The Sons of Abraham Congregation was a local Jewish community that began in La Crosse in the 1900s and continued until the 1980s. The entire collection is 2 boxes, with most of the folders filled with bank and cash flow records. This FFA, however, will explore only the Dedication Booklet section (box 2 folder 7) and the Miscellaneous Papers section (box 2 folder 1).
The Dedication booklet is filled with information about the history of La Crosse’s Jewish community, the overarching message of B’nai B’rith (Buh-NAY Buh-REETH), a national Jewish service organization, and, most importantly, the role American Jews played in World War II. The booklet is divided into sections covering topics such as blessings, the history of the local Jewish community in La Crosse, and even the building plans of the synagogue; but, all sections eventually connect back to war efforts—at home and abroad—which will be the main point of discussion throughout this FFA.
The Dedication booklet features several separate documents within its 80 total pages. These documents include messages from local Rabbis and religious leaders, information about building the synagogue, and the history of the Jewish community in La Crosse. The pages below are out of order because the history portion gives a solid background for the rest of the booklet. The pages with advertisements from local businesses are not listed. These are fun to look at but are not important to the narrative developed below.
The first page of the “History of La Crosse Jewish Community to 1948” is an in-depth description of how Jews came to La Crosse and settled in this area beginning in 1845. Look for the names of the first Jews to come to the La Crosse area and the impact that they made on the rest of the community. Also, explore the evolution of the religion in the area—specifically how the name of the congregation changes in reaction to a different group of people coming to the region. Another interesting thing to keep an eye out for is the gender of the leaders, keep this in mind as you read the rest of the booklet. Pages 32 and 33 describe the migration of Orthodox Jews into the area and the role of Jews in WWII. Be on the lookout for the types of support provided by Jewish women and Jewish men both locally and abroad. How were they honored for their work?
“The History of B’nai B’rith” discusses the moral code that the Sons of Abraham follow. B’nai B’rith, which means “Sons of the Covenant” or “Children of the Covenant,” is the world’s oldest Jewish service organization, dedicated to the relief and empowerment of Jewish communities around the world. As you read, take note of what their code means and how it was practiced. B’nai B’rith is responsible for the creation of many different committees dedicated to combating all forms of anti-Semitism, prejudice against Jews specifically. Look for information about the Anti-Defamation League. To further understand the code mentioned previously, look for who it was created by and what they do.
The last document in the collection is “The Jewish Women’s League.” The league was formed by Jewish women in order to be active in this time of crisis. The document discusses how the league would provide “kosher goodies” to soldiers stationed at nearby Fort McCoy. After reading, think about what the author mentions in terms of post-war efforts from the women of the league.
This document is titled “We Dedicate Our Synagogue.” It was written by Rabbi Morris Gordon, who was the Rabbi for a synagogue in Minneapolis before he came to La Crosse. He discusses how the goal for the Sons of Abraham should be to create a “House of Learning.” Look for how Rabbi Gordon emphasizes what the synagogue will need to do to become a modern Jewish society. Hint: The time period is the late 1940s. What major event just happened during this time period?
The next page has another message from a Rabbi. Titled “Building a House of God for the Future of Israel” it was written by Rabbi Abraham H. Album. It tells a story of Babylonians raiding the city of Jerusalem. Look for the connection made between the Kohanim (Jewish Priests) and the current state of the European Jewish community. Also look for who the author suggests should lead the way for the world’s Jewish community.
The message on page 15 is from the Bishop of the Catholic Church in La Crosse. He is very progressive when it comes to the unification of the two churches. He praises the Jewish community by saying that the construction of their synagogue has led to not only the “brightening” of the La Crosse community, but the country as well. Look for how the Bishop criticizes the recent Supreme Court ruling dealing with public schools. Think about what this criticism means in terms of the modernization of the Jewish community in La Crosse. Think back to what you read on page 4.
The miscellaneous papers section is largely a collection of receipts and membership forms to the synagogue, but hidden within is a story of political, economic, and social involvement of Jews during WWII. There is also a large amount of information about the origins of the Jewish community. Many papers are also written in Hebrew with an English translation. Despite this section containing a bunch of random receipts, there are a few documents worth noting.
The Universal Yeshivah of Jerusalem (A Central Academy for Higher Jewish Learning)
This document can be easily distinguished by its large print with the words “Universal Yeshivah of Jerusalem” across the top. It has no listed author, only that it was from the Academy of Higher Jewish Learning in New York. Like many others in the folder, the document asks for donations from the Synagogue. Half of the document is written in Hebrew script and the other half is printed in English. The Hebrew script is common in these miscellaneous papers; however, they usually are accompanied by some sort of English translation. In this document look for why the author calls for donations.
Untitled Holiday Service Document
Find a 4-page untitled document that looks like it could have been used as a program for a holiday service at the Synagogue (basic white paper with typewriter style text). It lists the names of the members of the church in order to thank them for their support and wish them a happy New Year. It also has a few songs listed on it that were sung in both Hebrew and English. On the third page of the document, the paper discusses proper dignity within the Synagogue and how to conduct oneself while at a service. Explore the rules section to see how Jewish women were treated at the time.
United Charity Institutions of Jerusalem
This is the smallest document in the folder. It’s a little red note card from the United Charity Institutions of Jerusalem. Once again it is asking for donations, but uses some interesting rhetoric to do so. The slip mentions that if you do not donate, you will forsake your family because they donated in the past. Take note of why these organizations are desperate for donations based on the time period.
