Departure and Reunion

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“Soldier and family,” 1943. Courtesy of the Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library via Digital Library of Georgia.

During World War II, sixteen million men and women fought in the war, and twenty-four million more worked in defense-related jobs. The war removed soldiers from their families for long periods of time, and made it difficult to remain connected by shared experiences despite the frequent exchange of correspondence.

Soldiers overseas looked forward to the time when they would be brought back together with their families after deployment. Georgia’s Fort McPherson operated a separation facility with three telephone centers where military men and women awaiting processing for furloughs or discharges contacted their families upon their arrival back in the United States.

But often, joyful reunions were soon followed by a series of new challenges: veterans returned to housing shortages, and disabled veterans had to appeal to Congress for appropriate compensation. Inside the home, servicemen were alienated from the routines their families had established independently while they were away at war. Since the dynamic of many homes had adapted to function without the presence of a loved one at war, when soldiers returned, they not only had to find ways to reconnect with their families, but also redefine the roles they had previously held prior to leaving for war.