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article imageLetters written home from aboard the USS San Francisco 1944-1945 Special

By Jane Fazackarley     Jan 24, 2011 in World
Charles Welsh of Stuart's Draft, VA has written and published a new book called "Treasures from the Attic: My Father's letters 1944-1945"
The book is made up of a collection of letters sent home while aboard the war ship USS San Francisco or "Frisco" as the crew members would call it. The letters include everything from love letters to battle descriptions.
The author of the letters is seaman Charles A. Welsh or Chuck Welsh, father of the editor, and a former journalist with the Associated Press, a career that Chuck Welsh would later return to after the war.
Chuck Welsh enlisted in 1944 at the age of 32 and called himself "an older man in a young man's war". During his time at sea Chuck sent nearly 500 letters home which were discovered some years ago. Some of the letters in the book were written to the author Charles Welsh.
Charles Welsh explained how he discovered the letters:
"In 2003 my father was moving out of his home in Metuchen, NJ when my sister and I were surprised to discover two boxes of letters in the attic. He wrote my mother almost daily while in the Navy and she saved them."
"In 2004, I decided to transcribe the letters for my Dad and the family to read. There wasn't any urgency to this project which we termed "War Letters." In two-finger fashion, I typed periodically and shared the letters with Dad which he enjoyed"
"The project stretched on into 2008 and my objective was to complete them by his June birthday. I didn't make it and he passed away on June 23, 2008 at age 96. I completed the transcribing several months after his death. In one of the later letters, he and my mother talked about doing something with the letters, perhaps publishing them in concert with the Associated Press. It was only then that I decided a book was in order. Two years later, their dream became a reality - "Treasures From the Attic" was published."
Aboard the USS San Francisco
Aboard the USS San Francisco
Charles Welsh
An extract, taken from April 8 1944, day two in the Navy, reads:
"I want to start this for a few minutes before I officially become a "Boat" which is accomplished by the not-so-simple process of putting on one's boats - - a short, laced-canvas legging. From now on we live and work in them. This should be the tip-off that I apparently am over the last hurdles, and am a sailor for the duration...."
The letters in the book cover an 18 month period and totaled more than 1200 pages before the editing. Some of the letters describe boot camp and V-J Day. Others describe what it was like to witness a typhoon. Chapter 10 describes the battle at Okinawa and chapter 12 describes the battle in Iwo Jima.
Another extract, dated June 17, 1945, reads:
"Probably because it was my first full picture of an invasion, Okinawa was fascinating to me. It was a fearsome sort of fascination; something like a bird must feel when under the eyes of a snake. It was at Okinawa that I saw for the first time one of our planes shot down. Four fighters were attacking a Japanese gun emplacement; four went in, only three came out........"
Charles Welsh also gave me an insight into growing up with his family in Somerset, PA. He told me:
"It was house full of women - three aunts, my grandmother, my sister - with my grandfather and I being the only men - my brother was just past the baby stage. It was also a town full of women and older men, my grandfather's age.I used to help my grandparents at their newspaper stand. The customers were mainly women and "grandfathers". It was the same thing at church. Children of my age had to grow up fast in this non-male environment.
"The news stand was in the local Rexall Drug Store which had a lunch counter .My mother would get us cleaned up and we would walk up town to the store. My grandfather would go to his huge old-fashioned cash register and depress one of the large keys. The cash drawer would open and he would give us each a nickel so we could get some ice cream at the counter across the store."
"Since it is a pivotal part of the book, we children had our first experience with death - my grandfather's. (Dad came home on emergency leave but well after the funeral.) We remember the doctor's coming in and out and our aunts coming back to stay. We remember a large green canister being brought to the house and taken up to his room. My sister recalls that we were sent up town to a local grocery store for olive oil which we learned later was used to administer the Last Rite of the Church to grandfather. The wake was held in the parlor of the home and I recall telling my mother that grandfather looked like he was sleeping."
I asked Charles what he hoped people would get from reading the book. He said:
"I originally wrote the book for my family and to honor my Dad. However, WW II vets are literally a dieing breed. This book will be of interest to them and their families. By inference in the letters, readers will get a little feel about what life was on the home front during the war. There is also the love story aspect which may appeal to a different audience segment. Lastly I hope readers will enjoy well-written letters by an ordinary seaman covering a myriad of topics, not all war or Navy related."
Charles Welsh says that "the real author of the book is my father, Charles A. (Chuck) Welsh Jr."
Chuck Welsh's career in journalism lasted 50 years. After graduating high school in 1929, he began work at the Daily American in Somerset. Chuck Welsh also worked for the Tribune Democrat,in Johnstown, PA before starting what would become a 36 year career with the Associated Press which took him to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Louisville and finally to New York where he stayed from 1961 up to his retirement in 1978.
Charles Welsh says his father's journalistic talents are evident in the letters sent home
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