Letters from the Home Front

Preface | Introduction | Making Ends Meet | How Do I Love Thee?
Friends | Children | Household | Opinions


There were thousands of them. Their husbands were scattered from North Africa to Italy to France, Germany, England, plowing the Atlantic or seeking the enemy in Pacific waters and on fiercely defended beaches.

The women were war wives, each with her own set of worries. Topping the list were the main ones: Where is he now? Is he safe? Does he still love me? Will he take up with other women? Will he return safe and sound? When will that be? How far should I go with other males who want to "comfort" me?

Most of their loved ones came back --- in large surges after the defeat of the Axis, and once again after Japan's surrender.

Many of them did not. Will my husband be one of those who don't come back? That was the chief worry.

But there were other things to worry about. How can I get along on my husband's military pay? Should I go to work for the war effort? What about our children? Am I a good mother to them while their father is away? Will they know him when he returns? Will he know them?

There was of course the mail, with letters back and forth, often coming in bunches delayed by voyages or battles.

Most of the wives were relatively young . Many of them got jobs in industrial production. A widely used poster typified those women as "Rosie the Riveter." But they were not all alike; they differed in education, ethnicity, religion, family background, physical appearance, personality, and on and on.

The letters they sent to their warring husbands varied from the boring and desultory to vivid accounts of life on the home front. Those they received were most often of the desultory type, for there was strict censorship from the battle fronts over what could be conveyed. All too often, it boiled down to weather and what we had to eat, and I hope this damned war will be over soon.

One of the war wives wrote her husband almost every day --- long, ranging letters giving a blow-by-blow description of what was going on at home. Her letters dealt with all those questions mentioned above, and much else besides.

The letters she wrote did not reflect a "typical" war wife. On the contrary, in many respects they represented the sort of thing an ideal wife would be writing to her husband during those trying times.

Picture it, yourself. There you are, sweating in North Africa, or somewhere in Europe, or on a carrier in the Atlantic or Pacific, or under fire assaulting a Japanese held island.

What would you hope your wife would be doing and thinking, and what would you hope she would write you about?

These letters are one possible answer.

For anyone interested in what war wives faced at home and how they handled it, these letters, running to nearly a thousand single-space pages, are a treasure trove. A small but typical selection of them is printed here, loosely grouped under the headings given below. In each section, the excerpts are arranged chronologically, and the reader will notice the changes in content as the end of the war approaches.

Preface | Introduction | Making Ends Meet | How Do I Love Thee?
Friends | Children | Household | Opinions

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