Soon, all those who knew of World War II up close and personal will be gone. That will be a shame. So it’s books like this that, over time, will become even more important. PLEASE SEND KETCHUP: WWII Letters from a B-29 Pilot is a fascinating snapshot of so many things. It captures the ache of young love, separated by war. It illustrates both the mundanity and profundity of life during wartime. And it is a historian’s treasure trove of missions, the military, and the mettle it took being a soldier during that seminal time in world history.
PLEASE SEND KETCHUP is a collection of letters and logs—letters from a soldier to his new bride and newborn daughter and military missions carried out during the siege. The mission logs are the nuts-and-bolts part of this moving machine. Detailed to a fine point, PLEASE SEND KETCHUP is a war buff’s dream. Missions are cataloged by their targets; Matsuyama Castle, Maebashi, Nishinomiya. Each describes the bomber’s payload, the success of their attack (“Thirty-two parent of the city had been destroyed.”), even such notices as how many searchlights were sighted, to name one of the more simple notations. It’s minutiae lovers’ heaven. For the rest of us, there’s the more interesting details of a romance separated by distance, horrific violence, and time, which is the books crimson, beating heart.
Eino, a barely 20-year-old serviceman, and his new wife Jeanne, have a faithful and lengthy correspondence. Eino describes his military life; its small pleasures, monotonies, and moments of camaraderie and, yes, fun. But he also describes the life he wants with his wife, how much he wants to come back to live that life and to hold his newborn baby girl. It, like the war logs, can get a little repetitive, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into wartime romance. Little things like admissions of sexuality (though, unfortunately, most have been deleted and replaced with an infinity symbol) and a never-missing—and that means NEVER missing—sign-off that denotes a time when he will “kiss you goodnight, my darlings.” The sheer consistency of his correspondence is admirable. It’s all quite beautiful and (obviously) exhaustively researched.
PLEASE SEND KETCHUP, while at times a tad too detailed, is a triumph in what it achieves; it educates, endears, and engages the reader in two of mankind’s most powerful conditions—love and war.
~Steven Foster for IndieReader