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WWII LOVE LETTERS NEED A NEW HOME.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

``Honey, Marge, sweetheart - tonight is one of those bad nights I especially miss you. I just shall be the happiest man alive when once again we are together. Your loving husband, Johnnie.''

This is a love story. A beautiful love story in search of a beautiful ending.

Marjorie Britt, an 80-year-old widow living in the city of San Fernando, needs to find a good home for the letters - more than 150 of them - her husband, Johnnie, wrote her during World War II.

They are postmarked from all over the world - from Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed on Dec. 7, 1941. From a destroyer heading for the Philippine Islands. From action at Guadalcanal.

From the Solomon Islands, patrolling in a PT boat next to a young junior grade naval officer who would become one of our country's most beloved presidents - John F. Kennedy.

For almost 60 years, Marjorie has kept and cherished these letters, each read a hundred times over. Now, as she has grown older, she has gone looking to find them a new home.

A home where someone will laugh and cry reading them as she has. A home where people appreciate the past - appreciate a young G.I. pouring his heart out to his young wife waiting for him back home.

A home where the memory and courage of Navy Lt. j.g. John Ruffin Britt will be appreciated and remembered, and maybe even passed down for another generation to read about.

``I'm 80 and don't expect to live that much longer,'' Marjorie says. ``I have to find them a good home soon.''

``Marge, honey, I know this is so hard for you. Truly, war tests the caliber of people. I thank God I was so very lucky to have a wonderful girl like you fall in love with the old salty, seadog I am.''

John Britt was discharged on May 17, 1946, credited with four years of overseas battle service.

He came home with the Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medals with three bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, and the Navy Honorable Discharge Button.

He came home with a back wracked with pain and a body that could no longer tolerate the cold winters in Rhode Island. So he moved his young wife to the warm climate of San Fernando, where he found work as a machinist.

``I told him, Honey, I never want to move again, and we didn't,'' Marjorie says. ``I've lived in the same house since 1953.

``Without sounding too gushy, we had a good, strong marriage. We loved each other, but that didn't mean we didn't have our ups and downs.''

They might stay mad for a few days, but before long one of them would be reaching into that big box in the bedroom closet where Marjorie kept all his wartime love letters.

Pretty soon, they'd be laughing and crying together again, Marjorie says. Hugging and making up because if their marriage could survive a war, it could survive anything.

Anything but death. Johnnie died of cancer in 1969, when Marjorie was 42. She never remarried.

``I could never feel for anyone else what I felt for him,'' she says. ``I felt blessed, felt like I had something a lot of people never had.''

They had two sons - one disabled, Marjorie says. Her other son loved his father, but he doesn't care much about keeping those love letters from the battlefront, she says.

``I understand - it was another generation, another time that doesn't evoke the same feelings,'' Marjorie says. ``That's why I'm looking for someone who understands, who appreciates.

``These letters aren't just about love and personal feelings. They're about Pearl (Harbor), about Guadalcanal, and serving in a PT squad next to JFK.

``They're our history,'' she says. ``I can't just throw them away.''

Since John died almost 35 years ago, Marjorie lost touch with many of the friends they made in the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, so she doesn't know whether anyone there would want them.

Probably not, she figures. They've got their own memories to keep and cherish.

Some friends have told her the Library of Congress has a vault where it keeps old letters like this. But what good is keeping them there if nobody will be reading them, she asks?

No, it has to be this way, Marjorie says. She has to find them a good home where someone cares before it's too late.

If anyone is interested, write to Marjorie Britt at PO Box 527, San Fernando, CA 91341.

``Honey, let's always love each other. Let's be the two happiest people alive when we are together again. Your loving husband, Johnnie. July 3, 1944.''

It's a love story. A beautiful love story searching for a beautiful ending.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) Marjorie Britt shows some of the letters her late husband Johnnie wrote to her during World War II.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer

(2) A photo taken about 1943 shows Marjorie Britt and her now-deceased husband Johnnie.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 25, 2003
Words:846
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