Mt. Hood at Dawn. See more at Mt. Hood at Dawn. See more at http://www.lascheratlarge.com/photography
I’ve been reading a lot of letters. It seems all I do these days is read letters.
But here’s a letter for you. I wish I could send it to you on the onion-skin I so often find myself reading, the translucent sheets etched with the black ink of a an old Hermes’s or Corona Portable’s hammer-strikes, the sheet carefully folded into an envelope covered with bright stamps and decorated with a picture of a DC-3 and bold capitals reading “VIA AIR MAIL.”
Of course, I can’t, but I still want to say hello, because it’s been a while (probably) and I miss you (certainly) and connecting beyond the superficial digital zones where we encounter one another. You may know where I’ve been, but perhaps something will settle on this screen. Letters, whatever their substrate, allow thoughts to steep better than ever-flowing streams of information we feel we must address and process now. Right now. Always now.
So feel free to read this and whatever letters follow at your leisure.
By the time I had the confidential State Department documents in my hands, I was five days into my research trip to Washington, D.C., I’d flipped through hundreds, maybe thousands of pages of dusty, sometimes crumbling government documents, private letters from publishing luminaries, and even water-stained diaries from hungry, stranded soldiers unaware of a coming death march through mosquito-infested, sweltering jungles.
All of it was fascinating, but more than halfway through my trip, little of what I’d found was of use to me. I’d spent nearly every dollar I had to travel to the National Archives and the manuscript division of the Library of Congress, and I still hadn’t found a smoking gun. I needed something that would allow me to triangulate Melville Jacoby's position amid all the myths and memories of World War II that have bled into our consciousness over three quarters of a century.
Whether I’ll ever arrive at a point where this letter can be mailed is still a matter of fate. So far we’ve been scared plenty but very lucky — and I’m knocking on wood. We slid out of one island hideout just a bare two hours ahead of one of Mr. Tojo’s destroyers and have been seeing dim outlines on the horizon ever since. But all that will be a story later, I guess.
—Melville Jacoby, March 18, 1942, Somewhere At Sea
Hello NBC, this is Mel Jacoby, speaking to you from Hong Kong. About 48 hours ago I was in Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek’s capital of Chungking watching excited and happy Chinese celebrate their greatest victory…
—Melville Jacoby, broadcasting over the NBC Blue Network, Oct. 7, 1941