Reviewed By: Devin Fichter
Photo courtesy of the Southwest Wisconsin Room, UW-Platteville
If you have ever wondered what life was like in Wisconsin during World War I, this Friendly Finding Aid is for you. It explores an exciting time in the United States’ history from the US perspective. This was a war unlike any war fought before, with effects that reached all the way into Wisconsin. This aid follows three years, 1917-1919, of newspaper articles from the Grant County Democrat. One of the great features of this collection is that all the papers you need are on microfilm. Here’s a chance to learn a new skill that all historians are familiar with. Looking through microfilm has advantages that most collections do not. Instead of searching your way through folders and struggling to read someone’s hand writing, you get to spend your time leisurely scrolling through typed newspapers that are easy to read.
This Friendly Finding Aid focuses on how World War I affected the home front in Muscoda (Mus-kuh-day), a small town in Wisconsin. Muscoda was a typical 1917 small town, therefore what went on there is likely comparable to what was happening across the country. Think of this as something historians call a “case study”: use of a single example to represent something larger. World War I had a wide range of impacts, but this FFA focuses on: food shortages, the Selective Service Act, home front support, and home front politics. Like all newspapers, the Grant County Democrat covers a wide range of topics, so while many of the articles pertain to World War I, a lot of them do not. Therefore, if the topics outlined above don’t interest you, there are others that certainly will.
It’s important to mention again that this collection of newspapers is on microfilm. Viewing microfilm is not very difficult but will require some new skills. The best way to learn how to use a microfilm reader is to have either the librarians or archivists teach you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at any time, they know the machines well! The newspapers that you will be viewing carry an almost identical format throughout 1917 and 1918. The biggest news, especially local news, is focused on the front page. This is where a lot of information about the war is displayed. The rest of the paper includes various national and global news and weekly sections such as fictional stories and advertisements. The collection is extremely interesting and helpful for learning about the impact of World War I on this small town, but is also very intriguing just to see what small town life was like one hundred years ago. As you dive into this collection, try to imagine what these experiences would have been like if you’d lived in Muscoda. Don’t just consume the details; try to use your imagination to take a journey back in time!
To use the articles featured in this FFA do the following:
1. Find the newspaper’s date
2. Locate the page number or if there is no page number, count from the title page
3. Search for the article title
All of this information is provided below.
One of the topics that is related to World War I, and is frequently mentioned throughout the collection, is food shortages. Lifestyles had to change drastically because, to ensure that there would be enough food for the troops, people at home had to eat differently. For example, families had to limit important products such as flour and sugar!
May 18, 1917: Page 2 “Women and Children to Assist in Increasing the Food Supply”
With many farmers away at war, someone has to step up and keep the farms running. Read to find out how women and children were needed to help supply the soldiers with food.
June 15, 1917: Page 6 “Things to Do Now to Assist Win War”
Before you read this article, think of some ways that you would be able to help conserve food if you were asked to do so. The article is short, but very interesting. Did your prediction match what people were being asked to do?
June 22, 1917: Page 7 “Keep Tractors Busy”
Here you can read a great article about some of the latest technology…tractors! This is interesting because during this time period tractors were still not very common. As you read, take notes of what farmers with tractors were being asked to do.
September 14, 1917: Page 7 “Feed the Fighters! Win the War!!”
Read this article to learn about a travel opportunity that helped with the home front effort.
September 21, 1917: Page 1 “Affects 7000 Hotels in State”
Read about how the food shortages are affecting hotels, restaurants, and other eating places.
November 9, 1917: Page 1 “Don’t Eat Less”
During the war, the Federal Government’s Food Administration set up regulations and gave advice for people on the home front. Read more about what they want citizens do to support the country properly.
May 17, 1918: Page 1 “Sugar Ruling for Canning Purposes in Wisconsin”
In the 1910s, many families were canning their own produce. New orders from the Food Administration changed how people could can at home. Read to see what all Americans had to do differently.
August 30, 1918: Page 4 “Wisconsin Food Administrator’s Catechism”
Read about what citizens can do to further comply with the restrictions. There is a list of directions and guidelines on how to follow the rationing of certain foods in Wisconsin.
Throughout this collection you will also learn about the Selective Service Act, which is better known as the military draft. These articles talk about things such as where and how to sign up. The newspaper published soldier’s letters so that people could read first-hand accounts. Additionally, the papers talk about the impacts of missing many young men from the area. One of the biggest problems was a shortage of farm workers.
By the way if this topic interests you, you will also want to see the FFA titled, “The Selective Service during World War I.”
May 4, 1917: Page 6 “Congress Awaits Country’s Stand on the Draft Law”
Here you can read about the process used to set up a draft law. This is a very interesting time because there had not been a military draft since the Civil War, so to have it return was a big deal.
May 11, 1917: Page 2 “Army Draft Law Now in Effect”
The bill passed and is now a law! Read to see how it will be carried out and who will be enforcing it.
June 1, 1917: Page 1 “Military Notice of Enrollment”
Read to learn about who had to enroll and the consequences of not enrolling.
September 12, 1918: Page 1 “Persons Who Must Register”
This is another article that lays out the requirements men had to follow to enroll in the draft.
By the way, another cool article on this same page is, “Airplane Passes Muscoda.” Pay attention to how the people of Muscoda freak out!
In this part of the collection, the papers focus on home front support efforts for the war. Some of the support efforts included organizing Red Cross Chapters, as well as fund raising to send local newspapers to the soldiers away from home. Patriotism and the Red Cross were very hot topics throughout the whole war and many local people were very involved.
