In this "Letter to Mary" Phoebe Emma Garner, Mary's mother makes reference to her service flag with fours stars on it, one star for each of her children serving in the military in support of the war effort, Souil in Florida, Mary in Minneappolis, Bill in Germany and Joe in Massachusetts.
The Service Flag: A Brief History
The flag was a carryover from the First World War. Its simple but potent design was created by Army Captain Robert L. Queissner, who had two sons on the front lines. The flag quickly became a kind of visual shorthand that communicated a family’s powerful and personal commitment to the war effort.
At right: WWII posters frequently used service flags as a kind of visual shorthand in acknowledging the breadth of America’s shared sacrifice.
During World War II, the practice of displaying the service flag became even more widespread.
Before the end of the war, it seemed that a banner hung in the front window of virtually every other home in America. Some banners displayed as many as four, five, or even six blue stars, indicating the number of family members serving in the Armed Forces. Parents and siblings took great pride in these overt displays of patriotic duty. Conversely, it was a sad occasion when a blue star had to be covered over with a gold star since it signified that a cherished loved one had made the ultimate sacrifice.
Phoebe's flag would have had at one time four stars on it and I am sure had it not been for Bernard's, the youngest of the five siblings, disability of asthma and leg dysfunction it might have been five.
Mrs. S. Wade Garner
2425 Calverton Heights Ave
Baltimore, 16, Md.
Mary W. Garner, SK1c USNR
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, 6, Minnesota
April 6, 1945
My Dear Mary,
I just received another letter from Joe; it has sort of taken the wind out of my sails, for the time being; but I expect I shall have to say once more, as regards Joe, Dad is right, & I am wrong. I hence forth & forever, concerning Joe I shall try as far, as I am able, to make myself know, that, all along this has been his attitude, except when he gets in a pinch. I personally am through & whatever he does, he will have to take the consequences. If the Red Cross bothers me again, about him, I shall refuse to interview them. Here is the letter & you read it & tear it up, for I wouldn't want dad to see it. Of course Joe knows I am here alone, when mail arrives & I don't suppose he thinks anyone but me will read it, for he knows I would never show that to Dad. But I won't live always & when I am gone, if he is anywhere around, don't let Joe pull any of his tricks on the rest of you. Maybe you had better preserve that letter after all. But don't let him pull your leg as he has mine. I do not intend to write him again, at any time, under any condition; no matter what.
I am going to cash in on this insurance I hold on him too, & take down this service flag with 4 stars in. Later & can get one with three. I intend to cut every tie that remains & as far as possible he is dead to me. Don't sound like me does it? And dad has not influenced me either, for he has not even been mentioned since that last letter came. I shall mail these divorce papers to him without another word enclosed. And then wash my hands thoroughly of everything concerning him, and if possible I shall wash my mind too. I do think this is enough. Now don't you worry about it either. He may have been born in the same family with you, but he is practically of no relation to one of you.
He has no gratitude, conscience, or a spark of honor. Even dumb animals appreciate it when you try to help them; & he is shrewd enough, to be everything mean. So now I expect he feels there is nothing more to be gotten out of us & he can do as he pleases. And I was trying to figure a way to send him part of his fare back to Florida if he is released. (I am some sap) Well, it is his choice. I have made myself nearly sick a couple times lately thinking about him. Next time I catch myself starting to think about him, I shall grab my hat & coat & go out some where.
I shall positively fight off any impulse whatsoever even to think of him. Now don't let him worry you either. Some letter, but I have just got to let you know how he feels about us, so he can't in the future hurt you the same way. I might write a long letter but just now it is all I would talk about, so I shall say
Lots of Love My Dear, Yours Lovingly, Mother.
P.S. The box is packed with your uniforms & dad is sending it off tonight. Plenty of room here to keep your others safe, if you want to send them.