Find: WWII Letters Home

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Son's letter cheers parents with news he met kin in Italy: 1944
For family members on the home front during World War II, receiving letters from sons and daughters serving overseas was often a happy occasion, as it meant their child was still alive—at least for now. Some families received letters from their children, only to later receive a dreaded telegram informing them of injury or death. Though for a lucky few, the reverse was also sometimes true: the family erroneously received a telegram from the military, only to receive a letter from the serviceman dated after the telegram, letting his family know he was alive.

Due to military censorship, and the servicemen and women’s own desire not to worry the folks back home, the letters were often relatively vague, mostly just letting their family know that they were okay and giving very general details about where they were and what they were doing. Some of these letters were printed or summarized in local newspapers, where you can still see them today. Who knows? You might even find one written by a family member!

Start by exploring the selected letters and articles below:

You can find more WWII letters on Newspapers.com! Try a search like this one as a starting point to find some additional letters, or begin a new search using search terms and dates of your own.

63 thoughts on “Find: WWII Letters Home

  1. We are fast losing the fine skill of handwriting, and, especially, longhand. You use a part of your brain accessible in no other way, when you do not write longhand. And words have great power. There is no other satisfaction like it when you write a poem, or prose, or a song or a letter, or keep a diary in longhand. Such can be a treasure and a history unlike any other, for yourself, your children, or anyone who may read it in the future. Words have power, and words written by your own hand have a power unmatched.

    • Absolutely true!! Handwriting isn’t being taught in the public schools now. But they do teach printing. ???? I guess because banking is done electronically now, people won’t need to sign their names on a check. Sad.

      • Apparently, it must depend upon the school and perhaps, its’ location. I was recently involved in a discussion with local school officials and was informed that our school system has no plans to eliminate this skill set! Perhaps this too should be fought to retain?

        • My kids’ school in Texas is also keeping longhand a part of their curriculum. My personal opinion is that if a parent is worried about a child not learning something at school, they should be proactive in the home and get it done themselves. We need to rid ourselves of the mindset that if the public school system does not teach our children something they can’t learn it or don’t need it. Take control of your children’s education and be proactive.

          • I agree we should all be proactive! I have always been a teacher mom and grandmother! But if my home is going to be the classroom and I am going to be the teacher are the schools and teachers going to get lazy??

    • I so agree. After my mother’s passing I was the one who sorted through my parents’ personal items. The most treasured items are the photos, letters & anything written. Money & collectibles are nice but these written items are the most treasured. There are letters that my parents wrote to each other during World War II. The travel journal written on their trip to Europe in the ’60’s. The cards & letters we wrote to our parents during their lifetime. All are priceless. So many people make the mistake of throwing out these items because they are either in too much pain or don’t have the time to sort through. Best advice I can give is to bag them up and deal with them when you are able. You will be surprised to find what they saved.

      • Mom saved cards and letters from people we never knew. Giving themViking funeral after reviewing with sis. and bro. Making copies of dad’s war letters for cousins, donating origionals

      • I agree. My son still lived at home when he passed. I have learned so much about him by reading his notes, and other writings he left. Yes we talked every day but there was so much more to him that I guess I over looked or didn’t know. Some times children don’t tell their parents about every thing and I cherish all I have, even drawings. Some times you laugh and some times you cry, but they are memories in his words in his handwriting I will all ways hold dear.

    • Actually, graphologists will confirm that writing is not muscle writing from hour hand but comes from the brain and the hand just makes it visible by following the brain’s instructions as to how to form letters. Also, any fool can copy printing as it has not real character, but the flourishes, slants, degree of pressure used to write and letter formations of a letter composed and put on paper by a writer, is unlike any other person’s writing. It is akin to a fingerprint in its’ novelty and singular forms. Doing away with the practice of handwriting is like taking one of the primary colors out of the color spectrum and trying to make it okay without it. Anyone who can think independently will rail against it and never go along. I know I won’t . I want to be recognized as the individual that I am and that is shown by my unique writing.