May 25, 1917: Page 1“Muscoda To Have Red Cross Chapter” and “Great Patriotic Demonstration at Muscoda Last Friday”
The first article encourages everyone to get involved in the Red Cross Chapter that will be starting in Muscoda soon. The front page features another article describing a great soldier send-off that took place in town.
June 8, 1917: Page 1 “Red Cross Meeting”
This is a brief article, but after reading it I bet you can predict what will be happening in Muscoda.
June 15, 1917: Page 1 “The Red Cross is Calling You”
The Red Cross is starting to take shape in Muscoda. Read about what steps they will be taking to keep growing.
June 22, 1917: Page 1 “The Red Cross is Calling You. Enlist Now.”
This article features a long list of names. Imagine reading through the “Roll of Honor” for the Red Cross Society of Muscoda and not seeing your name on it. As the article says, “Don’t be a slacker.” Find out what citizens needed to do and where they needed to be so Muscoda doesn’t have any “slackers”!
August 3, 1917: Page 8 “Sheriffs are to Nab Lazy Men”
Read about what could happen to the “slackers” mentioned in the previous article.
October 5, 1917: Page 1 “The Red Cross is Still Calling You”
As the article says, “The Red Cross is calling you.” Read more about how the Red Cross in America compares to the Red Cross in other countries.
December 17, 1917: Page 1 “Buy Red Cross Xmas Seals”
With Christmas around the corner see what citizens did to support their local Red Cross and at the same time get in the holiday spirit. By the way what is a Christmas Seal?
February 8, 1918: Page 1 “Red Cross Report”
This short article describes some of the great work the Red Cross was doing.
March 22, 1918: Page 1 “Food and Money will Win the War”
Find out what buying a Liberty Bond can do for the United States. Also, as you read, try to figure out what a Liberty Bond is.
September 27, 1918: Page 1
On page one of this week’s paper you can read numerous interesting articles about what was going on in Muscoda to support the war. Choose two of the articles and see what can be learned.
November 15, 1918: Page 1
The war has ended! Read the articles on the first page to get a sense of what it was like in Muscoda when news of the war’s end arrived. Remember, Muscoda is being used as a case study. What you read happening in Muscoda likely went on in small towns all over the U.S.
The Grant County Democrat also provides a great look at what different political leaders in the United States were doing to help support the war. By examining the local news headlines and experiences of local people, a lot of perspective can be gained on what life was like back then.
February 9, 1917: Page 2 “Diplomatic Relations with Germany Broken”
Read about the diplomatic relations being broken between Germany and the U.S. What does this mean for the future of U.S. involvement in WWI?
March 9, 1917: Page 2 “German Plot Against U.S. is Revealed”
Read about a shocking and surprising twist in the war. Hint; It involves Germany, Japan, and Mexico working together against the U.S.
March 30, 1917: Page 2 “Wilson Calls Congress to Act in U-Boat Crisis”
Read about the tense situation that has been ongoing with Germany’s U-Boats (submarines) and how the United States Government is responding.
April 6, 1917: Page 1 (bottom left corner) “Signs of War”
This very interesting article talks about some things that are happening not too far from Muscoda.
April 13, 1917: Page 2 “Wilson Warns Aliens in War Proclamation”
In this article, you can read about the regulations President Wilson created for German Americans to follow. How are these Americans being treated differently?
April 20, 1917: Page 1 “A Proclamation”
If you’ve read the articles above, the big article on the front page on this date might not surprise you. Read about what’s ahead for the country.
April 27, 1917: Page 1 “Call from United States Army Captain”
This Army Captain says, “Wisconsin is not responding as it should.” Read what he says Wisconsin men need to do to show support for their country.
November 1, 1918: Page 1 “Muscoda Loses First Soldier Boy”
The first issue in November is a sad one because it brings news of the first soldier from Muscoda to die in the war effort.
Reviewed by: Tanner Williamson
WWI Homefront 1919, La Crosse, WI. Photograph courtesy of Murphy Library Special Collections, UW-La Crosse.
The idea that men have to register for the draft when they turn eighteen is a pretty familiar concept to us in the 21st century, but the draft has not always existed. One major change that occurred in preparation for World War I was the switch from a volunteer and local militia-based army to a drafted army. The Selective Service Act of 1917 created a frontline of potential soldiers, men who could be quickly mobilized in twentieth-century conflict. There were three major draft registration dates, days where all the men within a certain age range would report to an office and fill in their information. The first took place on June 5, 1917, the second in June of 1918, and a third, from which a good majority of the papers in this collection are from, on September 12, 1918. The original draft registration was for men aged 21-30, although exemptions were given for college students and men in specialized careers that provided much-needed services for the war effort on the home front.
This collection is mostly handwritten lists and documents. There are very few problems in reading the cursive, however, because it was meant to be read. The collection is contained within one box with approximately fifteen folders inside. Each folder has its own title, which will be in blue below. The documents to find within each folder are in bold. If you follow the folders and documents provided below, you will discover the requirements for being a soldier, the number of men who had to register in Grant County, and the different ways that men avoided registration, the draft, and the war. It is important to keep in mind that while this collection represents a small section of the state, and even the country, this was happening across Wisconsin as well as the entire United States.
Selective Service Register
The first really cool document in this collection is in the last folder. Find the newspaper with the title “Selective Service Register.” It’s pretty clear which item this is, but be careful, it’s over one hundred years old, and could rip. Unfold it and turn to the back cover, on which is a blown up version of the draft registration card that everyone had to fill out when they went to the draft office. This is a prime example of the information that government and military services needed from registrants.
