Sometimes odd things happen to book dealers.
Or at least to me.
I have sitting behind my desk a box of books waiting for me to get around to listing on Amazon. They've been waiting awhile. Other boxes have looked more interesting. The garden has been taking up time. DD has needed my attention lately.
So this afternoon, I decided to get to listing that box of books. I also decided to grab one of the music tapes I picked up at the last box sale. It's The War Years, all music that was popular during World War II, nifty songs like I'll Be Seeing You, As Time Goes By, Shoo Shoo Baby and Coming In On A Wing and A Prayer.
This should give you the atmosphere in my office as I'm listing away: books on Atlantis, Ballet Basics, a Pola Negri photoplay book. Then I picked up the next book.
What I now have in my hand is an unusual military collectible, a collection of poems by a twenty-seven year old World War II soldier. The front endpaper has a gift inscription, signed by what I suspect to be the soldier's brother.
His parents arrived in this country in 1905, part of the immigrant wave from Sicily. C. Louis Carpentieri was born in Connecticut in 1916. He graduated art school,and then, unable to find work during the Great Depression, worked as a census taker, and then lived in a CCC camp for a year and a half.
In 1941, Louis joined the Connecticut National Guard, 169th Infantry, 43rd Division and in September 1942, joined the war in the South Pacific. During the battle for the South Pacific, he wrote poems, one right after the other,sometimes in the midst of battle itself, sending many home, some to be published in the the Hartford Times.
The 169th went first to New Zealand, then to Guadalcanal, then, for Louis Carpentieri, to a final long assault against the Japanese on the island of Munda.
He continued writing through it all, entitling one poem "Death on Guadalcanal".
In August 1943, his parents received a telegram from the War Department in Washington that their son was: "killed in action, July 19, 1943. In defense of his country." Letters followed from Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimpson and General George Marshall of the United States Army.
When his personal effects were returned to his parents, they included a still soggy, musty mess of wet paper scraps, some with almost indecipherable writing.
Louis Carpentieri was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, and laid to rest under a white cross on the Pacific island of Munda. Five years later, he was buried with full military honors in the Mt. St. Benedict Cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut.
Eventually, Louis' sister and Martha Spencer, a reporter for The Hartford Times would be able to separate the wet papers, make out the faded writing, and bring them together in this book I now hold in my hand.
Sometimes the most unexpected stories come out of a box when you least expect it.
Youth, for one moment, fleeting
and unreal, divested of the
imagination which looks neither
forwards not backwards at things
they once loved, did what was to
be done! What had to be done!
Later, they would not be able to
recognize this grim self -
interlude of themselves.
Historian and biographer would
record only their heroic deeds!
Reaction of Gabriele During Battle, C. Louis Carpentieri, 1943
All this we have done in dreaming -
war and strife, struggle, love,
mad as they seem are but the
stepping stones to eternity.
Seeking Harbor, C. Louis Carpentieri, 1943