This week, we are pleased to share a guest post from archival processor Ellen Welch, who, from time to time, shares her processing discoveries with colleagues over email. Posting on the blog for the first time, Ellen shares a collection that provides a glimpse of wartime love-letter conventions in the 1940s.
You are so fine and true and the swellest husband on earth. You just have to come home to me. I’ll wait for you always. Be a good sailor, dear, and take care of yourself for you are precious to me.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read your parents’, grandparents’, or great grandparents’ love letters from World War II? Here at Special Collections, we have many collections of letters from wartime. The latest addition is a collection of 1944-1945 love letters written by Linnie Ethel Davis to her boyfriend (and then husband) Guy Elwood Webb, a sailor in the U.S. Navy. The couple were married when he visited her on leave in Richmond, Virginia in May 1944. Linnie’s letters show her complete devotion to Guy, her constant worry for his safety, and her desperate desire to have him safely at home. She reassures him of her love and encourages him to be strong and learn as much as he can while he is there and tells him that he will back home soon. “You are the sweetest, noblest, finest, darling, sweetheart a girl can have,” she writes; she loves him “more than anything in the whole wide world.”
Linnie’s letters reveal the sacrifices of the “home front”: she makes and sends him care packages and saves most of his monthly earnings for their future. Instead of going out with other young people after work, she goes straight home in case he telephones–and works overtime in order to pay for those long-distance calls. She tries to be brave by not crying in front of anyone, even family. The letters briefly mention air raids, gas rations, and the absence of any young men in town.
Linnie makes a scrapbook for Guy and fills it with cards from him, newspaper clippings about the war, commercial naval photographs, and postcards from his time in Hawaii. The letters describe her making the scrapbook–and the actual scrapbook is also part of the collection. We follow him from boot camp in the Great Lakes, Illinois to continued service in Haywood and Shoemaker, California, and Honolulu, Hawaii. Linnie writes, “Tis hard being married to a sailor. You never know where he is or where he is going.”
One assumes from the collection that he made it home safely, as the letters stop after he sends a telegram that says that he is departing San Francisco for home in 1945. Indeed, they were reunited, and remained together even after death, as can be seen by their shared gravestone in Richmond, Virginia.