Standard Accepted Measurements
This is a smaller sheet of paper that has columns of numbers of it, which show the height and weight requirements that men had to meet to be considered eligible for military service. It was used to make sure only physically healthy men were being inducted into the armed forces. As an example, think of Steve Rogers before he became Captain America. He wouldn’t have fit all the basic requirements to even get a physical examination. (Would you qualify?) Registrants also had to list physical ailments they had. Anything that would slow a soldier down in a war zone almost immediately disqualified them for military service.
This folder has of lists of men, mainly 21 to about 34 years old, with a few exceptions. Focus on the men who were scheduled for examination between February 12th and February 20th. This is a stack of 18 pages, and the first page is stapled to a little piece of scratch paper, where someone wrote out and added up the number of people they scheduled. This is in cursive, but whoever wrote it had clear penmanship, so there are only a few words that are hard to read. The lists of men are in alphabetical order by last name and serial number, which makes it very easy to go through and look for someone. (To find someone, you could search by name or serial number.) Be sure to notice that there are two columns of names on each page. With this, you can try to match up the names on this list with the names in the Wisconsin’s Gold Star List, a book that recorded the men who died during the war. More information on this book is in the “See Also,” below.
Photo and list of names from the 1918 Normal School in Platteville
This is a photograph and an accompanying list of names. It’s kind of cool to put faces to what some of the people registering for the draft would have looked like. Consider two things while looking at these faces: first, the age of those pictured, and second, the fact that many of the men in this picture likely would have gotten exemptions due to being enrolled in higher education.
Status on Registrants
This is a four page-long packet, about 3/4th the size of a normal sheet of paper, and held together by a gold clasp. It is from November 30, 1918. You’ll notice this is from after the war was over. This is a consolidation of all the information that the draft board received from registrants during the three draft registration dates. This packet summarizes all of the men who registered for the draft in Grant County between June 5, 1917, and September 12, 1918. The last page, in particular, gives the totals for everyone under each of the registration classes. These registration classes were how draft officers knew who could serve in the armed forces, and who was, for some reason, ineligible. Ineligibility could come from a number of things such as, illness, specialized jobs or skill sets, college attendance, being a non-combative conscientious objector, having a dependent family member (or members), among other things.
263 [with the 3 crossed out in pen and replaced with a 5] BOYS REGISTER
This is from June 5, 1918 and is a list of everyone in Grant County who registered on that day because they were now 21. This is just an interesting document because it lists so many names. Do you recognize any of them?
Classed [unsure] without physical examination
These are men who had to register, as everyone did, but were classified as unfit for military service for a variety of physical and mental disabilities. A lot of them were classed unfit because someone at the draft board office could attest to their ailment, physical disability, or mental disability. Take note of the different exemptions that the draft board allowed and the language they used to describe these men.
September 12, 1918 draft registration day
This is a packet of horizontally written light grey papers that have a list of all the towns in Grant County and how many people of each age registered from each town. Notice how many men were registering, even on just this date. Note the towns listed and the men from each town. Do you think any of these men were related? And if so, how?
Final List of Delinquents and Deserters
The last thing to look at in this folder is the bunch of papers that record those who didn’t show up for physical examinations, so are considered deserters or draft-dodgers. These papers are from January 30, 1919, a few months after the war ended. This is another consolidation of the draft registration information that was collected during the time that the draft board was open. Take note of the interesting reasons, or reasons the draft office came up with, that men didn’t appear for registration, examinations, or their draft call. One especially interesting one, on page 3 of this packet, is about Dewey E. Hudson who was said to have been sent to state prison after registration, escaped from jail before the mailing of the draft questionnaire, was never located, and possibly had enlisted in the U.S. army elsewhere, and was likely stationed in the Canal Zone.
Reviewed by: Eve Wenzel
Photograph courtesy of www.findagrave.com
This collection covers the life of Benjamin Franklin Heuston (B.F. Heuston) who accomplished a great number of things in his life. He was one of the first settlers in Trempealeau County, a businessman, county official, and a soldier who fought in the Civil War. (He was in Company C in the 22nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment.) The collection contains two boxes, about half of which, deal with his time in the Civil War. It includes close to 100 hand-written letters to his wife, detailing his everyday experiences traveling and fighting. A small number of these letters also include debates about Negro soldiers. (The word Negro is an old-fashioned, and at the time polite, word for African American.) The letters follow B.F. Heuston through the many cities he marched to during the war, and how he retraced Sherman’s March to the Sea! Some of these letters also give insight on Heuston’s thoughts about abolition, such as the issues he faced when the Union started enlisting and arming African American soldiers, and his opinion when his officers refused to return slaves to southern slave owners. The letters also discuss the conditions of war hospitals, since Heuston was hospitalized twice. A good majority of the letters also deal with making sure his family is safely taken care of back home. In addition to the letters, Heuston also kept a war journal, where he would keep track of the places and distances he traveled, as well as the landscape and weather. Lastly, the collection includes a paper Heuston wrote titled “The Negro Problem.” In it he gives his experiences with African American’s before and during the war.
This Friendly Finding Aid will touch on B.F. Heuston’s life during the Civil War, but focus on the debates and issues he witnessed with African Americans. It will cover the day-to-day life of a Union soldier and issues surrounding African Americans as soldiers and eventually as free people. It will also cover how Heuston thought African Americans should be treated, and if they should be armed. Finally, it covers the viewpoint of a Northern soldier witnessing slavery.
