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​The Dutch Code in Love and War

I have no idea what it is like to be separated from your wife during a time of war. My wife Kathryn Patrice and I have never spent more than three days apart. My late wife Mary and I never spent more than two weeks apart. Maybe that’s why I found a 1940’s note by my late wife’s mother so intriguing.

Zelma Smith was married to James D. Smith in 1940. They had their first of five children ten months later. Then came Pearl Harbor and the Second World War. James Smith, known as “Dutch” to friends, joined the U.S. Navy and served in the Pacific Theater. Since mail sent back home was always censored, Dutch developed a code to let Zel know where he was in the Pacific. Each homebound letter began with a salutation that was a code signal, allowing Zel always to know where her sea-faring husband was.

The Dutch Code

Dear Zel – Pearl Harbor
My Honey – Guam
Hello Darling – Philippines
My dear wife – New Guinea
Dearest Zel – Around Japan
Dearest You – China
Darling Zel – Heading for the States

Reading these sweet secret salutation codes between a man and his wife was endearing. Here’s a thoughtful, considerate husband wanting his wife to have at least a little peace of mind knowing where he was stationed.

This cryptic correspondence code reminded me that communication between spouses is a crucial factor for a thriving marriage. A spouse sends signals whether they be verbal or non-verbal on their current state of mind. How a spouse uses words and looks are vital to growing a healthy, strong marriage. Poor communication can lead to stress, misunderstanding, and extreme frustration, while good communication promotes a oneness of spirit and stokes the fires of romantic love.

In The Book of Romance, author Tommy Nelson proposes that one of the greatest secrets of romance is for men to master the fine art of praising his wife for what he sees in her. Looking at King Solomon in the Bible’s Song of Solomon, Nelson offers the following observations:

“Romance is about giving to another person. It is about appreciating that person and valuing that person. It is about showing signs of respect and trust. It is about admiration.

Romance is also about tenderness. Solomon began with tender and romantic words in communicating his love to his wife, and men, that is always the place to begin with your wives. They want to know how you feel in your heart, not how you respond to the feel of them in your hand.

The way a woman spells love over time is tenderness. The way a man spells love over time is respect.”

I can’t say for sure exactly what Dutch and Zel’s motives were for using this secret communication code. I can say that reading the Dutch-Code today is a reminder that when a husband cares enough to let his wife know where “he is at,” it serves to keep the spouse’s heart yearning for her mate.

I am working on my Buddy-Code now. My wife’s name is Kathryn Patrice. I have started my list of greetings:

  • Sweet P
  • Hey KP
  • and a few more that are none of your business!!!

After all, the Buddy-Code is a secret code too!

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  1. Brenda Alexander

    Hey, Buddy (No code)
    Thank you. It is especially meaningful when I had a chance to know both of them. I have been doing some genealogy research and have been reading some memories recorded by John Campbell Smith (1806-1888) of the Jones linage of the Hortons. He shared personal stories of his grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Such an insight into their character and how their faith impacted their lives!

    I thank you for sharing your stories.
    Your cousin-in-law, Brenda Osterman Alexander


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