Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was attacked on December 7, 1941, catapulting the US into World War II. All over the country people learned the news with disbelief. They braced for decisive action, and worried more about their sons in military service.
Lester jotted a quick note of reassurance to his family on December 7 and air mailed it home on December 8, with two 3 cent stamps instead of the usual one. He knew they’d be worried, and for good reason. At the time he wrote, nobody knew what to expect in the coming days or weeks. But he wanted to let them know he understood how worried they would be and to tell them that he would be in touch when possible. He had been in the US Navy a total of six weeks.
When the letter arrived, his folks didn’t take the time to release the envelope seal. They dispensed with proprieties and ripped the end off to get his news as fast as they could.
There is no evidence that he was able to keep his planned Christmas leave. All leaves must have been cancelled.
Dec 7, 1941.
Anything I am about to tell you may be changed by the time you receive this letter. First, my leave has not yet been cancelled but the chances are that all leaves will be cancelled. The boys who did not make trade school have received notice that they will leave for the coast this Friday. We may have to leave also then but have had no word to that effect. Ernest did not make trade school & must leave Friday so of course he will not get leave. The news of the war has been quite a shock to us here. There is a lot of activity here now. I might call you by telephone if I learn anything but don’t jump every time it rings. Will write more when I learn something. Try not to worry as I may yet get to go to trade school. Don’t write after Wednesday unless you hear from me again.
Evidently, this is the last letter sent home in 1941. The next envelope would not arrive until mid-January. Perhaps he was able to telephone with news once or twice, but there is no way to know. It was weeks before his regular letter-writing schedule returned to a pre-war pattern. The holiday season in 1941 surely held more anxiety than joy. His family must have agonized about their beloved son and brother and what would happen to him next.