Mail Call: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition

By Garrin Hertel

The Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit, “Mail Call,” is featured at the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum from May 9th until July 15th, 2018. Please visit the museum and take in this powerful exhibit! And, if you have letters from soldiers serving, and you’d like to publish their stories, please get in touch. The readers of Nostalgia Magazine would love to hear about your soldier! Submit materials to

The letter below, dated June 9, 1944, is from Charles Vogel, written to “Mom and Russ.” Russ is my father’s middle name, but never in my lifetime did anyone call him that. His name, as many of you know, was George Hertel.

This letter comes from a box of letters we’ve collected that were written by Uncle Charlie, or Charles Vogel, during World War II. Charlie died in 1970, and our family has kept these letters as sacred artifacts for decades. I’m especially fond of them because Charlie died before I was born, and these letters are the only way I can connect with him at all.

Uncle Charlie served in the U.S. Army from 1943 until the war concluded, and then he stayed on in Germany to help with the recovery effort. He served at the Battle of the Bulge, and later told family members that he was responsible for destroying supplies ahead of the German advance. He hid in a box car to escape capture.

A few excerpts of Uncle Charlie’s letters are included here, and I hope these bring a sense of wonder and amazement. The Greatest Generation continues to be such an inspiration.
I hope you’ll also visit the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, and their new Smithsonian exhibit, “Mail Call.” You’ll encounter “more than envelopes and parcels.” The exhibit “delivers emotions, connections, love, and a touch of home.” That’s exactly how I feel when I read Uncle Charlie’s letters.

If you would like to share your family treasure trove of letters, send us a digital scan, and a scan of your soldier in uniform, and we’ll consider publishing your story in a future issue of Nostalgia Magazine.

June 9, 1944

Dear Mom & Russ,

Received your letter yesterday which I have been looking forward to for some time as your last letter was dated more than three weeks ago. I’d begun to wonder if something was wrong. V-mail is slower than regular air mail.

Well, the invasion has finally started so maybe we’re beginning to see the beginning of the end. We all certainly hope so. Eisenhauer said about a month ago that we’d all be home for Christmas. I hope so….

Ken and I met some very nice people a few weeks ago and during our conversation we happened to get on the subject of newspapers. The English papers now consist of only four pages since the war started so I promised to have one of our Seattle newspapers sent to them. …[S]end them a copy of the Sunday P.I. in the very near future. Their address is as follows….

Before we arrived over here we’d heard quite a bit about the British beer – about how it was going to be warm and taste so much different than our American beer. I was prepared for a big disappointment but it really isn’t as bad as most of us expected. …I, personally, prefer it to our American beer. …It is quite a bit stronger … so consequently it takes fewer glasses to get the desired effect.

Well, it is just about time for the lights to go out again, so I guess that I’ll have to close…. I suppose you have received the money order by now.

All my love,

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