DiscoverBiographies & Memoirs

Letters from a Korean Foxhole: Remembered Words of a Forgotten War

By

Worth reading 😎

Can't get much closer to living through past wars than via letters/pictures of those who've gone before! History brought to life? Priceless.

Synopsis

“I’m okay Ma. Don’t worry about me. By the way–– thanks for the salami.”

For many young men serving in the Korean War, their happiest thoughts were the hope that a salami would arrive from home. These thoughts of a simple soldier, and many more, are described in Elizabeth Venturini’s book Letters from a Korean Foxhole: Remembered Words of a Forgotten War. The words both–– simple and raw––were written by Elizabeth’s father as a 20-year-old soldier fighting in Korea. A trove of letters sent home, preserved in a shoe box, show a much different War than Hollywood portrayed. They tell a story shared by many young men with a common background who fought in a country no one had heard of, for a people no one knew. The Korean War was known as the Forgotten War––except to those who fought it. This book honors all those soldiers who fought in obedience to their country. They were faithful, they stood up to their challenges, and they mattered. This is one of the many everyday soldiers who did their duty and did it well.

We tend to romanticize the American 50's; however, this book paints a picture of things we may have overlooked and forgotten.


Having had a grandfather who served his country during World War II and the Korean War, I was keen to catch a glimpse of what life was like for those on the front-lines. However, I truly wasn't prepared for the language captured within the letters of this particular soldier when writing home! I can't imagine having a relationship with one's parents in which cussing is common-place or acceptable even during times of war. (Never directed at a person, only to describe situations; however, fair warning that language is prevalent within the letters incorporated within this book's pages.)


Of course, for many a soldier war is hell and simply cannot be adequately described in any other way. In fact, the main protagonist, Louis, does an amazing job of shielding his parents from almost all of his war-torn, roughed-edged reality and what had to be moments of anxiety (at the very least) he experienced in regards to his orders received.


I appreciated having access to letters Louis sent home to his brother, Julio. In these letters you receive a clearer picture of what life was like during the Korean War and what Louis, in particular, was facing on a daily basis when called to the front. For his brother's sake as well as his own (I imagine) he opened up.


Also included within this books pages are numerous historical references and photographs! Bringing history to life in this manner breathes more life into the letters themselves and presents a well-rounded perspective.


For me, what was lacking was merely a bit more... More insights from a daughter having interviewed family decades after the war, more insights from her father 70 years after the fact, etc. Although words of others are present, what would have made this book amazing would've been if letters were available and included from both parties involved. Letters the parents had sent and letters they received in turn. A bit more humanization of the whole experience, a bit more story and a little less stolid facts.


Kudos to the author for what truly must have been a time-consuming, labor of love to honor not only her father but all servicemen who served during "The Forgotten War". The servicemen didn't forget, for better or worse they suppressed and carried on.

Reviewed by

Reading books and writing reviews brings with it every emotion under the sun; forever changing, forever changed, and I wouldn't have it any other way. May my words not only help fellow readers but also the authors of the books we read.

Synopsis

“I’m okay Ma. Don’t worry about me. By the way–– thanks for the salami.”

For many young men serving in the Korean War, their happiest thoughts were the hope that a salami would arrive from home. These thoughts of a simple soldier, and many more, are described in Elizabeth Venturini’s book Letters from a Korean Foxhole: Remembered Words of a Forgotten War. The words both–– simple and raw––were written by Elizabeth’s father as a 20-year-old soldier fighting in Korea. A trove of letters sent home, preserved in a shoe box, show a much different War than Hollywood portrayed. They tell a story shared by many young men with a common background who fought in a country no one had heard of, for a people no one knew. The Korean War was known as the Forgotten War––except to those who fought it. This book honors all those soldiers who fought in obedience to their country. They were faithful, they stood up to their challenges, and they mattered. This is one of the many everyday soldiers who did their duty and did it well.

