NSFW: Pin-ups and Gambling–Just Another Day in the Army

Letter from U.S. Army Lieutenant, E. Co., 127th Infantry, APO #32, to wife at home in Iowa, U.S.

6 April, 1945

Darlingest,

Here is a Mother’s Day gift which I stumbled on tonight, via a crap game. I’m going to use it to the best advantage before it dribbles away. Have a good time with it, darling. I’ll try to do this again as soon as possible. [Ed.’s note: Presumably, there was money enclosed.]

It’s about 11 o’clock–we started out this evening playing bridge, but I broke away for this other when I got tired of bridge.

Oh, honey–one of your letters finally came–dated Feb. 26th. Maybe the rest are not far behind. It was the first one in which you gave any definite hints as to when you were starting home. I guess you’re there now, a little over two weeks. I sure hope you came through, with no trouble. Tell me all about the trip–I’ll bet you had a pretty hard time, if you were driving alone.

It has been raining here the last few days-makes the air so close. I sweat a lot.

We’re not doing much–just the training I mentioned before. I’m busy with my I & E bulletin board. Remember that calendar you sent me from Betty’s? I used a couple of those pin-ups on the board–one had as a title, “What’s Cookin” so I put that up and beside it put a sign which read, “Watch this board and find out, honey.” Then beside another which read, “Now watch my jingle, jangle, jingle,” I inscribed–“Keep your eyes on the I & E board, too.” The boys seemed to get quite a kick out of them. Tomorrow I’ve got to paste some little flags on pins and get the maps all decked out. At least I keep up with the world. And right now, everything sounds pretty good.

It’s wonderful to dream and hope and look forward to the day when this will all be finished and we can be together again. Those thoughts sustain me constantly, through all the restless, dark times. I know that one of these days I’ll walk up to the door and everything will be just as if I never went away. They can talk about adjusting to the postwar world all they want to; I don’t think I’ll have much adjustment to do. I can take up where I left off without a bit of trouble.

The bugs are very bothersome at night–the same kind of beetles fly here at night as a home–those brown “June Bugs.” I’ve seen some butterflies I’d like to have gotten–nothing large or spectacular, but different than we have. There is one here just like our Viceroy, only it’s a pale blue instead of orange.

Well, my dearest, I’m going to get off to bed. We have to get up at 0630 in the morning and stand reveille. Til then, darling, all my dreams are of you—–kiss David for me, and tell him how proud his Daddy is of him and his Mommie.

All my love–Yours.

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At family gatherings during my childhood, I noticed that a popular pastime for the men was playing cards. All the Navy veterans, in particular, knew how to play cribbage. Apparently, in E Company, the men liked to play bridge for fun, and craps when a wager was involved. Other letters recount how successful Dwight was in poker, as well.

What did he send home as a Mother’s Day gift? We assume cash. But how much? We can’t be sure. Online inflation calculators say that $10 in 1945 is about $136 in today’s dollars. What a boon–$10 could have bought a lot of pin-up calendars.

Pin-up calendars, and pin-ups, were popular among soldiers during WW2, although this type of art was hardly new. These illustrations idealized the American woman back home with her shapely hourglass figure, perfectly coiffed hair, and bright red lipstick–usually, semi-nude. This was a genius way to get the men’s attention to review an otherwise dull bulletin board.

Back home, it’s likely that the American woman did not consistently look like a pin-up model. Rationing was in full effect, not only for food like coffee, sugar, butter, milk, cheese, and even canned food, but also for other household needs like tires, shoes, fuel, and clothing. So much material and labor were required for the war effort. Americans were urged to go without so the military would have enough to fight and win. (This must have been a difficult mental notion to embrace, as the Great Depression was fresh in recent memory.)

This also meant the average American woman may have been under-nourished, and tired or even clinically fatigued. (This was almost definitely the norm in the U.K., where wartime rationing didn’t end until 1954!) A lack of coffee surely didn’t help. Housing was at a premium; many households, such as the Stover family in this series of letters, shared homes with family, squeezing anyone who could fit into the house. Many women went to work during this time, physical labor that burned a lot of calories during 10- and 12-hour days. And at the end of these strenuous day, who was responsible for cooking, cleaning, mending, and child rearing? The American woman.

For a humorous take on rations in the U.K. during World War 2, check out the British television program “The Supersizers Go Wartime,” featuring food critic Giles Coren and writer/comedian Sue Perkins.

 

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