Postcards from my Father: A World War II Story

Under duress, I started downsizing through digitizing, going through box after box that I had hoped to leave for my daughters to be opened upon my death. Let them sort it out, I always said.

But my wife had other ideas and ordered me to downsize. Duress soon turned to joy as I found many things I had forgotten I had and I cheerfully scanned them into folders for my daughters and threw away all but the originals that predated me.

Then came one of the biggest surprises of all—postcards my father had sent to me during World War II. It was all the more surprising when you consider that my parents separated when I was 5 yet my mother kept several items that were my father’s with the intention that they someday go to me.

My father told my eldest sister in a taped interview that he had been drafted on March 15, 1944, five days after I was born. His induction papers are dated March 16.

He first went to boot camp in Virginia and then on to Fort Lewis in the state of Washington, and that’s where the postage-free postcards begin.

“I hear that Mommy upset you off of the sleigh. Did you get any snow in your face? I’d throw snowballs at her. Be good. Love Daddy.”

A few months later:

“What’s new Joe?” he asked in another, which is dated Jan. 12, 1945, and shows a garden in Chicago, which I’m assuming he stopped at enroute from Virginia to Washington. “I suppose by now you weigh 19 lbs. So you have been riding your dog. I suppose next you will want a pony. Be good. Love Daddy.”

Then the postmarks and the pictures change and there are scenes of France and a mark that says PASSED BY ARMY EXAMINER appears on every card. I know from the interview my eldest sister taped that he eventually ended up in Marseille, France (my ship stopped there in the 60s on one of my Med cruises, but I had no idea that another Berner had been there before me), and then was shipped via the Panama Canal to Clark Airfield in the Philippines after Japan had surrendered.

There are no postcards after France, but thanks to my mother, there are the memories of things I was too young to remember.


  1. What a treasure. Amazing story Berner!

  2. I knew Ralph but never heard his war history. Never knew he was in the Army. You can't replace those memories!