Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Dad's letter Dec. 7, 1941

"Grandma, what's this envelope from Daddy?" I asked as I thumbed through a box of old photos.

She reached for the tattered, yellowed airmail letter, opened it and gasped, "Oh gracious!  It came two weeks after Pearl Harbor.  We didn't know until then if Elbert was alive or not."

"You mean you thought his ship was one bombed?"
Read this enlarged below.

Mamie & Alfred Tippett
Grandma & Papa
"Honey, back then, we didn't know much about where their battleships were.  News traveled slow during those days. Even the letters home had black-out marks in them. A security thing I reckon."

I reached for the letter and we were both trembling.  It was a lost piece of history, reclaimed.

Daddy was in the Navy for over 30 years.  During World War II he was stationed on the battleship USS Washington.  That was the letterhead where my eyes fixated.  Battleships were named after states then.  This was the sister ship to the USS Arizona. 
USS Washington battleship

This was before my birth but Daddy had a wife and little boy, Bert, back home.  He sat down on board his ship just hours after Pearl Harbor was bombed.  He pecked out his emotions on the day of infamy, as he typed this letter to his parents. I began to read it aloud:

Elbert Worth Tippett, Jr. 

"Sunday, 7 December, 1941

Dear Dad & Mom,

Well I wrote you a couple days ago and I decided to write you again tonight.  I just finished a letter to Kat and Bert.  I guess they have been up to see you several times by now.  Well this leaves me just fine and ready to go.

I know everyone down there and all over the United States, as a matter of fact, are keeping their ears glued to the radio for the news.  We are all listening, trying to find out the dope.  I was asleep in my bunk when someone came by and said Honolulu was bombed.  I did not believe it at first.  I guess the nation as a whole was shocked.  The reason I sat down to write this letter was to tell you all not to worry about me for we will be OK.  We are ready to meet anything they have or will get.  I try to tell Kat not to worry about me but I guess she is like the rest.  You can not help but worry just a little.  I know every one of you will do more worrying than I will.  If I don't, why should you?  Of course you and any of the rest will not know where we are and of course that is as it should be.  But I will write often and you all write to me and when I get the chance I will be home to see you all.  I would like very much to be home for xmas but I doubt if I will be able to get off.  In fact, I don't even expect to do so.

Bert will soon be walking all over the place I guess.  I would like to see the little rascal.  I have been very lucky for I have been around this long with them.  I am glad I sent them home when I did and they might as well stay down there until further notice.  I don't intend for her to stay down there for nothing.  I guess she will most likely stay at her home but you all will see them from time to time and I know they will be better off down there.  If they need anything I know you will help them and I appreciate it.  I don't know when I will be able to send her any more money.  I may be able to and I may not.  Anyway she will start getting a check each month starting the first of February but just in case, I know she will be taken care of.  If she has to have any, it would not be much.  I will gladly repay any of you, for I will have it.  It will, or might be, the problem of getting it to her.  But in case, I will see you get it back, in case you lend her any.  I don't think you will have to but I like to think they are taken care of when I am not there.

Well I will close for this time and don't worry who will get licked for I know we can.  As one of the senators said, "Now that it has started, get in there and lick the hell out of them."  And that is just what we will do.  Ha.  Ha.

Love to all the family,

A letter buried for over 30 years under faded photos, gives us a glimpse into the heart of a vet.  Now it resurfaces 70 years after Dad wrote it. 

I share it with you, to honor Daddy and the many others who bravely dedicated and sacrificed their own lives for your freedom as an American.



  1. Today as my fingers re-keyed Dad's very words written 70 years ago, I drew so much from his legacy. I sensed his bravery, fierce patriotism to win, his desire to extend his own peace to his family even in the middle of war.

    He also was determined to provide for them financially but trusted their extended families to fill the gap in his absence. THAT's a hero! I have a blessed, rich heritage for which I praise God anew today.
    * Peace from God
    * Love for family
    * Patriotism and loyalty to defending freedom

  2. Louise Armstrong Jones worked for my father at Free Will Baptist Bible College in the 60's. He was director of food services.

    Louise writes:
    Thank you for posting your Dad's letter. I, too, have a Hero from those days. My dad was on the USS Manila Bay also off the shore of Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I'm so thankful that I had the privilege yesterday to twice thank him for serving our country. He is 87. Kathy, I loved working for your Dad and Mrs. Mac in the dining hall. I will always remember coming in at 6 a.m. and hearing the radio from your Dad's office. "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" still sticks in my mind today. Every time I hear it or think about it, I think of walking into the dining hall, hearing the music first, and then your Dad walking out of his office ready to start the day.