World War II veteran remembers love letters

Posted by Lucy Luginbill on November 9, 2013 

Newlyweds Bob and Aleene Bush pose the day after November 1943 wedding at Truax Air Field, Madison, Wisconsin.

COURTESY OF BUSH FAMILY

In the early 1940s when a teenage boy deftly flung the newspaper to front porches in Twin Falls, Idaho, little did he know that in a few short years he would be part of the news. Nor did he know how words on a page would be a lifeline.

“Pearl Harbor happened smack in the middle of my senior year,” Bob Bush of Richland recalls of the headlines that rocked America.

But at only 17 years of age and high school graduation ahead, the patriotic student knew he would have to wait to enter. And like a typical boy, his eyes were often focused on a pretty girl in his class rather than the distant war.

“I had dated one of her girlfriends,” the 89-year old reminisces, “but Aleene had first noticed me earlier because I delivered the newspaper to her parents’ house.”

In time the two connected, passing notes in school as their romance blossomed.

“The study hall monitor caught it and I had to get up in front of the class and read the note.” Bob recalls with a shudder at the embarrassment he felt. “It was a short note, like where are we going to meet after school, maybe at the ice cream parlor. It wasn’t ‘I love you,’ just innocent puppy love.”

Little did the high school couple realize how note writing would prove to be a vital link during the difficult years of World War II.

“We wrote to each other every day,” the Army veteran reminisces about his bride of only six months before being deployed. “and it took about two months for the mail to get there. Everything went by ship.”

Life was harsh at the distant homing outpost in Assam province, India where Bob led his three-man team in directing planes from missions over China back to the airstrip. Not only was there a high degree of isolation where he was stationed, the daily meals were C-rations and everyday necessities were scarce or nonexistent — even toilet paper.

To pick up mail and supplies, it meant a long trek from their tents through tea plantations to a docked U.S. ship. Aleene’s letters always included writing paper, another item that was in very short supply.

What he wrote to his wife on her stationery was always scrutinized.

“Where we were located was a secret,” Bob says as he reflects on the danger of “loose lips.” “If we tried to slip anything that was valid information, it was censored. Then he comments with a smile, “I wouldn’t even put anything like ‘sweet nothings’ in the letter because the censor would see them.”

Nevertheless, his love was understood and while he sacrificed a comfortable life to help defeat the Japanese, Aleene worked stateside to save her allotment of his Army check. On their first anniversary, a gold wedding band engraved with both of their initials arrived in the mail, the same initials they had used to send love notes in high school.

The couple’s deep love rose above the stressful war years staying constantly strong and reunited at war’s end. A beautiful life together came to a close just short of 65 years of marriage when Aleene died in 2008.

“We were very close from the beginning,” Bob reflects on their years together, noting they knew each other four years before the wedding. “We shared everything in our married life, even had a joint retirement in 1987 from Hanford.”

On lonely days Bob visits her grave where a picture of the two of them is on her headstone. And on quiet evenings he ponders a message they exchanged during the long war.

“While overseas, I had a very memorable dream about Aleene one night where she lovingly said my name,” Bob says with reverence in his voice. “I immediately sent a letter to her to tell her about it and when it had happened, a letter I knew wouldn’t reach her for two months.”

As the ship crossed the Pacific Ocean, Aleene had already penned a letter to her husband, the two notes crossing in the mail.

When his wife’s letter arrived, Bob read her words and was stunned. Aleene described a vivid dream in which Bob lovingly called her name.

The dates both dreams occurred? The same.

Perhaps true love always finds a way to be in touch.

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