I am a big fan of collaborative history projects that involve the general public. People are more interested in things when they have played some part in the project, and when they are more interested they tend to spread the word.

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly, 1A from NPR, recently discussed just this type of project. On November 11, 2019 the topic was “’America’s Great Undiscovered Literature’: Letters from U.S. Soldiers”. Host Joshua Johnson’s guest was Andrew Carroll, founder and director of the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University.

The Center collects letters to and from U.S. soldiers, which gives the listener or reader a snapshot into the life of either the soldier or those waiting at home for the soldier’s return. Carroll talks about some of the letters they have in their collection, which includes letters from every major American conflict, and how he shares those letters at schools, veterans’ groups, and historical societies. But please, listen for yourself as there is a lot of good stuff in there and it is only 36 minutes long.

During the interview they make the point that during most of our history, written letters were critical. Even after telephones were invented, the per-minute charges for long-distance calls were usually outrageous.

As for me, I remember when my dad was in Vietnam we sent voice recordings back and forth on a little reel-to-reel recorder.

If your school or organization would be interested in a presentation from the Center, contact information is on this page.

I know I have readers that are from military families. If you want to learn some history, or share some history, check out the links above. Maybe you have suitcases or boxes of letters stashed away that can help others understand the lives of U.S. soldiers far from home. If you would like to share either your letters or a monetary donation, here is the that page.

I hope you enjoy this podcast episode and please share in the comments if you have your own story about letters to or from U.S. soldiers.