War letters, firsthand accounts from the front lines, provide a unique window from a military man’s or woman’s perspective. They become primary source material. Preserving such priceless correspondence as social history for future generations will be the topic of author-journalist Nancy E. Lynch when she presents “Preserving War Letters: Touchstones of Time” starting at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 17, for the Lewes Historical Society. Underwritten by a grant from the Delaware Humanities Forum, her presentation will take place at Lewes Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall on Kings Highway in Lewes.
Lynch's book, “Vietnam Mailbag, Voices from the War: 1968-1972,” has garnered critical acclaim for documenting correspondence from military men and women during the peak years of that conflict. From May 1968 through December 1972, young reporter Lynch relayed the hopes and fears, the joy and the tears, of nearly 1,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines from Delaware through her Wilmington Morning News weekly column, Vietnam Mailbag.
After her book was published, she faced the dilemma of how to preserve her letters from Vietnam, believed to be the largest existing collection of war correspondence ever addressed to one reporter. “As the mother of two sons, one of whom lives in California, I knew they would not want to lug war letters around. So I needed to find a safe home,” she said. “I approached Russ McCabe, then director of the Delaware Public Archives, to see if there was interest in preserving the letters. Russ, long a supporter of my book, agreed that it was a logical choice. So I gave all my letters and photos to the state archives. As I give talks on my book, I hear many stories of families who have loved ones' war letters but no longer want them. What to do? So I feel almost an obligation to help others do the right thing regarding their correspondence.”
Her informative and interactive program will discuss how - and how not - to safeguard letters from any war. A three-page handout of resources for preserving battlefield letters will be available to all attendees.
Lynch has written seven books and remains a freelance writer for area publications. A University of Delaware graduate, she lives in Bethel.
The public is cordially invited to attend this first Lewes Historical Society program of 2014. Light refreshments will be served following the presentation.