Second World War: Private First Class

High school girl was pen pals with a Private First Class stationed in the Aleutian Islands during the Second World War

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After school was out for the summer of 1942, several teenage girls discovered that every evening at 9 p.m., a troop train stopped for water at our railroad station. The servicemen couldn't leave the train, but they had their windows open. We would gather up old magazines around the town, write our names and addresses in them, then hand the magazines through the windows. Soon we all began to get letters from everywhere there was a military post. 

Several of us were getting letters from the same tank outfit stationed in Louisiana. We fantasized that at the end of the Second World War, we would see a row of tanks coming down the road toward our little village in the Oklahoma Panhandle, bringing the fellows we had been corresponding with. Of course this didn't happen, and soon we didn't hear from any of them.

After the war one soldier returned and married the girl who had been writing to him. None of the rest of us received serious letters. They usually ended with, "Your Pen Pal"

During the same time we began to hear a radio program called "Dear Soldier." Girls were encouraged to write a letter, and send it to the radio station, where it would be passed on to a soldier who wanted to correspond. I received a letter from a private first class, and we corresponded throughout the Second World War. I could tell by his letters that he was educated and more mature than the others I wrote to. He was stationed in the Aleutian Islands and wrote such interesting letters that I have kept them.

One day after the Second World War ended and we had moved to central Oklahoma, where I was attending college, Jim came to visit for the weekend. He took me out to eat and to a movie. The next day Mom invited him to dinner. We continued to correspond occasionally.

I did my part for the war by writing to other soldiers and sailors who were cousins or brothers of mine and my friends.

Betty J. French
Mercedes, Texas


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.