Author: Frank B. Bradshaw Jr.

Editor: Robert W. Bradshaw

Publisher: iUniverse

ISBN: 978-1-4917-7185-3

Frank R. Bradshaw Jr.’s letters home, written during his time spent in the US Merchant Marine Corps from 1944 to 1946, as edited by his son, Robert W. Bradshaw, ex-communications officer for a long-range surveillance unit in the United States Army, are moving not only for what they reveal of a young man’s struggle to deal with having to be away from home for the very first time at a time of considerable danger to life and limb, but also for the absences that mark these pages. Interspersed with snippets of anecdote about the weird and wonderful things encountered on the high seas, such as flying fish and whales, are numerous instances where the letters have been censored, pointing to the inevitable infringement of personal confidentiality that characterizes any war-torn situation.

Many veterans of our current-day military situation should be able to relate to the considerable strain that is placed on young people in a conflict situation, which is lent much credence through the draining effect of war on the psyche, as shown in this correspondence. Although, understandably, little precise detail is given of the exact conditions under which the merchant mariner lived at the time, sufficient evidence is provided of the lifestyle on board and ashore to make the reader aware of the unsettled, cramped and frustrating conditions faced at the time to make the thoughtful youngster only too grateful that their daily challenges are relatively minor in comparison, and that they are not compelled to endanger their own life for the sake of others.

The vast (for the time) distances travelled within a relatively short space of time, and the numerous foreign ports visited (ranging from Curacao in the Netherlands West Indies to Hamburg and the Kiel Canal in Germany) should prove to be of interest to anyone interested in travel during the mid 1940s. To those with a naval background, Bradshaw’s shifts and his evident pride in certain of the ships on which he worked should make for worthwhile and enjoyable reading, as, too, should his complaints of a skipper whose back he was only too happy to see.

In short, Forty-Five Letters from a World War II Sailor: How to Fulfill Your American Dreams is likely to strike a chord with a wide range of readers, no matter the age. A relatively short read, it is, nevertheless, likely to be a memorable one.