An Ounce of Ordinary?

The most recently assigned reading material for this course, Since You Went Away, is a compilation of letters that were written [and saved over the years] by American women during World War II.  These women found many of the men in lives serving in the military and [likely] off to war during this period of time in American history, and letters became the primary means of communication between spouses, lovers, siblings, friends, or otherwise… Although one can easily see the struggles that the authors of these letters were experiencing during this difficult time, I [ironically] found this book to be the least personal out of all of the literature we have perused in the past three months.

I do not admit this lack of immediate connection with the material to imply that I do not sympathize—empathize, even—with these women.  Maybe it was simply a lack of depth—a true look into who these women were.  What were their real, raw thoughts on the war and its consumption of the lives of their beloved fathers, sons, husbands, brothers… After all, they were not able to indulge in their misery: they had to be strong and optimistic for the sake of their boys off to war.  I imagine that some of them traded their true desires to write about the relationship-robbing, nightmare-provoking horrors of war for a more comforting “Hi honey, everything is swell on the home front but I miss the sight of your wonderful face and cannot wait to be marry you and be Mrs. Whoeveryouare. Love, _______.” The ability of some of these women to maintain their composure and write so positively is admirable, to say the least.

I thought that maybe this book was just hard for me to relate to due to the out-dated choices of wording in many of the letters, so I set out to find something similar and a little more up to date. Enter,  Apparently novel-length, hand-written attempts to keep a relationship [rocked with military service] alive are not so with the times.  Yes, romantic and family relationships are still sometimes supplemented through good old Federal mail [especially during Basic Training, or through the form of care packages during deployment]… but it seems as if military blogging really is the way to go these days. 

When I first visited this site—a site with multiple postings by multiple authors—I  could not help but notice the striking similarities between the first post on this site and the first letter published in Since You Went Away. Written by Lucille Mumm, the first letter in the book talked of the excitement she was experiencing in Honolulu [where her husband was currently stationed], she even went as far as saying “I’ve never had the opportunity, funds, or facilities, for party giving that I have here and I get such a kick out of it and will miss it all no end when the Army discards us.” (4)  The most recent post on, “Aloooohhaa,” posted on 23 March 2009 by Vivian Greentree, follows:

“Aloha! Mr. Wonderful and I are in sunny Hawaii right now. We have visited the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor and paid our respects to our brave servicemembers…I am almost embarrassed to admit that I had no idea how many military bases were on the island – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine. Now to see how Mr. Wonderful could get a tour here…”

It was hard to ignore the similar, light-hearted tone between two entries [one dated 26 November, 1941—the other, 23 March, 2009] written by spouses stationed with their husbands in Hawaii.  Although it was surprising [and welcome] to see these entries in front of much more serious and somber entries, I think that in both cases it helps to remind readers that these people are still just normal people trying to go about their lives and not let themselves be taken over by war, or the military.  Perhaps these happy-go-lucky spouses and family members should be praised for their ability to find an ounce of ordinary in a military-filled life.

Works cited

 Barrett Litoff, Judy and David C. Smith. Since You Went Away. Kansas: University Press, 1991.

Greentree, Vivian. “Aloooohhaa.” 23 March 2009. Family*Self*Country. Visited 24 March,             2009. >



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