I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.
Some Letters Were Handwritten and Some Typed
Soldier's Letters, Love Letters and Other Memorabilia from the Second World War
It horrifies me to think of someone tossing out their grandfather's World War II letters or burning an old diary. My family treasures letters, journals and other memorabilia from the generations that preceded us. Unfortunately not all families feel that these are worth saving. Who cares about that old stuff, some might say.
More and more, people realize these creased and yellowed letters from World War II really are a precious record of a very historic time. Each letter provides a piece of the jigsaw puzzle; a tiny glimpse into one person's experience. The pieces form a larger picture of what the war was like and how it affected people's lives. (photo from our family album of my Uncle Ralph Martin)
I've collected a wide variety of books made from World War Two letters. Some are letters the soldiers sent home, others are from the homefront and some are love letters. Do you want to know how to preserve letters that you have or how to turn them into a book? I've included that information too.
It Was an All Out Effort to Win the War
- WWII Memories: How To Preserve Letters
World War II era letters offer personal insights into the war from veterans and civilians alike. Unfortunately, old letters can easily be lost or destroyed, but History.com offers some tips for preserving historical letters for future generations:
Proper Storage to Save the Old Letters
Taking care of old paper means don't store it in hot or cold places (attics or garages) or where it is exposed to dampness (basements). Displaying it presents problems, as sunlight can fade the old ink and make the paper brittle. Check out the rest of the tips in the link here on WWII Memories: How to Preserve Letters. I also recommend a book called, An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs - Learn techniques to save old letters.
If it's a single letter, you can have it framed. Be sure to get the special glass that protects the letter from UV rays that cause fading. Multiple-page letters can be framed and hung in a row or placed in one long frame with a mat setting off the letters.
If you have many letters, get an archival quality box to keep them in. You can find these in the scrapbooking section of craft stores or order from Amazon.
Acid Free Storage Box for Old Letters - Keep the letters from deteriorating
Published Letters from World War II - Soldiers writing home
Take a look at these books available in public libraries or from Amazon.
- World War II Letters
- Seeds of Hope
- Taps for a Jim Crow Army (letters from black soldiers)
- Warhawk: Letters From Out of the Blue: A True Story of Love and War, Tragedy and Triumph
Advice for Someone with WWII Family Letters
Jackie Gear sent this query, "I have a huge shoe box of World War II letters from my father to his mother. He wrote one to her every day of the time he spent in Algeria and Italy.
He was a recipient of a Medal of Gallantry and mentioned in dispatches. The letters are really well written and go into great details little stories of his trips out in the desert and meeting local folk. They are worthy of a book and there are many photos that could go with them.
I need ideas of how I could start off. I would prefer to have them printed properly in a book in remembrance of him. He was a gentleman and loved his Mother and sisters very much as it is apparent in the letters. They are very readable. I also have numerous documents dating back to 1800's of his family who had a fine importing business and printing business in Nuremberg back in 1875 and later in the Barbican in London. His father was interned in the first World War as he was a German in the UK. He died while in the internment of pneumonia and my father then became the man of the family.
The documents are fascinating as they are copies of ownership of church pews, and crypts, house ownership and sales, and old maps of Furth where the very first steam train started from. Where can I get help to compile a historic social history of all the items I possess?
My Answer: Wow, Jackie, what wonderful family treasures you have. They are historically interesting it seems, as well. Take a look at blurb.com as a possible way to self-publish these. If you don't wish to do the work yourself, there are experienced book designers at the site who can be hired.
Published Letters from Women in World War II - From women in the military and on the homefront
Don't forget women's participation in the war years. These letters detail first-hand what it was like to be a WAC or in the Women's Land Army. You'll also see books of WWII letters from women on the homefront.
Women served in so many ways. They were nurses, office workers, factory workers and volunteers in selling war bonds, collecting scrap metal and contributed in many other ways.
Every Soldier Looked Forward to a Letter from His Girl
Examples of Women's WWII Letters That Are Saved in Books
Women's letters from WWII include titles like these. Ask at your public library or order them online.
