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.
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]”→
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).”
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.
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. Continue reading “When you come to Bermuda [1941 – Bermuda]”→
Based on how it’s referenced in this note, I can only imagine how the stationary Virginia used in her previous correspondence to Bernice must have looked. Apparently duty in Fort Myers, Florida is not all sun-bathing and nights on the town. Working Kitchen Patrol all night, which is what I can only assume the sender means by K.P., does not sound like a pleasant way to pass the time. It seems Bernice survived the nighttime duty though. I hope he did get a glimpse of a bathing beauty before leaving the Sunshine State.
The place of origin for this card, expansive Buckingham Army Airfield located near Fort Myers, Florida was in operation from 1942-1945. Known for its “Flexible Gunnery School,” the installation provided a variety of new technologies for training aerial gunners including sophisticated gunnery ranges, dummy target aircraft, dummy ammunition, and high-altitude training. If you want to learn more about all of the fascinating military training methods that were pioneered at this airfield, I highly recommend the Wikipedia page. (Source: Buckingham Army Airfield Wikipedia)
For better or worse, little remains of the hundreds of buildings and runways that constituted Buckingham Army Airfield. It was closed immediately after the war, was purchased by a land developer, and became a residential area.
Here I am again and a very sleepy chap at that. I just got up after working K.P. all night so you can guess how I feel.
That was some stationary you wrote on the other time. Where in the world does a person think up things like that. It’s straight stuff though. Here is the picture of the bathing beauty but she surely must be in some other part of Fla. I haven’t seen her yet.
Postmark: Fort Myers, Florida – August 7, 1943
To: Virginia Andrews | 410 Elizabeth Street | Durham, NC