As promised, today’s the day I share the many homemade postcards of one Lieutenant Robert “Bob” L. Morris. While stationed in the South Pacific in WWII, Lt. Morris sent Grandma Snail (a college girl in Los Angeles at the time) tons of snapshots of himself and camp life with entertaining messages on the backs. I don’t think they knew each other before their correspondence, but Lt. Morris did have a photograph of Grandma Snail (as you’ll see). I’m guessing she sent it to him to initiate their back-and-forth after choosing or being assigned his name through one of the write-to-a-serviceman programs in which many young women participated at the time.
Most of Lt. Morris’ “postcards” are 4 3/8″ x 3 1/4″, but have been automatically enlarged a little here. In chronological order:I considered omitting this grim one, but decided it was an important reminder amidst these clever postcards that, as they used to say, “there’s a war on”–that this otherwise charming fellow was trained to kill and he must have had to develop a certain frankness about that.(The circles say “Kodak Print,” and the big stamp in the middle says “Passed By Examiner Base 2452 Army”)“Don’t cry little guy, I’ll buy your stinkin’ violets” either was or became a line in a folk parody (“Don’t cry lady…”) in which the narrator rejoices in his family members’ execution, listing their various wrongdoings, mostly sexually abusing him. The song has been performed by several artists, including folksinger Jerry Silverman. There is speculation that Silverman wrote it, in which case that wouldn’t be until the late ’50s or 60s. But Silverman also compiled folk song anthologies, in which case the song could have been floating around in the mid-40s. I’m as confused as Morris. Please comment if you understand!
Morris seems to have moved in the summer of ’45 to a camp on the island of Biak, north of New Guinea. Thinly populated, Biak had been a strategic place for a Japanese airfield. When 12,000 U.S. Army troops arrived at Biak in May 1944, instead of attacking them then and there at the beach, 11,000 Japanese troops were staked out for an inland ambush at the airfield. It was the first tank vs. tank battle between Japan and the U.S. in the Pacific Theater. Not only was it bloody, but naturally deadly–thousands died of typhus. It was a month of this before the U.S. managed to oust Japan and set up its own camps on Biak. Here Morris was a year later.
Grandma Snail had some photos that are blank on the backs, but, because of the Japanese architecture, might be from Morris at about this time.Morris also sent two little contact sheets of more delightfully period planes Finally, I do believe Lt. Morris and Grandma Snail got to meet…Somewhere out there, maybe in a shoebox in Lt. Morris’ granddaughter’s closet, I wonder if there is a stash of pictures and letters from Grandma Snail.