Of all the letters that the Center for American War Letters has gathered, one stands out as perhaps the strangest one of all – this World War Two letter written on a coconut. Captain David Fransen, a soldier stationed in the Philippines with the Army Air Corps sent this unique letter to his five-year-old daughter Susan in 1943. He carved a smiling face into one side of the coconut, wrote her address on the back, and sent it home through the mail.


Part of the V-E Day exhibit, displayed in the Leatherby Libraries in May 2015.

This is just one of the many letters in the ever-growing collection of the Center for American War Letters Archive. Under the leadership of founding director Andrew Carroll, the Center collects letters from all over the country, from every conflict in American history.

World War Two: The Pacific Theater
Leatherby Libraries, Lower Level & First Floor
September 2 – November 12, 2015

Opening Reception:
Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 5-7pm
Leatherby Libraries, Lower Level

This year, the Center has been highlighting letters from World War Two, in remembrance of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. The coconut letter is only one of the many letters that have been donated as part of the Center for American War Letters Archive. Earlier this year, we showcased several World War Two letters from the European front, in commemoration of V-E Day, when the war in Europe was won.

This month, for V-J Day – remembering the defeat of Japan – we are pulling out letters from the Pacific theater of World War Two. These include letters from Okinawa and Iwo Jima, as well as a letter from Pearl Harbor that recounts the attack in real time (for over 50 pages!) and a letter written from the bedside of the Japanese ex-premier, Hideki Tojo. And of course, Capt. Fransen’s coconut.

To view these fascinating letters and get a glimpse into this chapter of American History, you can visit the exhibit “World War Two: The Pacific Theater” in the Leatherby Libraries beginning in September. The exhibit kicks off with an opening reception on the very anniversary of V-J Day – Wednesday, September 2. At this opening reception, guests will be able to view the exhibit and tour the space that has been set aside for the growing Center for American War Letters Archive. It will also be a chance to meet Professor Greg Daddis, the new director of the War and Society program here at Chapman. We hope you will join us there!