This collection has a lot of materials in it for only being two boxes, however, only documents that pertain to B.F. Heuston’s time during the Civil War appear below. These include several dated folders of correspondence to his wife, his war journal, and several miscellaneous notes. This may not sound like a lot compared to other collections but this one is full of great information that tells many different and interesting stories.
All letters listed below feature B.F Heustons interactions and views on African American, soldiers and civilians. Find the letter by date. It is normally at the top. All letters are handwritten and in cursive, so reading them may take some time to get used to, but after a short while you’ll be able to figure out his handwriting and understand what Heuston is saying. All letters are located in box 1. They are in folders marked as correspondence, and are separated by dates.
January 4, 1863
This is the first of multiple letters Heuston wrote that touch on the topic of African American soldiers in the war. As you read notice what the he says in the letter about new government polices involving Negros as soldiers, and a special policy involving the newly founded state of West Virginia.
August 4, 1863
This letter is another one that shows Heuston’s views on Negro soldiers. He brings up an interesting and odd theory on why he thinks African Americans would be better at fighting in the South than White soldiers. Heuston then gives his reasoning as to why they should fight in the war and how it would be “good” for African Americans to “earn their freedom.” After reading, consider whether Heuston’s racial attitudes were unusual or in the majority at the time?
August 20 and 24, 1863
In the letter dated August 20, notice that Heuston has made a request to be promoted to officer of a new unit of men. He later goes on, in his letter from August 24, to tell his wife his reasons for requesting such an appointment. Read these letters to try to find out exactly what Heuston requested and why.
December 8, 1863
While telling his wife about life stuck at camp, Heuston wrote about a very interesting activity that he had been doing in this free time. Having been a teacher before the war, Heuston visited and taught at a Negro school. Read more of this letter to learn about his experiences there. See if you can find out what he thinks about these students.
February 1, 1864
Notice that Heuston begins this letter talking about home life. However, as you continue to read you will see that a commander in the Negro Army has sent a special request for Heuston to become an officer of Negro soldiers. Heuston is unsure if he’ll be able to fulfill this request. Read more to find out why Heuston doesn’t think he’ll be able to do it.
September 10, 1864
Notice while reading this letter that Heuston is in the hospital resting his wounds. As you read further note that he has a friend who is an officer the in the 17th Colored Regiment who offers Heuston an interesting job if he is discharged. As you keep reading try to find Heuston’s thoughts about leaving the war and where he believes he will end up.
January 31, 1865
As you read this letter, get a sense of all the moving that Heuston had been doing as a soldier. Be sure to read the part of the letter where Heuston brings up the question, “What shall we do with the Negros after the war?” Then read what Heuston thinks should be done and why, in his opinion, he considers his solution good for African Americans.
Most of the materials in this folder are miscellaneous articles and papers. It includes a series of papers on Temperance and Prohibition. At the very front of the folder is a paper written by Heuston tilted, “The Negro Problem.” In this paper, he gives a general history of African Americans, his experiences with African Americans, and what he called “the Negro problem.” This is some of the most interesting writing that Heuston does throughout the whole collection! He tells amazing prewar experiences that are very unusual for a White Midwesterner. If you want to skip Heuston’s history of African Americans start on page seven to get right to his experiences.
War Journals: September 2, 1862 – June 12-16, 1865
The original handwritten war journals are located in Box 2 (volumes 15, 16, 17, and 18).
Here are the typed war journals located in the folder marked Transcription of War Journals.
In B.F. Heuston’s journals he mainly writes brief sentences of where he was that day, how many miles he marched, and what the landscape looked like. He would occasionally tell details of an event that happened that day such when he visited a Negro school, or traveled on a steamboat and took on bullets from across the river. As you go through Heustons letters it would be a great idea to check with the dates in his journal to get a better understanding of what is happening with Heuston at that time.
Reviewed by: Mitchell Bechtel
Pictured: Isaac W. Glines in July 1874Library of Congress BL MSS BF-18
The Glines-James Family Papers collection was donated by Geneva James—one of the members of the Glines-James family. Geneva James was dedicated to telling her family’s history, so she re-typed most of the documents in the collection to make them more readable, organized the collection, and even contributed documents she wrote herself. Thank you, Geneva James!
The Glines-James Family Papers collection is a great way to learn about what life was like in Wisconsin before, during, and after the Civil War. It provides insight about the past mainly through personal letters between family members. The collection also contains newspaper clippings and various written works by family members. Altogether these documents portray the Glines-James family’s day-to-day life, their struggles as new residents of Wisconsin, and life during the Civil War.
This friendly finding aid will focus particularly on the time period during the Civil War. Specifically, it will examine the struggles—whether they be war or family related—of a Union soldier. It will also briefly analyze the influence of the Civil War on the soldiers’ family members, especially relationships and financial needs. When men went off to war, the families had to take on their work, such as farm chores and odd jobs. Also, the distance and threat of the unknown strained relationships because, back then, people’s main form of communication was through written letters, which took time to be sent back and forth. Not many people think about how families suffered during the Civil War. Thanks to Geneva James, we have a firsthand account of these struggles.
Note: Because there are so many people in the Glines-James family, the collection can sometimes be confusing. Below is a list of one branch of the family. It contains members of the family that you will most likely encounter in this specific portion of the collection. You may notice that some of the children have two last names, with one of the names written in parenthesis. This indicates a woman who married. The name in parenthesis is the woman’s maiden name, or the last name given her at birth, while the name not in parenthesis is her married last name.
