Postcards to and from the front

Patriotic postal stationery has been around for hundreds of years, probably for about as long as mail has been exchanged between soldiers and folks back home. Its purpose was two-fold: first, to boost the morale of both the letter writers and their recipients, and second, to inspire all who saw it to work and fight harder for victory!

The tone could be muted and solemn, but often it was brightly colored and comical in nature, often poking fun at the “enemy” while portraying them in the most unflattering ways. Postcards poking fun at the frustrations of day-to-day military life were popular during wartime.

The deployment of patriotic postal stationery always waned during peacetime and increased in times of war. And with some 16 million Americans putting on a uniform during WWII, it reached an all-time peak.

With the advent of 21st century technology, however, the patriotic postal stationery has virtually disappeared. Emails, texts and other forms of electronic communication have all but put an end to traditional letter writing.

With cell phones and satellite communications, a soldier can call home from just about anywhere in the world. Soldiers wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan often were able to call from the field hospitals where they were being treated within minutes of being wounded.

We still do see patriotic postal stationery today, mostly in the form of greeting cards. But with the passing of the art of taking pen to paper to write a letter, so, too, has passed this grand tradition.

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Steve Corbo

A founding member and corporate secretary of the Italian American Veterans Museum, Steve Corbo is the museum’s curator and a military consultant for Fra Noi. He has served for 25 years as president of S.A. Corbo & Associates Inc., providing professional liability insurance to health care providers. The son and nephew of World War II veterans and a passionate military historian for over 50 years, he has written and published articles on a variety of topics, including military history, and serves as the military consultant for Fra Noi, the Chicago-area Italian-American magazine.

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