- Since You Went Away: World War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front
- Dear Boys: World War II Letters from a Woman Back Home
- Mollie's War: The Letters of a World War II WAC in Europe
- One Woman's War: Letters Home From The Women's Army Corp 1944-1946
More Sweethearts from the 1940s
Published Love Letters from World War II
Sometimes letters kept love alive despite the long separation caused by the war. Enjoy these books of WWII love letters. By saving your ancestors' love letters in a book, you preserve their memory for future generations. Sometimes, the letters show only one side of the correspondence. If you have both his and her letters, it's great to publish them together.
- Sending My Love (Love Letters from John Brugmann in WWII)
- Letters of Love and War: A World War II Correspondence - In this collection of letters, you see both the homefront (from Helen's letters) and the battle areas from her husband's letters. He's an army surgeon and his letters come from North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. A great glimpse into the war years.
- From Calcutta with Love: The World War II Letters of Richard and Reva Beard
- A Chance for Love: The World War II Letters of Marian Elizabeth Smith and Lt. Eugene T. Petersen, USMCR
- Dearest Ruthy
Mailing the Letter at the Local Post Office to a Loved One Overseas
Making the Letters Available to Family Members
Query from a visitor, "I want to copy about 200 letters written between husband in military command of POWs in the U.S. and his wife. How can I do this for other family members?
My Advice: I recommend scanning them into your computer. Use the digital copies to transcribe the letters. Put both the handwritten letter and the transcription into a self-published book using blurb.com. You can keep the book private, letting only family members order copies or you can make it available in Blurb's online bookstore for anyone to buy.
Another option is to use Shutterfly but for large numbers of letters, it would be easier to use Blurb.
A Jeep from World War II
Where You Can Go to See Letters or to Donate Ones You Have
- Museum of World War II, Natick, Massachusetts
The Museum of World War II, Inc., with 10,000 square feet of display area, is described as "a...private collection containing the most comprehensive display of original World War II artifacts on exhibit anywhere in the world". The museum is located a
- WW2 Letters - Mail & Post from soldiers of the Second World War
Primary source and first person accounts of world war two in the form of mailed document sent to and from WWII military servicemen.
- WWII Letters, WW2 Letters and Photos
See the actual letters online and read it (transcribed for easier reading).
Feature the Letters in a Blog
You can start a free blog using Wordpress or Blogger where you can feature the letters over a period of time. Pace it out to one letter a week, perhaps.
Here's an example where the daughter shares her father's WWII letters on a blog. She includes a photo of the actual letter, a transcription of the letter, and adds her on comments on the family background to go with the letter. NotSoFancyNancy: My Father's Letters.
After posting the letters to the blog over the weeks or even years, you can have the blog slurped into a book using a site called Blog2Book.
I've Used Blurb for My Family History Books
- Self-Publish Family Memories
I've self-published two books of family stories and history using a print-on-demand publisher like Blurb.com. Maybe you've thought of putting your own life stories into a book or of publishing a family history book to honor your parents and...
- Saving Dad's Memories
Last year, I created a book about my father's life by collecting together essays written by my mom, my sister and myself. That sounds like a major project, but self-publishing a book is much easier these days. It also is much less expensive than it..
An Example of World War II Letters Published Using Blurb - Somewhere in France By Bernard P. Lyons/Mary Jo Meloy
This one teams up photos and letters from the second world war for a remarkable account. Don't miss it.
With Love, Jim - Letters from Jim Holzem during the War
More WWII Letters Published through Blurb - Letters Home 1940 to 1945 Written By Russell L. Eberlein
WWII Love Letters - The Chandler's WW2 Letters
More Letters Published with Blurb.com - All My Love, Bob
This book features the letters of James R. Bryce Jr. Each day during the war, he wrote his family a letter. He was stationed in Europe (France, Germany, Italy) and in Africa.
Navy Letters of World War Two - Volume 1 - Eugene Schmidt to Maxine O'Connell
Flynn's Letter (WWII letters published with Blurb) - by Joseph A. Burke (preview the book)
Dear Folks, by Paul Stoloff
The World War II Memoirs of 1st. Lt. Marvin Stoloff
This book shows the handwritten letter as the background design on the page. That is overlaid with the text of the letter in printed form for easier reading.
Dear Gramp by Joshua B. Bell, Editor - WWII letters
Dear Gramp by Joshua B. Bell, Editor | Make Your Own Book
This is a collection of letters written by the editor's Grandfather to his Grandfather during World War II. The book contains typed copies of the letters, the original letters and envelopes, as well as several pictures.
