WWII-Era Letter Delivered to Family, 76 Years After It Was Sent

Photo Credit: U.S. Signal Corps - U.S. National Archives / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The widow of a US soldier who served during World War II is thanking the United States Postal Service after the organization delivered a long-lost letter from her late husband, some 76 years after it was sent.

US soldier sitting against a tree while reading a letter
US soldier reading his mail, 1945. (Photo Credit: Harold M. Lambert / Getty Images)

The letter was mailed by US Army Sergeant John Gonsalves in December 1945, while he was stationed in Bad Orb, in Central Germany. It was intended to be delivered to his mother in Woburn, Massachusetts, but was never received. In fact, it remained lost until last month, when it was discovered at a US Postal Service (USPS) distribution facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Sgt. Gonsalves wrote:

“Dear, Mom. Received another letter from you today and was happy to hear that everything is okay. As for myself, I’m fine and getting along okay. But as far as the food it’s pretty lousy most of the time.”

He signed it: “Love and kisses, Your son Johnny. I’ll be seeing you soon, I hope.”

Four US soldiers surrounded by letters and packages
US troops surrounded by holiday mail, 1944. (Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institution / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

When found, USPS employees began their search for Gonsalves, who they discovered had passed in 2015. They then began looking for his next-of-kin and found the address of his widow, Angelina “Jean” Gonsalves, whom he’d met just five years after sending the letter. Prior to his death, they’d been married 61 years and had raised five children.

On December 9, 2021, Angelina opened a package, which contained the letter and a note from the USPS, in which it expressed its condolences for her loss. “We are uncertain where this letter has been for the past seven-plus decades, but it arrived at our facility approximately six weeks ago,” the note read. “Due to the age and significance to your family history… delivering this letter was of utmost importance to us.”

Members of the Women's Army Corps sitting at a table, sorting mail
At the Camp Breckinridge Post Locator Department, members of the Women’s Army Corps sort and identify incorrectly addressed mail for proper routing, 1943. (Photo Credit: US Army Signal Corps / Interim Archives / Getty Images)

Speaking with Boston 25 News, Angelina shared her surprise over the letter’s existence. “Imagine that! Seventy-six years,” she said. “I just, I couldn’t believe it. And then just his handwriting and everything. It was just so amazing.

“It’s like he came back to me, you know? Really. That was amazing. He was a good man. He really was. Everyone loved him.”

US Marine reading his mail while sitting in a foxhole
US Marine reading his mail in a foxhole on Iwo Jima, 1945. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

More from us: America’s Oldest World War II Veteran Has Died at the Age of 112

Upon receiving the package, the Gonsalves family called the USPS distribution facility to thank them for their efforts.