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Better Letters

The Red Cross advocated frequent letter writing and published recommendations on style and content. Civilians were advised to give positive sentiments and observations about the war and to avoid negativity and despair. It was inevitable that some long-distance relationships would end and “Dear John” and “Dear Jane” letters were dreaded at every mail call.

In her article “Sabotage Women of America,” Red Cross correspondent Rosemary Ames cautioned women to be selective when they composed their messages, writing that:

“Men in war have neither the time nor the emotional energy to be interested in boring details about housekeeping, rationing problems and family troubles. Unfortunately, many women’s minds run that way. They had better change routes for those letters are often not even read to the end. Men have told me as much. Soldiers are occupied with the fundamentals of existence. Yours, as well as theirs, only most of you are too far away from the terribleness of war and what a Nazi-dominated world could mean, to realize it. Yes, I know. It’s very hard to suddenly become a psychologist and an author overnight merely because your man went away. But it’s worth your while to try. For just as the right kind of letters will tighten your romances -- or your bonds of affection with son, brother, or husband -- so will the wrong kind loosen them” (“Sabotage Women of America” by Rosemary Ames; File E-NC-148-57/181; OWI Intelligence Digests, Office of War Information, Record Group 208; National Archives at College Park, Maryland; 4-5).

In their article “War Anxieties of Soldiers and Their Wives,” Edward and Louise McDonagh analyzed the influence of social forces on men and women involved in the war. After gathering first-hand information from soldiers and their families, they concluded that the emotional effects of the war could outweigh physical dangers if they were left unacknowledged. Such worries were categorized into intermittent, battle, and family-related pressures. They examined all sides of these emotional traumas and explained that:

“Much is being written about the G.I. and his family. And this is as it should be, for G.I.s, their wives and children, comprise approximately one-fifth of the nation’s population and what this group is doing and thinking may affect America’s future for many years to come. Hence, it is well for civilians to try to understand what goes on in the minds of those most closely affected by this war” (McDonagh 195).

This husband and wife writing team provided advice on how soldiers and their families could avoid psychological and emotional difficulties during and after the war. They recommended that people be aware of war-related difficulties and write frequently to servicemen and their families to keep spirits high. Their counsel also advised husbands to remain faithful to their wives and wives to refrain from worrying their husbands over unnecessary complaints -- cautioning that “gossip may travel via V . Mail to the four corners of the earth” and raise anxieties (McDonagh 197).

They directed their final recommendations to civilians, and asked them to help war-torn families:

“Civilians can aid by trying to understand the plight of families torn apart by war, by helping to build toward goals of world peace, and by acknowledging the gratitude due all soldiers and their wives for the sacrifices of service on the war and home front” (McDonagh 200).