Letters from Lorraine Richardson

On July 25, 1944, a Western Union telegram arrived at 202 Main Street, Peabody, Massachusetts. The recipient, Lorraine Caroline Richardson, was living with her in-laws Ross and Florence Richardson; the telegram could only concern TSgt. Arnold Ross Richardson, then on duty with Company A, 24th Marines. “Deeply regret to inform you…” it began.

a_richardson
Arnold Richardson, 1938.

Arnold Richardson lost his life on July 5, during the battle of Saipan. For Lorraine, the nightmare was just beginning. She and Arnold married after the war broke out; he officially made her his next-of-kin, an obligation formerly held by his mother. Florence was unhappy with this arrangement and evidently viewed her daughter-in-law as something of an interloper – Lorraine (whose other correspondence indicates some serious financial trouble) was not only living in Florence’s house, but was now in charge of her son’s remains and stood to receive any medals and benefits. “Everything seems to come to the wife who has been living with us,” she complained to her congressman. “I wonder if you can look into this matter as everyone concerned feels that the father and mother of that boy shouldn’t be left out of this all together.”

Faced with antagonism from her in-laws and reeling from her husband’s death, Lorraine packed her belongings and moved back home in a state of physical and mental collapse. She did not, however, give up on her quest to find some closure. The beginnings of her reconciliation can be seen in these excerpts from her correspondence with Marine Corps Headquarters in the months following her husband’s death.


September 1, 1944

M. G. Craig
First Lieutenant
Headquarters, U.S.M.C.
Washington, D. C.

Dear sir:

On August 5th, I received a form letter from you of the date that my husband was killed; and since then I haven’t heard a word about any of the particulars surrounding his death. While I know that I will be informed as soon as any are received by you, I can’t help wishing that I would hear soon.

I intend to join the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve about the first of October, and it would be so much easier for me if, by that time, I knew all the details of his death. Then, I could put them all into the back of my mind and start my new life with a settled mind. As it is, I am forever wondering how it happened and that is making it very hard for me.

I understand that I cannot have the body until after the war is over. Therefore, at this time, I would like to make the request that his body be sent home to me as soon as possible after the end of the war. It would make it so much easier for me if I could see that proof that he is dead and have a grave to which I could turn for consolation. As it is now, I have nothing but a telegram saying my husband has been killed in action, and it all seems like a horrible nightmare.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for anything you can do for me with regard to sending his body to me and relieving my mind of its terrible burden.

Very truly yours,

Lorraine Richardson


September 16, 1944
13 Jones Court
Lynn, Massachusetts

Marine Corps Headquarters
Attention Casualty Section
Washington, D. C.

Gentlemen,

On July 5, 1944, my husband, Arnold Ross Richardson, Technical Sergeant, Serial No. 264338, was killed in action at Saipan Island, Marianas Islands.

As I intend to join the Marine Corps myself shortly, I would appreciate it very much if you could arrange to have his personal effects sent to me as soon as possible. I would like to have them before I enter the service as then I could put all my sorrow into the back of my mind and start life all over again with a more-or-less free and peaceful mind.

There must be about sixty letters and a few packages that I mailed after the date of his death, and I wonder if you could arrange to have those also returned to me as soon as possible.

Thanking you very much for all your assistance in my hour of sorrow, I remain,
Very truly yours,

Lorraine Richardson


September 18, 1944
13 Jones Court
Lynn, Mass.

Gentlemen,

This is to advise you that I have moved from 202 Main Street, Peabody Massachusetts, to 13 Jones Court, Lynn, Massachusetts.

Please, therefore, address any checks or mail for me to 13 Jones Ct. Lynn, Massachusetts in the future. I am now living with my mother and hope that I will receive the check for six months gratuity soon as I am at present unemployed due to a physical and mental breakdown caused by the shock of my husband’s death.

Thanking you very much for all your assistance, I remain,
Very truly yours,

Lorraine Richardson


13 Jones Court
Lynn, Mass.
Oct. 11, 1944

Captain Josephus Daniels, Jr.

Gentlemen,

On August 25, I mailed you my application for six months’ death gratuity in the case of my husband, the late Technical Sergeant Arnold Ross Richardson.

Yesterday, I was sworn in as a private in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. I expect to be called for training school on November 15th and would like very much to pay all my debts before I leave. It would be wonderful if you could send me my check as soon as possible so that I can pay these debts and buy a few things before I leave for training, as I have no money at all of my own.

Would you kindly let me know whether or not I can expect it in the next week or two?

Thank you very much for your kind attention, I remain,
Sincerely yours,

Pvt. Lorraine Richardson


Lorraine Richardson went on to serve with Headquarters, USMC in Washington, D. C. – the very office to which she had directed her letters. The work helped her to overcome her depression, and she remained in the service until 1946, attaining the rank of corporal. While in the service, she received her husband’s personal effects (a ring, a single letter, some photographs, and a wallet containing a nail file and two money orders), and in September 1945 was presented with Arnold Richardson’s posthumous Bronze Star medal.

LorraineRichardsonBSM

In 1947, Lorraine received a final shipment of her late husband’s belongings; they amounted only to a flashlight, a towel, four packets of cigarettes and one of gum. His body was brought back to Massachusetts in 1948, by which time Lorraine had remarried to a Mr. John J. Shaw. The Richardson family took responsibility for his burial, and brought him home to Oakdale Cemetery in Peabody.


2 thoughts on “Letters from Lorraine Richardson

  1. I remember those days when the bodies were being brought back for reinterment. My mother was the head of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary, and as a small boy, I went with her to many funerals and to visit the families. The war was over, but a great sadness prevailed for a long, long time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s