War Veterans column: Newark’s Perkins writes from war-torn Italy in 1944

War Veterans column: Newark’s Perkins writes from war-torn Italy in 1944

War

Doug Stout
 |  Guest Columnist

At the beginning of February 1944, PFC. John Perkins Jr., along with the Allied Army at Anzio Beach, Italy, had still not been able to break through the German defense. The mail delivery time between Perkins’s letters home and his family’s letters to him was unbearably slow.

On Feb. 8, Perkins’s 44-year old mother, Helen Perkins, sat down and wrote him. She attempted to stay positive but her concern for her boy shines through: “Dear Son, A few lines this bright beautiful morning. Hope it is the same there sun shining. I am ready to go to work but thought I would write before I left. Didn’t get to write Sunday as Aunt Mandy, Joey and Beverly was here for dinner. We all have terrible colds but are still going. I bought me a canary bird yesterday it is a beauty. I thought I could brighten up things around here. It has been two weeks since we heard from you in fact the [last] letter was written on Jan. 5. As you can see that is over a month ago. I wish I knew where you were and what you were doing. Oh well maybe someday I will. Well, dear time to close for now. Write when you can. Love and good luck from mother and dad and a hundred kisses sent by V-mail to you!”

The family then received a letter from John dated January 12. Helen wrote him again on February 16: “My dear Son, another letter tonight hoping you are well and safe. I have been reading in the papers about the boys in [battle of Monte] Cassino, what wonderful work they are doing. It seems a shame to destroy those lovely buildings but I guess they asked for it. Well, now we have all had colds but are much better now. Dad is still working shift work and I’m still at the Grill. Got a letter from Uncle Charles, he is in New Guinea now doing carpenter work, he is lucky. He is also the barber. Wouldn’t you like to stop in for a shave and or haircut? Don’t know much to write about as it has been so long since I heard from you, the last letter written Jan 12. Write when you can, and tell us as much about yourself as you can. Good luck and God bless you. Love always Mother and Dad.”

On February 16, Perkins, sent a letter home to his sister: “Dear Sis, just a few lines to you in the answer to your letters that were wrote Jan. 11-25. I sure was glad to hear from you also. I’m sorry that I didn’t write to you sooner. I have been very busy and didn’t have much time to write to anyone at all. Well, sis glad to hear by your letter that you sent me some candy bars. I will make short order of them when I get them, you can bet your life on that. Well, Sis, how is everyone at home, just fine I hope. For myself I’m fine at least I hope so. Write soon Love, Jr.”

That day, the Germans launched a new offensive against the Allies line. It lasted four days until on February 20, an Allied counterattack halted the German advance. Perkins and his fellow soldiers were still tied down in Italy.

Doug Stout is the Veterans Project Coordinator for the Licking County Library. You may contact him at 740-349-5571 or dstout@lickingcountylibrary.org. His book “Never Forgotten: The Stories of Licking County Veterans” is available for purchase at the library or online at bookbaby.com.

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