War is never easy. It separates loved ones across long distances. One partner goes off to war, while the other person stays home and raises their family, earns a living, or contributes to the war in other ways, such as working at the steel mill, sewing uniforms, or building equipment. Yet love letters can help ease the pain of separation. Lovers can share their feelings for each other despite the physical distance that lies between them.
During World War II, there were no emails, text messages, or social media forums. The only way soldiers could communicate with their loved ones was through the written word. Learn more about how love letters kept love alive during one of the greatest conflicts in American history.
Sending Love from the Front Lines
Many soldiers wrote love letters from the front lines, even if they didn’t have the best pens. This was usually the worst place to be during the war, with bombs and rifles going off in every direction. It was here that soldiers would come face-to-face with the reality that they might not make it home alive, so many of them kept a pen and some paper on hand in the trenches, giving them a chance to express their feelings and fears during what might be some of their last moments on earth.
Many of these letters paint a dark portrait of the war, including details about the surrounding conflict, the names of people who had died, and soldiers mulling over their chances of survival. The act of putting these feelings down on paper helped remind soldiers that there was someone waiting for them when they got home. Reminding them of this love gave them the strength and support they needed to make it home alive.
As one infantryman recalls, “Mail was indispensable. It motivated us. We couldn’t have won the war without it.”
One soldier wrote, “My Mary, let the recollection console you that the happiest days of my life have been from your love and affection, and that I die loving only you, and with a fervent hope that our souls may be reunited hereafter and part no more.”
Heartache Back at Home
As for those who stayed behind, love letters were used to communicate what happened in the soldier’s absence. Life continues even during times of war. Children grow older. The culture and politics change as time goes on. Those who stayed at home would tell their romantic partners everything that was going on while they were away, including what was happening at home, how the children were doing in school, and what was happening in the local community.
These letters were also about expressing feelings of love and sadness. The partner that stayed behind would tell their spouse or lover how much they missed them and all the things they would do when their lover returned home. Absence often makes the heart grow fonder, so the love between these two people might have seemed more intense while the other person was away. Some partners would count the minutes, days, weeks, and months that the other person had been away, while others chose to focus on the future, infusing optimism into every message of love.
One woman wrote to her husband overseas, “Oh! You cannot tell how lonely I have been since you left. I wish that I could blot this week out of any remembrance, for it has been a sad, lonely one indeed.”
Reassuring Soldiers at War
Receiving letters from home was a great joy to those on the front lines. Hearing stories of what had happened in their absence helped these soldiers feel more connected to the lives they left behind, but it could also remind them of all they had missed, further intensifying their loneliness and heartache. Being reminded of loved ones would only bolster their efforts to stay alive and make it through the war unscathed.
Love letters were and continue to be a defining feature of war. War separates loved ones, and mail becomes one of the only ways for them to communicate. Whether they used a ballpoint pen or a pencil, the handwritten nature of these letters became a physical reminder of the person’s love. Every mark and gesture on the page reminded the person of those they’d left behind. Looking back on these letters is a testament to the power of the written word.
If you miss someone you love in your life, try writing them a handwritten letter to show them how much you care.