The traditional written letter is not the only avenue opened by anxious communicators during the Persian Gulf crisis. Satellite-transmitted facsimiles and radio broadcasts also have been used to circumvent Iraq's isolation of hostages and men in hiding in Kuwait.
Yesterday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there is evidence that radio messages from families to their loved ones in Iraq and Kuwait, broadcast over the Voice of America, are being heard by intended recipients.
"Reports from people who get out have said that one thing that's very important to them for their own personal welfare is to get messages from home," Boucher said, who encouraged people "to use the Voice of America service, which we know has been very valuable to those people who are being kept in detention."
American families have recorded hours of home news and gossip for transmission by VOA since Iraq stopped jamming the broadcasts a month ago:
"Hi C.J. Greetings from your familiy in Connecticut. We are all fine and hope all is well with you. Peter is sitting up and crawling by himself now. He likes to get around the house and explore. With love, your sister Karen."
"Bob from Lisa, Stephen and Laura of Columbus. I went to Ludwig's retirement dinner last night. Sales meeting started. Robin won first place. Everybody misses you. We love you Daddy."
"Hi Joe, this is your sister Claire. Wanted to say hi and hope you're doing okay. We finally got our backyard done and had a little barbecue here. Waiting for you to get home one of these days, and have a six-pack of Heineken waiting for you in the refrigerator. Basketball tickets, got a couple waiting for you."
Letters from Americans hiding in Kuwait since Iraq invaded the country Aug. 2 were faxed from undisclosed locations via satellite last month to Cable News Network's Atlanta bureau, where they were passed on to President Bush and to the family members to whom they were addressed.
The letters, which contain the writer's signature, his social security number and other identifying information to establish their authencity, speak of loneliness, love for wives and anger over the stalemate that keeps them trapped indoors.
From John to his wife, dated Oct. 15: "We still have food, water and electricity but as our food stocks diminish, they are not being replenished because food is becoming scarce. We are now completely surrounded by Iraqi soldiers . . . . They do come and ring our bell from time to time -- we do not answer. This is always guaranteed to raise our pulse rates."
Or this, from Eugene Hughes, 69, to his wife in New Mexico, dated Oct. 20: "The most important thing is to tell you how very much I love you . . . take care of my dog til I am home, soon I hope . . . . It is very nerve wracking here now. Troops are all over . . . . This is the first time in my life I have been caged up and I don't like it."