Military Postcards, North America

Summer Camp and Boot Camp [1943 – Galilee, PA]

Postcard Camp Chicopee, Galilee, PA 1943 lg

This postcard traveled from the itty-bitty town of Galilee, PA to Great Lakes, Illinois, home to a massive Navy installation which trained a staggering number of sailors for service in World War II.

The front of this card features an aerial image of Camp Chicopee, a traditional summer camp which was located in the rural northwest corner of Pennsylvania near the New York state line. The camp was in operation until the late 1960s (source), but based on some Google Maps sleuthing, the land has since returned to private use and little trace remains of the buildings depicted in this photo.

Regarding supervising campers, I can personally relate to the sender’s sentiments. I myself worked as a camp counselor for one summer in rural Vermont when I was 19, and can attest that keeping a group of 8-year-olds entertained and out of trouble is no easy feat no matter the era. Though, for the recipient of this card, I’m sure a Navy life wasn’t much of a picnic either. Continue reading “Summer Camp and Boot Camp [1943 – Galilee, PA]”

Military Postcards, United States

Postcard Casanova [Camp Barkeley, TX – 1945]

Postcard Casanova, Camp Barkeley TX 1945 Mt Vernon image lg

On the front, we find a sedate pastoral image of George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon. On the reverse, we read a list of presumed conquests in the form of a litany of female names, though I wager this note was written with tongue firmly in-cheek.

This card was sent from Camp Barkley, Texas to Captain Cassidy, a chemical officer serving in Europe with the 9th Army (based on the APO listed, #339). The recipient may have needed some lighthearted cheer, because as of February 1945 (postmark of this card) the 9th Army had been heavily involved in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive of the war. I hope that this implausible list of exploits was well received and that the sender wasn’t really the Casanova he purported to be. Though, I did enjoy reading the list of common female names of the time period, and I hope a few of these lovely monikers come back into style. Continue reading “Postcard Casanova [Camp Barkeley, TX – 1945]”

Vintage Photos

Post Office in the Sand: Servicemen Sorting Packages on an Unidentified Island in the Pacific – [1940s Photo]

This is not a postcard, but I also have an affinity for photos such as this.

Though postcards have fallen out of popularity as short-form communication, packages are still of vital importance to everyone of us. This is especially true for Americans still serving in far-flung locations around the globe, just as they were in this candid photo from the Pacific Theater of World War II. Instead of being secured with clear packing tape, the parcels pictured here were carefully tied with string before being entrusted to the mail service to bring a bit of home to service members abroad.

“Photograph of two U.S. Army Air Forces servicemen sorting packages in the sand in a post office hut at an unidentified camp on an unidentified island in the Pacific Theater during World War II. A row of Army Air Forces mail bags is seen on a stand. Photograph taken or collected by Capt. Ferd L. Davis of Zebulon, N.C., while he served in the 394th Bomber Squadron, 5th Bomb Group (Heavy), during the war (undated).”

48900386212_488d25687b_o

From Ferd L. Davis Papers, WWII 191, World War II Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, N.C.

 

Military Postcards, United States

Shipping and Receiving for the Air Corp [1942 – Keesler Field – Biloxi, Mississippi]

Located on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Keesler Air Force Base is an active installation operated by the U.S. Air Force. However, it was known as Keesler Army Airfield when draftee Pvt. Ralph Wissinger found himself there in May of 1942. At that time the post had been in existence for less than a year. Keesler would become home not only to basic trainees like Wissinger, but would also train aviation mechanics. Notably, the installation hosted more than 7,000 black soldiers who trained in various technical fields, and many of the famous Tuskegee Airmen completed their basic training at Keesler before being transferred elsewhere for flight school (citation).

I find it interesting that some newly-minted service members were put to work straight away doing precisely the vocation they had left behind in the civilian world, while others were retrained to do something totally different. Pvt. Wissinger is one of the former, as he notes expecting to continue his work as a shipping and receiving clerk, only now for Uncle Sam.

