World War II Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion, published in 2007 by psychologist Lisa Spahr and Austin Camacho, tells the story of shortwave radio listeners who collected and relayed information broadcast from enemy territory about newly-captured POWs to their families in the U.S.
An entry about Letters of Compassion on Wikipedia has this to say about the effort:
“During World War II, short messages from prisoners of war were often read by studio announcers at stations in Germany, Japan, and other Axis powers countries. A number of shortwave listeners copied the prisoner names and addresses and notified families by mail or telephone, and the practice became known as ‘Prisoner of War relay’ or ‘POW monitoring’. Although the Allied government provided similar services, the families usually heard from shortwave listeners first, sometimes as many as 100 at a time.
“Many wartime listeners were ordinary citizens who discovered they were able access the shortwave bands; a feature included on many premium consumer radios of the era. Times and radio frequencies of the news from Rome, Berlin and Tokyo were published daily on the radio page of The New York Times. Others were dedicated shortwave listeners or DXers who maintained an ongoing interest in long-distance radio listening as a hobby. Still others were licensed amateur radio operators who were, as a group, banned from transmitting due to wartime restrictions, but often kept their listening gear in operation.”
In May 1943, Sergeant Albert Rosenblum’s family received a host of these cards from shortwave listeners around the U.S. The writers reported they had heard Albert’s name and his home address broadcast from Rome.
In addition to the news conveyed, concern and encouragement these strangers expressed must have been a great comfort to the Rosenblums.
For Albert Rosenblum’s full story, read the following post:
A Family in Service.
317 Burnet Park Dr.
Syracuse, N.Y. [New York]
Mr. Horace Rosenblum
Swan Lake, N.Y.
May 8, 1943
Dear Mr. Rosenblum,
Last evening I was listening to my short-wave radio and tuned in on a news broadcast from a station in Italy. The news was in English, and among other information, were the names, addresses, etc. of American soldiers who are “Italian prisoners”. Your son’s name was among those given:
Perhaps you already have this information, but as a fellow American with a young brother in the war I feel it is my duty, really, to send this news on to you.
Hoping you will be hearing good news of your son very soon, I remain—
(Miss) Helen Barrett
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