Correspondence from the Front:
The Changing Ways American Soldiers Write Home
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"As long as armies have marched to war, the letters and bundles from home have followed them."

Three Soldiers With Weapons

Throughout history, soldiers waging wars on battlefields around the world have relied on correspondence with loved ones to keep up morale.

Historians have studied written letters from American servicemen from as far back as the Revolutionary War, using those letters to get an idea of what soldiers were like and what they thought of while they were away from home. Letter writing was the original form communication with parents, friends, wives and sweethearts, and letter writing helped to relieve boredom. Sometimes soldiers described battles and fighting, but more often they wrote about their daily existence.Three Soldiers With Navigation Equipment

The bulk of historical data collected from wartime correspondence in the United States comes for the Civil War. Originally, soldiers had to purchase paper, pens and stamps to write home, but later in the war, organizations such as the U.S. Christian Commission and the U.S. Sanitary Commission gave out free paper and envelopes to servicemen.

Soon after America’s entry into World War I, soldier’s letters first began to be censored by military officials in order to prevent the leakage of military secrets. During World War II, GIs could only write generally about their experiences and could not refer to their location or unit.

During the Vietnam conflict, mail delivery time had been reduced from weeks to only a few days, and soldiers often received care packages containing photos, baked goods and toiletry items.

When the Gulf War began in 1991, new forms of battlefield communication had become popular. Instead of writing letters, many soldiers phoned home or sent e-mail messages.

E-mail has since become one of the most popular ways for soldiers to correspond with loved ones in a timely manner. Troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq frequently use e-mail and Internet capabilities today.

Site created by

Jennifer Berringer

April 2003

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