May 1943 and finally Major General Andrew Bruce from May 1943 and for the remainder of the war. They were inactivated March 1946.
The 77th received 16 unit citations and fought in the Western Pacific (15 Jun 1944 – 2 Sep 1945), Leyte Gulf (17 Oct 1944 – 1 Jul 1945), Southern Philippines (27 Feb 1945 – 4 Jul 1945) and Ryukyus Islands (26 Mar 1945 – 2 Jul 1945).
Of the hundreds of letters Arthur wrote home, only forty-four survived the years, along with a few souvenirs he sent home from the front. When I was younger I’d read the letters occasionally, but when I got older, I read them with more focus, and I got more details out of them every single time. My extensive knowledge of WWII history combined with research, enabled me to determine where he was and what was going on at the time he wrote the letters–things that were not available back then due to censorship.
Arthur was especially close to his twin brother Bill, who also served in the Army, as well as his sister-in-law, my grandmother May. It was May who Arthur often corresponded with throughout the time he was away. It is evident that her letters were a great source of comfort to him. To him, May was more a sister than a sister-in-law.
Some of the letters are short, others a little longer. Sometimes he had much to say, other times not. Soldiers were constantly on the move and took whatever opportunity they could to steal a few moments here and there to write, often times under the worst of conditions—conditions that most of us could never even imagine.
Everything in the transcribed letters is verbatim, and no words have been added or omitted. I’ve added a bit of historical account of what was going on in the Pacific during the time frame in his letters to help give some perspective. That information is in italics before the text of the letter. I’ve also scanned the letters, postcards and drawings he referenced in the letters and will post them.
Transcribing and publishing these letters is about paying tribute not just to Arthur, but to all the men and women who served during the war. Over 70 years since the end of the war, we are still indebted to their them for their service. And we always will be.
May they never be forgotten.
Read the letters here: http://lettersfromarthur.blogspot.com