Writing letters to a spouse or sweetheart deployed overseas was portrayed as a patriotic duty, a means to boost the morale of the fighting man. But what of the letter that broke off an engagement, or announced the intention to file for divorce? During World War II, such letters became known as “Dear Johns,” and the women who sent them were denounced as traitors.
Susan L. Carruthers, Professor in U.S. and International History, has listened to hundreds of hours of oral testimony from veterans to understand the stories men told each other about these breakup notes. Susan and Dan discuss who wrote the “Dear John” letter, wartime relationships and breakdowns from multiple perspectives and the expectations placed on women across miles and years of absence, and the role of constantly changing technologies in both facilitating intimacies and undermining it in wartime.