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Light Notes: Wartime love letters offer vital link

Lucy Luginbill, Tri-City Herald on

Published in Religious News

In the early 1940s when a teenage boy deftly flung the newspaper to front porches in Twin Falls, Idaho, little did he know that in a few short years he would be part of the news. Nor did he know how words on a page would be a lifeline.

"Pearl Harbor happened smack in the middle of my senior year," Bob Bush of Richland, Wash., recalled in 2013 before his death slightly over a year later.

But at only 17 years old and with high school graduation ahead, the patriotic student knew he would have to wait to join the war effort. And like a typical teenage boy, his eyes were more focused on a pretty girl in his class rather than on the distant war.

"I had dated one of her girlfriends," the then-89-year-old reminisced. "But Aleene had first noticed me earlier because I delivered the newspaper to her parents' house."

In time, the two connected, passing notes in school as their romance blossomed.

"The study hall monitor caught it, and I had to get up in front of the class and read the note," Bob said in 2013, recalling with a shudder the embarrassment he felt. "It was a short note, like, 'Where are you going to meet after school, maybe at the ice cream parlor?' It wasn't 'I love you,' just innocent puppy love."

Little did the high school couple realize how note writing would prove to be a vital link during the difficult years of World War II.

"We wrote to each other every day," the Army veteran said about his bride of only six months before being deployed. "It took about two months for the mail to get there. Everything went by ship."

Life was harsh at the distant homing outpost in Assam province, India, where Bob led his three-man team in directing planes from missions over China back to the airstrip. Not only was there a high degree of isolation where he was stationed, but the daily meals were C-rations and everyday necessities were scarce or nonexistent -- even toilet paper.

To pick up mail and supplies, it meant a long trek from their tents through tea plantations to a docked U.S. ship. Aleene's letters always included writing paper, another item in very short supply.

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