An Alcove in the Heart:
WWII letters of Sidney Diamond to Estelle Spero
The letters written by Lt. Sidney Diamond to Estelle Spero, his sweetheart, constitute, in the words of Andrew Carroll, editor of the best-seller War Letters, "a riveting war-time account that is also a compelling love story". A quote from one of Sid's letters is prominently displayed at the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, over an exhibit on the Philippines campaign. The author, Estelle Spero Lynch, was invited to multiple memorial and book reading events to share from An Alcove in the Heart, and the book was distributed by National Public Radio for two years as a reward for contributors to stations in the South and Midwest.
Sidney Diamond and Estelle Spero had met and become best friends and sweethearts in early adolescence, and the way seemed clear to marriage—until Pearl Harbor. Sid left college to enlist, but, determined to maintain the closeness of their relationship despite time and distance, wrote to Estelle almost every day. These letters, powerful, insightful, and moving, also reflect the humor that was part of Sid's nature. He served in the South Pacific as an officer, last, on Luzon, in the battle to take back the Philippines.
He received two commendations for action against the enemy in the Solomon Islands, and the Silver Star, posthumously, for “his indomitable courage, determination, and skill” in the fighting on Luzon.
When Estelle learned of his death, she promised herself to do something, somehow, to prevent his name from sinking into oblivion.
With this book, she kept her promise. Estelle chose from among the 525 of Sid's witty, original, and eloquent letters she had kept, and wrote headnotes for them. In these letters, Sid describes his experiences, affirms his belief in his country, and expresses his love for Estelle and his hopes for their future.
Sidney Diamond and Estelle Spero
Estelle, who graduated from Hunter College at the age of 19, Phi Beta Kappa, worked on war equipment at Bell Labs after graduation and then, having received a scholarship from Northwestern University, earned the degree of Master of Arts in theater and radio. She has taught speech and theatre at the University of Alabama, has been a speech therapist, was active in community theater, and taught English and speech for 30 years at Queens College. Her book, Reading for Academic Success, was published by Macmillan.
Estelle lived in New York with her husband, Louis Lynch, and enjoyed theatre, good books, and travel. She died in June of 2018.
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- Excerpts from a selection of the letters included in the book.
From Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, where Sid had been sent to join the Chemical Warfare Service he asked for Estelle's support.
As for the danger—well—I'm a soldier now—I recognize no dangers—I'll be careful—It's all a matter of luck—where the shrapnel falls etc.—'Stelle this may sound silly—but I'm going to ask you to come in on this gamble with me! Its sort of a game. If you win—one is just so much the richer—If you lose well we're both good sports—shrug your shoulders and say better luck next time!—In order to win, though, it requires that you stick it out 'till the game's over.—I know you don't play games, I know I'm a bit out of character but I'm gently hinting that you wait for me—at least give me a fighting chance when I come back!
Now near Shreveport, Louisiana. Sid reflected on whether he had done the right thing by enlisting.
April 10, 1943
Tomorrow I'll be all of twenty-one…
When I do hit that twenty-one I'll know that I've done my share, am doing my utmost to become an individual capable of understanding the value of liberty and the importance of maintaining the "eternal vigilance," to jealously guard that heritage of freedom. Platitudes? Kid stuff?—of course--…
Stelle, I've grown up—a great deal. No more moonstruck silly kid—I can appreciate what I had—far more than you can possibly conceive. But given the same situation again I wouldn't hesitate to do what I'm certain is the only correct thing!
In July, Sid went overseas, and was now in the South Pacific.
January 2, 1944
This afternoon Cotton, Hindman, and myself took two cases of empty beer bottles—our carbines and played Coney Island. We put the beer bottles up in trees. On the ground, in bushes. Then we just pot-shotted at the beer bottles.—It's like I said—this war business is an overgrown carnival—shooting gallery and all—Sunday was topped off by a “social” gathering of the remaining battalion officers. Everything from whores of Juarez to post war activities was discussed. Lt. Gutman raised this question—“What will people back home say to us when we return Will they call us suckers? They did those who fought in 1918!” --A strange hush fell over the officers, as if that was the question that all had thought about—all had worried about—We all realized how little people at home can conceive of the suffering, hardships, loneliness, violence of war…
“What will we do if they call us suckers?”
Rest and renewal brought a revival of humor.
November 3, 1944
More good news … I don't deserve it I know but I've received a letter from you … pardon me while I strut in self satisfied and disgustingly happy elation … You're wonderful, marvelous, stupendous, sweet, pretty, sugary, spicey and glorious to love and I don't think there's another such creature in all of Gods heaven, man's Earth, or Satan's hell … Kiss me darling before I collapse from sheer love of you.
Stopping off at Manus Island on his way to fight on Luzon, Sid wrote a long letter, of which this is the last part.
December 25, 1944
I love you darling—whatever happens—be happy—that's my only request—get everything we would have liked—fill your life—(er—only keep my little niche open—so if I ever get home—I'll know there's one place waiting for me—my corner of the world—Let it be a small alcove in your heart—put a comfortable chair there and always keep a warm fire glowing—Because if I come home in any recognizable form I'll head directly for that chair—That's where I belong—that's my home—with you--)