Posts Tagged ‘Censorship’
Drum roll please…….. This is the 50th post on this blog AND today would have been Alex’s 99th birthday!
Sorry for the long absence, but timing is everything! Happy birthday Grandpa. My grandpa’s birthday is the day before mine, so I’m posting a photo of us during what I believe was one of our birthday celebrations together. Since I don’t have a scanner this is a poor quality photo of a photo.
Here is a cool birthday coincidence: My grandpa Alex was 35 when my dad (birthday March 13th) was born. And my dad was 35 when my brother (birthday March 7th) was born. Each generation was 35 years apart down to the week.
For this special 50th/birthday post I wanted to put up this blog’s first audio clip. However, technical difficulties prevent that as well so consider this a teaser for what the next 50 posts will bring.
Below is a letter that Alex wrote on his birthday in 1945. My incredible friends and family are getting my 25th year off to an amazing start and I’m so grateful for that. Reading Alex’s letter is difficult because it highlights how far away he is from the people he loves. At the start of the letter Alex is not so happy, realizing that he is alone because everyone went out to drink while he was asleep. He refers to “the boys” a lot in this letter, and by the end realizes that they may have decided not to wake him because he had gotten so drunk the night before. This is a community of men who appear to be both young and caring.
Here is once more my birthday. I think my last one was in Boston. At least then I knew that in a few days I would see you. Now its just another day… and the realization that I am not growing younger.
I got up at the usual time this morning. There was work to do and I kept at it even after everyone else was finished. We were painting our tool locker and I wanted it done so that on Monday we should be able to store away all our tools. It was done about 4 PM so I took a shower and shaved for a change and put clean clothes on. I had supper and I told the boys to get me up for a few beers when the pubs open up. They open at 5PM I was so tyred [sic] that I slept like a log. No one got me up and I am dry and thirsty and I can’t even say that I had a few drinks. Its about 10 PM now. Some hellofaway to spend ones birthday.
I think I thanked you and Cookie for the birthday cards, but if I didn’t thanks a lot, you both are thoughtful and sweet and I love you even more for it.
Cookies pictures delight me always. I keep on looking them over, and she really strikes me as a pretty child. They also make me a little homesick.
They remind me of the sunny afternoons in Knickerbocker Village. At any rate its splendid to see a little of your environment.
We have beautiful sunny days, strange as they may seem for England. At such times your being far away is felt even more keenly. I am never going to live down the caption on one of Cookie’s pictures. You write “I woke up grouchy like you” and did the boys took notice of it, when I proudly them the pictures. As it is most of the time I’ve got to throw them out of their bunks in the morning, a terrible job in itself. But now they all attribute it to m bed disposition on awaking.
Darling, the crow (Eagle) on Cookies arm is wrong. It should be on the right arm. Of course young lady may have their choice.
On of our boys is lucky. We bumped into our chief cook on our second trip. He borrowed ten dollars from this fellow of ours. Now he is collecting it after ten months.
Tomorrow I think I am going to a concert if I am lucky and get tickets. This is the firs of the season in this town and it’s a fine orchestra considering the conductor. So I hope I’ll have a good time.
The boys are lit tonight and they just came in waking up everybody and singing (?) songs and (?). Last night we had a riot in our quarters. I acted drunk and the boys carried me into the focusle(?). Of course I really looked as if I had one too many. My buddy Mike was just raving “Once I let him go and he comes home drunk… he won’t go out anymore, etc.” The boys told him they picked me up from the gutter. So Mike very tenderly undressed me, took my shoes off and socks, my jacket. Hoisted me up into the bunk and covered me up. All this while he was swearing that he won’t let me out alone anymore. During all this time I was enjoying all this fuss about me and acting the drunk. Its just dawning on me, that must be the reason the boys must have stopped from waking me up. The saloons over here are opened from 5 to 10PM like all over England. At 10PM the sidewalks are pulled in. So over curfew is even better than at home.
Darling now to sleep. I hope I dream of being home with you. All my love to you and Cookie and millions of kisses,
On a more serious note, I feel compelled to mention the tragedy that is continuing to escalate in Japan. My heart goes out to everyone who has been impacted by the earthquake, tsunami and now the nuclear disaster. It is impossible to comprehend that a country that just commemorated the 65th anniversary of when an atomic bomb devastated Hiroshima, is now amidst yet another nuclear threat. The images that we, the American public, are seeing are horrifying. I look for comfort in the fact that human compassion is so strong that even when Japan was considered an enemy nation during WWII, the US government censored the images of Japan after the bombs in order to rally citizen support for its actions. Today, we are flooded with detailed reports and images of what is happening on a minute-to-minute basis in Japan and I only hope this will fuel the world’s compassion and generosity.
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.
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.