The Center for American War Letters Archives collects American stories from every major war and from men and women of all walks of life. These are stories of love, loss, triumph and heartache. These are narratives that highlight the devastation and excitement of war, as well as the mundane and the trivial.

After the Fall semester’s exhibit on the First World War and the victory and loss that came with the armistice, one hundred years later, the Center is putting on display the lighter side of war. While historians document the fighting and the effects war can have on societies, the majority of servicemen embarked on entirely different journeys than those memorialized in song and film. Those soldiers and sailors found that war meant working much like they did in their civilian occupations, rounding out days with movies and entertainment provided by the USO. They cooked, they cleaned, they built. But they also relaxed, played, and enjoyed themselves. 

This exhibit will highlight what it was like to be overseas, away from loved ones, but out of harm’s way while the ferocious battles of the Pacific Theater were raging during the Second World War. From correspondence written on coconuts and letters about the latest Betty Grable film, to scorecards for Bridge and Valentines cards for lovers, take a look inside how these soldiers described their “war” in real time. Items on display will cover all walks of life, all ages, and all branches from the Army to the Marines, including some Navy Seabees, from construction battalions (“CB’s”).

It is important to keep the context of our work grounded, however, as this is not the only story of the Pacific. We will also have a small memorial corner showing some of the loss surrounding Pearl Harbor and the many others who paid the ultimate price while in the fight to the west. 

The CAWL Archives invites everyone to see how our men and women soaked up the sun while doing their part in the war on the islands.