Letters From Artie by Terry Lyons | Make Your Own Book
Save WWII Letters by Sharing Them on YouTube - A son reads his father's WWII Air Force letters
This is a great way to share the letters with family members and the whole world. I expect back in the 1940s when the family received the letters, they would sit around the living room or the kitchen table and read them aloud so everyone would get the news at once.
Did You Find What You Wanted Here? - Vote in the Poll
Visitors to This Page - came from many places around the world
© 2010 Virginia Allain
Are You Saving Your Family's Letters and Memorabilia?
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on February 28, 2020:
Heading off to read your blog. So glad you saved the letters!
Linda Steingart Frumkes from USA on February 28, 2020:
My dad, Lt. Gilbert Steingart, kept his promise and wrote over 500 daily letters to my mom during WWII. My mom kept her promise and saved them. After my mother's death, Daddy wanted to toss the letters. I convinced him to give them to me instead. His writing reveals my parents' personalities, thoughts, hopes, and dreams. Happily, most of the plans they made during their exchange of letters came to fruition. I have scanned all the letters and digitized the text for easy reading. I blog them along with photos and other memorabilia at wwiinavydentist.blogspot.com
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on March 24, 2017:
With CreateSpace, you can self-publish in paperback or as an ebook. I used Blurb for my parents' memories and found it quite easy to use. I hope you do complete your book project and save these letters for posterity.
RicardoSharrardo on March 23, 2017:
Thanks for posting all this useful information Virginia! I am currently blogging the letters my Great Uncle, Cyrus Stafford, sent to his love during WWII while he was in North Africa and Italy. WWIILoveStoryLettersFromBuddy. I'm interested in turning it into a book. I'm very encouraged to see so many other people saving the letters and sharing them--this is the real history that so rarely ends up in the history books. -Rick
Ibidii on May 18, 2014:
My Mother has an awesome collection of letters and photos! We are going to scan and digitize all of them and the negatives to positives as well. Awesome lens!
texastamee on May 03, 2014:
yes i inherited my great aunt and uncless home with in the attic findings there was a box of letters ....and there lives were so full of love ....together they stayed until their calling ...lives lived to love ...honor...and cherish always ....something today many no nothing about....God bless them all
my name is tammy penner i can only wish that in my life i can bring as much joy to my friends and family as those before me their love for life was so inspiering that i so hope i can share it with you all and do them the honors in which they deserve...and i was so glad to find this info ..as its been so helpful thank you so much God bless
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on February 19, 2014:
I have letters that our dad wrote to our mom during the war. He was stateside at the end of the war and was older when he joined but they are so interesting. I need to display some of them so appreciate all this great information.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 24, 2013:
@AngelaWatts: Angela, I thought that way about my mother's childhood memories. As I arranged them in a self-published book using Blurb (print-on-demand, so very affordable). It turned out that it had a wider audience than I expected. It even won an award. It takes some time to transcribe and arrange it, but very much worthwhile. Now Mom's books are featured at several local history museum stores.
AngelaWatts on September 24, 2013:
I have many letters from my father who was stationed in Shanghai before the war and while he was a POW in the Philippines. I have a blog called Ludjapie's Lagniappe where I've posted most of them. I wish I could put it all into a book - I believe his life before and after he returned would be an interesting read. At least, that's how I feel - not sure if anyone else outside of the family would feel the same way.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on August 30, 2013:
@MariaMontgomery: That's history too. I'm so glad you are preserving those.
MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on August 30, 2013:
Our family doesn't have any letters from WWII, but I have some from the Vietnam War that I have kept.
goldenrulecomics from New Jersey on March 16, 2013:
I have a few photos of my father from the Korean War but otherwise not so much. Very nicely done lens!
Ann from Yorkshire, England on March 08, 2013:
I used to have world war 1 postcards sent from my grandfather - not sure where they are now though sadly
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on January 25, 2013:
@ManipledMutineer: I feel very strongly about saving family history (and history in general).