In the Shadow of His Brothers





Louis Joseph Venturini was born on December 14, 1929, to Joseph and Elizabeth Venturini in Huntington Park, California. He and his family lived in a small house in a neighborhood surrounded by his mother’s parents, brothers, cousins, and friends. Because of the Great Depression, his family, like most families, struggled financially to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Louie’s father worked for the Southern California Gas Company, and his mother stayed at home taking care of the house and their children.

When he was old enough, Louie went to the local parochial school. To pay for Louie’s tuition, his mother washed and ironed all of the priests’ vestments, and Louie served as an altar boy. Despite the Depression that had financially devastated most families in the U.S., life for the Venturini family was relatively stable, but it was not to last. Although the U.S. was not at war, many people believed that the U.S. would eventually be drawn into the wars that were being fought in Europe and East Asia.

On September 16, 1940, the U.S. instituted the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. All men between the ages of 21 and 45 were required to register for the draft. Those who were selected from the draft lottery had to serve at least one year in the armed forces.

The entry of the U.S. into World War II changed everything for Louie’s family, as it did for every family. Overnight there were plenty of jobs to be had to support the War effort. Louie’s dad worked overtime at the Gas Company. His mother made a little extra money at the church.

Both of his older brothers would have to serve. His eldest brother Joe enlisted in 1942. Because his wife Margaret was pregnant with their first child, he joined the Coast Guard  hoping he would be stationed on the West Coast closer to home. Instead, he was shipped to New York to guard the Atlantic Ocean.

His second eldest brother Julio joined the Navy on October 26, 1942 and entered active service on July 1, 1943. Julio was a Specialist First Class Physical Training Instructor, stationed at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. While enlisted, he was also part of the V-12 Navy College Training Program, which was designed to supplement the force of commissioned officers in the United States Navy.

Every family on the street where Louie lived had a family member serving in the War. A picture of a serving man or woman was proudly displayed from every window, while the U.S. flag was hung from every porch. Everybody was worried about everyone’s son or daughter. One family had four sons who had served, and three were killed—all good friends of Julio’s. Photos of all sons could be seen from the family’s living room window. All of the neighbors had a “victory garden” to make up for the food they could no longer buy. Food was in short supply due to rationing, with everything going overseas to feed the military. While the War waged on, Louie would see meat served to his family maybe once a week, if they were lucky. No one could buy consumer goods, cars, tires, or gas, due to rationing. As the War continued, Dad would spend time in his pre-teen years in his Uncle Geano’s auto shop with the other men, listening to them talk about the War news and the big battles going on in Europe and the Pacific.

By 1945, Louie was going to Huntington Park High School, located down the street from his house. He did all the usual things boys did, such as playing football, basketball, track, and participating in school clubs. His brother Julio was still serving in the Navy and kept tabs on Louie through letters. He didn’t discuss the War, but instead asked him questions about school and encouraged him to do his best. And of course, there was always the request from Julio that Louie, as the remaining son, take care of their parents. Here are some letters sent to Louie from Julio, all cleared by the Naval Censor in Alaska: 


November 10, 1944


Dear Brother,

Hello Louie, how’s everything going your way? School okay? Work, play, and all? What are you doing in basketball this season? Racking ‘em up? How many per game? Your swell letter came with Mom’s today, and I was wondering when you would sit down and scribble me a few lines. I know how you hate to confine yourself at times. I do appreciate your writing. That friend of Joe’s may be around here, but as of yet, I’ve not run across him, but maybe he will appear in the gym one of these days.

Thanks a lot for the newspaper clippings. Bill Sargent coaching the Rangers sure is swell, and they’ve now won 10-straight. Yes, Pete is playing with them, as is Paul. Pretty lucky, huh? That Huntington Park High School team of yours sounds like it’s red-hot, and the way you describe each man sounds as if he were a potential all-city place level. Those 70 yards kicks are pretty long—sure they aren’t a little less? However, I’ll take your word!