  2. I have all of my Dad’s letters to my Mother during WWII. He served in the navy as Fireman First Class aboard the Renata.
    Nancy

    • I also have all my dad’s letters to my mother. He was in the Army-Airforce in England. Unfortunately, we found them right after he passed away in 2002.

    • I would suggest that you scan the letters and, if you have the time, transcribe them. You should also do a search for the Renata to see if there is a website or group dedicated to the sailors that served on her. I did something similar with my Dad’s letters home some years ago. One of his ships had an active group on the web, and they were happy to get the file with the transcribed letters.

      • I did the same. I transcribed all of my dad’s letters (still in progress). I’m a typist by trade, but my carpal tunnel syndrome and some major life changes have stalled the project. I hope to get back to it soon. I, also, found information about my father’s ship, The Empire Javelin, online, and connected with some of my dad’s fellow soldiers who are unbelievably still alive. I have also connected with the children of those men. It’s been a fascinating journey. I wonder what my father would think of it! My father did write the story of the sinking of the Empire Javelin. It’s on my website as well as on the following: The website where I found the Empire Javelin is called maritimequest dot com. You can find all kinds of ships there, from all different wars and militaries. Good luck!

        • My Uncle has all of his father’s letters written from the USS Colorado and the USS Massachusetts. My great -grandfather not only kept these letters, but also kept the letter he wrote to him on V-J day – very emotional. I have scanned copies of all of them and am planning to transcribe also – maybe self-publish enough for my cousins and their children.

          • My cousin, who lives on the family homestead farm, found my father’s letters in the attic. He wrote them while serving as S/Sgt in the Army Aviation Engineers in Burma in WWII. This was called the CBI Theatre. I copied all the letters, did research on his unit’s history from training to deployment, the ship he boarded, stops they made enroute to Karachi, India, and reverse travel by ship back to NY harbor; also copies of excerpts from books at the Army Heritage Center about his unit’s job, the Commanders, and pictures from Burma that he took or were taken of him. I found his letters to be polite, sweet, and respectful which was a reflection of his Presbyterian faith and upbringing. He worked 3 farms with horses. He famously said, “I never knew a man to die of hard work.” My dad died of cancer. I put everything in a 3″ notebook and gave them to all my sisters and his surviving brothers for Christmas one year. Needless to say it was an emotional gift as no one knew about the letters. It was greatest gift I had ever given and, perhaps, the greatest gift they had ever received.

  3. I am a writer with several books published, so I obviously rely on a lot of electronic tools these days, however, my work always starts with hand written notes. Ledgers fill my bookshelf with those notes that eventually make their way into a manuscript, but it is the thought process I go through as I write out those notes that remain the most valuable.
    I also keep various diaries of my travels, events in our lives, and just random thoughts so my children and their children can go back through history and understand who I am and what I experienced.
    A great example of the power of writing hangs on my office wall. It is the letter written in Red Cross stationary that my uncle wrote after being liberated from the Los Banos concentration camp in the Philippines. Powerful, emotional, something that would not have been conveyed in the same way using a keyboard.
    Yes, the written word is the most powerful!

    • There are so many comments about how powerful a hand written letter is, and how sad that skill is being lost; I am a retired Juvenile Corrections Specialist. At the age of 17, I did not like my signature, so I took about 45 minutes to try signing my name in every varied way i could. I found a signature I liked, and I use it to this day, with my first two initials then my last name. You might think about sitting down with any child/ren in your life, and have them try this. Start with figure eight swirls, flowing, and go from there. Initials in front of a last name, or not, etc. I also enjoyed explaining that an X with two dots, and a swirl is, if not used illegally, for fraud, and used the same way every time, is a legal signature. I do not know the strict legal definition of a signature, but you get the idea. I like that I do not have to lift a pen or pencil from the page, but that is not necessary. As we all have to use our signature still, it is one way to help the children understand the beauty of cursive. Indeed, words have power, and the hand written word says who we are, legally, and in life…

  4. I have several of my mother-in-laws letter to her first husband who was killed over seas during WWII. After she died, I gathered all the letters to put in a binder and came across a letter she was writing to her husband and it just suddenly ended mid sentence. I thought how odd. Well while continuing to go through letters, I find a telegram dated the same day as the unfinished letter. A telegram telling her that her husband was killed.

