This collection is made up of 48 letters that Samuel Rhea Tunnell wrote to his family while serving in the United States Navy during World War II. He addressed his letters to Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Thomasson of Monterey, California, and Lakeview, Oregon, whom he referred to as his parents. He often referred to his sister, Mary Tunnell, and to a man named "Rod," and he enclosed a note for Mary in his letter of June 4, 1942. Many of his letters are written on stationery with Hawaiian imagery such as scenery, hula dancers, and the territorial seal.
The first 3 letters pertain to Tunnell's experiences at the United States Naval Training Center in San Diego, California, from December 1941-January 1942, including his daily routine and fights between sailors in the barracks. After mid-January 1942, he wrote from the Keosanqua , a tugboat stationed in Hawaii. He occasionally discussed soldiers' relationships with Hawaiian women, mentioned his own shyness toward women, and reported that he enjoyed bowling in his spare time. One letter encloses a photograph of a soldier ("Raymond [Nielson], 'Wildcat'") with a Hawaiian woman (February 26, 1943). Tunnell most frequently commented on family affairs, such as the Thomassons' financial difficulties and their move to Oregon during the war. On April 24, 1943, he sent his mother a pre-printed card with a colored picture of flowers.