Fact Check

Dear John Video

Did a soldier taking part in Desert Storm receive a 'Dear John' video from his wife?

Published Jun 21, 2000

Legend:   While away fighting for his country in the Gulf War, a U.S. soldier receives a surprise "Dear John" video from home.


[Collected on the Internet, 1997]

Two years ago a soldier from my unit in Germany told me he witnessed the following story. When he was
deployed for the Gulf War, another guy received a videotape from home. The first part contained greetings from his parents and brothers and sisters. The second part had his favorite TV shows from the US. The third part was a pornographic movie scene involving two men and a woman wearing a mask. At the end of that scene, the woman turned to the camera, took off her mask and said, " I told you I wanted a divorce!"

[Collected on the Internet, 1998]

A Marine corporal in Desert Storm receives a courtesy package from home, including a box of tasty cookies. The corporal shares the two dozen or so cookies with his squad mates as they sit to watch the enclosed video. After a few moments of news, greetings, etc., the screen shows the corporal's wife, standing in a kitchen, mixing cookie dough NAKED. Suddenly, another man, naked, walks into the kitchen and begins to receive a blowjob from the corporal's wife. As he is beginning to climax, she directs the resultant semen into the mixing bowl. "Hope you enjoy the cookies, I want a divorce," she says to the camera, while wiping her chin.

[Swofford, 2003]

A Fox Company grunt's wife had sent him a video with his last care package. A homemade porn film had been spliced into a Vietnam flick. The barracks full of unsuspecting marines cheered a screen full of jungle carnage as the on-screen marines charged a VC bunker, then in midcinematic combat frenzy the barracks went silent when the screen turned from overwhelming firepower to the sleek power of sex. After a few seconds, the room erupted. The marines were elated that the amateur smut had made it past the censors, it was another coup! But the excitement only lasted until the marine whose wife had sent him the movie noticed something about the hooded woman, and what he noticed could have been a mole on her ass or the way she moaned or how she threw her head back as she came, but that coming woman was his wife, and the man was his neighbor, and he began to scream, "That's my wife! That's my wife fucking the neighbor, a goddamn squid!" At first the jarheads laughed, because they thought he was joking, but when he continued to scream and then began weeping, they knew that it really was his wife, and someone had the decency to turn the video off . . . He's down at sick call on suicide watch, and as soon as the docs okay him, he'll be on an emergency-leave flight to the States . . .


  • Though occasionally the soldier is said to have gone mad and been hospitalized or to have committed suicide, most of the time the story ends with the wife's videotaped announcement.
  • An equally popular version of the legend tells of a boy who goes off to university and the girlfriend who breaks up with him by sending a photo of herself giving a blowjob to another lad. In the college version, however, the wronged party gets his own revenge by mailing the photograph to the girl's parents.

Origins:   The "Dear John" video legend has been around since the mid-1980s, although it received a boost in popularity in the early 1990s when servicemen were sent overseas to fight in the Persian Gulf. Though Desert Storm

versions are the most common, soldiers have reported hearing the legend in Panama after the invasion in 1989, and a number of sightings date to 1983, when U.S. troops were sent to Grenada. Many sightings specify that the event took place on an aircraft carrier (sometimes named, sometimes not). As for the identity of the jilted soldier, he's variously a Marine, a sailor, an ordinary soldier, an engineer, or a member of the National Guard.

What's on the tape varies too. Some report it's a tape of that year's Super Bowl which cuts away from the action on the field towards the end to switch to the "I want a divorce" performance. Others say it's a video of a kid's birthday party or of a family Christmas celebration. Yet others claim it was a long-awaited commercial film (e.g., Batman Returns) with the ending taped over to add the disturbing footage from home.



few claim to have seen the video themselves. Most who swear by it base their belief in the tale on the word of someone of their acquaintance who says he was there.

The legend strikes as deep a chord as it does because it plays upon our fear of the "significant other" left behind finding someone else; a fear exemplified by our stereotype of the brave lad off defending his country's receiving a "Dear John" letter. While letters are usually private affairs, the "Dear John" video is always shared with the unfortunate soldier's comrades-in-arms, thus heightening the embarrassment and betrayal he is forced to endure. His humiliation is not a private hell: he is cuckolded in front of his unit.

Video greetings sent by soldiers to family and friends back home became the order of the day during the Gulf War, so it's not hard to imagine videotapes flowing the other way as well. The spiteful wife is portrayed either as providing one man with oral gratification or as having unspecified sex acts with multiple partners, sometimes even partners of a different race. Simple on-camera adultery is not considered scandalous enough; an additional element of sin is required to drive the home the calculated evil of her betrayal.

This legend is a saltier version of a tale typically told about a college student rather than a soldier. The college form of the legend has been with us since at least 1983 or 1984:

[Collected on the Internet, 1998]

There were two high school sweethearts who went out together for four years in high school and were both virgins and enjoyed losing their virginity with each other in 10th grade. When they graduated, they wanted to both go to the same college but the girl was accepted to a college on the east coast, and the guy went to the west coast. They agreed to be faithful to each other and spend anytime they could together.

As time went on, the guy would call the girl and she would never be home, and when he wrote, she would take weeks to return her letters. Even when he e-mailed her, she took days to return his messages. Finally, she confessed to him that she wanted to date around. He didn't take this very well and increased his calls and letters and e-mails trying to win back her love.

Because she became annoyed, and now had a new boyfriend, she wanted to get him off her back. So what she did is this: She took a polaroid picture of her sucking her new boyfriend's unmentionables and sent it to her old boyfriend with a note reading, "I found a new boyfriend, leave me alone." Well needless to say, this guy was heartbroken, but even more so, he was pissed. So what he did next was awesome.

He wrote on the back of the photo the following: "Dear Mom and Dad, having a great time at college, please send more money!" and then mailed the picture to her parents.

The jilted college student succeeds in turning the tables on his Jezebel by mailing the incriminating photos to her family, but the wronged soldier almost never seems to get any of his own back. A higher court of appeal exists for the unmarried girl (i.e., ratting her out to her parents), but what is a man to do with an errant wife?

Barbara "picture it" Mikkelson

Last updated:   26 April 2005

  Sources Sources:

    Swofford, Anthony.   Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles.

    New York: Scribner, 2003.   ISBN 0-743-23535-5   (p. 65).

    FOAFTale News.   "Wars and Rumors of War."

    September 1991   (p. 14).