posted in OBJECTS OF HISTORY on February 12, 2013
A letter written in the form of a love story about him and his future wife was one of nearly 200 letters penned by Aviation Machinist’s Mate Third Class Vernon Shaw during his service in World War II, including time spent on board the carrier Enterprise (CV 6). When he finally returned home in 1945, he married Miss Evelyn Holland, beginning over six decades of matrimony.
It is a fact of military life that the love stories of those in uniform and their spouses or significant others sometimes play out from afar with vast distances separating husbands, wives, fiancés, boyfriends, and girlfriends. While those serving today have more instant communication using modern technological tools, those in the past communicated mainly by letter, mail call always a welcome event for those overseas anxiously awaiting word from home. Sinmilarly, the daily postman’s visit was much anticipated on the home front eager to hear from those thousands of miles away.
It was in one such letter that Aviation Machinist’s Mate Third Class Vernon Shaw began a long-distance correspondence with Miss Evelyn Holland, one that would eventually encompass nearly 200 letters written from stateside bases, Hawaii, and cramped compartments on board the carrier Enterprise (CV 6), in which Shaw served during combat actions in the Pacific. Yet, it was the first letter that set the tone, written by the young sailor in the form of a love story with the opening words, “I am going to tell a story. It may not be in full. If time permit[s] I could write a book. Once there was a girl & boy…” From there, he proceeded to recollect their falling in love, from a nervous high school student mustering up the courage to ask her for a date to the war that was now forcing them to be apart. “They are both still in love with one another, just hoping for the best…Know in a short time if the war is not over he [will] probibly (sic) be out on the ocean to fight…[so]millions of boys can go back to their loved one[s]. ”
The couple would have scant time to see each other in the months and years after the Sunday night Vernon Shaw wrote this letter from Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida, but he took no chances, actually sending Evelyn an engagement ring through the mail. Not until 1945 would Vernon Shaw return stateside for an extended period of time, and he used part of his thirty days leave to marry the girl in his story, walking down the aisle on January 16, 1945, at First Baptist Church in Fernandina, Florida. On that day he proudly wore his service dress blue uniform, which sixty-seven years later his devoted widow Evelyn and daughter Jill donated to the museum along with that first letter from a forlorn sailor to the woman with whom he was destined to spend over sixty years of marriage.