New book by Langen Family
Wartime Letters of Ray and Rose Rita Langen
Ray and Rose Rita Langen
While going through some boxes from the back closet of our family home on Carlsbad Boulevard, my sister, Joan (Langen Fessenden), found our parents’ WWII letters. These letters chronicle the day-to-day trials of a young family separated by war. From our father’s time in the U.S. Navy and our mother’s days on the family farm in Minnesota, the letters give tremendous detail– Navy life at Great Lakes, Illinois, the military train west, Victory over Japan Day in San Diego, a typhoon aboard the USS Kent, shore liberty in post-war Pearl Harbor, engine room watch on the USS Hamul, first-person descriptions of decimated Okinawa, life on the open ocean, and the victory train ride home.
Through the eyes of a loving, homesick, 22-year old father of two, Ray Langen wrote two or three letters a day to Rose Rita, expressed his feelings, and described his daily routine. The letters provide glimpses into the connectedness of Ray’s brothers sent to war, the relatives’ eagerness for positive news, and insights into how they coped on the homefront in the German/English/Irish/Swiss farm town of Hokah, Minnesota.
In September of 1945, just days after VJ Day, my father rode up the coast from San Diego in a fellow sailor’s 1941 Pontiac. They passed through Del Mar (where they witnessed a fire at the stables), Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Lake Elsinore, and Fallbrook.
Eight years later, in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, my father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The doctor told my father that he would fare better in a warmer climate. The doctor suggested Southern California, far from the molds of the Mississippi River valley. Thanks to his wartime experiences, my father was familiar with coastal Southern California.
In June of 1953, my parents and their seven children headed west to settle in Carlsbad. For over 50 years, the letters were stored in a bedroom closet. The Langen siblings are so grateful that our sister Joan, a retired high school English teacher, organized and edited the material. We hear the voices of our parents’ era, the hopes, the opinions, and (for language lovers) even the idiomatic expressions of those gone live on in these missives. First published in 2012 as a digital book (available everywhere) by BookBaby Publishers, The Wartime Letters of Ray and Rose Rita Langen is in its second paperback printing. A few copies are for sale at Magee House (for $15.00). – -Ken Langen