Prologue...

Arthur Abraham Hersh was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on 26 Nov 1915 to Isaac and Yetta Unger Hershkowitz. Isaac and Yetta were orthodox Jews who had emigrated from Iasi, Romania to Brooklyn in 1902. Arthur had a twin brother William (my grandfather) and older siblings Ruth, David and Simon. 

Arthur, a kind and compassionate man, with creative and artistic talents, was inducted into the Army in March 1942 at the age of 26 and spent his military service with the Fighting 77th Infantry Division in the Pacific Theater.

The 77th 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 survive, along with a few souvenirs he sent home from the war. My grandparents kept the letters in a box in a safe place since 1945. When I was younger I'd read the letters occasionally but in the past few years I read them more thoroughly and with my knowledge of history and some research I was able to conclude where he was at the time he wrote the letters, when those types of details were censored from letters. 

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. Arthur and May often corresponded throughout the time he was away and her letters were a great source of comfort to him. To him, May was more a sister than a sister-in-law.

Some 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 letters is verbatim, 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 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. Over 70 years later, we are still indebted to their sacrifices. May they never be forgotten.

Jess Clackum, September 2010

2 comments:

  1. "With the Old Breed" is a wonderful first-person account of fighting in the Pacific, a front that was far harder on the troops than the European theater. I mention it because Arthur said nothing in the letters I read about what the fighting was like. I'm sure this was typical because of how unimaginably horrific it was. Percy Sledge, the author of "With the Old Breed", only recorded his experiences decades after the war.

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  2. Pardon my oncoming senility. The author's name was Eugene Sledge.

    Per your epilogue, severe diarrhea goes with dysentery.

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