Pictured on the front of this postcard, Gulf Park College was a women’s college in operation until 1971. Its former campus is now part of the University of Southern Mississippi. I wonder about the story behind how Pvt. Wissinger came to possess this particular card. Perhaps he met a young lady who attended school there. The Gulf Park campus is located 15 miles to the west of Keesler AFB along the coast, and you can still visit “Friendship Oak,” a southern live oak tree which is purported to have taken root there in the year 1487. 

Dear Uncles,

I was drafted a month ago into the army and they put me in the Air Corp. I have about one more week [of] Basic Training here. Then they will be sending me to some other air-field as a shipping and receiving clerk. Same as I was at home. (Write & Let me know all the news)

From: Pvt. Ralph Wissinger, Air Corp | 400 School Squad, Flight 252-C | Keesler Field, Miss.

To: Mr. Harry Snyder, Loysburg, Pennsylvania, Bedford County

Postmark: Biloxi, Miss – May 10, 1942

Image: Friendship Oak, Gulf Park College, Gulfport, Mississippi

Images of Keesler Airfield

Keesler_Air_Force_Base_-_1940s_Main_Gate.jpg
Gate #1 at Keesler Field, Biloxi, Mississippi. 1940s. (Source)

Keesler_Field_-_Headquarters

Keesler Airfield Resources

Greetings from Keesler Field, Mississippi,” featured image. Wikipedia.

Pictoral of Base Activities: http://aafcollection.info/items/list.php?item=000775

https://www.keesler.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/364566/happy-70th-birthday-keesler/

First Class of WAVES, Norman, Oklahoma 1943
Military Postcards, Postcards, United States

Making WAVES in the Sooner State [1944 – Oklahoma] US Navy

Norman Oklahoma 1944, USNavy postcard image lg.png

A Naval base in the middle of Oklahoma? It may be hard to believe, but thousands of male and female Navy personnel spent time training in the wide open spaces of the Sooner State during World War II.

This post card was sent by a Navy service member stationed in Norman, Oklahoma, and depicts the hydroelectric Quanah Parker Dam to the West in what is now Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Perhaps the sender, Russell, found time for a weekend trip to this scenic part of the state during a reprieve from his hospital duties in 1944.

Just south of Oklahoma City, the U.S. Navy established a Naval Air Station, Naval Air Technical Training Center, and Gunnery School in the town of Norman. Construction on Navy facilities began in 1942, and the Navy developed a close relationship with nearby Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma University. The airfield, newly built by the university, was leased to the Navy for the duration of the war and was used to train Naval pilots (source). Machinists and aircraft maintenance technicians were also trained at the installation.  WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) and SPARS (US Coast Guard Women’s Reservists) were trained on Oklahoma A&M’s campus, and the college boasted the largest enrollment of WAVES in the country, at over 10 thousand during the war (source).

You can see an image of the dedication of the the Navy Hospital on the website of the Norman Museum. Another exterior photo, as well as one of an actress visiting a patient, allows us to peek into the world in which this postcard was written.  The museum also features an impressive number of fascinating historic photos of aviation and ground operations that took place during the war: https://www.normanmuseum.org/wwii-navy-bases.html. I recommend you take a peek.

Norman Oklahoma 1944, USNavy postcard message.jpg

Dear Betty,

Received your card sure was glad to hear from you. I may be home soon. How are things at the shop. Gee I sure miss you. Please write when you can.

Love Russell

From: R SAYSF USN Hospital, Norman Oklahoma

To: Miss Betty Pavler | Ecorse, Michigan

Postmark: U.S. Navy Aug 16 1944

 


Navy Operations in Norman, Oklahoma during World War II

NH 86160 Norman Oklahoma Naval Training School
“WAVES at the Naval Training School, Norman, Oklahoma, lower an airplane engine onto a block, July 1943.” Source: US Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command.

NH 95359 First Class of WAVES Norman, OklahomaThe featured photo of this post shows “Members of the first class of WAVES to graduate from the Aviation Metalsmith School, at the Naval Air Technical Training Center, Norman, Oklahoma, 30 July 1943.” Source: Naval History and Heritage Command.

