Minnesota's Greatest Generation

John & Georgiana Sonnen: "My One And Only Sweetheart"

John and Georgiana Kippels Sonnen were married in 1939 and had an eighteen-month-old son, Stuart, by the time John entered the service in March 1944. The couple would be separated for two years as John went through basic and advanced training as an anti-aircraft gunner stateside, and served in the European Theater. During that time, the Sonnens wrote nearly every day. They wrote about everyday events, related news of family and friends, and playfully shared their feelings for one another. Both saved the letters they received - more than 1,100 of them, chronicling one couple's wartime experiences, and the heartache of separation. Following are excerpts from two letters written while John was stationed at Camp Stewart, Georgia.

Letter Transcript

Monday, June 19th [1944]

Dearest John,

It was so wonderful to talk to you yesterday. Every Sunday my only bright hope is maybe you'll call and when it happened finally I had too much to say and ask. Wish I'd let you talk more. I've tried so hard to recollect everything you said and how you said it. You didn't sound very happy. Why didn't I ask the operator for another precious five minutes? Experience teaches – watch out next time you call. Bring a lunch with you.

Darling, did you tell me to wear or not to wear my wedding ring when I meet you at the depot? I have been shopping several times for a white dress (mental telepathy is wonderful) to wear just for you but have been unsuccessful so far.

The awful feeling I had when you first left is creeping back on me. If I scream and beg you just have to come home.

The little guy saw Mayme and Dad kiss each other yesterday. He told them, "Mama and Daddy does that too."

His memory is so wonderful it is amazing. This morning the temperature has dropped to almost freezing. I put him in my bed just to cuddle and get warm. He wanted me to tell him something so I told him about playing with his sled in winter time, how he could slide down big hills. Believe it or not he said that "Daddy did that with Stuart. Remember?" He often tells me to Remember an incident like that but his memory is uncanny, I think.

My folks bought a swell swing for the kid. I assembled it Saturday and by eventide he was swinging as high as the limits. Getting to be a mechanic and carpenter.

That evening we went to see "Jane Eyre". Lordy how I cried. One scene it flashed a sentence from the book, "I loved him so much and waited every hour of the day for love's fulfillment." A description that describes your wife's love for you.

I must call Laskas and see if the snapshots are ready so I can send them in this letter. The pictures you sent us are very precious and get more so as the weeks go by. I carry M. White's picture right along with yours. I whip them all out as soon as anybody asks,"How's John." I love the perspiration spot on Wednesday's letter too.

Funke's wedding was not lavish with liquor (2 drinks) so I didn't have the fun I expected. Dad was tired of me complaining about wanting and begging him to go on a bender with me. He promised to pour all the cocktails I could take into me that night at the T.C. I turned chicken after three of them what with the attention Stuart was attracting; he couldn't have his mother under the table, could he? [It] wouldn't be fun without you under there either, I decided, so I'll wait for you.

Aren't you the smarty being the flag man. Will you teach Stuart stuff like that? – the simpler things, I mean. We still march with him. Now he gives us the command "Stop," looks around to see if we obeyed, turns his little head and then orders go and then we march again. What a guy!

If I go on with this letter much longer I'll have to have it sent to a book-binder. Didn't know I knew this much to write about.

Don't ever ask me again over the phone, if I love you. It seemed like "every grain of sand multiplied by every star" was inside my heart and it was choking me so that I couldn't answer. Does the lock on your footlocker work and fit? Just to change the subject.

Don't get hurt or sick or sunburnt!

I have an awful heartache. You are recommended to me as a foremost heart specialist. Please rush to St. Paul at your earliest convenience.

Every Kind of Love,

June 26th, 1944


Tomorrow is our day, and I feel terrible about being so far away from you. A few years ago I had such wonderful secret plans for our fifth wedding anniversary. We were going to have the swellest time on that day. Yes, I even intended to stay home from work! The swellest dinner in the world was going to be served to us and our children. (That was before Stuart came, and I figured we would have two by the time our fifth anniversary came around.)

It was to be a grand, joyous day and evening – but look at it now. Here I am studying to be fighting soldier when the only thoughts in a man's soul on the eve of a great anniversary should be of love and kindness. I even have to sneak the time to write this from my duties.

I am at school reading up on some special restricted manuals on Camouflage. It is 8 P.M. and I have finished reading through both books. I hope you will forgive this stationery, but it is all I have tonight. We spent the morning on Camouflaging, had our exam, then spent all afternoon looking at movies of German battle pictures which gave us a good idea as to their equipment and methods. I am actually getting to know more about the German army than our own!

This evening was taken up with getting a haircut and attending an acting Non-Com meeting. It seems all our cadre, except about six of the old timers, have been shipped into a 40 mm refresher course so our Battery is very short of non-coms. Consequently we were called on to be more aggressive in keeping the rank and file "on the ball."

This week is evidently going to be a busy one. We have a 10 mile night hike coming up Thursday, an oral 2nd class gunners' exam, plus our regular school work.

From what little news I hear it seems that Drip Dewey is the Republican choice. Now I do not give a whoop who gets elected. To me – Dewey is the big, old-time Republican front man. To h*** with both parties! If he gets nominated never mind sending me a ballot.

The pictures of our Battery and our individual hut turned out wonderfully. I will have my copies in a few days, and will immediately forward them to you so you can see for yourself what a fine bunch I am living and working with. On the back of our personal group I will mark all the names. In that way you will be able to place each man. The big Battery picture I will leave blank and let you find me among the 275 men. See if Stuart will beat you in picking me out! Do not expect the photos too soon, for I will have to devise some means to mail them in.

I love you more tonight than ever. Being so far away on my anniversary eve is giving em an awful tearing, hurt feeling in my heart. I believe I am as lonesome and blue tonight as I was those first few days and weeks I was away. I love you, sweetheart. Please wait for me – for it won't be long and the three of us will be all back together again for good.

I promise I will never leave you again, nor will I be the cause of any doubts in your mind as to my love for you.

You are my one and only sweetheart.

Ten million kisses are going your way tonight on our personal "love wave."


View Original Letters.


Sonnen, John S., John and Georgiana Sonnen correspondence, 1944-1946. Minnesota Historical Society Manuscripts Collection.