Parents: Isaac Wesley Glines (Father), Mary Ann (Ware) Glines (Mother)
Children: Edward Pendleton Glines, Charles Wesley Glines, Marietta (Glines) Lloyd, Helen Scott (Glines) James, James Mansfield Glines, Ida Theodosia Glines, Albert Sylvanus Glines, Isaac William Glines
In its entirety, this collection contains three boxes and one oversized folder. This Friendly Finding Aid will focus on letters from box 1 and folders 1 and 3 of the collection. These folders contain information on weather and travelling, soldier training, health issues, injury and death, family-related struggles, fear of the unknown, and family members’ struggles during war. The letters are arranged by their author—not chronologically. Letters from each family member listed in the family tree above can be found in both folders 1 and 3. Each letter hits a range of topics, so even though certain letters are highlighted below don’t be afraid to read more!
Note: When reading these letters, keep in mind who the author is writing to. They may be more inclined to hold back the truth or vice versa, depending on who gets the letter. For example, is the letter to Mom or a brother? Think about what is written and what is not written!
1. Go to the folder number listed (in sections below).
2. Look for the date on the letter. Most of the dates will be at the top of the document, but for a few you may have to hunt a little.
**If you are looking for letters on a specific topic and person, you can find them in either folder (most of the letters are in folder 3). Look at the end of the letter to see who wrote it (A letter signed “Love, E. Pendleton Glines,” is from E. Pendleton Glines!).
Now you know how to find what you need, and you can search to your heart’s content!
During this time soldiers travelled long distances by foot. They were forced to endure extreme weather conditions, poor sleeping conditions, and soreness—both from walking and carrying their supplies with them. Learn about the effects of weather and travelling on soldiers’ physical and mental health in letters written by Edward Pendleton Glines. Here are two to get started!
Folder 1: December 6, 1862 (from Edward P. Glines to Charles Glines, his brother)
Folder 3: September 1, 1861 (from Edward P. Glines to his father, Isaac Wesley Glines)
Military training was grueling and could sometimes be demoralizing to soldiers. For example, soldiers hiked for many days and hundreds of miles. Then, once they had arrived at their destination, soldiers were put through rigorous twice daily training sessions. Evidence of the difficulties of military training can be found in letters written by Edward Pendleton Glines. Be sure to read:
Folder 3: August (9 or 14—it is unclear) 1861 (from Edward P. Glines to his mother, Mary Ann Glines)
Disease and illness affected both soldiers and their family members. Health issues in the field and at home were a cause for worry because medicine was not as developed as it is today. Illnesses spread quickly and were especially alarming on military bases because soldiers lived in such close proximity to one another. To see how health issues affected soldiers and their families, read letters written by Edward Pendleton Glines, Mary Ann Ware Glines, Charles Glines, and Mary Ann’s sister, Elizabeth. To begin, read:
Folder 3: July 31, 1862 (from Edward P. Glines to his father, Isaac Wesley)
Folder 3: February 16, 1862 (from Elizabeth to Isaac Wesley Glines)
Injury and death were (and still are) two of the most recognized stressors for soldiers. Not only did soldiers have to worry about injuring themselves or being killed, they also had to worry about their fellow soldiers being injured or killed. To learn about the hardships soldiers encountered when facing injury and death, read letters written by Edward Pendleton Glines (especially those he wrote to his father, Isaac). Be sure to read:
Folder 3: August 13, 1862 (from Edward P. Glines to his father, Isaac Wesley)
Soldiers were greatly affected by the time they had to spend away from their family. Not only did they miss out on family events, but they had to decide what to share and what to keep to themselves. They wanted to inform their loved ones, but also did not want to cause them too much worry. Read letters written by Edward Pendleton Glines (especially those he wrote to his mother, Mary Ann) to learn more about this. Be sure to read:
Folder 3: July 10, 1862 (from Edward P. Glines to his brother, Charles)
Folder 3: September 1, 1861 (from Edward P. Glines to his father, Isaac Wesley)
**Note: Compare Edward P. Glines’ writing to his mother and his father. Does he reveal more about his struggles (or types of struggles) to one of his parents? Is he more concerned with protecting one parent than the other?
Keep in mind that there was no way for soldiers to know how long the fighting would last, or if they would even return home. Each day soldiers feared they might die. This sense of not knowing and also not being able to control whether they lived or died deeply affected them both during and after the war. This concern is evident in letters written by Edward Pendleton (especially those written to his siblings and father). Be sure to read:
Folder 3: January 30, 1862 (from Edward P. Glines to his mother, Mary Ann)
**Note: Pay close attention to Edward P. Glines’ attitude. Look for highs and lows and consider what may have caused them. Do this to better understand the emotional rollercoaster a soldier experiences.
Not only is war difficult for the soldiers, but it also takes a toll on their family members—both emotionally and financially. For poorer families every member plays a part providing for the household. If one member is gone to war those at home must take on more responsibility and chores. War is also extremely tough on family relationships. Not being able to see someone is disheartening, and people tend to assume the worst when they have gone for a long time without news. For evidence of this, read letters written to Edward Pendleton Glines from his siblings and parents. Make sure to read:
Folder 3: October 19, 1861 (from Edward P. Glines to his mother, Mary Ann)
Reviewed by: Katie Rittgers
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is a national organization that formed in 1961. They were organized to provide professional and public education about the medical dangers of nuclear weapons and war. They were concerned about the rising tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The La Crosse chapter of the organization first met on April 28, 1982, and the meeting was attended by only 13 people! Their membership grew however, and they were active for about ten years, until the end of the Cold War. They formally disbanded on April 20, 1995.
