Wednesday, May 11, 2016

War Letters

While down on the farm hunting morels, my mom gave me a sack full of family history stuff. Neither of us really have a good place for it other than to put them on a shelf somewhere but she knew that I would enjoy looking through them and perhaps more importantly, would scan the stuff into the computer where it can be backed up and and preserved. Among the items were originals of pictures I have posted in prior blog posts as well as a stack of letters I had never seen before.

My great uncle whom passed away several years ago was a World War II Navy vet. I've blogged about him a number of times over the years, the last being a year and a half ago when I had some records he made during the war digitally restored. He was a prolific writer during his lifetime and also a hoarder which is why it really wasn't a surprise that he saved most if not all the letters written to him while he served during World War II.

About a half dozen of the saved letters were from his wife which I haven't read yet. She is kind of a mystery to me since she died young after only six years of marriage and a couple decades before I was even born. Even my grandparents (his brother) or my parents (his niece) know little about her. Since I hope reading those letters will reveal much about her other than her name that I know, I am saving those for last.

Before them, are a large stack of letters from my great great grandmother Nettie to her grandson (my great uncle) during his years in the war. One at a time, I scan them into my computer, save them and then read them before moving onto the next. Not being familiar with how these letters and envelopes work, I wasn't sure why the letters were so tiny and appeared to be copies of originals written on a larger (normal) scale. When I googled them, Wikipedia told me the reason. In order to save weight and processing, all V-mail letters were scanned onto microfilm after being censored and then shipped overseas still as film to reduce space. Once at their destination, they were blown up only to 60% (perhaps to save paper) which made it very hard to read without a magnifying glass which is why I waited until I got them scanned in and scaled up to make for easier reading.

I really enjoy reading about my great great grandparents daily lives which is mostly what they wrote about. I have to spend time here and there to see just exactly who Cousin Bob is or how Willie who caught scarlet fever is related. It really fleshes out a story up until this time I only knew the bare bones. Although I'm looking forward to getting to the letters of my great uncle's wife, I'm not looking forward to not having anymore letters left in my pile to scan into the computer and read.


kymber said...

you know that i have always appreciated how much time you have spent investing in, and investigating about finding about family members that came before you....thanks for always sharing.


sending love. your friend,

Kelly said...

While I do remember when we wrote all our "air mail" correspondence on that thin blue paper that folded to become its own envelope, I never knew that about putting the V-mail on microfilm. Fascinating!

Referring back to your map entry... I follow National Geographic on Twitter (and we still take the magazine) and thought of you when I saw this today:

You might want to check it out.

It's time for me to go make our lunch, but Kyber's comment above has me a little frightened!

kymber said...

sorry Kelly - not trying to freak you out but it's called DINNER. it's a pet peeve of mine. the term has only been used since about 1820...prior to that it was always breakfast, dinner and supper. i hate the word lunch. so again, i hope you understand and please accept my apologies for making you frightened. Ed left the word lunch on my blog because he knows how much i hate that word. and i was commenting to that.

Ed said...

Kelly - I have some of those type too. I checked and it might be that the folded versions were used later in the war while the ones I described were used earlier in the war. My uncle served for three years so he spanned the various types.

Don't mind Kymber, her bark is worse than her bite!

Kymber - It is most certainly a labor of love. In some cases, I wasn't able to ever know them and researching them now gets me closer to that.

I live kind of inbetween regions and use both words interchangeably. However, some people around here confuse dinner with supper which leads to more confusion so often times when inviting people over, I use lunch to avoid confusion.

Ed said...

Kelly - I almost forgot. I checked out the link and really loved that map of the Discovery of America in 1498! I would love to have it hanging on my wall but unfortunately it was too low of resolution. I checked at the library of congress but couldn't find it there either. I may have to do some more digging. I wish they had a blog blog so I could follow them. It only appears that I can follow them with twitter or instagram, both of which I don't use.

Kelly said...

Kymber - Maybe it' a regional thing? In my mind, it's breakfast, lunch, and supper. It's only dinner when it's a holiday - and that can be whatever time of day the big meal is served. I can't promise to quit saying it, but I can promise to not use it again here, where you might see it. ;)

Ed - I've been trying to figure out their "blog" since don't equate that word with Twitter or Instagram. I did start following them on Twitter and, looking back, they've had some neat photos in their tweets. I've resisted Facebook for years, but find Twitter can be interesting and educational without having to be "social". Just sayin'...

Ed said...

Kelly - I've been doing blogger for 13 years so it is hard to equate a blog as anything else for me too. I resisted Facebook until my mom decided she wanted to do it a couple years ago. To help her, I joined too and I must say, I kind of enjoy it. It is nice to see where some old friends are at these days instead of just wondering. But I still love blogger because it allows me to be somewhat anonymous.

Vince said...

Depending on the front, the submarine cables were used too. And then the content could be dramatically lowered. Of course you know that those letters were seen as a fundamental tool of war. They kept up the spirit in horrendous conditions. I seem to remember reading that during the siege of Bastogne the Christmas post/mails arrived. And for certain the Chindits in the Far East were air dropped post.
For what it's worth though, I believe it's a matter of weight. And I believe, but cannot verify that Air Mail letters are derived from that 'war letter weight' issue.

Kelly said...

Okay...I finally got the right address for their blog, but it's called a "Science Salon" and includes entries by various contributors, including the map duo. I was able to add it to my reader. If you're still interested, here's the address:

Ed said...

Vince - I've read a lot about the Revolutionary War and the Civil War here in this country and a little bit about certain battles of the Vietnam War and World War II. Unfortunately, I haven't read anything about World War I and nothing on the European theater of World War II. There is always so much to learn and so little time to spend learning!

Kelly - Thanks for the link! I will see if I can get it added to my sidebar.