From wartime symbol to chart-topping hit: The fascinating history of “Dear John” letters and their impact on relationships during World War II and beyond.
Although most letters from loved ones to soldiers serving overseas were cherished, the public came to view “Dear John” letters as a symbol of “female betrayal” in wartime. Precisely how these letters received their name is unclear, but one theory is that it may have been inspired by a radio serial called “The Irene Rich Show,” which used the epistolary form as its hook. Another theory is that the popularity of the name “John” among American households may have contributed to the term. Soldiers named John would stash letters from home in their footlockers and retrieve them to be read at the mess table. Women serving during World War II received their own ego-shattering letters, dubbed the “Dear Jane.” The practice continued into the Korean War, with country musicians Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky performing a duet of their hit single, “A Dear John Letter,” which topped Billboard magazine’s country music charts.