The collection is organized alphabetically by topic: Biographical Materials, Letters (in chronological order), Miscellaneous, and Photographs.
The collection consists mainly of letters. There are 68 letters handwritten by Albert Post to his children, wife, in-laws, and other relatives, dating from April 1944 through March 1945. Four of his letters, dated June 24, August 29, and September 5 and 11, 1944, were censored by officials. Most of them were written on onion skin paper. Another nine letters from family members and friends are also included, as is Albert’s telegram to Leila of June 15, 1944. All of the letters are in excellent physical condition. After the Box and Folder Listing, researchers will find a detailed Collection Inventory detailing the contents of each letter, as well as the author, addressee, dates, etc. to facilitate use of the collection. The letters are organized in chronological order.
The rest of the collection consists of one folder each of Biographical Materials (Albert’s birth certificate, business card, the letter Leila received from the Secretary of the U.S. Navy declaring Albert officially dead in 1946, information about the U.S.S. Halligan and its crew, and other materials,), 1916-2005 (Scattered). Photographs in the collection are of Albert Post either alone or with his immediate family. There is also a photograph of Albert and Leila with her parents, Maria and Milton Williams, and a formal studio group portrait of Leila and the children. All of the photographs are dated or from 1944 to 1945. A few Miscellaneous Materials in the collection, a newspaper clipping, undated, of Art Jackson, a famous hunter, which Albert carried in his pocket until he went to war, and Albert’s train ticket stub to California .
Albert’s letters were saved by Leila. In the 1960s, she distributed some of the letters to her children, notably those letters written just to Darrel to him and letters with interesting parts about Sharron Lei to her. When Leila’s house burned in 1981, the family thought all the letters still in the home had been destroyed. However, after Leila died in 1999, Sharron Lei found a cache of letters in a two-pound chocolate box in the garage, with the pearl ring Albert bought for his wife, as described in his letter of August 21, 1944.
Sharron Lei was so young when Albert died that she has no memory of him. She only knows him from stories family members told and his letters. Her research at the National Archives concerning Albert and the history of the U.S.S. Halligan, provided her family with Albert’s official death date for the first time.
Sharron Lei and Darrel donated letters in their possession, which are extremely precious to them, as well as some of their family photographs and biographical materials to the Clarke in December 2005. This is all that they have of their Father. Additional materials from the National Archives were provided by Sharron Lei and their Father’s favorite newspaper clipping on Art Jackson by Darrel.
Many of Albert’s letters survived time, moves to various homes, and a fire. Those that survived are in excellent physical condition and provide an in-depth, personal biography of their author. Albert was an articulate writer and wrote in a legible, cursive hand, occasionally being creative in his spelling. His letters are highly emotional, sad, lonely, and full of loving concern for his family. It is obvious that he adored his family. His loneliness and despair when mail was not delivered for sometimes up to two months at a time, is palpable and painful to the reader.
Today, World War II veteran are viewed as the greatest of the great, as super heroes, and perhaps at times the younger generations may think they were devoid of human frailties. These letters plainly document Albert’s very human pain and, indeed, agony he endured when physically separated from his family. He missed watching his children grow up, and his longed both physically and emotionally, for his beloved wife. Albert’s letters are also full of his hopes, dreams, future plans, and concerns for his wife and children, particularly Darrel, and his in-laws. Albert repeatedly wrote how he cried when he read and received letters and sometimes got so emotional he had to stop reading and go for a walk or into an empty part of the ship to compose himself. He also wrote that other proud shipmates got together after receiving letters to brag about their children and show off pictures of their beloved wives and children. Albert wrote mostly about his family, but there are many references to life in Gladwin, farming, hunting, fishing, relatives, and neighbors. He missed home cooking, particularly pies and cakes, hated naval chow beans, and longed for mail and photographs from his family, whom he thought about constantly, even in his sleep.
Besides his duties aboard ship and writing letters, Albert spent time developing his artistic side. He wrote a poem “Phantasma, found between two letters dated August 29, 1944, to his wife about his physical and emotional longing of a man for his wife when separated by war, clearly based on his feelings for Leila. He also sketched quite a bit from magazines. At the top of his letter dated March 1, 1945, Albert sketched an outline of a mother holding a baby from a magazine, and filled it in with his interpretation of how he thought Leila looked holding Sharron Lei.
This collection is wonderful for documenting the individual in war, a Michigan man who served in World War II while he loved and missed his family. It is also excellent for documenting the sometimes difficult and lonely lives that women and families endured while the men went to war and the necessary role that letters and photographs played in helping soldiers and sailors endure the stresses and strains of war.