GROTON -- A trove of letters sent home by lonely servicemen during World War II, hidden for years at the bottom of a closet, surfaced when Sharon Blood took on the task of cleaning the Blood home after her former parents-in-law died.
Tucked into their original envelopes, many were sent to the "Home Town Committee, West Groton." Some were sent directly to Mrs. Elliot Blood. The letters, some without a street name, all made it to the committee who kept in touch with the soldiers living far from home.
Sharon, who married into the family which has been in Groton since the 1600s, recognized some of the names. She regrets never having the chance to ask her mother-in-law about the boys or about the committee.
Elliot Blood, who everyone knew as Barney, died in October. His wife Doris, the Mrs. Elliot Blood in the addresses, died the previous year.
Sharon was able to identify some. "I want to go further with this," she said.
Technical Sgt. Russell Harrington was really Spike. He lived on the hill. The Cleary boys were Barney's cousins who lived across the street.
But, many names were not familiar. Some, despite remarkably neat penmanship, were indecipherable.
Was that first name Asel or Abel? Was another last name Dynice or maybe something else?
A look at the World War II monument in Groton's Sawyer Common near the cemetery solved the first mystery. Asel. But no name looked even similar to the second.
"That's Uncle Tony from California!" said Karin Dynice-Swanfeldt. The Dynice family, with 13 children, had a farm right on the Groton-Shirley line. The mystery was revealed at the start of a phone conversation with the executive director of the Ayer Council on Aging about something else altogether.
Sure enough, Anthony S. Dynice and Stephen Dynice are listed on the Shirley monument.
The letters came from wherever the men might be. Sometimes a training camp, sometimes from an APO box with a heading in the letter of "S.
The Army Post Office numbers were used to both to conceal the locations of troops and to allow mail to follow them as they moved, according to the National Postal Museum at the Smithsonian Institute.
Sharon Blood was struck by the slang that dated the letters, especially the word "swell."
"Hey Everyone! I received your package today & it was swell," Joe Cleary wrote on a green, official U.S. Navy card.
Pfc William Sherwin received a Christmas package from the committee. He too rated it "swell."
The young soldier had been in six countries and lots of small towns and huge cities but there was no place like home. "I've missed the place very much, and most of all the swell people who live in it," he wrote.
Meeting up with someone from home while stationed far away was worthy of note.
Pfc Richard Cleary wrote from Arkansas:
"Perhaps the people of the town have already heard about the meeting in the Pacific area of two of our Marines from home but just in case they haven't I'd like to tell you. I received a letter from PFC David Collier a few days ago and he told me of his visit with Silvio Buscemi somewhere in the Pacific and how they talked over the times back in Groton, and of the ball games that were played by the High School."
Sgt. John R. Smith, stationed "Somewhere in France," wrote:
"Many of the boys from West Groton & the surrounding towns are over here but I have just run into M/Sgt. Jimmie Arsenault of Ayer. It had been three years since I saw him so you can imagine we had a lot to talk about."
Smith went on to say that he had moved since he last wrote and liked his new location better than Paris.
Some of the letters portrayed the heartbreak of being so far from home.
Richard Cleary asked Auntie and Barney (Blood) to buy a corsage "and have it sent to 'Baby Rose, from Dick, Your Marine Sweetheart' & have it say exactly that."
"I'll make it up to you later," he promised.
Military letters were censored during the war. Anything that could provide information to the enemy could not be included. Even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt received "a very stern letter" after she wrote about the weather in her syndicated column, according to Robert J. Hanyok in a book review on the CIA website.
None of the West Groton letters appeared to be censored, but the writers were careful.
"I surely appreciate your thoughtfulness and if you were in the same foxhole it would be self explanatory," Staff Sgt. Ed. Sweica wrote to the committee. "Hope to be around town this coming year. (Of course the war has a lot to do with it.)"
"(I would) like to tell you what we are building and making, but mum is the word," Ray Shepard wrote from S.W. Pacific.
The Home Town Committee formed in 1942 and dissolved in 1945 according to an article included in the Groton Town Diaries. They wrote to 75 servicemen, sending birthday and Christmas gifts and cards. "Home Fires," a newsletter, was sent from time to time.
So far, no copy of the newsletter has turned up.
As a final task, the committee planned to give each soldier a folder to hold his discharge papers.
But, they had a West Groton family to remember.
Ensign Joseph E. Cutler was killed during the war. He was born to Polish immigrants in West Groton and took a leave of absence from his high school teaching job to join the Navy Reserves.
The community rallied 'round. The family's thank you note to the committee was one of the communications that Sharon Blood found.
"January 9, 1945
"Dear President and Members of the HomeTown Committee:
"Nothing can mean more to those who have lost a loved one than kind friends and kind remembrances.
"For your kind remembrance at the holiday season, we wish to thank you all, most sincerely, and your thoughtfulness will never be forgotten.
"Mr. and Mrs. John Cutler and Family
"West Groton, Mass."
The letter "t" in the typewritten note was offset, not quite on the same plane as the other letters.
Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.