  5. My Blog, http://.www.greatestgenerationlessons.wordpress.com, is based on letters written by my Grandfather to his five sons who were scattered around the world from 1939 to 1946. I also include letters received by my Grandfather from his sons and from my Mother, once she became a part of the family. It is the story of an ordinary family, trying to live an ordinary life, during an extraordinary time-frame. So much of an individual’s personality comes through with their choice and use of words and their actual handwriting. I am thrilled to be able to share their lives with followers all over the world.

  6. Imagine the societal shock when printing hit the streets. I imagine that literacy became more important to the common people to stay up with the news.

  7. I was recently at a family reunion 20 adults I believe I was the only one that loved to write in cursive it’s not taught in the schools I’m so sorry about it I love to write longhand I think of my mother whose handwriting was so much like mine and my grandmother who just love to write her name on checks she was a very special strong woman

  8. I completely agree how sad it is that cursive is not taught and will be teaching it to my grandchildren. Also sad is letter format and filling out an envelope is not taught.
    I am very fortunate to have my uncles letters my mother held onto for so long. He was killed in the Battle of Bougainville in the Phillipines in Nov 1943. Valentines Day 1944 my grandmother received a bouquet of flowers from him he had made prior arrangments for. It still makes me cry when I read his endearing letters. I can’t even imagine the mixed emotions she went through, the love and heartache.
    As a side note when I am working on my family history I love finding documents with handwriting on it. I like working on computer as much as anyone I’m sure but there is nothing like getting a card and a hand written note in the mail.

  9. When I received a handwritten thank you note from my soon to be granddaughter in law I was pleasantly surprised. I think I had a glow of appreciation around me for the rest of the day.
    I would love to relearn the Palmer method cursive writing all over again as my own handwriting has changed.

    I try very hard to “write” letters but laziness and the Internet keep interference. After reading this group of WW2 letters I will try to be more disciplined. I do have
    a handwritten journal of trips my husband and I keep a somewhat daily journal these days.

    Someone should start a letter writing course in schools.
    Like letters to Santa perhaps to start with.

    • Letters to Santa is a GREAT idea; get kids writing cursive early. A beautiful idea, thank you…

  10. you indicated that I had ‘previously said that ‘
    regarding my comment of a few seconds ago. As I have never read these letters or your site before, someone is very much mistaken and I don’t like that at all.

  11. I am one of grand daughter of american soldier WWII his name is william lane he had son in philippines year 1947 it was my father but he passed away more then 5 months ago my father really want to find his dad that never came back again and have no idea if he still alive.my faher name is billy lane

    • I was trying to find your grandfather, but there are very many William Lanes. Can you tell me what branch of the military he was in? Navy, army? Was your father, Billy Lane, living in the US?
      Here are several: The first date is birth date, the second is date of death.

      William Lane
      Male 12 Jul 1906 1 Feb 1976

      William Lane
      Male 21 Feb 1924 2 Nov 1971

      William Lane
      Male 29 Jul 1926 7 Jun 1991

      William Lane
      Male 1 Aug 1929 5 Nov 2005

      William Lane
      Male 14 Apr 1929 27 Jun 1999

      William Lane
      Male 12 Feb 1930 20 Dec 2002

      William Lane
      Male 5 Mar 1932 4 Dec 1980

  12. Keep searching for billy lane; with the internet, things are possible that looked daunting before. It is one of the few advantages I can see about the internet; that and watching the world become ever smaller. I am a wanna be a writer, and I now have the Library of Congress, every book, magazine, news and research paper, and what is left of the lIbrary of Alexandria at my fingertips. To watch so many squabbling, and trying to add “friends” they will never meet, and play games, is disheartening. To see so many using the internet to communicate, and stand up against all that is wrong, is heartwarming; I have great hope for the future. All computers are doing otherwise, is reducing jobs, and making the uber wealthy richer, and the rest poorer. Same old story. The apple is bitten, and the snakes are smiling. And the computer and internet can be used to make everyone a neighbor. Hoping so…

