The Letters

Cabanatuan Prison Camp, WWIICabanatuan Prison Camp
Photo Courtesy National Archives

In 2013, a suitcase containing letters from families of World War II Prisoners of War (POWs) was given to Val Burgess, the author of this archive. These letters were sent from the POW’s family to a woman, Cora Reed, who listened on shortwave radio and transcribed messages provided by Japanese broadcasters or the prisoners themselves. She used her own form of shorthand to write the men’s name, rank, family contact information, and the prisoner’s brief message. Cora then sent a postcard or letter to the families of these prisoners of war.

The letters in the suitcase were sent from grateful families that Cora contacted with their loved one’s message, now a prisoner of war. The messages sometimes contained a piece of information that only the family would know. That portion of the message allowed the families to know that the message, indeed, came from their son, father, husband or brother.