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We never would have expected this day to come. Ever since we were separated from each other, our letters were the only way we could stay in touch. We promised one-another that no matter what, despite our Feuding Families, despite you being called to the front, we will one day be together, either Happily Married or Together in Death.
I write to tell you that everything that was between us is over. We're finished.
I cannot stand life in separation anymore. I simply can't love you anymore, and I have found someone else.
Don't grieve—you are neither the first nor the last to get such a letter. Traditions of sending soldiers such letters date back to World War Two or even World War One, which would make it Older Than Television.
Good bye, my former love. You will never see me again.
P.P.S: Don't confuse this letter with a TV show.
- This classic 1980's New Zealand ad for BASF cassette tapes features a soldier receiving a version of the country song "Dear John" sung by his fiance on a BASF tape, with some new lyrics turning it into a straight example, leading to the tagline:
BASF: Even the bad times sound good"
Anime & Manga
- Michel from Mobile Suit Gundam The 08th MS Team received such letter from his girlfriend B.B.
- Kimi no Iru Machi's Yuzuki writes one to Haruto and puts it in a present she gave him, however it was several months (and several attempts to stay with her regardless) later that he actually found and read the letter.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's If This Goes On --, John Lyle gets a literal Dear John letter.
- Played with in the novel Starship Troopers. When at OCS Johnny claims he and Carmen were dating, but she sent him a "Dear John". This is technically true, since he and Carmen went on a few dates, nothing serious, and she always begins her (occasional) letters with "Dear John". Essentially, Johnny is playing up the trope to gain some street cred.
- This trope appeared in a story written by the Polish writer Jarosław Grzędowicz, where a Pole who went work to England was completely devastated when his girlfriend sent him such a letter. A few years later, it appeared in a novel written by his wife, Maja Kossakowska, but American marine in the book has found it quite amusing. Having to endure weeks of torture, having his legs broken, and getting a bullet in the lungs could have something to do with it.
- In one short story in the Honor Harrington universe Commissar Yuri Radamacher comments that he spends more time helping heartbroken naval personnel deal with "Dear John" or "Dear Jane" letters than he does actively trying to seek out disloyalty.
- In Bart the General, "Omarn" gets one from Marge.
Dear Homer, you have a cold dick. I remember the last time I touched it.
- Starship Troopers. While in MI boot camp, Johnny Rico gets a literal Dear John video from his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez, who's in training to join the Fleet (space navy).
- What drove the villain insane in The Prowler.
- In The Dark Knight, the love interest writes Bruce Wayne a letter about how she is going to marry Harvey Dent and that she'll always be with him as a friend. However, after her death, Alfred burns it before Bruce can read it.
- It's a relatively minor but still tragic instance of Poor Communication Kills: Bruce assumes she was going to leave Harvey for him.
- In The Thin Red Line (1998), one of the protagonists (Private Bell) tells anyone around him how he really loves his wife (and so won't cheat on her with the local Ladies of Negotiable Virtue). In a (possibly unintentional) hilarious moment, about halfway through the film, he then receives a Dear John letter from his wife about how she's found a new love.
- Obviously, Dear John.
- Micheal in Siege of the Dead gets one of these just before the start of the movie and is hoping to patch things up. Things don't turn out quite as planned.
- Legends of the Fall "Susanna, all we had is dead. As I am dead. Marry another."
- John in Goodbye Pork Pie finds one from Sue in his typewriter, which simply reads "Dear John".
Live Action TV
- English Dear John show and its Trans Atlantic Equivalent with the same name, starring Judd Hirsch in the late 80s. The Title Sequence had the main character coming home and discovering from a letter that his wife has left him. The Expository Theme Tune was sung from her point of view.
- Abby got one from Carter on ER, after their relationship took a series of strange turns for the worse, climaxing in her bipolar brother falling into his grandmother's grave.
- Happens a bunch of times on MASH.
- Radar's sweetheart dumps him, so his friends try to set him up with someone else to help him get over it.
- Frank's wife says she's going to divorce him (she's heard about his affair with Margaret).
- When Klinger got one from his wife, it was the one time he tried to get hardship leave when he wasn't scamming.
- At least a few times a season, a GI of the week got a Dear John letter. An Italian is distraught upon receiving a "Dear Giovanni" letter.
- And once it was Subverted: a blinded GI in post-op asked Father Mulcahy to read his mail to him and the first one, from his girlfriend, started "Dear John..." That was his name.
