Updated Nov. 19, 2022
Is it off-putting to read a blog called “Well, Happy and Safe,” knowing that it’s about the wartime letters of an army infantryman who dies four days before the end of the war?
If it were, I wouldn’t be surprised, but for me, it couldn’t have had any other name. The last letter I transcribed on this blog, dated Oct. 5, 1943, began with these words: “I am still well, happy and safe and I hope you all are the same.” (NOTE: I posted a transcript of a newly discovered letter on July 29, 2022, and realize now it predates the letter referenced here. This “new” letter is dated Sept. 30, 1943, and is thus the first I’ve seen that uses Babe’s full “well, happy and safe” construction).
From this 45th letter on (NOTE: now 46th letter), nearly ever letter he writes will begin with those words. I am well, happy and safe. He has landed in Italy. He is in the infantry. He is now in combat as a radio operator for an anti-tank company. He is well, happy and safe.
He’s been working up to this with variations on the same theme.
“I’m feeling fine and fit and I hope you all are the same,” he wrote at the open to his Aug. 22, 1943, letter.
“I’m feeling fine and dandy and I hope you all are the same,” he wrote, opening his letter of July 27, 1943.
“I don’t know how to start this letter except to tell you I am feeling fine and hope you are the same,” he said, opening a letter in June.
“My training here is drawing to a close and I’m still feeling fine. I hope you all are feeling good too,” he told his brother Bob in a letter on May 26.
I wonder if it’s a technique that he uses, just to get his pen on the paper and start writing something. Does he dash off that first line just to get the juices flowing, hoping that something else will follow?
Or is he really just that upbeat about his situation? Does he love being in the army so much that he really does feel well, happy and safe?
Is he just trying to set his parents’ minds at ease? Babe wrote that letter four days before his 19th birthday. Relax, Mom and Pop. I’m thousands of miles away on foreign soil wearing a uniform and carrying a firearm. You haven’t seen me in eight months, since I shipped out for basic training. Yes, I’m still only a teenager.
But I’m well, happy and safe.