Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Dear Donna: A Pinup So Swell She Kept G.I. Mail
Ever since I was a kid, I've loved Donna Reed. I grew up watching The Donna Reed Show on Nick at Nite, and I always wished she was my mom - but what kid wouldn't? She was always cheerful and cooking and knowing just the right thing to say to soothe her husband's stresses or encourage her kids. She was some actress, too! The most well-known movie of hers of course has got to be It's a Wonderful Life, but I also liked her a lot in From Here To Eternity (though hers was a sad character there!). She keeps popping up on my radar lately, I even saw her in a small part in one of The Thin Man films the other day.
Well, she was apparently a "pretty swell" gal in real life, too. Back during WWII she was a favorite pinup with the soldiers overseas, and received a lot of mail from her fans on the front lines. The best part is, she even answered some of it. :) I like that. It seems like her modest and down-to-earth character portrayals weren't too far from the mark. I came across this NY Times article entitled Dear Donna: A Pinup So Swell She Kept G.I. Mail (also thru DecadesILove.com) today in which Donna's daughter, Mary (haha, just like Mary Stone!), tells the story of 341 letters she discovered in a shoebox in one of her mother's old trunks in the garage. Apparently Donna had saved many of the letters she received from the GI's along with pictures they sent. Her daughter says that it was quite a surprise, as her mom never spoke of the letters to her kids - she wanted to be "just a mom" to them rather than entertain them with stories from her career days. The article talks about how Donna wanted to "do her part for the war effort," so I guess she felt as if her corresponding with the soldiers could give them some sense of comfort from back home - which it obviously did. If you click on the article link above, you can read the article and even view and read the original letters with pics. Very neat! Touching and sad, too.
You know, until the last few years, I very much loved the WWII history of the 1940's. I thought how wonderful it was that the whole country could come together, make sacrifices, and rally behind a common cause. I thought that the times depicted the true spirit of unity during a difficult and uncertain period, and that was just one more reason why I fervently wished to have been there to witness it all.
About 2 years ago though, I started reading versions of history different than what had been printed in my school text books. I began to learn more (it began with a very eye-opening book entitled The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History) about the causes of WWI and WWII - why did the wars begin and why was the United States involved at all? What I learned turned my view of the last century of American history upside down, that's for sure. US involvement in both wars was not necessary, but was sought out and provoked by political administrations of the time, against the wishes and sensibilities of the American people. As a matter of fact, US involvement in every war of the last century has violated what is known as the Just-War Theory. Morally, ethically, and even Biblically, a nation's involvement in war cannot be justified unless the conflict meets the criteria of this theory. And none have, not for over a century. If you are interested in the details of Just-War Theory, there is plenty about it if you just Google it - but for starters, here is a really good, concise article that lays out the main points.
And if you are like me and are interested in history and knowing both sides of a story, I HIGHLY recommend you check out The Politically Incorrect Guide To American History by Thomas Woods. This listing on the mises.org website gives a really excellent review of the book.
Well, I did go off on a bit of a historical/political tangent, but that's to be expected with me. The point in all of this was that with my new knowledge of the true story behind WWII, it saddens me to now see so much war propaganda in the movies of the time that I love. It's as if the movies for some reason did all they could to put a positive spin on supporting the war effort as your patriotic duty - period, no questions asked. I hope that we are all able to learn for ourselves from history that believing all that the government tells you with no questions asked is never a good policy if it truly is freedom that you want to preserve - as American president Thomas Jefferson said, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
So back to my Donna Reed story....at the end of the article, it's mentioned that during the Vietnam War, Donna became an organized, anti-war campaigner and is quoted as saying that “she looked forward to a time when ‘19-year-old boys will no longer be taken away to fight in old men’s battles.’ ” I'm afraid she'd still be saying the same thing today. Wake up, America. Ask questions. Investigate.
Thanks for reading my musings. :)
I'll leave off with my favorite vintage WWII era Life magazine photo - the soldier returns home to his girl - exactly where he should be.