- Subverted again when a pilot only known as Cowboy abducts Colonel Blake to extort a discharge to see his wife, whom he believes is unfaithful. Cowboy clears up the first two warning flags (the Reno return address and the literal "Dear John" first line) by saying that's where he lives and his real name, respectively. They go on, revealing that the letter is her affirmation of her love for him. Cowboy lands and everything is sorted out.
- One of the instances in the series has a soldier patient getting a Dear John letter written in a callous tone with a demand for her old photo back. The staff decide to help the soldier by gather various photos of women with a insulting letter to telling to pick out which one is hers and the soldier caps it off with the suggestion of sending the whole parcel "postage due."
- Gibbs from NCIS, when asked if he's ever gotten a love letter in Season Two, asks if a "Dear John" counts.
- Joel from Northern Exposure gets one of these from his fiancee in the season 2 premiere.
- In Power Rangers Zeo, Tommy got such letter from Kimberly, which successfully sunk their canon couple status to allow writers pair him with Katherine.
- The Taylor Swift song "Dear John" is a subversion of this trope. Even though the narrator is ending the relationship, the song reveals that she was involved in an unhealthy relationship with an older man, who its implied took advantage of her and broke her heart. Thus the song is a six minute long "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- A sarcastic reading of a Dear John letter by its recipient comprises the entire lyrics of "Your Woman" by White Town, a UK #1 single in 1997.
- The front cover of the final Led Zeppelin album, 'In Through the Out Door', portrays several different perspectives of the same scene at a bar of a man burning a 'Dear John' letter in an ashtray. The last song on that album, I'm Gonna Crawl, would seem to be written from this perspective.
- Probably the original "Dear John" song: "A Dear John Letter," first recorded in the 1950s by Ferlin Husky and Jean Shepard and later covered by Pat Boone.
- Gary Larson made a The Far Side cartoon of two male deer in a forest, one holding a letter. "My God! She left me a John Deer letter!"
- Here's an urban legend about them.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Aerith constantly writes letters for Zack who's gone missing for four years, hoping to reach him. Zack never receives all of those but her 89th letter, that is stated that it is her final one, makes him heartbroken and desperate to return to Midgar. Though, the next scene of her dressed in pink as their promise in their last meeting proves that she's still waiting for him.
- At the end of Starcraft: Brood War, and Kerrigan's ascension, Admiral Gerard DuGalle sends a letter to his wife in Earth about everything which happened in the game. The cutscene ends with a Gory Discretion Shot. Gerard has committed suicide.
"Dearest Helena, By now the news of our defeat has reached the Earth. The creatures we were sent here to tame are un-tamable, and the colonies we were sent to reclaim have proven to be stronger than we anticipated. Whatever you may hear about what has happened out here, know this; Alexei did not die gloriously in battle. I killed him. My pride killed him. And now my pride has consumed me as well. You will never see me again, Helena. Tell our children that I love them, and that their father died in defense of their future. Au revoir."
- In Katawa Shoujo, main character Hisao receives one from his old sort-of girlfriend Iwanako part way through the story. The way he reacts to it is different in each route depending on how he's changed through his current relationship, though in all of them it causes a barrel full of mixed feelings and introspection on his part.
- In General Protection Fault, Nick is abducted by Ki's Evil Counterpart from a parallel universe the night before he is to marry her, and his counterpart leaves behind a letter saying he can't marry her, but Ki refuses to believe it and eventually enters the dimension on a rescue mission. The letter is even called a "Dear John" Letter
- In Kevin and Kell, getting one of these causes one prey species to be Driven to Suicide.
- Referenced in The Onion: U.S. Quietly Slips Out Of Afghanistan In Dead Of Night
- Similar joke on The Simpsons; at a meeting of Caustic Critics, the Farm Supplies Critic (...go with it) mentions his favourite recent quip in a review of a tractor:
"We see John Deere has a new line of roto-tillers. Surprise, surprise; they're green! I'd say it's about time someone sent John Deere a Dear John!"
- Homer recieves a videotaped Dear John from Marge in The Movie.
- She taped it over their wedding video, so immediately after she's done, it cuts to them dancing at their wedding.
- Homer recieves a videotaped Dear John from Marge in The Movie.
- On King of the Hill, Bill's wife Lenore left him without any notice, leading him to cling to the belief she would return for years. When he finally mentally snapped and (mentally) tells her off he mentioned that he at least deserved a Dear John letter.