To: Miss Betty Gieger
Louisville, Kentucky U.S.A.
From: Pvt. Jack W. Riley Jr.
9th Fighter Sqd. 49th Group
APO 503 c/o Postmaster, San Francisco, California
Somehwere in the Southwest Pacific Area. Sept. 13, 1943
I think of you often and thought it would be nice to write you a letter and see how you feel about me. It’s probably not very much, but we all make mistakes and I hope there are no hard feelings. I value your friendship most highly.
This place makes a fellow think a lot. I often think of the nice long letters you can write and I see no reason why we shouldn’t write to each other again. I will promise to answer every letter you may write. Please write V-mail it seems to make better time. About 16 or 18 days generally.
How is everyone at Anchorage High? Miss Lehman, Mrs. Halenberg and all the others? Will there be a football team this year?
It is not so bad over here right now, and we hope it stays that way for a while. Guess you can see in the papers just what we are accomplishing over here. Can’t tell you much but the family can tell you where I am or if you see Libby ask her.
Well give my regards to your mother and grandmother and Ann, also your two cousins. Write soon please!
Your silly friend,
- "V, or Victory mail, was a valuable tool for the military during World War II. The process, which originated in England, was the microfilming of specially designed letter sheets. Instead of using valuable cargo space to ship whole letters overseas, microfilmed copies were sent in their stead and then "blown up" at an overseas destination before being delivered to military personnel." "V-mail ensured that thousands of tons of shipping space could be reserved for war materials. The 37 mailbags required to carry 150,000 one-page letters could be replaced by a single mail sack. The weight of that same amount of mail was reduced dramatically from 2,575 pounds to a mere 45. The system of microfilming letters was based on the use of special V-mail letter-sheets, which were a combination of letter and envelope. The letter-sheets were constructed and gummed so as to fold into a uniform and distinctively marked envelope. The user wrote the message in the limited space provided, added the name and address of the recipient, folded the form, affixed postage, if necessary, and mailed the letter. V-mail correspondence was then reduced to thumb-nail size on microfilm. The rolls of film were sent to prescribed destinations for developing at a receiving station near the addressee. Finally, individual facsimiles of the letter-sheets were reproduced about one-quarter the original size and the miniature mail was then delivered to the addressee." (from:Smithsonian Postal Museum-Link to article)
- APO--- Army Post Office. All mail was censored and the men were not allowed to give details about where they were located. That is why Jack often just writes that he is “somewhere in the South Pacific.” The APO (Army Post Office) address number indicated where the Squadron was currently retreived their mail and from this, along with the unit history we can determine where he was at the time he wrote each letter. This code (APO 503) indicates that their mail was routed to Base B, Oro Bay, New Guinea.
- Dobodura airstrip---I do not know when Jack was assigned to the 9th squadron of the 49th fighter group, but by the date of this letter the 9th was based at Dobodura, Papua New Guinea and had been there since March 7, 1943. The Dobodura airstrip, or “Dobo” as it was called, was located about 10 miles inland from Buna on the edge of the rain forest. The dirt strip was 11,000 feet long, and was shared with 5th Bomber Command B-24's, B-25's, B-26's, the 9th squadron P-38's and the 7th squadron P-40's. The 9th squadron flew defensive missions from this base, protecting shipping near Oro Bay and Port Moresby. This airstrip was regularly bombed and strafed several times.
- In June of 1943 Jack had his 19th birthday. In August of 1943 Betty had her 17th birthday.