World War II Letters,

A Dutch Naval Officer,

and His American Bride

‚ÄčIronically, the adventure that had begun with a fast-talking twelve-year-old runaway on a fishing boat became a nautical career. By 1943, that boy is a debonair young Dutch officer whose ship is sunk by a Japanese submarine. An inquest into the incident brings him to the shipping company’s offices in New York City, where he is captivated by a charming secretary. For Dirk van Ekelenburg and Blanche Waldeck, first glances are enough to seal their fates.

 

After a whirlwind courtship, they are married for fifty-two years. She moves with him to the West Coast, leaving her parents in New Jersey. He must return to his duties at sea. His family in occupied Holland is suffering and starving. Her brother is an American soldier in England, then France. Only long and frequent letters connect the couple and the families.

 

Collected here are some of those letters, many of which read with the excitement of an old-fashioned radio program with all of its twists and turns. Despite censors removing restricted defense information, these letters illuminate how wartime punishes nations both weak and powerful, and individuals both military and civilian.