An eclectic collection of letters from a sailor to his family during and after World War II.
While serving as a sailor in the U.S. Merchant Marine Corps during World War II, Frank B. Bradshaw Jr. faithfully wrote his mother and father, keeping them abreast of his travels and safety. In his first book, Robert W. Bradshaw, Frank’s son, has collected more than three dozen of those letters, from December 1944 to August 1946. The tone of the letters is set immediately; in December 1944, Frank expressed his regret that he didn’t come home for Christmas, an example of the closeness of the Bradshaw family that comes through in every epistle. Sometimes the letters are thrilling, portals into a historically tumultuous time. Frank chillingly describes the “cold-blooded slaughter” of Ukrainians by German soldiers, a vignette of the many horrors on display during the war. While touring Germany, he marveled at both the beauty of the country and the ruin brought to it by battle. “Hamburg was hit the hardest of any city I’ve seen. In some places, there is not so much as a wall standing for miles.” In August 1945, he first communicated the rumors he had heard that Japan was considering surrender and that the end of the war might finally be at hand. Frank’s correspondence also serves collectively as a kind of travelogue, documenting his impressions of locales that must have seemed exotic to a 19-year-old from Memphis. He visited New York City, Panama, London, Cuba, and many more cities and marveled at all the cultural variations. The common theme of the letters seems to be a persistent homesickness and a loving devotion to his family. While always charming, this particular collection will likely interest those who either knew or are related to Frank—the reader looking for fresh historical revelations will be disappointed. Another drawback: much of Frank’s writing is devoted to descriptions of quotidian matters. He provides a running assessment, often replete with detailed menus, of the meals he ate. The editor ends the book with three brief conclusions largely concerned with his view of the connection between God and science; these are difficult to comprehend and bear no obvious connection to the letters.
A lovely tribute to a father from his son that has limited appeal to those outside the Bradshaw clan.