I’ve sent you a watch for your birthday. Hope you’ve received it and like it. I’ll be sending you something else later on. Have you taken Mother to a show lately? How about doing it the night of the day you receive this—thanks! Well, Bud, time to secure the joint for another night—be good and take care of yourself, study a little, but have a lot of fun.


Your Brother,

Julio





January 25, 1945


Hello Bud,

Well skipper, how’s everything going along, not working too hard at the books, are you? I think not I’d like to hear you’re working for Artie. Don’t make a habit of it. It’s too tough of a work and you don’t have to take it or do it.

That party at Beppe’s sounds like it was okay, could sure go for some of those tamales. Who mixed the drinks, you, or Dad? How many did you indulge in?

Boy, that letter of yours was sure long, all of one page! How about sitting down and taking enough time to write me a long response? Come on now, I know you have more “tiempo” than I. Tell me about your schoolwork, sports, club meetings, and if any of my old gang are around, or some little thing you’ve heard about them. Is Mike still at Nonna’s? And Ruby? 

The weather really hasn’t been too bad of late, but tonight she is a bad one. Rain and wind plus sleet. Sure am glad I’m not riding small crafts any longer.

Been refinishing the gym deck and changing over the gym room, so you see I’ve not been so busy all my days all the time.

It’s about midnight, so I’d better say good night captain and take it easy. All my love to Mom and Dad.


Your Brother,

Julio



January 25, 1945


Dear Louie,

Hello Bud, and how are you feeling? Getting along okay in school? Incidentally, how about a report on how you have done in your first semester exams. That gym test with the aid of your buddy must have been some record. How about it? How did you make out in the mile run?

How’s the club getting along? How many meetings? How’s the ball club? Any good prospects? Don’t let any of those speakers influence your life about the service, and the advantages on what they have for you. So Bud, I don’t want you forced to sign up for a damn thing. Your job is at home—taking care of Mom and Dad and living your youth as God wanted you to. So, stay put and tell those civilians who talk so goddamn well of the Merchant Marines to get in it and let the young fellows in school alone!

Guess old Pops still has a lot on the ball. Seven years in a row bringing home the bacon is okay. How’s next year look?

So old Mike is still at Nonna’s living in the garage attic? Thought Bill Jones would be home now. 

Well skipper, about time for the sack, so I’ll be signing off now. Let’s hope this finds you very well and happy and don’t work too hard or long. Love to the folks and regards to all. Good luck and good night.


Love,

Your Brother,

Julio




February 6, 1945

Dear Bud,

Hello young man, and how’s the skipper of the household doing these sunny days? Working hard at after schoolwork? Incidentally, how are you doing in schoolwork? Not falling too far behind? You tell me you’re now in A-10, but what is that? Second half of sophomore year? And if so, how were your grades last semester? What subjects are you taking this spring? Do you mind answering my questions?

Talk about weather, well ours hasn’t been too good the last two days all in all. It’s okay, always could be worse, right now she’s really pouring down snow. Tomorrow I will need a shovel to get by the door.

How is the club getting along? What is it? The “Y” over on Gage Street? Been playing much ball? How’s track training coming along?

No, I didn’t get Virginia’s cake as yet, but as you say, maybe the postal inspector liked it better than I.

Has Joe been over lately? What about Barney? Didn’t see him before Joe shoved off. Incidentally, there’ll be a little something for you in the next box Mom gets. Do what you wish with it!

Well old-timer, about time for me to call quits and get on my parka and hit the road for my barracks. Goodbye, and best of luck always,


Your Brother,

Julio


Thanks for the clippings.


April 29, 1945


My Dear Mother and Dad,

Good evening, and how are my two best friends this night? Hope this finds you very well and not worrying about your prodigal sons. I assure you we’ll be okay, and we will feel better if we know you are not worrying over us. Just know we want you to take good care of yourselves. Your health and welfare are the main factors. So, let’s stop worrying about Joe and me and begin to take good care of your own cares for a change.

