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On the Home Front

Postal telegraph explaining capture of soldiers as prisoners of war by the Japanese government Families agonized as they waited for news of their missing loved ones. Months passed before many learned their sons were prisoners of war -- and those were the lucky ones who hadn't died of disease or abuse after the fall of Bataan.

Messages on the government's postage-free Prisoner of War Mail postcards were limited to 24 words -- typed or hand-printed in block capital letters. In addition to writing their soldiers, families contacted government and military officials seeking news.

Sadly, many letters to and from POWs were never delivered. "Uncle Sam didn't take care of us," former prisoner Manuel Armijo said. "We had to take care of each other. The family hadn't heard from me for two and a half years."

The desire to see his child and a strong religious faith carried Armijo through his horrific experience. "I was married and I left a pregnant wife at home," he recalled in a spring 2003 interview, at age 91. "Before I left, my mother had me light a candle in the corners of the house. 'Kneel, son,' she said, 'and light a candle for your safe return.' When I came back, four and a half years later, she said, 'now you can kneel, say a prayer, and blow your candles out.' My daughter Loretta was four years and nineteen days old when I came back."

Read correspondence from families and prisoners of war.

Letters to the Governor of New Mexico

Gavino Rivera

Oral and Charles Cheney

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