Posts Tagged ‘V-Mail’
In a special (and somewhat risqué) Valentine’s Day post I give you two letters. One from Alex on Feb. 14th and one from Sylvia the same day in 1945. Alex’s letter is written during a sleepless night and recounts the grueling and mundane schedule of life on a Naval ship. Sylvia’s letter is… racy! Maybe it’s better that I’m getting to know her as a 20-something year old woman instead of as my grandma. This letter, by the way, is not even the most scandalous one I’ve read. But, hey, it’s (almost) Valentine’s Day and you have been warned (I wasn’t).
So here’s to love!
Today was Valentine’s day and my thoughts are with you. If you only could see me now! I am writing to you sitting on the toilet seat. It must be about 10M, but no matter how I tried to catch a little sleep, my mind is just wandering around, of course most of the time back home to you!
I am on the very much hated dog(day?) watch on this trip. It’s quite a grind. We get up about 11:15PM and take over our watches at ten to twelve. Then its 4 hours on the go at four we get relieved and we have a few hours of sleep till about seven. At that time we have the costumary dawn watch to which the whole ship’s company turns out. This lasts for an hour then breakfast and a few hours till 11:15 AM sleep. At ten to twelve noon we take over our watches again till four int eh afternoon. Again a few hours sleep if one can and we have dusk watch which also is traditional in the Navy. When that is over sleep again if one can and I can’t.
I can’t write on my bunk because I don’t want to disturb the rest of the boys in their well earned slumber.
Darling wife, how wonderful feeling it would be if this watch would be taking us back home. There is nothing that would be more cheerful than that thought. And perhaps it will soon! I hope!
We had a little excitement aboard before we left port. Some of the boys wished to get the last glass of beer, or kiss their newly made sweethearts in this place, so when the ship was already restocked they went ashore. Of course you can’t get away with it most of the time, and they didn’t. A bed check was made and six were caught absent. And of course disciplinary action was taken. Fortunately it is not too severe. Well, so far I managed to keep out of trouble and I’ll continue if you give me a letter in couragement [sic], with a constant stream of mail.
Their isn’t much else to write about. We have ideal weather. The sky at night is really beautiful with all the stars. I elarned how to calculate what time it is by observing the position of the big dipper in the sky. During the day we have beautiful sunshine and the air is mild like in the spring. The afternoon we stood watches without our warm jackets, only sweaters, which is doing OK at sea.
Well darling wife I’ll write again in a sleepless night I’ll try again to dream of you. My love and kisses to the little angel and to you, sweetheart.
** Meanwhile…Sylvia wrote**
This is the second of two or three letters she wrote that day. In the first letter she wrote that she had not received any letters from Alex for a few days and was beginning to imagine that he was coming home. Then she received 4 letters at once. The “Rankin” that I believe Sylvia refers to in recounting her conversation was Jeannette Rankin – the first woman elected to Congress and a pacifist who voted (alone) against the US entering WWII. No other woman has been elected to Congress from Montana since she was. Excuse my use of Wikipedia for this research but reportedly she said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else. It is not necessary. I vote NO.” As it turns out women didn’t need to go to war for war to come to their homes.
Sylvia moves the discussion from Trotskyism to sex pretty smoothly in this one page letter and for that I tip my hat (and then block it all out).
Darling- Decided to make up for not writing you everyday as I had intended. In one of those 4 letters rec’d this afternoon, you sent me Valentine’s Greetings. It made me feel good to see you thought of it. You might have received my Valentine’s card by now! Like it? Sorry the record didn’t (couldn’t) go out, but when you come home, we’ll both make a few for each other to keep during the next inevitable separation. This letter was interrupted by some friends who came by for a short while this evening. They’re swell guys- he’s a sailor (Yeoman) and expects to be shipped out in a few months. He’s been here in NY for about two years and she realizes she’s lucky, but is getting sick at the thought of his leaving. Besides discussing Wallace, Trotskyism, Rankin, etc. we discussed one of our friends whose husband is a defense worker- anyway, the poor gal is sex-starved! Imagine that!!!! That’s something that can’t happen to us when you get back home! Baby, remember those showers we took in mom’s house last August? Sweetheart, I’m crazy about you! Hurry home, but don’t have any affairs while you’re hurrying! Because if it’s good enough for you, it’s good for me!
All my love,
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.