All The Way, Or Not At All.

This letter, written by Corporal Arthur Ervin in April, 1944, is the only known communication to survive the war-mostly because it was presented as evidence in a post-war legal battle between his mother and his widow. The case was decided in favor of Ervin’s mother, based to a large degree a single sentence: “I did change my insurance, if anyone gets it Mom will get it all.”

Ervin is writing at the the close of an important week. Three days before, he was presented with the Navy Cross for his actions in the battle of Roi-Namur; the following day, he was promoted to sergeant (and is still unused to the title, signing off “Cpl. Arthur B. Ervin”).

All spelling, grammar, and punctuation are as recorded in the transcript of the letter presented as evidence in court.

April 29 1944

Hello Bud[1]

I’m sorrow that I have not written to you long before this – Received your letter last nite (somewhat delayed) So will ans. right back. How are things going with you these days – Kay, holding you down[2] – me – I couldn’t be better as you probably know by this time I’m back to duty with my old company, certainly glad to get back with the guys again my side is O.K. now and I can do allmost everything I did before, It never bothers me in the least, Guess you know that it was close,[3] Lavada wrote me a letter just before she went to Seattle, and I’m looking for the Chief out this way any day now,[4] By just reading your letter over I can’t tell wheather or not you like the idea of waiting so long, you got a break in a way, I got a letter from Mom every 4 or 5 days[5] Speaking of Mother Bud I did change my insurance if anyone gets it Mom will get it all, I didn’t change it because of what you said in your letter, I had allready for a couple reasons of my own, one I don’t want ‘Neg’ ever to feel obligated to me, but I know that neither you or Kay would and never did lie to me[6] So I want to ask you something but before I ask you I want to tell you how I feel about ‘Neg.’ Bud she is the only one for me but things are all the way [or?] not at all, know what I mean?[7] Write me and tell me if things are not that way. I don’t want to plan on something and things go haywire, Let me know, Bud I have some good news for you, Do you know what the “Navy Cross” is? I was awarded the “Navy Cross” by Admiral Nimitz last Wed. I am dam proud of it and Sending it home to Mother[8] Wish you could have been here Bud to see me get it Wonder what H. L. will think? Kay I’ll send you that hula skirt this time if I can find a good one, Gotta close now will be waiting for your ans. Love to you both

Your brother

Cpl. Arthur B. Ervin


 [1] Older brother Harley Earl Ervin, who was working as a shipfitter at the San Diego navy yard.
[2] Harley’s fiancée, Kathryn Moeselle.
[3] Arthur Ervin was wounded twice in the battle of Roi-Namur, first by a near miss that left a bad burn on his skin, and again by a bullet through his side. He made a fast recovery and volunteered to return to Company A, returning to duty on March 24, 1944.
[4] Lavada is the wife of the eldest brother, Harry “H. L” Ervin. “The Chief” is probably a reference to Harry, a Navy chief radioman then serving in the Aleutians. It was (and is) a Navy custom to refer to those of this exalted rank simply as “Chief.”
[5] “Mom,” at the time Mrs. Willie Meek, was living in Detroit, Texas. The former Willie Moore, she lost her first husband (Arthur Ervin Senior) to a mine explosion in 1922. Her second husband, William Meek, died in 1937. She would remarry a third time, becoming Mrs. A. J. McGuyer, before her death in 1962.
[6] The crucial passage that would decide the court case bears some explanation.

When Arthur Ervin entered the service in 1940, he named his mother as his beneficiary. However, his marriage to Odina Gladys Good (“Neg”) prompted a change effective August 24, 1943.

Evidently, the new Mrs. Ervin made a negative impression on both Harley and Kay, prompting the letter Arthur mentions here. The bloom is off the rose for the bridegroom as well, who already has “a couple reasons” to change his policy back to his mother. The court case was decided on this statement; although no official change in policy was recorded in Ervin’s paperwork, it was decided that he intended to make the change, and in this case, intention was enough.
[7] There is some indication that, while Odina “was the only one” for Ervin, the feeling was not reciprocal. In particular, a Marine from Ervin’s platoon was generally believed to be the unwelcome interloper; company officers eventually separated the two when their bad blood threatened to spill over into outright violence.

Perhaps tellingly, Odina married the other Marine immediately after the war.
[8] Ervin, not given to displays of emotion, was almost overwhelmed by the presentation. “Ervin told me after it was over that he almost burst into tears when they told him he was getting the Navy Cross,” wrote his platoon leader, Lieutenant Phil Wood. “He meant it, and for a tough, hard-bitten little guy like that to feel that way….”

2 thoughts on “All The Way, Or Not At All.

    1. Thank you, Toni!

      We are still trying to get JPAC to investigate the site where Arthur Ervin is buried as an unknown – it has been a long process but we get closer every day.

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