Naval Ensign Tracy A. Sugarman (1921 – January 20, 2013) arrived on Utah Beach in the late afternoon hell of June 6, 1944. His letters home to his new wife, June, along with sketches and paintings done on the spot, document that period of American history, right up until he left for England on December 1, 1944. His book, My War, contains his version of the whole story, including the artwork. And what a story it is!
But this letter (written on September 22 aboard the T. B. Robertson, a transport and the port direction ship), captures the ideals, the loneliness, the ennui and the excitement of the time, when America was young and strong.
‘It must be difficult, hon, for you to sense the delight we experience here just talking about home. There is almost a greed that every guy feels when he speaks of his wife, his town, his family. America looks so wonderful from here, Junie. This “old world” seems truly to be an old world. Just think of it, Junie — the tastes that are so completely “our own,” and that we don’t even think about in the States: waffles, corn on the cob, milk shakes and ice cream sodas and sundaes and banana splits! Neon lights that say Pepsi-Cola — or Charlie’s Drug Store. Refrigerators where the lettuce comes out crisp with drops of water on the leaves — and cold milk in bottles! I haven’t had a glass of milk since Feb. 8th! Elevators that fly straight up faster than you can think. A whole rich world of music and art and sensations. A lavish world that stretches to the last reaches of your most enthusiastic dreams and imaginations! Cities that hum.
My God, I must sound like something out of Sinclair Lewis! I hope that central heating and spotless men’s rooms haven’t made me into an “intolerant American.” I don’t think they have. Rather than arrogance, I think I’m just tremendously proud and thankful. Babbitt was a fool — he accepted the material as the only measure, the beginning and end-all of living. He was a fool because he thought of gleaming chromium and super sewage systems as the end. He should have gotten on his knees and thanked his thousand lucky stars — and resolved to make himself worthy. We’re the luckiest, wealthiest heirs in the world, darling. God knows why — but we are. If only we could take that daring and drive and childlike confidence that has carved out the nearest thing to heaven on earth in only a hundred and fifty years — and weld it into a spiritual and dynamic force for good, we Americans might make part payment on a heritage so vast, so gracious, so unbelievably generous that you can see it only when you are thousands of miles away.’