ManipledMutineer on January 25, 2013:
A whole new field of collecting I never knew existed!
kerryhrabstock on January 14, 2013:
I don't have letters, but I have WWII ration books. I like reading about that time and I love the old movies about the war.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on December 09, 2012:
@cjbmeb14 lm: That's marvelous that you are preserving those items.
cjbmeb14 lm on December 09, 2012:
I have a good collection of World War 2 items including, ration books, letters and a spoon from Stalag 17
JohnSchlatter on October 23, 2012:
Your posting makes a great point -- there is a lot of WWII memorabilia out there that needs to be preserved. A few years ago I spotted WWII postcards in an antique store. I started buying them and trying to find the soldiers who wrote them, or their children (most of the soldiers have passed away). I had a great deal of success, and the families were grateful to receive the long lost memento. I wrote a book about it, called "Postcard Memories of World War II: Finding Lost Keepsakes 70 Years Later."
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 31, 2012:
@anonymous: That's marvelous, Rocky, I'll go have a look at it.
anonymous on July 31, 2012:
I have collected my P-40 fighter pilot father's letters written during WWII, added information from personal diaries, pilot log books, and interviews and put them into a book called WARHAWK: LETTERS FROM OUT OF THE BLUE, available from Amazon.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on May 19, 2012:
@AlleyCatLane: I lost my dad last month also. He was 87. Since we already have a book about his life that we self-published, I'm thinking to make a photo book in his memory. I'm finding lots of fascinating old photos.
I really hope you go ahead with the book project. Over the years, the photos and postcards get damaged or misplaced. A book will preserve that memory.
AlleyCatLane on May 19, 2012:
This comes at a good time as my 89 year old father just passed and I am going through all his papers and belongings. He was in WWII. I have his manual from the USS Custer, the Navy ship he was on, tons of photos and postcards, and also tons of items about his Masonic activities. I'll bookmark this for future reference.
Joan Haines on May 19, 2012:
Social history is wonderful stuff. World War II letters are very much worth preserving! Thanks for explaining how to do it.
lyttlehalfpint from Canada on May 19, 2012:
loved this lens ... fabulous suggestions .. I never throw them out, the genealogist in me would revolt. But I have lost some due to not knowing the best way to keep them.
anonymous on March 20, 2012:
Don Murray's WWII letters (and a great romance) are now available.
Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on February 29, 2012:
Some wonderful information! Once a month I go to Maui and sort through family "papers" from the old homestead. My husband's Uncle belonged to the 442nd in WWII and I've found several pieces of interest regarding that. Lots of history that should be preserved before it's gone.
Joan4 on February 14, 2012:
Yes, I have some letters my parents wrote to each other during WWII. A treasure indeed!
Brandi from Maryland on February 09, 2012:
I really love the ideas you have here for preserving our history! :)
blastfromthepas1 on February 03, 2012:
What an important idea! Letters and other personal items are like a time machine journey to the past.
JohnMichael2 on November 13, 2011:
@Virginia Allain: unfortunately, it's not the same as coming in the mail... there's something special about seeing that envelope with the cancelled stamp on it.
In doing my book, I was happy to find actual items that if the computer had elimiated them, it would have left major gaps in history. My book contains an unpublished / unknown note from Lincoln to General Totten - finding it has filled in many gaps in the historical roadwary.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on November 13, 2011:
@JohnMichael2: Let's hope some families print out and save the precious e-mail letters from loved ones in the service. It does seem like getting an actual letter in the mail is a rarity these days.
JohnMichael2 on November 13, 2011:
As we continue to go "electronic" and avoid the sending of real mail, these antiquities are becoming more and more valuable as our history.
I am concerned that since we are no longer writing letters, but relying more and more on emails and such that great things such as these won't be around for future generations.
Gayle from McLaughlin on November 11, 2011:
Thanks virginia, for telling us how to preserve those letters. My mom had some from my dad, but she said those were private. Have to respect that!
Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on October 03, 2011:
Great lens, yes it is very said to say that many of those letters have been lost to family history. I have a photo-copy of one from world war 1, which I have acquired through my search on genealogy. Thanks for sharing. "Blessed*
Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on October 02, 2011:
Saving whatever I can get my hands on. What a wonderful idea to preserve personal history. I learned a lot; thank you!
