Guest Author - Amber Grey
As soon as Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941 and America declared war, Hollywood was the first to publicly support their country. There was a lot of actresses that were considered "morale boosters" to the American soldiers serving overseas in World War II, there was Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth and Hedy Lamarr, just to name a few. But actress Donna Reed was the one that really won the soldiers hearts.
During World War II, Donna Reed was quickly rising to stardom and becoming the All-American girl at the box office with such blockbusters as "The Courtship of Andy Hardy" (1942). Miss. Reed even managed to co-star in a few films that were army-themed such as, "The Human Comedy" (1943), "See Here, Private Hargove" (1944) and "They Were Expendable" (1945).
While Gable, Hayworth and Lamarr carried a "sex pot" persona and decorated the soldiers barracks with their pin-up photos, the soldiers sent their letters to Donna Reed. The All-American, "girl next door" image she projected reminded the courageous boys of the sweethearts they left back home and the kind of girl they wanted to marry once they returned from the service. The content of the letters varied with praise for the actress's clean image, how she reminded them of home when they needed to the most and sometimes they requested a signed photo from the actress.
One year after the war ended, Miss. Reed's All-American image continued with her portrayal as "Mary Bailey" in the Christmas classic "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946) and later in the 1950s with her own show, "The Donna Reed Show."
The G.I. Mail was later found amongst Miss. Reed's belongings by her children when she passed away in 1986. Miss. Reed kept 341 letters out of what we could only imagine the thousands of letters soldiers may have sent to her during the war.
In 2009, the letters were released and put on display at the Donna Reed Foundation in Reed's home city of Denison, Iowa where visitors could view the authentic letters in the foundation's museum.