Friday, May 9, 2014

Letters Home: A Fun and Loving Letter from WWII

In the museum archives, a letter recently surfaced that Clarence Lamont Bowman wrote to his future sister-in-law in 1945. Mont was overseas, fighting in the Pacific, during World War II. His sweetheart, Wilma Shane, was back home in Junction City, where she lived with her family at 517 W. 6th St.   Her sister, Helen Shane, was eleven years old. Clarence—known as Mont—to family and friends, wrote this letter to young Helen.
Though he assures her that he is “safe in the Philippines,” Mont is careful not to tell her where he is stationed. Letters during World War II were heavily censored to ensure that the wrong information did not fall into enemy hands. If he had been too specific, he risked the letter being blacked out or sections of the letter being cut out.  Though the letter briefly mentions the destruction and prejudices that come with war, Mont also filled the letter with small jokes and loving words meant for a child. The exchange between the weary soldier and the young child beautifully depicts the love between families and their soldiers abroad.

Mont’s letter reads:

Safe in the Philippines
July 21, 1945

Hello Honey,

I am in the writing mood tonight and I couldn’t go to bed without dropping you a few lines of Love. I didn’t write to my other girl on W. 6th tonight, so maybe you can give her my love and a few big kisses.
Enclosed you will find a couple pieces of Japanese Invasion money. This money is worthless but it will make a little souvenir. You can find oddles of this money so I will bring you some more home.
This city is a wreck. Debris and dirt lying deep in the streets and big beautiful buildings all bombed and caved in. We haven’t discharged our cargo and we might even go to the land where they wear pig-tails and have slanted-eyes. Do you know where that is? Wouldn’t it be something if I came back with a pigtail and almond eyes!!
You must have had a good time up at Aunt Emma’s! It is always nice to go to the country.
Tell mom I send my love and will write her soon. I think of you both lots if I only write to Wilma.
Hope this little note finds you in the best of health. Watch that figure and keep your school girl complexion. Come to think of it, we both like milk and like to eat, don’t we?
Will close now and write again soon. I will be looking for a few letters. I am sending my love and kisses, catch em, Honey,

P.S. “I love you, Wilma”

Mont lived through the war and returned to Junction City, where he married Wilma on February 17, 1946. Mont worked as a postal carrier for 15 years before he retired due to health complications. After his early retirement, Wilma provided for them through her continued work at Wardrobe Cleaners until her retirement in 1991.
This June, the museum will be opening a brand new exhibit. “Letters Home” will display the correspondence written to and from soldiers while they were fighting, training or otherwise deployed away from their loved ones. Letters written during the Indian Wars of the late 1800s, World War I, World War II and the Korean War will all be displayed, along with the souvenirs and stories that the soldiers brought home with them. We are still looking for letters from Vietnam to the present to display in this exhibit.  If you have any “letters home” you would like to share, please contact the museum. 

Clarence “Mont” Bowman and Wilma Shane Bowman on their wedding day, February 17, 1946.