  13. Hand written letters are great and if you take a writing analysis course, you get learn generalizations of the person that wrote it. I believe, most of us, would like to connect to our past relatives and find out what part of them could be found within. Yes, DNA is great but the character of a person is also important. As I began researching my great grandfather, I could see what aspects of his personality were implanted in my own father’s character.
    The second item I believe is the daily journal that each one of us could kept. Life is boring in everyday events: the repetitions, the same people, the frantic media, the constant disappointing weather but when placed together in a journal, it opens up the life of the past relative. Life progresses in tiny increments as society progresses….. leaving behind the horse for the tractor…..the farm for the city……the tornadoes, the forest fires, the hurricanes and then the regrowth of something different and new. If a person loves history, the everyday events of an ordinary, boring person becomes a beautiful creation of reality.

  14. I am so lucky to have 2 of my uncle’s write letters to their mom while they were serving in WWII. The letters were passed down to me and it’s so exciting to read them. They are dated from 1943-1946. The first line in every letter is “Dear mom, I’m ok.” I’m in the process of scanning these letters to share with my family and put the original copies away.

    • That is so great. When I was a kid, I found a large box full of airmail letters from my Dad to my Mom; Last time I visited, I asked him where they went, and he said he threw them away, as he felt they were just two kids talking, and syrupy kind of stuff. Losing those letters is one of the greatest losses I will ever experience; I wanted to perhaps publish them; for sure read them. I never read any more than a few lines when I found them. The loss of a great treasure…and I respect my Dads wishes completely…

      • One of my most cherished possessions is the collection of family letters and penny (yes, penny) post cards. The rarest, of course, are those few lines by kin who had not learned to write or spell well. They convey a wealth of information about that person via what and how they wrote. Same is true about the letters from the well educated, but to have a letter or post card from those who either preceded public education or lived in remote places where it was not available is priceless!

  15. This is a wonderful collection of appreciations of handwritten letters! I’m going to print it out and save it. Two years ago I published a 350 page book based on a collection of over 40 letters between a sea captain and his wife. They were written between 1860 and 1870 and were being sold on eBay! An alert member of the historical society bought them and donated them, I volunteered to “type them up”, and the rest is history. I unexpectedly learned, and shared, a huge amount of information about that time period in our little Maine town. For my own part, I am in the middle of year 16 of a handwritten daily diary I have kept all these years. It’s not got a lot of profound statements in it, just a way to share my life with future generations yet unborn. I’ve developed a format with 5 years of the same day on one page, and I have had the volumes bound by a pro, so they stand up to 5 years of daily use. It’s been an enjoyable and reflective way to end the day. Thanks for reading this, and best wishes for all your scribblings to come!

    • Please, please do not lose that diary. You might be amazed at how profound the writings of your childhood become as you grow wiser…great work, saving the Captains letters; thank you

  16. I have over 1,000 letters that my dad wrote to my mom when he was in Europe during WWII. He was on a “desk job” because he had a medical condition that prevented him from doing combat. Back in those days, they still had to serve in the war, but were given other kinds of jobs other than combat. As a result, he was able to write to her almost every single night after work. Anyway, I treasure those letters. I learned so much about my parents, and about the war, reading my dad’s letters, written 15 years before I was born.

  17. Not only are children not learning to write cursive, but as a result, they are not learning to READ cursive. All these saved letters, not to mention the Constitution, will be indecipherable to future generations. Bummer.

    • Could some one please explain why they stopped teaching cursive in school? It does not make sense to loose this skill. Just a thought, What if electronic Systems go down and there’s a need to “sign for” anything , say in emergency situations, food, and supplies. It’s sad. Plus I sure it only helps to expand your thought process , just more intelligent. Anyway I’d like to know why they stopped?