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on September 26, 2011:
I agree that the letters should be preserved. This lens reminded me of the novel "Dream When You're Feeling Blue" by Elizabeth Berg. A big part of the book was about writing to servicemen during WWII.
happynutritionist on September 15, 2011:
Thanks for introducing me to this page. I have so many WWII letters right now that I've been working through slowly. I have never thought of making a book with them...read them for my own pleasure then resell them. I bought a very large lot of them, 3 big boxes full, a couple years ago and am still working my way through. So interesting to read.
mrducksmrnot on September 12, 2011:
A very informative lens. I've still got a lot of my Dad's old V-mail with the envelope's. Was not much of a letter so to speak but more like a note "I'm still alive". I'm a Viet-Nam Vet and getting a letter from anyone was like a Christmas Present. We all read and shared our ltr's with everyone. Well almost everyone but it was great to get news from home for sure.
Delia on August 10, 2011:
Another great lens in my interest! I have three letters to my mother from an old boyfriend who happened to be a German movie star...even though my mom was married and had two small children he still loved her and wrote to her. I had them translated several years ago because I saw my name in one of the letters and was curious. These letters are the most beautifully written letters during a bad time. When I read these, you could imagine any soldier in any country and any war. He was shot down a month later after his last letter, some think it was suicide because he was sick of the war and the killings.
pawpaw911 on August 06, 2011:
Very nice topic. I have read hundreds of WWII letters. Some of them are well written, and some of them are not, but they are all very important pieces of history. While reading some of them, you can almost go beyond empathy, and actually feel some of their loneliness, fear, and longing for home and the people they love. The ones that touch me the most are the ones written by those who didn't make it home. I share some of my letters on a few blogs I do. Very nicely done.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 25, 2011:
@lauragreene97: Your book looks quite interesting. I'm so glad you preserved these letters in a book.
lauragreene97 on July 25, 2011:
Great collection of this memorabilia! I just love this stuff. I just finished a book that's all letters from a woman who worked in post WWII Japan. She was the first woman to be part of the team that inventoried the Bank of Japan's assets after the war. She tells great tales in her letters home to her family. http://lettershomethebook.com
gottaloveit2 on May 29, 2011:
Stopped in for another read of this great lens. Loved it. Read a bit of it to my mom - she loved it.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on April 10, 2011:
@gottaloveit2: That's a great idea and I'll add some frames to this page. Thanks!
gottaloveit2 on March 26, 2011:
I've framed a few WWII letters - namely the ones from a prospective employer offering my dad a job in a shoe store in New Orleans for $7.00 per week. Dad was called into the army but I often wonder what I'd be if he'd taken that job.
Jen Wood from Australia on March 24, 2011:
Such an interesting lens, i would never have thought that people would sell these on ebay. I too treasure such items in my family memorabelia.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 20, 2011:
My father was in the USAFFE and I try to read more on WWII. He died early and did not talk much about the war.
Ann Hinds from So Cal on March 17, 2011:
This is helpful since I have my letters to save. Besides, I love all the history that these share. Great lens. Angel blessed.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on March 15, 2011:
@ToTheBrimm LM: I'm always saddened to hear of this happening. Do start preserving your own memories by writing them down and writing about family stories of your parents and grandparents while you still remember those.
ToTheBrimm LM on March 15, 2011:
No. Unfortunately, my family doesn't share my value of history; there's very little left to save.
Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on February 14, 2011:
Blessed by the resident "collecting memorabilia" angel!
Kerri Bee from Upstate, NY on February 04, 2011:
I have a card from a women in Korea to my uncle. I will never throw it away.
Vikk Simmons from Houston on January 29, 2011:
Makes me sad in a way. My parents were married during the war and my grandmother was a big letter-writer. Apparently she had kept a boat-load of letters from her life including when my dad was in Germany and they tossed them all when she died--except for a few that I now have. I appreciate this lens. Thank you.
Mona from Iowa on January 12, 2011:
I love personalized history. Hearing first person accounts through letter and journals makes it real and since my family has so little in the way of heritage information I envy those who do.
HorseAndPony LM on January 12, 2011:
Oh, thank you for this info. I am saving my grandfather's letters. This was such a help. I am going to publish them. Thank you again. What a great lens!!!!
Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on January 12, 2011:
What a wonderfully nostalgic lens. I have nothing of this nature, but some old postcards my Dad sent my mother from various places in the U.S. when he worked at shipyards.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 29, 2010:
@mbgphoto: Wouldn't it be wonderful to turn that into a book for your children to each have a copy!
Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on September 29, 2010:
I have a journal my father wrote when he was in Europe just after WWII. It is very interesting.