“In just a few days now, Phil and I have a second anniversary to celebrate—it doesn’t seem possible does it—and two happier years no one has ever lived, I am sure. Of course, we are both looking forward to, and planning for, the successful conclusion of this war, but in the meantime, we will both do our best to help just as much as we can. Fortunately, we have enjoyed and share just everything, so we have only happy memories in our past, and a very happy future to anticipate. Knowing us as well as I think you do, and appreciating the counsel you have given Phil, I expect you have many times wondered how we are “coming.” We’d like you to be assured, then, that you did a very thorough and happy job of hitching us that June 12, so you should have one more star in your already crowded heavenly halo….”
Reading this letter dated June 10, 1942, from Betty Moore to her father wouldn’t seem too remarkable, if you didn’t know from where the letter had originated. This letter, one of many in our museum, was written by Army wife Betty Moore from Honolulu, Hawaii, a few short months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She describes her living conditions further and I am amazed at how resilient and happy she was—despite the harsh conditions.
In a 1944 letter from APO NY 464 (Rome), Sgt. Fran Goshlin anticipated the end of the war in a wonderful letter to his wife, listing all the things he looked forward to.
“Things here are still the same. What news there is, is very promising. Soon Darling -soon. There isn’t a thing to write so I’ll just ramble on about things I want to do and see after I get home. I want to go on a picnic – eat rolls, chicken, etc.
I want to sit on the front porch in a terrific rainstorm and then perhaps go riding in the rain. I want to ride into the sunrise on Northfield Ave. again in the morning. I want to fall asleep in front of the fireplace again.
I want to go shopping again with you on Saturdays and I also want to go for the Sunday papers as I always did—only on a bicycle. I want to wear any kind of clothes except G.I. clothes. I want to sit down and relax with the Babe at my feet and with a glass of Brandy in my hand. I want to play every record we have starting with Intermezzo and Strauss until every one is played.
I want to brush your red hair until it gleams on Sunday mornings. I want to fry pork chops and onions on Saturday nights the way we often did. I want to buy you a room full of Mums the way I used to.
I want to wake up with you in my arms in the morning. I want to go to sleep listening to the tree toads and crickets singing as they can only sing in Livingston.”
I love reading these letters, because they show a snapshot into what people living in incredibly difficult conditions thought important. Despite being at war in Italy, Sgt. Goshlin was thinking to the future—one full of hope and simple pleasures.
As I walk through stores in January and February, I am assailed by huge displays of cards, candies, cookies and items in pink, purple and red. There are so many choices to wade through to pick a card, it becomes overwhelming. Corporations sure are cashing in on love, and making some of us wonder how we can declare our affections to our significant other via card without squirming over the overt-sentimental sappiness. Or they minimize our appreciation and love by buying a funny, jokey card. Or one allegedly from the dog. What will our partner think about our card choice?
On the front lines of WWII, there weren’t many options, and troops “made do,” as one creative soldier demonstrated in his V-mail creation.
In more recent wars, technology allows troops to share their observations and thoughts through spoken word recorded in “real time.” In an audio cassette “letter” from the early days of the Persian Gulf war, it is obvious that the young man speaking is trying to be reassuring and optimistic to his girlfriend back home—but his voice quakes and he audibly recoils as he (and we the listener) hear the explosions in the background.
Again, he is projecting optimism and he shares with her the things he is missing—the everyday things they did as a couple, the songs they listened to and the friends they had fun with.
It is the simple, everyday things we do with our loved ones, that we miss when we cannot do them together, for whatever reason. We long for the simple, authentic pleasures, the silly notes, the little routines, the acts of kindness.
After almost 38 years of marriage, I truly cannot remember one of the commercial valentine or anniversary cards my husband gave me, but I guarantee you, if he’d ended a letter like young Fran did to his wife, I’d remember that forever!
Goodnight Dearest Wife,
Most Pleasant Dreams
I love you
I adore you
I miss you
Sleep in my arms
The Museum of the American Military Family in Tijeras has hundreds of letters, first-hand written stories and oral interviews in our special collections library. Visit the museum on weekends and by appointment. We are located at 546B N.M. 333, Tijeras.