‘A Legacy of Letters’: Book chronicles World War II hero’s hopes, dreams, fears

In 2002, Clinton Frederick returned to his grandparents’ house for a family wedding. Remembering from his childhood that the attic contained Japanese swords, a parachute and other World War II memorabilia, he decided to look around up there.

In an old trunk he found more than 100 letters written by his father, Capt. George Frederick, from the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. Most were to the Army Air Force officer’s mother. They told a personal story of critical campaigns in the Pacific war. Clinton Frederick started reading.

From those letters he has compiled a fascinating account of the battles for New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands, weaving together those letters from a pilot assigned to work with ground forces with historical information from literally hundreds of books, archival documents, interviews and websites.

To those of us who have been involved in wars, it is a strikingly human tale. The letters, written as private correspondence, unabashedly include Capt. Frederick’s hopes and dreams, his fears, his grief, anger, sympathy, love and devotion. Ultimately, they provided son Clinton – and us as readers – with an understanding of his father and, particularly, of his character.

Capt. Frederick was killed in action under circumstances that led to a posthumous Silver Star for gallantry. He already had earned four Air Medals, not an insignificant achievement by any means. His son included in the book about a dozen letters of condolence to Mrs. Frederick, some official, the most touching from fellow officers.

By the time we have reached the end of the tale we, like the author, have come to know Capt. Frederick, to admire him enormously, and to wish him Godspeed.

A Legacy of Letters, by Clinton Frederick; Five Star Publications; 455 pages, photographs, maps, index, bibliography; $26.95.

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