DULUTH, MINN. — Stuck at home during COVID-19, a Minnesota man is traveling back to World War II.
Typing with two fingers, Joe Westerberg is transcribing nearly 1,000, mostly handwritten, letters his dad, Allen Westerberg, sent home during and after the war.
“He’s writing every day for 2½ years,” Joe said.
Allen sent his first letter home on March 30, 1944, and the last one was sent on Sept. 23, 1946.
Each starts with the same salutation: “Dearest Mother, Dad and Annette.” Annette was Allen’s younger sister.
“I’m on his ship with him and kind of following along,” Joe said.
Joe’s dad almost certainly would have been part of the invasion of Japan, had that become necessary.
In one letter, Allen wrote about the atomic bomb just dropped on Hiroshima.
“What do you think about the news relayed on the new atomic bombs?” the sailor asked his family. “It has caused quite a stir on the ship for many of the fellows.”
Allen continued, “The scientists have even admitted that its power is not clearly understood. However, if it will shorten the war and save some American boys’ lives, I say by all means use it.”
Several of the letters Joe has been pulling from his father’s stack of manila files are riddled with holes. “This is a censored letter,” Joe said, holding up one of them.
He’s left to guess what his father wrote in the gaps. “All the mail was censored,” Joe said.
Joe marvels at the way his father would swing from serious matters to lighthearted.
“He always ate at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo,” Joe said. “He wrote in one of the letters, he didn’t say he stole it, but he took a spoon from the Imperial Hotel.”
To which Allen added, “And I’m hoping to get a knife and fork to complete my set.”
The spoon now sits on the table on which Joe is typing. “I know exactly now the day when he liberated the spoon,” Joe said.
Joe’s dad had a lifelong interest in entomology, which showed up in his letters too.