University Press of Kansas Logo

Since You Went Away

World War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front

Edited by Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith

xiv, 296 pages, 33 illustrations, 6 x 9
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-0714-3, $16.95

Book Cover Image"Last night Mel and I were talking about some of the adjustments we'll have to make to our husbands' return. I must admit I'm not exactly the same girl you left--I'm twice as independent as I used to be and sometimes think I've become 'hard as nails'. Also--more and more I've been living exactly as I want to . . . I do as I damn please."

"From among 25,000 of an estimated six billion letters sent overseas during World War II, Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith have culled and skillfully edited a sampling by 400 American women. Tragic, touching, and funny, the correspondence is full of prosaic news and gossip about jobs and neighbors, along with accounts of births and intimate allusions to love-making. Many of these heartrending documents also express acceptance--and even pride--in the sacrifices required by war."--Publishers Weekly

"One is struck by the hard-headed practicality of many of the letters--stories of plucky, sometimes even grumpy, coping. There are letters of growing independence, with strong and at times explicit indication that the boyfriend or husband will be facing a very different woman upon his return. . . . Every war leaves mothers with broken hearts. What this volume most remarkably demonstrates is just how prepared American women on the home front were for that dread eventuality."--Jean Bethke Elshtain in the Journal of American History

"Fascinating and often heartbreaking, the letters illuminate a time when sex roles were first showing the changes that would culminate in the women's movement. . . . In the end, it is the small human dramas in these letters that stand out. Anne Gudis, miffed to distraction by her soldier-swain Sam Kramer, writes what may be the shortest Dear John on record: 'Mr. Kramer: Go to hell! With love, Anne Gudis.' A woman working at a Honolulu nightclub assures a pilot that she'll wait for him--until she's 20. The wife of an Air Corps navigator reads in a news story that only 15 of 1,500 Allied bombers were lost in a raid over Europe and later learns that her husband died in one of the 15. And a grieving mother whose son died in the Pacific asks Gen. Douglas MacArthur, in desperation, 'Please general he was a good boy, wasn't he? Did he die a hard death?'"--Smithsonian

"'They made it possible for me to retain my sanity in an insane world,' wrote one pilot about the letters his wife sent him throughout World War II. Whether full of passionate longing for a missing sweetheart or merely detailing domestic gossip, the letters offer a rich introduction to how American women experienced the war."--Library Journal

"What women tell in these letters about their concerns and their wartime feelings will cause readers to rethink what has been written about the homefront."--Choice

"Sometimes a single book can make a historic difference. It was the pen of Dickens, of course, that put Britain's sweatshops out of business. It was a single book that brought slavery into focus. But no book of the several which tried has yet convinced us of the absurdity and futility of war. With enough readers, this one might."--Paul Harvey, Paul Harvey News, WBZ Radio, Boston.

"A remarkable view into the lives of ordinary women during wartime [that] will catch at the hearts of general readers."--Susan M. Hartmann, author of The Home Front and Beyond

"A rare and brilliant book filled with wonderfully distinctive human stories that transport the reader back in time to an unforgettable era."--Doris Kerns Goodwin, author of No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Home Front in World War II

"A wonderful volume, full of admirable women struggling in a difficult situation, doing their best for their families and their country. Highly recommended."--Stephen E. Ambrose, author of Eisenhower and D-Day, June 6, 1944

JUDY BARRETT LITOFF is professor of history at Bryant College. DAVID C. SMITH is A. A. Bird Professor of History at the University of Maine. Their books include Miss You: The World War II Letters of Barbara Wooddall Taylor and Charles E. Taylor; Dear Boys: World War II Letters from a Woman Back Home; and "We're in this War, Too": World War II Letters from American Women in Uniform.

Facebook button