June 08, 2010

:: letters home - mamma's birthday ::

this year's memorial day (weekend) was very different for me from those of the past. normally, i would have my thoughts of gratitude toward those who have served, and i would move on about my day. this year i was constantly reminded of my late grandfather. a man who served his country and his family honorably. as though i don't think of him often enough! i thought of his sacrifice as a soldier more than ever. i kept thinking of him as a young man, leaving his mother & father and wife and sisters and going to a foreign country to fight in a war. in a time when foreign didn't just mean "overseas" or "far away." it really meant "unknown." he didn't have that real-time inside view like we have today (via internet, tv, etc). england, france, germany, belgium…those places were truly foreign to him. shoot, new york city was even shocking to his small town (atlanta, ga in 1944) frame of reference!

i have a stack of letters and vmail that i salvaged from my grandparents' house in decatur when they moved to greenville a few years ago. to me, these are not just a fascinating view into the life of my grandfather as a young man (and my family's past), but they're also a really neat piece of american history.

v-mail was used to expedite the mail delivery overseas during the war. notes were written on full-sized paper, inspected (the mail was censored) and photographed. microfilm containing pictures of numerous letters were then shipped, saving valuable space (and weighing much less than physical letters would). the photos were printed, smaller than the originals, folded and placed in special v-mail envelopes, specifically designed for the layout of the stationery (so that the mail-to address would show through the small window on the envelope's front). because of the very specific design of the stationary, notes had to be kept short, else the legibility be compromised (when the image size was decreased) or the address placement not be correct.
[click to enlarge]

13 Dec 1944 [england]

Dear Mamma,
Happy Birthday. I know that this will reach you a little late since it won't even leave here until the 14th but anyway it will show you that I am thinking of you on your birthday. To be very frank I had let it slip up on me and one of the boys waked me this morning and asked me for a pass so when I wrote the date it suddenly registered. I went into town this morning to see if I could find you anything but they are just about out of everything. Maybe I'll be able to find something later on. I may even get a chance to go to London and then I may find something to send you.

I have visited Liverpool and saw some of the effects of the bombing that they had there back in 1941. I'm really glad that the war wasn't [arrived?] to our country so that we would [n't] have bombing etc.

Mamma this money over here is really a mess. I believe that our system is much simpler. How about sending some fruit cake & chicken?

Lots of love,
Arthur Jr


  1. what IS it with our family and fruit cake? YUCK!

  2. it skipped our generation.

    i love the train of thought - money, fruit cake & chicken. so Poppy.