Morale was a major concern during World War II. Not only was the government worried about the state of mind of people in the service, whether they were training for war or already busy in it, but there were the people at home. Waiting around for victory can be very wearing on the nerves, especially if one has a child, spouse, or parent out fighting. One way to make sure the folks fighting the homefront war could be kept happy was to provide those in the service with a lot of postcards which could be sent home to assure everyone that things weren’t so terrible.
These existed for every service, cards extolling the pride and even fun of your chosen service. The card at the top of the column salutes the Air Corps (eventually the Air Force) while the one below lets everyone know you really like the Navy (even if not EVERY aspect of service was easy to take.)
That touch of realism was important. The government didn’t want the folks at hoke getting too rosy a picture of life in the service, because the folks at home were not stupid. They knew, and it gnawed at them, that their family members and neighbors were going out for hardship and danger. So the thing to do was not deny that gnawing fear, but play with it a bit. Sure, the boys might be fooling around with high explosives, but hey, one could get used to that.
Yes, one was being forced into a much more controlled work environment, which had its displeasures, but there were compensating pleasures as well.
Of course, men and women were being asked to do new and dangerous things, were being ordered to learn to do things they would neither have cared or tried to do as civilians. The thing to do was let the folks at home know these things were difficult, but in a way that was workable, and even funny.
Sure, there were drawbacks to being expected to jump out of an airplane. Let everyone KNOW what bothered you about this job. As long as you could share a laugh about it, it seemed less daunting.
Even better, emphasize the indignities of military chores, chores that for some years had not seemed to be in a man’s repertoire at all. Let the folks at home know your main problem was not getting shot at, but being brought another stack of dishes.
Or how a soldier in the field could not expect to have his laundry done for him by his mom, wife, or the laundromat down the street.
These were things that brought the life of military service down to a familiar level. The fact that K.P. (Kitchen Police) work played a huge part in military comedies in the theaters and cartoons and comics strips built up a picture of the life of a soldier or sailor being heavily involved with soap suds and rueful double takes. (Among the postcards I have up for sale, these tned to be the ones I most often find were actually used, franked for someone sending news home. Those in the service did not have to pay postage; their postcards could be sent free, “franked” like the mail sent by a member of Congress.)
Of course, those military comedies and cartoons stressed another part of military life that the folks at home found easy to believe in. The soldier, sailor, or marine found certain pleasures in the service. Some of these things might be discouraged in peacetime, but a guy was entitled to loosen his serious life up here and there, wasn’t he? Maybe you didn’t send this one home to Mom, but Dad understood that, regardless of what the commercials might claim, the boys in uniform didn’t always drink Coca-Cola.
And shooting dice, once considered an exceedingly low class (and, in some quarters, exclusively African-American) pursuit, was now considered pretty standard for anyone in uniform (the slang might differ from service to service but dice fit into just about anyone’s pack, even more easily than a deck of cards.)
And maybe you didn’t send THIS card home to your wife or girlfriend, but there were always the ladies. (Next time: The Ladies)