Instructions at the top of the V-mail stationery said to type or use dark ink. They cautioned not to write too small.

During World War II, the United States needed to save its shipping space for war materials. Victory Mail saved thousands of tons of space. Every letter to and from home was shrunk to the size of a thumbnail, stored on microfilm, shipped overseas, blown up to a quarter of its original size and delivered to the recipient. Tiny words would not make it.

Aileen Kinney wrote to her parents and sister, Martha, often during her 19 months in England with the Army Corps, always in perfect, clear penmanship. She described being a member of the Queen Mother's honor guard, her first Blitz and meeting her future husband.

She talked about her work in a medical dispensary. It was mostly secretarial, but she also checked dog tags on wounded soldiers. Army companies cycled in and out to battle; she stayed with the building.

She wrote about the dangers. All the men and women wore or carried gas masks and helmets everywhere.

In 1943, she and a friend went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. It was one of the rare sunny days in an often gray and rainy country, perfect for spending time in the park.

Kinney saw the planes coming. Then she looked around and noticed everyone lying on the ground with their helmets on.

"And I was just standing there."

When the shock passed, she and her friend mashed their helmets on their heads and fell to the ground. Seconds later, a piece of shrapnel flew into Kinney's helmet.

She wore her safety gear after that, even on nice days in unassuming places.

She couldn't write anything that could give away her location or that of the Army Corps. As the Germans searched for allied headquarters, Army Corps officials censored all mail for potential clues.

Kinney once tried telling her family she'd seen the famous London clock tower, Big Ben. She disguised the name as "Uncle Ben." It was too close, even that the Air Corps removed.

Sometimes she just wanted to tell her family what life was like for a woman overseas in a country at war.

"Just about everything is rationed here. We get 1 package of cigarettes, 1 bar of soap, small bottle of shampoo, 1 package of gum, 2 bars of candy, a small package of cookies, 1 can of juice a week ... If you can please send me some Planters peanuts."

In another letter she described her housing.

"Our living quarters are called Billets and they're old English mansions with winding staircases ... I'm in a room with nine girls and we do get along nicely."

Alarms sounded during most nights, warning that the Germans were coming. Kinney and the other women evacuated to the basements, former coal storage rooms. The stout construction protected the women.

It was scary, but she never worried too much.

"There was nothing you could do. We went down into shelters and stayed there until the bombs were over."

Sometimes, bombs hit close and their windows flew open. Even that she got used to.

She sang in the choir at Westminster Abbey. When the bombs fell near, she could hear plaster crumbling in the ancient walls.

The Army Corps chose Kinney to be a member of the Queen Mother's Honor Guard for Kinney's wits and level head.

"They said they wanted 50 sharp WACs."

The women formed two columns outside their billet, wearing their caps and uniforms and guarding either side of the queen as she walked into their building during inspections.

Despite the dangers and scares, Kinney enjoyed her time in England.

"We had dinner at one of the nearby restaurants and later went to see 'Meet the People' with Lucille Ball and Dick Powell. Wasn't too bad ... Got our Good Conduct medals on Saturday morning with the General officiating."

One night during a blackout, Kinney was walking home with friends, on their way back from a Red Cross Club near London's Piccadilly Circus. An American soldier tapped her on the shoulder.

"He said, 'You've got a patch like mine.' I said, 'We all have patches like mine.'"

But the soldier wasn't deterred. He and his friends followed the women, and the women couldn't shake them.

They didn't want to lead strange men to their house, so they walked instead to the British women's barracks.

But the shoulder-tapping soldier wasn't fooled. He found out where Kinney lived from a woman he worked with in the dental clinic.

The two started dating, seeing each other nearly every day. He was from Cheyenne, she was from Michigan.

Kinney left England when she was 24 years old, sent home with the company using her dispensary. They'd been to Normandy and had enough points to leave.

Soon after, Don Kinney, the Cheyenne soldier who tapped her shoulder, brought her to Wyoming to be married. They raised two children, and she worked in a warehouse at Montgomery Ward.

Her niece saved all the letters she wrote home, a reminder of those many months in England.

"Goodnight and sweet dreams. As I said, please keep writing as I want to hear often. Love to all."

Pfc. Aileen Kinney

Age: 90

Unit: Women's Army Corps

War fronts: England

Family: Married with two children, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Her words: "She was a beautiful lady. A nice lady," Aileen Kinney said of England's Queen Mother.


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