Communities found innumerable ways to support the war effort, and locations like this service members’ canteen popped up like mushrooms wherever military personnel congregated in the early 1940’s.
The American War Dads of Springfield produced this postcard to highlight their canteen, located adjacent to a passenger train station, but they also raised funds to sponsor the travel expenses of mothers visiting their sons at O’Reilly General Hospital. Known as “the Hospital with a Soul,” this Army medical center in Springfield, Missouri specialized in reconstructive surgery, plastic surgery, and physical therapy. Between 1941 and 1946, O’Reilly General Hospital provided extended care for injured veterans returning from the fight abroad. Worth a watch, a local news story about the history and fate of the “Hospital with a Soul” is included below. Continue reading “War Dad’s Canteen, Part 1 [1945 – Springfield, MO]”→
For the two years my husband was in Army flight school, we dated long-distance. Then, cell phones had slide-out keyboards, Taylor Swift was a pubescent country artist, and the quest to post the coolest AOL instant messenger “away message” often occupied a corner of my thoughts. I sometimes wrote him letters, even though such a thing was, by then, terribly old fashioned for people our age. I remember occasionally writing to him while trying to stave off boredom in my Strategic Management class, as I worked toward finishing my senior year in college. Much of my correspondence is tucked away in storage somewhere, but a few months ago, I came across one letter with a large jittery squiggle snaking across the page. Continue reading “Keep ’em Flying: Writing on the Move [“Camp Boardwalk” – Atlantic City, New Jersey – 1942]”→
Have you ever found yourself in a close relationship with someone who shares your first name? For me, it was my roommate during freshman year of college. Someone in the housing office probably thought it was cute to assign us to a room together, or it could have been random happenstance. We coexisted well enough, but were certainly never bosom buddies. And, I don’t know about her, but I was frequently asked if I felt confused about our shared name situation. The harmless inquiries still strike me as mildly obtuse.
I supposed in some scenario — if we had a visitor perhaps — we might both look up upon hearing our name. But, clearly, I always knew that if I wasn’t talking to myself, there was only one other Katie I could possibly be addressing. As the diversity of names in the U.S. continues to expand (i.e. the proportion of people who have the most common names is declining), perhaps more people exist who have never met someone who shares their first name. That’s certainly not the case for me.
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]”→
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]”→
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. Continue reading “Making WAVES in the Sooner State [1944 – Oklahoma] US Navy”→
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.
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. Continue reading “Earliest Days of the 101st Airborne [1943 – Camp Claiborne, LA & Nashville, TN]”→
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.
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.
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.
Postmark: Excelsior Springs, Missouri – May 18, 1942
To: Mrs. Mable Kueck – Janesville, Wisconsin
McCleary Thornton Minor Hospital
McCleary Clinic and Hospital remains in existence as McCleary – Thornton – Minor Hospital in Excelsior Springs.