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Write brothers

WWII letters chronicle one family’s story

Collage of old letters
The Eyde family of Rockford, IL, exchanged hundreds of letters during and after World War II. Image: The Washington Post

When Joe Alosi bid for the contents of an abandoned storage locker several years ago, he didn’t expect the plastic bin he found inside would hold a poignant chronicle of one family’s triumphs and struggles.

The Mesa, AZ, businessman discovered the bin contained hundreds of handwritten letters dating to World War II.

The letters were written by Frank, Sanford, Ralph and John Eyde, four brothers from Rockford, IL. Their parents, Lorentz and Margaret, were Norwegian immigrants.

Frank, Ralph and John served in the military, while Sanford worked stateside. They regularly corresponded with each other and other family members about their wartime experiences.

Frank, who fought in the South Pacific and contracted malaria, described battles: “[O]ur ship shot down five [Japanese] bombers coming right close to the ship, trying to crash into it.”

Ralph detailed wounds he suffered and being awarded a Purple Heart, which he described as “one honey of a metal.”

The letters also captured Frank’s tragic struggles after the war, including being admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

The Washington Post recently published an extensive article about the letters after being contacted by Alosi, who asked the newspaper to help him find relatives of the Eydes, who have all died.

The Post spent more than a year on the project, including producing a multi-part podcast in which the letters are read by modern U.S. military veterans.

Vicki Venhuizen, a cousin of the brothers, considers the Eydes heroes and hopes more people will discover their letters and the stories they contain.

“It would be wonderful if they ended up in a World War II museum somewhere,” she told the Post. “That would be a great last stop.”

Post-story highlights