 

 

Quanah Dam 4-1-17
Quanah Parker Dam today, by Larry Smith via Flickr

 

 

Military Postcards, United States

Th’ Sarg Gave Me th’ Works [1942 – Sebring, FL]

Sebring, FL 1942 WW2 Comic Postcard lg

A drill sergeant picking apart a recruit seems to be a common vignette on military-themed comic postcards of this period. Though, I have to imagine that while the postcards are vivid, they would have been out-shown by the colorful language of the real drill sergeants of past and present. Breaking down the individual and building him back up as part of a team has long constituted the basis for basic American military training.

On this card, we meet Joe, a Private who uses this postcard image to relate his experience to a young lady in Pennsylvania. He is stationed at Hendricks Field in Sebring, Florida, a large air base where bomber crews were trained for service on B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators.

Sebring, FL 1942 WW2 Comic Postcard message lg

Pvt Joseph R. Mackey

452 Sch Sqd Sp

Hendricks Field Sebring, Fla.

Hello Jean. This may give you some idea what I have to go through as I’m the guy that is that way sometimes. How is school going & when will it be out? Here would be a good place for you to play in the sand. Joe.

To: Miss Jean Snyder | Loysburg Penna.

Postmark: Sebring, Florida – April 25, 1942

Published by Curt Teich & Co., Inc.


Hendricks Army Airfield in Sebring, FL

The Origin of Hendricks Field by Hayden Williams, a narrative recounting the establishment of Hendricks Field.

Hendricks_Army_Airfield_-_1942_Yearbook_-_Cover

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendricks_Army_Airfield

Camp Claiborne Louisiana World War II
Military Postcards, Postcards, United States

Earliest Days of the 101st Airborne [1943 – Camp Claiborne, LA & Nashville, TN]

Vintage Linen Postcard, World War II - Camp Claiborne, Louisiana

Unpacking this postcard has been a fascinating journey including a long-forgotten Army Camp in Central Louisiana and the famed 101st Airborne Division. The image depicted, its caption, the writing style of the sender, his assigned unit, the location of the postmark, and content of the message all have much to offer.

Let’s start with the arrival depicted here. The linen postcard image is a color-enhanced photograph of new soldiers arriving by rail car and transferring to trucks at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. The installation was primarily used for basic training and artillery practice. Camp Claiborne was also notable for the Claiborne-Polk Military Railway, a rail line spanning 50 miles, including 25 bridges, which connected the camp to what’s now Fort Polk, Louisiana. The railway was used to simulate rail repairs and test methods for derailing trains. Though Camp Claiborne was returned to civilian use right after the war, it had birthed one of the most decorated units of World War II – the 101st Airborne Division, which was activated there in August of 1942.

Our sender, Sgt Arthur L. Ward, was assigned to the 801st Ordnance Company. The military post office, APO 472, listed with his unit on this card indicates he was attached to the 101st Airborne Division. The division moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina and then conducted a readiness exercise in the Tennessee Maneuver Area during 1943 (ScreamingEagle.org). Tennessee was selected to host such Maneuvers because of its topographical similarity to the European Theater and explains the Nashville, Tennessee postmark stamped in June of 1943. Middle Tennessee hosted hundreds of thousands of troops preparing for the invasion of Normandy and beyond.

In his message, Sgt. Ward mentions visiting Springfield, a town north of Nashville, TN. His capitalization and punctuation are rather unconventional, yet endearing and admirably consistent.

Nashville, TN 1943 Postcard message lg

Dear Va

[Wont] have time for a letter. Rec. your letter. Was real glad to hear from you this Father Day. I hope[?] you ate supper at home. I didn’t hear from mam all last week and the kid are doing fine. I went over to Springfield, but didn’t have time to do anything. It’s dark, so I will stop. With good nite.*

Brother Arthur

*This transcription has been corrected for capitalization and punctuation to improve legibility.

