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San Diego Professor Shared WWII Soldiers’ Letters From Around The World
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Lisa Shapiro, author, "Aztecs in Amber"
World War II soldiers from San Diego, stationed everywhere from North Africa to Normandy, didn’t just write their families and friends when they had a spare moment during the war.
The soldiers who attended San Diego State also made sure to write to their old geography professor, Lauren Chester Post.
Post’s initial request to his students to write him in 1942 eventually yielded more than 4,500 letters over five years, which he collected in monthly newsletters that he mailed back around the world.
Issues of “The Aztec News Letter” and the original letters themselves, are still held at SDSU. Lisa Shapiro used those archives for her forthcoming book about Post and his students, “Aztecs in Amber.”
Soldiers openly shared their fears with Post, and said they found the monthly newsletter from fellow soldiers a welcome relief. Lt. Bob Noel, stationed on the U.S.S. Mississippi wrote to Post on April 28, 1944:
"Sometimes, doc, the going gets pretty tough – even on a battlewagon – and you feel discouraged and disgusted. And somehow the word 'Newsletter' flashes in your brain, and you pick out an old issue at random and start thinking of the other fellow – fellow Aztec. You think of the guy who used to drop by for you every morning and drive you out to State. It wasn’t much of a car, and we invariably had engine trouble, and I don’t recall ever making an 8 o’clock class on time. But you can’t help thinking of what a swell guy he was and how badly you felt when you learned that – that he had been killed in a bombing raid over Germany.
You read about others who have been killed or wounded. And you read about others who have been away from the States a hell of a lot longer than you have. It’s then that you realize that things aren’t tough at all – that you’ve just been kidding yourself!"
Shapiro said Post was an engaging professor who was involved in the lives of his students even before the war. But Post, a World War I veteran, wanted to help former students and other soldiers struggling with loneliness abroad.
“There’s a very touching column that comes later where he thinks back and says, ‘I remember what it was like to be alone at night on a dark watch,’” Shapiro said.
Shapiro joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss Post's work and how the newsletter became so popular.
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