WW II Letters Collection

A recent rediscovery of some wonderful letters is now available to the public to honor our veterans. The archives of First Church contains 194 World War II era (1942 – mid 1944) letters from 133 people and 11 monthly newsletters that the church Historical Committee sorted and indexed in preparation for the church’s 350th anniversary in 2015.

Rev. Sally Colegrove, 2003

Most of the letters were from Greenwich service people to Mrs. Ethel Parry Fish, office Associate and former Youth Director at First Congregational Church in Old Greenwich. Some were also to and from Rev. Dr. Vincent Daniels, our Pastor. I have scanned the letters for easy access online and indexed them by the letter writer’s name, rank, location/APO and date, along with a short summary. I also scanned and retyped the 11 remaining monthly newsletters that Mrs. Fish mailed to about 500 service people from the whole town of Greenwich, no matter to what church they went. The newsletters and Index are searchable. In addition, there is a wonderful New York Times article from April 27, 2003 about Rev. Sally Colegrove saving these letters from the dumpster when they were cleaning out the attics of the church. It has some interesting perspectives and excerpts.

Cartoon of a hot march
Erwin Ferber marching 4 miles in 115 degree weather in Arkansas. He had a 70 LB pack.

These newsletters and letters are a real treasure trove of town, church and personal history of births, marriages and deaths as well as news from the service people. Some letters are amusing, sometimes with hand-drawn cartoons, and some poignant. The service people wrote from all over the world, like India, New Guinea and “Somewhere in the Pacific”. Every one of them thanked Mrs. Fish for her wonderful long newsletters. It meant so much to them to not only hear the news but to know that everyone at home was thinking about and praying for them. The church Youth Group collected Readers Digests and other books to mail to them, which the service people often passed around the barracks.

The paper letters will remain in the church archives, but you can view the whole scanned collection using the following link. If anyone is a close relative of one of the letter writers and asks to have the original letter(s) from their relative, we will be glad to send it to them.

Click here to see the collection

Do you have letters from any war?
The Center for American War Letters Archives at Chapman University in California collects letters from service people from any war, so if you have a collection in your family archive or want to explore what Chapman University’s collection contains, please contact them at the link at the beginning of this paragraph. I am sending the War Letter Archives a link to the collection so they can add them to their expanding archive.

Enjoy!
– Pat Larrabee, historian of The First Congregational Church of Greenwich