To: Mrs. Ralph Scott | Morrisville, NC

From: Sgt Arthur L. Ward – 801 Ord CO APO 472 – Nashville, TN

Postmark: June 21, 1943 – W. Nashville, Tenn.

Published by Red River News Co., Alexandria, LA.


Camp Claiborne, Louisiana

This reel from 1941 shows soldiers on their rail journey to Camp Claiborne.

The above 6 and half minute archival clip describes the highly technical and under-sung competencies of the rail technicians of the Army Transportation Corps.

More about Camp Claiborne: CampClaiborne.org

Additional Resources:

Lineage of the 801st Ordinance Company – 101st Airborne Division

https://www.alexandria-louisiana.com/camp-claiborne-louisiana.htm

https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/second-army-tennessee-maneuvers/

Postcard from Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky 1940s
Military Postcards, Postcards, United States

Lucky Strike and Major’s Pay [1942 – Camp Breckenridge, Ky]

Camp Breckinridge, KY 1942 WW2 Comic Postcard lg

I never cease to be amazed by the veritable explosion of construction projects and mass movement of personnel that characterized 1942 and 1943 across the United States. The creation of Camp Breckinridge in Morganfield, Kentucky near the Illinois state line provides a textbook example of this furious pace of military activity in many rural corners of the country. A testament to the swift construction of Camp Breckinridge, the buildings here were built in such haste that they were not properly insulated, a fact not lost on our sender who keenly felt the cold in December of 1942.

In this card, we meet Pvt. Louis Featherston who hails from Durham, North Carolina. His note recounts get-to-know-you conversations like so many of us have had when we’ve moved away and our hometown falls outside the list of top 25 most populous cities in the country. They go like this:

A: “So, where are you from?”

B: “Somewhere, USA”

A: Looks puzzled.

B: “… yeah, it’s near Important University, and the home of Large Corporation.”

A:  Nods with recognition. “Oh, yeah.”

This is exactly what happened to Louis. He rang some bells for his hometown of Durham, NC by mentioning Lucky Strike Cigarettes and Duke University. Ironically, he sent this card to a friend at The American Tobacco Company in Durham, maker the Lucky Strike cigarettes which had sparked recognition of his hometown. When he wasn’t studying or freezing his ass off, I do wonder how much money Louis may have won over a hand of cards from that Major in the cartoon image.

Finally, I am happy to report Camp Breckinridge’s heritage survives as an event venue and museum. Read more about it below.

Postcard from Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky 1940s

Hello Eugene, I hope you haven’t been Drafted by the time you get this card cause I’m so far away that the people here never heard of Durham. You have to mention Lucky Strike Cig & Duke U., then it all comes back to them. Wish you’d write & let me know how you all are getting along & all about the Y.B.M.C,– Leon Harris & Vostal[?] Taylor & a lot of boys you know are here. Have been so busy studying etc. that I haven’t had much chance to write. It is cold as HELL! here & snow is on the ground. See you later, Louis

To: Mr. Eugene Andrews | The American Tobacco Co. | Durham, North Carolina

From: Pvt. A. J. Featherston | Hq Co. 1st Bn. 391 Inf. – 98th Division

Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky

Postmark: Camp Breckinridge, KY – December 6, 1942


Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky

Camp_Breckinridge_Non-Commissioned_Officers'_Club

The James D. Veatch Breckinridge Museum & Arts Center preserves Camp Breckinridge’s remaining structures and the history of its impact on the region. Their website does not seem to do justice to the jewel of a structure that remains from the military post, the former NCO / Officer’s Club. It lives on as an event venue and features beautiful pastoral murals painted by a talented German POW while imprisoned here during World War II. The amateur video below gives you a taste of this installation’s glorious past and present.