It started to be a lovely day this morning, so much so that I took off and climbed one of our mountains. At the top pinnacle, one is almost above the clouds and the view that is presented by running into deep gorges. High mountain range lines running for miles and almost straight, planes coming into land, and way up there so close to God that you feel him near enough to tell Him your troubles. It’s good to talk to Him, even a hypocrite like me finds solace and comfort talking to Him. 

Getting back to the weather, this evening it’s miserable outside, but good to sleep, and I’m tired of such a climb, so I’m hoping for a good night’s rest. Sure wish I were home in my own bed–perhaps soon.

Received the salami you sent via Beppe. Tell him thanks, and I’ll write soon. Don’t remember ever getting the $5.00; if I did, I’m sure I would thank him for it.

It's almost time to call it a day, and I’ve a very busy week ahead of me. Please promise not to worry and rest some yourselves. Remember, I’m always thinking of you and miss you both very much.


Your son who loves you,

Julio


May 1, 1945

Dear Mother and Dad,

Trying to snow again today after a couple of weeks of layoff, so I’m confined myself to inside until duty time. Taking advantage of the lull by dropping a few lines to assure you that I’m very well, and sure hope that this poorly written letter finds you both in the best of health and spirits. Take good care of yourselves, for we’ve a lot to do when this goddamn mess is all over, and it looks as though the end is not far off. Once they finish with Europe, it will be a matter of time.

Received Joe Rack’s letter yesterday, and as soon as I’m through with my watch this evening, I’ll drop him a few lines. He writes very well for his age. 

Have a couple of friends working in the engineering department where I should be, and who were formerly architecture and home designers. I’ve got them working on a couple of home designs for me so that when this is all over, we can start right in with a new home. Told them that the main idea was good planning and wiring, plus a conventional hallway, with plenty of sunlight to shower through.

Been some time since I had heard from Beppe or Geano. I guess they are quite busy with work. How are Nonna and Nonno? Nonno’s shoulder okay?

Well, it’s time I prepare for duty, so I’d better close and hustle along.

Take good care of yourselves and don’t worry for everything happens for the best. You are always in my heart.


Love,

Julio


Here is a poem that brings out the truth. The title of it is “Splendor of June Love.”

There has been nothing like your love, a deep spring, never dry,

A comfort in the darkness when despair stood gaunt nearby,

There is no magic like true love no wonder and no peace,

The waters of the spring flow deep and in them is release,

From all dark dreams from weariness, from worry and regret,

The living splendor of true love heals every hurt and fret.


Arizona Republic, December 18, 1944.


And folks, there’s been nothing like your true love for us kids and remember we all know it.


Julio





As Julio predicted in his last letter, Germany surrendered on May 7th and later Japan on September 2nd. Julio and his brother Joe came home and picked up their lives where they left off before the War. As for Louie, his life was just starting. Upon high school graduation, Louie wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do, so he apprenticed as a plumber until he received his plumbing license.

On June 25, 1950, 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th Parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north, and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. This invasion was the first military action of the Cold War. By July, American troops had entered the War on South Korea’s behalf. The Korean War draft called up men between the ages of 18½ and 35 years old for terms of duty averaging two years. Men who served in World War II did not have to sign up. In 1951, the Universal Military Training and Service Act was passed, requiring males between 18 and 26 to register. The average age of soldiers in the Korean War was estimated to be between 17 and 24.

Louie turned 20 years old in December 1950, and it was his turn to go and serve his country. Now the letters that were sent home from war would come from a different son.

About the author

Elizabeth Venturini has more than 30 years of marketing, PR and writing experience. She has been printed in major news outlets and publications such as the BBC News World, U.S. News & World Report, China Daily, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, and the Boston Herald. view profile

Published on July 24, 2020

40000 words

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by

Enjoyed this review?

Get early access to fresh indie books and help decide on the bestselling stories of tomorrow. Create your free account today.

or

Or sign up with an email address

Create your account

Or sign up with your social account