America during World War II: Keeping in Touch--The Mail

Figure 1.--Mail was the only way for families to stay in touch with their loved ones posted overseas. Many were separated for up to 3 years. Men deployed overseas where there for the duration. This was a World War II magazine advertisement. I am uncertain what was being advertised as this was the only part of the image that was visible. It appears that part of the wording was cropped. It may have been war bonds.

The United Stated had a very small military as late as 1939, less than 0.4 mullion. The U.S. Army was smaller than the Romanian Aemy at the time. And it only increased to 0.5 million in 1940 the year the NAZIs launched their massive Western offensive and shocked the world by defeating the French innonly a few weeks. Congress (1940) passed the first peace-time draft law in American history. The law was narrowly renewed (1941). Of course Pearl Harbor changed everything (December 1941). American began building a massive military. The military peaked at 11.4 million in 1944-45. The Selective Service boards attempted to avoid drafting fathers, but many were drafted or enlisted. They were authorized to draft 18-year old, but generally avoided doing so. As a result of the War, millions of Americans were separatee from their families. Not all of the servicemen were deployed overseas, but even if they had stateside assignments, they were usually separate from their families as well, although state-sude leave was possible. Unlike more modern wars, those deployed overseas were deployed for the duration. Military personnel sent to Europe and the Pacific stayed there for the most part until the War ended. Only military personnel severely wounded or contracted serious illnesses were brought home. Deployment overseas began shortly after Pearl Harbor, but American troops did not go into combat until late 1942 (North Africa and Guadacanal). Large numbers of American combat troops did not reach the front until 1943. They were thus overses for any where from 1-3 years. Calling home was very expensive so for the most part the only way of keeping in touch was mail. The result was huge quantities of letters and packages. Mail became very precious both for the families at home and the servicemnen overseas. Shipping was a major constraint during the War, so the military came up with “V-mail”. Letters were photographed and then miniaturized for transport. The mail of service people was censored. Interestingly this was not the case in the German Wehrmacht.


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Created: 10:22 PM 8/30/2010
Last updated: 10:22 PM 8/30/2010