Find some photos on Google Maps Listing for the Camp Breckinridge Center

Military Postcards, North America, Other Locations, Postcards

When you come to Bermuda [1941 – Bermuda]

St George's, Bermuda APO 802 - 1941 Postcard lg

When it comes to spending your time in the Service on a remote island during World War II, I would wager that most folks first think of the Pacific Theater. However, the American military boasted a robust presence in the Atlantic as well, including places like Bermuda and the Azores. Based on his handwriting, it appears this sender served as his own censor before sending this postcard to Delaware in mid-1941. The Lend-Lease policy would have been the dominant policy at the time, prior to the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ subsequent official entry into World War II in December of 1941.

American military presence in Bermuda was established as a naval operation in 1918 during The Great War, World War I. Being part of the British Commonwealth, Bermuda hosted American installations in conjunction with British military bases during World War II as well, and an entirely new American naval base was built in 1941.  The island’s remote location in the Atlantic, more than 600 miles of the East coast of Cape Hatteras, NC, lent itself to use as a stopping point for land-based (as apposed to Naval) aircraft, and Kindley Field was operated by the U.S. Army Air Corps in Bermuda for that purpose from 1943 to 1948. As the flight range of aircraft increased in subsequent years, the need for the stopover point diminished, and what was then known as Kindley Air Force Base closed in 1970. Use of Bermuda by the U.S. Navy continued until much more recently, but Naval Air Station Bermuda (NAS Bermuda) also closed in 1995. (Source: Wikipedia)

St George's, Bermuda APO 802 - 1941 Postcard Message lg

A nice place for you to stay when you come to Bermuda.

Lt. L. M. Dobson

Postmark: American Base Forces A. P. O. 802 – August 14, 1941 (Bermuda)

To: Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hudson, Georgetown, DE

 


U.S. Military in Bermuda

Footage of aircraft and watercraft filmed in Bermuda in 1941.

The aerial photo below shows Bermuda in 1970, at the time Kindley AFB was closed.

NAS_Bermuda_NAN10-70
Kindley AFB as U.S. Naval Air Station Bermuda, 1970 (Wikipedia)

Resources:

Photos of the USO in Bermuda in 1941 – Here Are 7 USO Photos You’ve Never Seen Before

Medical, United States

Had My Operation [1942 – Excelsior Springs, MO]

Excelsior Springs, Mo 1942- Medical Postcard lg

Though occasionally vacation postcards can be entertaining, they often contain the most ironically mundane commentary regarding the weather or scheduling. I find the most interesting postcards are the ones that involve births, deaths, marriages, relocations, war, homecomings, graduations, illness, and even lost pets. Those are the ones where I find the most interesting tidbits of individual humanity and anthropology on a larger scale.

An article published in 2005 by the U.S. National Library of Medicine notes “Not only can the illustrations on postcards reveal a considerable amount of information about hospitals in the early twentieth century, but the messages, addresses, postmarks, and stamps can also offer a glimpse of the lives of ordinary citizens and their perceptions of the health care system.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1175805/)

Here we read about one such hospital experience. The sender expresses relief in having made it through surgery, and makes note of the diversity of her fellow patients inside McCleary Hospital near Kansas City, Missouri. I think most people have mixed feelings about hospitals — perhaps, not thrilled about yourself or a family member falling ill, but grateful to have a hospital where you can seek care. I’m glad that Mrs. Goetsch seems to have had a mostly positive hospital stay.

Excelsior Springs, Mo 1942- Medical Postcard message lg

Dear Mable,

Here is the place I am and I guess the place to get well. Had my operation and am over the worst I hope so. Sure meet people from all over the country, young and old, fat and small. Hope from now I will feel better.

Mrs. Goetsch

Postmark: Excelsior Springs, Missouri – May 18, 1942

To: Mrs. Mable Kueck – Janesville, Wisconsin

 


Kansas City Patient 1948
Patient receiving care in Kansas City, Missouri in 1948. Flickr, The Commons

 

McCleary Thornton Minor Hospital

McCleary Clinic and Hospital remains in existence as McCleary – Thornton – Minor Hospital in Excelsior Springs.

History of McCleary Clinic and Hospital