Army Letters

Correspondence of Alexander Smoot 1932-1935

Non-Fiction - Memoir
370 Pages
Reviewed on 03/03/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Army Letters: Correspondence of Alexander Smoot 1932-1935 is a work of non-fiction in the memoir, military history, and slice-of-life subgenres. It is suitable for the general adult reading audience. Penned by author Geoffrey B Smoot, this emotive and well-compiled work offers a poignant glimpse into the life of a young man during the Great Depression era. As the world grappled with economic turmoil and the looming threat of war, Alex Smoot, a recent high school graduate from a small town on Maryland's Eastern Shore, enlisted in the army to alleviate the financial strain on his family and pursue a sense of purpose. Through his heartfelt letters, readers witness Smoot's struggles and triumphs as he navigates military life and copes with the challenges of being stationed far from home. The correspondence captures the essence of a bygone era, painting a vivid picture of resilience, sacrifice, and the enduring bonds of family amidst adversity.

Author Geoffrey B Smoot has crafted a gorgeous tribute in this well-presented and engaging collection, combining his own flair for storytelling with real correspondence and recorded facts about an extraordinary life spent in the service of others. Smoot's narrative serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and offers valuable insights into the experiences of ordinary Americans during a tumultuous period in history. The text gives a fully immersive and deeply personal account of what life must have been like during such uncertain and impossible times. I was especially touched by Alexander’s tenderness toward his mother, as those letters really expressed his longing for home. Overall, I would certainly recommend Army Letters: Correspondence of Alexander Smoot 1932-1935 to readers seeking a touching memoir with authentic voices from the past, crafted and collated in a highly engaging fashion.

Doreen Chombu

Between 1932 and 1935, Alexander Smoot wrote letters to his family that contained personal daily experiences and updates about his military life. These letters were published by Geoffrey B. Smoot to preserve his father's legacy and offer a firsthand account of what families and individuals went through during those challenging times. Alexander, a high school graduate with dreams of going to college, enlisted in the army to help alleviate his family's financial burden caused by the 1929 Great Depression. He was stationed in Hawaii, where the American government set up radar equipment and trained military personnel in preparation for the impending war. The letters continue even after Alexander's discharge, highlighting his work when he returned to the mainland.

Army Letters: Correspondence of Alexander Smoot 1932-1935 by Geoffrey B. Smoot is a unique account of one man's experiences and personal sacrifices to provide for his family. The story is inspiring and offers valuable lessons about family, dedication, and compassion. The letters are emotional but also contain humorous moments, such as the military slang and Alexander's casual charm. I found myself relating to him on many issues, and I am sure more readers will resonate with him and his struggles. I felt proud when he wrote about his typing and shooting achievements and his plan to return to school; these small details made me root for him and his dreams. The book also contains commentary on various social issues of that era, such as politics, economy, and racism. These made me reflect on how these issues have evolved or persisted over time. I enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it to all readers.

Luwi Nyakansaila

Army Letters by Geoffrey B Smoot is a collection of letters that were written by Alexander Smoot between 1932 and 1935. These letters are filled with heartfelt emotions and perfectly convey Alexander’s experiences and feelings during his military service. Throughout his letters, Alex expresses his love for family and baseball, which are recurring themes. His biggest struggle was to manage his finances and still have enough to send home and save. During that time, the world was going through the Depression, and many people were starving and suffering from injustice. Alex's hope was to be promoted within a year of his arrival, but this did not happen due to his bad physique and the favoritism and corruption in the military. However, he learned many vital skills such as interacting with others, cleaning, cooking, and discipline, which helped him grow mentally and physically and made him a better person.

Army Letters offers readers insight into Alexander Smoot's military experience. After reading it, I felt like I knew him on a personal level. The emotional bond he shared with his mother and the rest of his family was heartwarming and not something we often see today. Despite having easy access to phones and laptops, many people in our current era struggle to establish the same level of emotional closeness with their loved ones as he did. One of the letters, in which he begged for five dollars to buy a bus ticket just to visit his family for the holidays because he had not seen them in years, brought me to tears. I am grateful to Geoffrey B Smoot for sharing his father's letters and family history. The book was impactful and taught me many valuable lessons on sacrifice, selflessness, determination, the importance of family ties, and the value of genuine relationships.

Sefina Hawke

Army Letters: Correspondence of Alexander Smoot 1932-1935 by Geoffrey B Smoot is a memoir that would appeal most to a diverse audience of young adults and adults interested in the Great Depression period and military history. Alex Smoot was a young man from Maryland who joined the army due to job scarcity; he hoped to use his army pay to help his family. As a 19th Infantry soldier, Alex Smoot was one of the many soldiers who were tasked with the preparation of Hawaii’s defense during the Great Depression. His tale is told through anecdotal stories and letters that connect him with his family during his three years away from home. Are you ready to learn what it was like to be a soldier during the Great Depression?

Army Letters by Geoffrey B Smoot is a well-written memoir with an intriguing cover image that caught my attention the moment I saw it. I liked the way the book was made up of a collection of letters written by Alex Smoot to those he cared about. The fact that the letters included both the dates and locations gave me an idea of a timeline. Unlike history books, this book included details that I never knew about such as the fact that soldiers had to buy a serge shirt with their pay and that this purchase was enough to leave a soldier broke until the next payday. I found these facts interesting as they helped me to truly understand events that occurred not just in broad strokes, but instead with a focus on the little details that would have mattered to someone during the time of the Great Depression. Overall, I found this book to be a very interesting read and I feel that I learned more about the period from this memoir than I ever did from a history textbook.

Rich Follett

Army Letters: Correspondence of Alexander Smoot 1932 – 1935 is a deeply personal, emotionally engaging, and historically fascinating narrative made up of a private’s letters home from Oahu (and later from Maryland) during the Great Depression and carefully curated by his oldest son, Geoffrey B. Smoot. While many military narratives focus on the sensational, Alexander’s story, as told through his letters, is a rare and valuable window into the ordinary, day-to-day life of an enlisted man during one of our nation’s bleakest times. Common themes emerge; among them, love of family and country, frustration with military discipline, lack of opportunity for advancement, low pay and high expenses, and uncertainty about the future. In addition to these challenges, young Alexander was often riddled with regret about not being able to do a better job of helping to support his family. Apart from a few unfamiliar Depression-Era expressions, the text is still fresh and contemporary today, more than ninety years later.

Alexander Smoot, Pfc. was a kind and hardworking man whose military career, though unremarkable in many ways, was chock-full of acquired wisdom, life lessons, universal existential questioning, and the typical ups and downs that we all experience, even today. Smoot’s kind and loving nature has been passed on to his son Geoffrey, who no doubt expended tremendous devotion and no small amount of time curating these priceless letters. Army Letters includes some opening notes about Geoffrey and a most welcome chronicle (written by Geoffrey) of Alexander’s life after he was discharged from the Army. Both of these features, along with a meticulously compiled list of key places, names, and dates attached to the end of the narrative, help the reader feel personally connected to Alexander. Army Letters: Correspondence of Alexander Smoot 1932 – 1935 by Geoffrey B. Smoot is eminently worth reading, both for lovers of history and those seeking a better understanding of human beings and life in general.