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World War II: Communication

Communication was essential during World War II. Whether writing to loved ones, listening to the news on the radio or reading it in the newspaper, or receiving telegrams from a loved one or the government, civilians and military personnel relied on various forms of communication for contact with and news about loved ones serving overseas and at home.

First page of a letter from Betty Bishop to her aunt, Margaret Beasom Swart, and her aunt's family. Letter is written on slightly yellowed Red Cross letterhead.
First page of a letter from Betty Bishop, who served in the Red Cross during World War II, to her aunt, Margaret Beasom Swart, and her family.

Delivering the mail was considered an essential service during World War II. Mail allowed soldiers and loved ones at home to communicate, thereby helping to keep morale high. Millions of letters crossed land and oceans over the course of the war. Victory Mail, also known as V-Mail, used microfilm to transport mail to and from the military at a fraction of the size and weight. People from all walks of life wrote letters, to friends and family both close and far away. Local friends could write to each other to make or cancel plans, while servicemembers might write about their experiences and receive news of life at home.

Telegrams were used to convey short messages quickly. Messages were sent through a telegraph system in Morse code, then typed and delivered to the recipient. Servicemembers and civilians sent telegrams with short greetings or news. If a servicemember was wounded, missing in action, captured, or killed, the government sent a telegram to inform the servicemember’s family.

Western Union telegram from the United States government to Mrs. Lorette Lavoie. Consisted of purple text printed on strips of paper and glued to larger yellowed Western Union paper. Message reads: The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your husband Private Leo H Lavoie has been reported missing in action since three February in France if further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified= J A Ulio the Adjutant General.
Telegram sent to Mrs. Lorette Lavoie from the United States government after her husband, Leo Lavoie, was reported missing in action.

Many Americans listened to shortwave radio, which provided both entertainment and news. The radio allowed Americans to listen to war news as it was happening. President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the American people directly via the radio. Military personnel serving abroad listened to American radio programs provided by the military for American music, news, and other programming. These radio programs also helped to bridge cultural divides abroad.

V-Mail from Lt. George H. Guild to his uncle, Harry Wells, and his uncle's family. Letter is handwritten on slightly yellowed Victory Mail paper. Victory Mail information is printed in red around the edges. Addresses are written at the top.
V-Mail from Lt. George H. Guild, who was serving in World War II, to his uncle, Harry Wells, and his family.

Local newspapers reported on national, international, and local news, including news about the war. Newspapers published the accomplishments of and news about locals serving in the military. Vital information, including rationing and blackout information, was published in the newspaper. Newspapers and newsletters were also published by the military for servicemembers. Both civilians and servicemembers sometimes enclosed newspaper clippings with their letters.

Today, surviving examples and evidence of these forms of communication provide a window into life during World War II. They allow current readers and listeners to experience news as the original recipients received it. These forms of communication provide unique insight into the lives of the people who created them, allowing the writers and speakers to tell their stories in their own words across space and time.

Want to see World War II letters, V-Mail, telegrams and newspapers from Nashua?

World War II in Nashua: The Home Front and Beyond

Exhibit opening June 14, 2024, 5:30 pm

Florence H. Speare Memorial Museum, 5 Abbott Street, Nashua, NH

For more information, please see the Events Page.

Collage of images depicting six people who lived in Nashua during World War II, including four men serving in the Army, a teenage girl sitting on a porch, and the wife of a member of the Army sitting for a photograph with her husband.

Want to learn more about the Nashuans who served in World War II and the letters they sent home?

Letters to Nashua: Stories of World War II

Talk by Sarah Jauris, Colleciton Technician at the Nashua Historical Society and exhibit curator of World War II in Nashua: The Homefront and Beyond.

When: Saturday, June 15, 2024, 10:00 am

Where: Florence H. Speare Memorial Museum Library, 5 Abbott Street, Nashua, NH

For more information, please visit the Events Page.

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