Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

Archive for June 6th, 2010

Victory Mail

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Ah, that’s right, history! Of late, I’ve been caught up in the love story and the storytelling aspect of this blog. Let’s do some more general historical investigation.

In the upper left hand corner of “V-Mail” you’ll see the “Passed By Naval Censor” Stamp. In the letter below you’ll notice how conscious of the censor my grandfather was. He writes “we are where we are supposed to be.” In more content filled letters this will gain importance.

Dearest lover,

This is a hastily written note to let you know that we are where we are supposed to be and after this we may head for home. It will take a little time yet, so dear, keep writing to me.

I hope we find some mail from home and I shall write a long letter as soon as time allows it. With all my love to you and baby and millions of kisses


I’ll write later.

Let’s examine the outside of the letter. The airplane on the stamp is certainly emblematic of WWII. I’m unsure as to why there is a stamp when the bottom of the V-Mail instructions states, “V-Mail letters may be sent free of postage by members of the Armed Forces. When sent by others postage must be prepaid at domestic rates (3 c ordinary mail, 6 c if domestic air mail service is desired when mailed in the U.S.)” Alex was a member of the armed forces so why is there a stamp? My theory is that the postage to the U.S. was free but the stamp covers postage once the letter has arrived in the country. (If someone knows the correct reasoning, I’d like to know. If I figure it out, I’ll share it.)

V-Mail stood for Victory Mail. All V-Mail was written on this type of standardized paper that functioned as an envelope as well (as seen above). The letters were opened, censored, photographed and the negatives were sent to the U.S. rather than the full sized letters. This saved shipping space for war materials.

On the day this letter was written – October 21, 1944 – the first German city, Aachen, was taken by the Allied powers. I haven’t delved deeply into WWII history thus far but I find it most striking how little the events of the war, as we learn about them in textbooks, finds its way into the letters. The later letters are full of hope for a swift return home. Censorship, prices and pay, the end of the war, and political upheaval will certainly be present in the letters as we go. But when it comes down to the day to day communication, we hear mainly about barracks and chores, baby clothes and visits from relatives.

I find it fascinating that personal letters were becoming standardized. They were such a prevalent and crucial part of everyday life. Everyone’s letters were so personal and so universal.

Thus far, Brooklyn daily life has seemed more present in the letters than the war abroad, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Written by Molly

June 6, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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It is better to have loved and lost

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This letter was written the day before Sylvia wrote the letter that you read in the last post. I pondered, today, the role of these letters and how they documented what two people felt on the same day, around the world.

This letter made me realize that I do not know when Sylvia’s birthday was. I guess it was in October, which is the same month as Grandma Sophie’s birthday.

To: Mrs. Alexander Rosner


Something tells me that today they will pick up our mail therefore I am writing this letter to let you know that I am well and happy (as one can be in this circumstance) at the above date. I hope that they also deliver a few letters from home. It seems as if they pick our mail up perhaps once a week, so do not expect letters too frequently. On my part I’ll try to write everyday, even if to let you know I am well, only.

Darling, tomorrow and day after I ought to be home to celebrate your birthday and our wedding anniversary. I’ll think of you constantly. And we shall postpone the celebration and the present which I have in mind for the time I am home. I hope you and baby are well, and that you don’t lack everything. If there was a way I’d ship your allotment from here, but that is impossible at the present time. If you are short, borrow, and don’t go without the necessities, I’ll pay back everything when I put my hands on the cash. Love and kisses to both of you.

I can’t help but feel sad reading this letter. I’ll admit that this blog has not been my main priority this last week. The present has occupied my mind more than the past. I was hesitant to pick up another letter from Alex or Sylvia because I thought it might be too hard to read notes that are so full of love and distance. These letters have something universal about them and today it is hard to read them without projecting the things I’m feeling on to what I read.

It was my aunt, Adrienne (Cookie), who wrote to me this week and said that the last letter had helped her understand how lonely it could be for Sylvia during these times. The letter was about the company she had that evening, but instead highlighted how alone she was at other times.

These letters so clearly meant everything to both of them. Many of the letters spend time noting when the mail is picked up, delivered, written and notably missing. It was their anniversary and Sylvia’s birthday and both of these normally happy occasions were marred by absence. In fact, these special occasions ended up serving to enhance that absence. My mood today may be melancholy but I try to find comfort, as they did, in the fact that they so often wrote to each other on the same date, overlapping, thinking of each other and doing their best to comfort one another.

To state the obvious: Relationships take many turns. Some last forever, some end too soon, and then there is the infinite gradient in between. The war temporarily challenged this relationship and simultaneously fortified it. Right now I can’t be with someone who I love anymore. And while I could, technically, pick up a phone and call this person, sometimes I guess it is better not to allow yourself access to instant communication. These letters are a testament to the strength of the bonds between people. So right now, I’m simply trying to find a way to draw strength from Alex and Sylvia.

As my mom reminds me: It is better to have loved and lost…

Written by Molly

June 6, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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