Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
World War II letters, 1943-1945
MANUSCRIPT 2445-2447
Collection Overview


World War II letters, 1943-1945
Robert L. Abreu World War II letters, 1943-1945


Abreu, Robert L., 1919-2002, creator


This collection consists primarily of correspondence from Robert L. Abreu to his wife, Violet M. Abreu, including 239 holograph letters, 3 typewritten letters, 4 telegrams, and various ephemera. During April-June 1943 Robert writes from Laredo, Tex., to Violet in Oakland, Calif. For the rest of 1943 and 1944, he writes to her when she is living off-base near his posts in Canyon, Tex., and Santa Ana, Hemet, and Ontario, Calif. Letters during 1945 were sent from Ardmore, Okla., Pampa. Tex., and Sebring, Fla., to Oakland where Violet was awaiting the birth of their first child. Many letters are on stationery with Army Air Force insignia or cowboy letterhead and some have illustrations drawn by Abreu.
The collection also includes 9 letters and 3 greeting cards from Violet Abreu to her husband and a group of 49 letters from family and friends addressed to both Robert and Violet. A few of these were written by men serving in the European Theater, the South Pacific and the Aleutians. Ephemera includes mimeographed military orders; newspaper and magazine clippings; greeting cards; birth, wedding, and graduation announcements; calling cards; etc.
Robert's letters begin in April of 1943 when he is posted to Laredo, Texas. He and Violet had been married only 4 months; this is their first separation and his letters speak of his loneliness. He addresses each to "My Darling Wife" and often concludes with a rhyme, such as: "If life goes on forever for us two -- Darling, I'll never have enough time to love you --" Nonetheless, he doesn't want her to join him in Laredo: "Honey as far a[s] coming here is concerned it is out of the question because I only get off the field on the weekend - Sat. nite and Sunday until 10:00 p.m. It is hard to get a place to stay and honey I wouldn't want you to live in this hole. The places to work here are terrible. And pay is low. This is too dirty and uncomfortable weather for you honey -- too hot for my sweetheart. As much as I want you with me honey I don't want you to come to this hell."
Robert details his experiences as he trains to be a gunner, often including sketches to illustrate his activities. On May 4th, he describes airborne gunnery practice and shows how the gunner is positioned in the plane. "You have to stand up in the rear cockpit like this. This is what holds you in - a strap to your parachute harness [with] a clip on the plane floor. Sometimes the pilot will give you [a] thrill a turn upside down and you hanging from the cockpit with just that strap. What fun." He enjoys flying -- on June 11th, he writes: "Coming back we flew about 30 ft. off the ground and chased a few cows. We probably 'churned their milk'. Ha Ha. I'm glad now they sent me to this school. This flying is really a lot of fun. And you get some thrills too. Sometimes we stand upon one wing [illustration] and 'slide' down. The ground comes up fast. Especially at 200 mph!"
Later letters continue to document Robert's military career as he passes his tests to become a pilot. When Violet joins him in Texas and, later, in California, he continues to write during the week when he is on base. He appreciates her resourcefulness: "It isn't luck that we are together - it is all because of you. The way you get around is wonderful. Very few women would try as hard as you do to stay with their husbands, most of them would rather go 'home' and just lay around & have a good time." But soon they are separated again when Violet returns to Oakland to await the birth of their child. Robert's letters then talk equally of the awaited child and, especially after V.E. day, his awaited discharge.
Letters from family and friends provide a wider view of wartime life. Those to Violet from other military wives document their many moves, as when Ka Mills writes: "I was very sorry not to be able to tell you goodbye. Cog phoned me in the morning to pack and meet him at the station at 1:30. So you can imagine how I rushed!" Letters from servicemen give glimpses of the war effort up close. Bill Burgund writes several letters from England where he is flying missions: "I'll be in a B26 at least till I get back home & I'm sent to another theater of war. I've surely learned to like that ship. It's taken us through flak so thick I think we could darn near get out & walk on it. They really come back all shot-up to hell sometimes, but the main thing is getting back." In contrast, Robert's brother, Lawrence, talks of his ambivalence about serving in the Aleutian Islands: "In 30 more days I'll have completed 30 months in this forsaken territory - most of which work and effort we've put in, I'm sure, time will prove to be worthless - so it is rather disheartening to play your part in the 'war' in such a seemingly useless place - but then that's nothing for me to say -- "
Also of interest is the assortment of greeting cards and announcements in the ephemera collection that illustrate something of the popular culture of the 40s.


1943 (issued)


2445: R.L. Abreu correspondence: 1943. -- 2446: R.L. Abreu correspondence: 1944-1945. -- 2447: Misc. (Other correspondence; ephemera)


n-us-ca -- n-us---
Abreu, Robert L -- 1919-2002 -- Correspondence
Airmen -- California -- Correspondence
World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American
World War, 1939-1945 -- Women -- United States -- Correspondence
United States. -- Army Air Forces -- Biography


Robert L. Abreu was born on January 10, 1919 in Oakland, California, where he grew up attending local schools. In late 1942, he entered the Army and trained as a gunner before qualifying for air cadet school. During 1943-1945, he received training as a pilot and served at various bases in the U.S. but the war ended before he was sent overseas and he was discharged in September of 1945.
Robert and Violet Marshall were married on Jan. 10, 1943. Their son, Robert C. Abreu, was born in 1945 and a second son, John J. Abreu, some years later. After returning to civilian life, Robert worked for the Oakland Fire Department and retired with the rank of lieutenant in 1978. He and Violet then moved to Pioneer, Amador County, where they became members of the Nor-Cal Airstream Travel Club and enjoyed traveling about the country. Violet died on May 20, 2000 and Robert on March 21, 2002.
Robert L. Abreu World War II letters, 1943-1945
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.


Love letters

Physical Description:

363 items : ill.




MANUSCRIPT 2445-2447



Copyright Note:

Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.