As mentioned above, the main goal of PSR was to educate the public on what effect nuclear fallout would have on the world. They wanted to stop the U.S. nuclear arms build-up and persuade Russia to do the same. They also wanted to halt testing and funding of nuclear weapons. They wanted to prevent war with the Soviet Union, and as a result save the world from nuclear destruction. Being doctors, they focused on health issues related to nuclear war. They argued that even one nuclear explosion (in either the U.S. or Russia) would overwhelm the medical resources available. Also, those that didn’t die in the initial explosion would be practically helpless in dealing with health issues brought on by the fallout.
The La Crosse group reached out to Wisconsinites by giving lectures at different events on college campuses, in hospitals, and on TV and radio. They also provided documentary screenings of movies that went into detail about the arms race and its potential damage. The most popular of these, which the group not only showed at events of their own but circulated throughout the state, was called The Last Epidemic: Medical Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War. It is a short, 11-minute film which can still be found online. The group also held forums for many public speakers. As the organization grew, so did their message. As a result, not only are the views of the PSR thoroughly represented in this collection, but so are those of everyday citizens. What may be surprising is that, though there were many people who were in agreement with the PSR, there are also examples of those who thought the group were simply Soviet puppets. Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States from 1981-1989, was one of their skeptics!
This is a rather large collection, totaling four boxes, however the focus of this finding aid is on box 1, specifically folders 1-6, 18, and 19. This box contains great information about the group (both the national and local organization), La Crosse’s views on the arms race, and also events going on in the world at this time.
Remember, this finding aid only focuses on only some of the contents of box 1. Folders 7-17 are not included because they mostly include paperwork on the business end of the organization (insurance, finances, etc.), and letters between members of the local and national group. Most of the letters are repeated in an easier-to-read format in the newsletters and newspaper articles that are covered below. Folder 17 details a meeting between PSR member James C. Baumgaertner and Steve Gunderson, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin who served from 1981-1997. The two discussed much of what was going on in the national government during the Reagan Administration about nuclear arms and national defense budgets. While it is an interesting read, it is not covered here.
Take Note: Russia, USSR, and the Soviet Union are all the same country. The collection uses all three labels.
This folder is the best starting point to learn all about the PSR, as it contains much of the general background about the national organization and La Crosse chapter. There are three types of materials in the folder: 1) a pamphlet entitled “Preventing Nuclear War”; 2) handouts; 3) Newspaper clippings from La Crosse, national, and international papers. Read the pamphlet first, since it’s a quick read and offers a lot of important information. Next, read some of the handouts that cover the effects of nuclear war. These make clear the dangers that the PSR were trying to prevent. Last, read some of the newspaper articles. They span from 1980-1987. Three important articles are: “An Appeal to Physicians of the World,” a call to action for all fellow physicians, “Diagnosing Nuclear War,” a more general overview of the rising tensions between the United States and Soviet Union, and “Armageddon,” which lays out the horrible effects of nuclear war on those who were (un)lucky enough to survive.
This is the largest folder in the collection, with about ten years’ worth of newsletters! They detail different topics of discussion from PSR meetings, mainly information about events the group was holding, including film screenings, public talks, and public receptions. If the group was hosting an outside speaker, background information about the speaker is given. The key to finding a specific newsletter is to look at the date, located at the top of the front page. At first, the amount of information may be intimidating, but there is no need to read every single newsletter. There are two main sections that would be the best to focus on in order to get information about the organization and their time period. The first is “Membership Activity” found on the first page of each newsletter. The second is “From the News,” usually found on the second or third page. Pick any year, and read “Membership Activity” and “From the News” for that year (the newsletters were usually published every 2-3 months). These sections will give a sense of both the group’s outreach, and what was happening in the U.S. and Soviet Union.
This folder is a collection of newspaper articles from 1982-83. All of them come from local La Crosse newspapers, yet the focus is not entirely on the PSR. There are articles detailing student rallies, peaceful protests, and editorials about nuclear war from doctors and professors not in the PSR. There is also focus on what is going on in the Soviet Union at the time! Pick two or three articles and read them.
This folder also contains local newspaper clippings, however they are from 1984-85 and mostly letters to the editor. The letters give us an insight as to how local citizens felt about the arms race. Not everyone was in favor of the efforts of the PSR, and this folder provides both sides of this argument. An interesting example of this is a stapled collection of opinions from the La Crosse Tribune in October/November 1985. Unfortunately, the original opinion that started the debate is not included, but there is a back and forth of ideas. Read these to see positive and negative opinions of the group.
This is the last folder that contains primarily newspaper clippings. They range from 1986-1991. There is a greater focus in this folder on what survivors of past nuclear attacks, (including Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Chernobyl) thought about the current conflict. Many articles giving their firsthand accounts of attacks and the aftermath that people had to live through.
This folder has press releases and original letters from members of the PSR to news outlets detailing meeting times and upcoming events. Basically, it is much of the same that can be found in folders 3-5, however in their raw forms, and may be interesting to look at them for this reason. The press releases span from 1982-88.
This folder contains letters and newsletters from the PSR to outside groups, mainly hospitals. They show one way the PSR was trying to educate the public. Pick a couple of these to see how the average La Crosse resident might learn about the hazards of nuclear war. The dates of these letters run from 1982-85.
