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D-day: What It Cost
This is a story of the months prior to June 6,1944, and a few of the days following, told through some of the letters my twenty-three-year-old father, Frank Elliott, wrote my mother, Pauline, while he was with Company A of the 741st Tank Battalion, and some she sent him at the time of the Normandy landings.
May/June 1994 | Volume 45, Issue 3
“Generous amount of determination,” “knows her own mind.” Nice subtle ways of saying boy is she stubborn. So now it is your plain duty to direct DeRonda’s purposefulness into the proper channels. I will plead guilty on all charges that she inherits her ah—determination from her Dad and so it is that I beg of you to use whatever method seems best to see to it that her beauty is not marred by a personality dominated by bull-headedness and lack of sufferance. If children could only be made to realize that acquiescence is the better part of accomplishment. Then again we move into hazardous grounds since we don’t want our child to be made a fool of. —
April 11, 1944
Tell my sister Mary that her gift of sheet music to Maresy Doats was very much appreciated. — Tell Dondy ElIy Elliott that her Dad loves her and prays and plans for the day when he can come home to live with her. Tell Dorothy Wadlinger that when Mr. Elliott comes home she can expect more than a Coke and less conversation when she comes to spend the evening. It will be my policy to keep the Frigidaire bursting with 3.2 in case some of your friends drop in. A case just in case I always say. —
April 23, 1944
All this time in this army and I haven’t improved myself an iota. Today I had an occasion to saw a piece of wood about two feet long and to my amazement and deep chagrin discovered that my abilities as a carpenter are limited—but definitely. So when a cellar step comes loose in our life to come I will gladly furnish you with the hammer and nails. I who assure you that I will patiently endure the noise of hammering whilst you attend the ailing step. I praise your talents to the end darling, you have the ability to perform in any capacity and I’m sure you will save us many dollars by being a regular Mrs. Fixit. A house is an odd piece of equipment as it is in a constant state of deterioration but my worries along that line ended with a certain lovely marriage. I have learned one trade in the army—I have been washing my own clothes for these many months—so I shall buy you a carpentry set for Christmas and you can buy me a washing machine. I love you.
April 26, 1944
Well when I get to thinking of home I just get homesick as the dickens but one consoling thought is that the thing is bound to be half over and I guess I can do the balance of my time in this army on my head. The day we plan for will, please God, someday dawn and when I get off that train in Mahoningtown since that has always been the method I used to enter Ne Ca. But it may be a boat in New York, or a plane in Pittsburgh—but who cares as long as I see you.
I love you, Frank
April 28, 1944
Ah ha the hidden secrets of the clouded past do in time come out in sharp relief. I knew that one so fair could not go long with but a single swain but my expectations never considered so great a rival. … Darling please say you love me, please say it is me and no one else. Please please forsake all past regards for James Cagney. … If you say adieu to him in my behalf—I shall strip the tank, the barracks wall, yeah, even my recoil guard will be bared of all appealing pin-ups. If this isn’t enough I shall go whole hog—with your promise of unfaltering devotion I shall have your name tattooed on my leg beneath an appropriate image of Gypsy Rose L.—uh, I mean Miss Liberty. What joy of security will then be yours. …
May 3, 1944
I sincerely pray that if you fail to hear from me for a while, you will recall the words of the Gospel, “A little while and you shall not see me and again a little while and you shall see me.” But in your thoughts I shall always be and you in mine, no matter how great grows the gap of physical relationship. The A.P.O. has been a pretty good method to use thus far and I don’t expect it to fail us at this point. It’s funny how the Post Office includes all the acts of God in it, with wind, rain, snow, sleet but the most devastating act of man, war, is not considered a surmountable element by the government courier. …
May 6, 1944
All day I have been fighting the feeling which has been dominating me of late. I keep continually thinking of home and longing for home in the worst way. All your letters of how beautiful my daughter is becoming by the day. The realization that I am missing all these months and years of her formative growth is actually gnawing at my heart. …
I love you, Frank
Well, sweetheart, don’t worry, please. It is possible I may be a member in the assault but no more possible than that I may someday die.
May 9, 1944