By Angie A. Gambill
Before cell phones, email and Facebook, timely communication with loved ones in the Armed Forces could be difficult, especially during wartime.
With so many soldiers deployed during World War II, one could wait weeks for news from home which often finally came in the form of V-mail, short for Victory Mail. To reduce the cost of transferring an original letter through the military postal system, a V-mail letter would be censored, copied to film, and printed back to paper upon arrival at its destination.
Knowing the importance of mail call to young Americans that were far from home, many folks across the country began the practice of writing to soldiers that were not family or even close friends. In fact, many were total strangers.
Johnson County, Tennessee was no exception. It is commonplace to find unidentified pictures and letters that have made their way through the generations in old picture boxes in Grandma’s attic. Sometimes they contain only a first name, sometimes no name at all. Often reference is made to local events or places, alerting the reader that the recipient was from the immediate area.
Most people continue to shuffle through these old memories without a second thought to the identity or life behind this bit of history.
But anyone that knows Janie Ward, knows that she is not most people.
When Janie discovered several old photos of a young World War II soldier, she made it her mission to find his family. She knows they would treasure this connection to their ancestor from many years ago.
Janie feels sure that Frankie R. Baker lived in Johnson County. Her aunt, Mary Cornett, and he exchanged correspondence during World War II and she has heard her parents, Kermit and Pauline Ward, talk about him being at their house. She has no letters, only photos with an occasional note scrawled on the back in his handwriting.
Although all attempts at finding his family so far have proven fruitless, Janie’s hopes are high that a story and pictures in The Tomahawk as well as on thetomahawk.com and Facebook will end the search. She welcomes any information that might put her discovery in the hands of Baker’s loved ones where they belong.
“You know his family would love to have these pictures,” she said, her voice thick with emotion.
Janie Ward can be reached at Janie’s Videos located at 113 Village Square Lane in Mountain City, TN or 423-727-0110.