The Smithsonian's National Postal Museum is my third favorite Smithsonian, right behind American History and Air and Space. Yes, it sounds odd to have a whole museum about who's gotten mail, but it's really good. Trust. One of their current exhibits is on Victory Mail — getting mail to soldiers overseas.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II, letters became the primary source of communication between soldiers and their families. According to the 1945 Annual Report to the Postmaster General, mail in that year alone reached 2.5 billion dispatches and that was only for the Army!
During WWII, because the only way people could communicate was through letters, mail was almost as important as food for those serving. The Red Cross even advocated frequent letter writing and offered recommendations on dos and don’ts. Here’s one piece of advice:
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. . . . 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.
In addition to an exhibit in DC, the Smithsonian has a great online version of the Victory Mail display to check out. Why did I find out about the display? I had a little mission to DC this week to participate in the Google/National Journal panel discussion on politics and pop culture. It was a great time — and if this story whets your appetite to see the whole program, it will be on C-SPAN this Sunday at 6:30 p.m. EDT.