      • The thing that gets me about this is that, as an amateur historian, I realize if I couldn’t write cursive I probably couldn’t read it either! Transcribing those old letters was a big challenge because some of the penmanship was dreadful! Without some understanding of how the letters were formed, the task would have been hopeless. But some of the penmanship was incredibly artistic and neat as a pin. Imagine if your grandchildren can’t read those family letters you are so carefully and lovingly preserving. I guess those of us who care about these things must take it upon ourselves to teach cursive to our young people. Sad, so sad.

        • I typed my dad’s letters into “word” and also published most of them into a book. I’m still working on it. My dad’s cursive handwriting was very hard to read. I have trouble with it, and I used to read his writing all the time! It is such a shame that kid’s won’t know cursive anymore. Maybe we could teach it as a special class to adults years from now… sort of like when they teach Asian lettering as an “art” class. πŸ™

          • I have 23 letters and 3 partial letters from my father to my mother. He was stationed in Guam and San Diego from 1943 to 1945. I would like to do a book also as I typed the letters into word.

      • Testing. Testing. And more testing. Administrators’ and teachers’ salaries and job security are based on test results. Handwriting is not tested and therefore instructional time is no longer devoted to it. Don’t blame the teachers for this. They, along with their students, are the victims of political nonsense.

        • Correct. Watch Michael Moore’s new movie “What Country Should We Invade Next?” especially the section on Finland.

  18. The whole reason I ended up subscribing to newspapers.com is because I found an article about my grandpa and a letter he wrote to his mom as he was on his way home from Korea in the 1950’s. It was so neat to read about some of his experiences because, even though he is still alive and an amazing story teller, he will not talk about his time in Korea at all.

  19. When you come across family morabilia – letters, cards, photos, etc., by and about people you don’t know, Please do not discard or destroy them. There are so many ways you can post information about them. Ex: “Have photo of a young woman – Jane Smith, about 1920s, possibly Texas.” You get the idea. There are so many of us eager for more resources for our genealogy/history research. Thank You

  20. Hi. I am very lucky to have the letters my Grandfather sent home from WWI and my fathers from WWII. My dad wrote over 200 letters home often 12 pages in length on very thin Airmail paper. He also sent home hundreds of photos which went with the letters.

    Dad was in the Middle East then Italy, then back to
    Middle East. He was a Sapper, built bridges, fixed Jeeps with # 8 wire technology, and brought wounded from the front.

    My Grandfather was an Officer in WWI and it’s interesting to read his letters from an Officers point of view.

  21. I have many, many letters that my father wrote to his parents while in WWII. He ended up stationed in Alaska, and was involved in the Aleutian Islands efforts I believe. Sadly, he died before either of his children were interested in that history. And yes, he never spoke of what was happening, but I do have a photo of him with a Japanese rifle, which the family still owns…bayonet and all…

  22. I have a letter written by my mother’s young stepbrother to my Aunt and Uncle when he was recently deployed during during WWII. It was the typical lighthearted rambling of an 18+ year old man. With it in my aunt’s keepsakes was a funeral pamphlet. His date of death was listed as approximately a week after the letter was written. The family did not receive his suppose remains for three years.

  23. Enjoyed the published letters very much . Brought back many memories of my service ( U.S.NAVY ) and so much comfort , joy ,pleasure and love sent to me in an envelope while away from my wife and three months beautiful first daughter born October 1 , 1945 . Arrived San Francisco early December . Bob Hope was sponser of a to be football game and offered help in obtaining a quicker way of travel to South Carolina than train . Which I chose. After the game I was in flight with Bob and his crew to Texas where he was to perform . With luch obtained another military flight to Montgomery , Alabama and then bus to Orangeburg , SC arriving at midnight . Wanted to see my baby , but colic kept that until morning . Now 95 with three children , eight grands and 12 greats. What a wonderful world!!!!!!!

  24. A few years back I found out that an old family residence was now abandoned. I grabbed some friends a went to the house, which was abandoned. I searched and in the front bedroom found numerous family photos going back to the late 1800’s. In the closet I found a pocketbook, I believed to be me great aunt’s. When I opened it, I was astounded to find 160 letters, vmail and post cards in excellent condition due to being compressed inside the pocket book. It was a treasure trove for me because I’ve been the family historian since 1992. When you least expect it, you may find the treasure you’re searching for.

