Second World War: War Department Letters

Iowan recalls the War Department letter she received, declaring her husband missing in action during the Second World War.

| Good Old Days

The Second World War in Europe seemed to be drawing to a close. Everyone had an ear glued to the news to hear the latest developments. News from our GI was sparse all the time he was overseas. The children haunted the mail box, only to be disappointed. 

On March 19, my little son came to my bedroom with fear written all over his face. "Mommy, the depot agent is at the door, and he has a yellow envelope in his hand."

I put on my housecoat and opened the door. The yard was filled with all the neighbors, waiting to comfort us. The agent handed me the envelope and said. "It's a War Department message. I am very sorry." Everyone who saw him come to my house assumed that it was a death message.

Numbly I opened the telegram. It read, "Your husband has been declared missing in action."

The neighbors were so kind and helpful. Friends came and went all day offering to help us. In the evening, the legion commander and a friend came to see us. "We'd like to plan a memorial service for your husband," they said. I explained what the message had conveyed and how uncertain the outcome might be.

The following morning I made contact with the Red Cross, which was most willing to help, but they had received no messages to confirm what had happened. They contacted the National Red Cross, and it, too, was without any information.

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