Thursday, March 19, 2015

15. Letters to Nancy from the Front

In previous posts, I wrote that Nancy and I grew up in Gettysburg during World War II, a global event that dominated the front pages of local and city newspapers from 1941 through 1946. Last week, I mentioned, with regret, how the war became personal when Gettysburg residents in the service were reported killed, wounded or missing in action.

The war came home to Nancy in a very special way when she received letters from her uncle, Chaplain John Strevig who began writing to her when he was with US forces in North Africa. In a letter written from Tunisia in 1943, he wrote about his experiences in Africa, specifically Morocco and Casablanca.

Nancy and I toured Morocco and Casablanca in 1998, and during our brief visit we never realized that we may have walked where Uncle John had walked fifty-five years before we did.

In February 1944, Uncle John wrote a long letter to Nancy from “Somewhere in Italy” in which he described the sites and sounds of that country including Mt. Vesuvius. There, Uncle John obtained a small piece of lava which he sent to his niece, We still have that piece of the historic site today. 

One brief note from Uncle John was hand written while he was assigned to the 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion in Italy. It read:
“I am on Anzio Beachhead. Plenty “hot” now - lots of shelling. Not many safe places. Lovingly, Uncle Johnny”
Uncle John survived heavy fighting at Anzio and he survived until World War II ended in May 1945. After the war, Uncle John was stationed in Germany before returning to the United States where he continued to serve as chaplain at various Army bases until he retired from the service. He ended his career  in the ministry serving Lutheran congregations in Pennsylvania churches.

On May 30, 1953, Nancy and I stood before Lt. Colonel John R. Strevig in Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church in Gettysburg where he participated in the ceremony in which Nancy and I were united in Holy Matrimony. 

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