    • That’s similar to how I found my dad’s letters. My mom had put them all neatly in a box and shoved it in a closet, wayyyy in the back. I found them before she passed, and asked her about them. All she said was “Yeah” when I said, “You kept all these letters? OMG!” They were trained not to talk about stuff, I guess. Anyway, when she died, I asked my brother if I could keep them, and I still have them today. What a treasure they are. πŸ™‚

  25. I recently unearthed a couple of years worth of letters my father had written to my mother during WWII. He wrote frequently, even daily. I also found a stack that he had saved that my mother wrote to him. It was wonderful reading through them. I have many more to go!

  26. My uncle would sign his name with a clue to where he was. Eternally Yours, Jack.
    Meant he was in Rome.
    I have more than 70 letters between 6 brothers and sisters from Brooklyn. Looking for a way to put them together.

    • My dad signed the letters to my mother with his nickname, “Butch”. If he used his given name, “Frank” instead, that was a clue that the unit was moving from one location to another! πŸ™‚

    • Diane,
      Please keep the letters you have and try to find someone who can help you. Start with your local library – see if they know of a writer or genealogist group that would be willing to help. Or contact the local college and check with the English Dept. head. Or see if there is a veterans’ group that has a historian or archivist. At the least, if you don’t have a collector in your family, contact the local (Brooklyn?) Historical Society and just donate them.
      What you want is someone to put your letters together for a family history. It can be added to the library collection, kept with your family treasures, or sent to the National Archives in Washington DC. Good luck.

  27. Don’t forget that our enemies were also corresponding and using their own form of abbreviated or faster writing. Even Arabic, which already looks like script, looks like Dag Hammarskjold’s signature (secy gen U.N. 1950’s) when written in “script” form.

    I have been disappointed that the outdated Palmer script was not replaced by a simpler italic style proposed some years ago. The unnecessarily flourished captial letters only encumber writing.

  28. from: Patricia Little Gay, Fort Worth, TX 8/24/2016

    Reading all of the above notes from various persons about letters and other historical records is fascinating. Makes me want to find the time to go through old family letters which ended up in my possession. I have already read some of them and found insights into ancestors, whom I never met, and what they thought and felt, at least what I derived from what they wrote. Of course, one cannot entirely understand or know all the thoughts and feelings that were woven or poured into the writings, but even a glimpse is enlightening and heartwarming.

    I also want to pursue finding any records of writings from/to several family members who served in the military in WWII.

    Like several others who wrote in the postings above, I am appalled about the loss of cursive writing. Without it, a very important means of communication and link with others is being lost, not to mention (as some others did above), younger people being unable to read/interpret the writings of previous generations. I wish I were younger and had the time and energy to pursue getting our educational authorities to wake up and reinstate this fundamental skill and means of communication. I have seen scribbling written by children/youth in their later childhood years/early teens and I am not exaggerating when I call it “scribbling.” it would appear to be from preschoolers, if I did not know the identity of the writers.

    Back to some of the letters, etc. written by ancestors (esp. parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles) – with some of the items, I am able to recognize who wrote them without even seeing a signature or other identification. Each person’s handwriting is so distinctive, as if a part of their personality. My paternal grandfather, especially, had handwriting which always looked as if written in a hurry. My late mother used to chuckle when one of his letters was received, as he usually added “- in haste”- at the end. She would say that his notation really wasn’t necessary, as such was obvious from his writing !

  29. As a retired 6th grade teacher I am shocked to hear for the first time in the preceding article that cursive writing is not being taught any more, at least in some places?? I had not heard of that before! I don’t remember what year I retired in, but I’m 82 years old now,so it was quite a few years ago.I haven’t heard of anyone yet who can’t read or write it, though I do sometimes use manuscript printing just to be different.The world is going downhill faster than I had thought! Jack

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