This folder contains correspondence between the PSR and the State Medical Society of Wisconsin. Here, we can see the names of Wisconsin doctors involved with Physicians for Social Responsibility. We can also see how medical professionals all across the state approached educating the public about the dangers of nuclear radiation. Issues include: the effects of the fallout, the problem with shelters and effective medical personnel (as many doctors would also be wounded or killed), and just pain in general. Pick two or three letters, and if you are lucky you will experience an eye-opening read. The letters make clear exactly why the group felt so strongly about getting ordinary citizens to understand what could potentially happen in the event of a nuclear attack.
Reviewed by: Tyler Wisniewski
University of Wisconsin- La Crosse Area Research Center
Joseph Motivans had an amazing life. He was born in 1932 Latvia, a Baltic country in the Eastern part of Europe. He grew up in Latvia, became a refugee in Germany, came to the United States, worked as a sharecropper when he was only 16, was drafted into the Korean War, went to college, and eventually taught at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. The section from his childhood to his eventual service for the United States is particularly interesting, so that is what this FFA will follow. If you are looking for a child’s perspective on being a refugee in World War II, and the immigration process after the war, then this oral history would be perfect for you!
This collection is an oral history, and is available to listen to or read. This FFA follows the typed transcript, and focuses on some of the more amazing parts of his life, like how the threat of communism forced him to leave his home. This Finding Aid is separated into its three focuses: 1) “Childhood in Latvia,” 2) “Escaping the Russians and WWII,” and 3) “Coming to the United States.” Any one of these would make a great National History Day project!
In the first portion of the interview (Childhood in Latvia, p. 1-44) Motivans introduces himself, and talks about his family, and their lives. He then describes life in Latvia, and his childhood. He also goes into detail about school, meals, summer vacation, and life on the farm. It is an overall description of the Latvian culture. In the next section (Escaping the Russians in WWII, p. 56-125), Motivans describes his experiences in World War II. He talks about how the world was so focused on Hitler that Stalin just swept in under the radar to take the Baltics. He talks about the Communist takeover, mass deportations, purges, hiding from the Russians, his family’s escape, life in the refugee camp, riots, and life after the war as a “displaced person.” He also tells how he lived in the camps. You might be surprised to learn that he got an education, and at times he had fun! In the final section (Coming to the United States, p. 125-147), Motivans talks about his life in the United States. He came over when he was just 16. He talks about how he got here, his life in Mississippi, how the WWII refugee and Black population got along, and college life.
Pages 1-11: Motivans introduces himself and gives some basic background knowledge such as: birth place and date, when he came to the United States, and where he grew up. Motivans explains the economic depression that was occurring in Latvia at the time of his birth as well. These are important pages to read for understanding his life and times.
Pages 11-17: This is where Motivans describes Latvia after World War II. Motivans discusses the political climate in each of the main countries that make up the Baltic region. Then he talks about Latvia and how there were many political parties and how communism was rising. (At the time, Latvia was independent and creating its own democracy, but the Russian threat was near.) Read these pages to find out how the Russians threatened Latvia’s new found independence.
Pages 20-33: On these pages Motivans discusses his education, and what school was like in Latvia. Motivans also talks about how he behaved in school and the corporal punishments (physical punishments) used. He also talks about sex education, and how he learned about the birds and the bees. (Oh la la!)
Pages 33-38: In this small, but important section, Motivans talks about medical care in Latvia, and about the role sorcery played. Did you know that there were not many doctors at the time and that people relied on the town “expert” who would use magical powers to heal them? Motivans pulls from past experiences to describe the time he broke his leg.
Pages 38-41: Motivans discusses social life in Latvia in this section. He talks about drinking, pastimes, and holidays. Remember being read to when you were younger? You can read about Motivans’s bedtime stories and cultural events here.
Pages 41-44: This is where Motivans talks about what the Latvian people ate. He talks about how the harder you worked, the more varied your diet became. He also discusses the meals had at certain times of the year, like holidays. Did you know that during certain holidays people had to fast?
Pages 56-60: Motivans begins with the Communist takeover in the Baltics. This was all done legally, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Read here to see what the Motivans family thought about Jewish people.
Pages 60- 69: In this section you can learn about how the Communist takeover affected every aspect of life, even language! He begins telling his memories of his neighbors being deported. He tells who was first to go, what they brought with them, and where they were sent. How do you think this affected Motivans’ daily life? Read here to find out.
Pages 69-76: Motivans talks about when his family thought they were next on the list to be deported to Germany. Their saviors were the German Nazis! If you think you have heard everything about the German and Russian armies; read here for a new perspective.
Pages 76-89: Here is where Motivans and his family escape Latvia. (They decided that being in Germany would be better than going to Russia.) Read here for the heart-racing escape of Motivans and his family.
Pages 89-98: In this section Motivans describes being transported in Germany, packed like sardines in railroad cars. Once in the refugee camp, he talks about how he and his family got supplies and survived. Read here to see what it was like.
Pages 98-102: Here Motivans discusses riots in the camp, and how they got started. Next he tells how he and his family were sent to a different camp, and almost got sent to Siberia!
Pages 102-125: In this portion, Motivans talks about what happened after the war. He and his family could not go home so they continued to travel west to another camp. He describes his education, the Black Market, gangs, books, alcohol, dental care, and what it was like living in an American Zone. Motivans talks about how he handled all the changes, the mixing of rural and urban populations, and the segregation within the camps. Could you imagine moving to a new place with a lot of different people who speak different languages? Read here to see how Motivans handled this.
Pages 125-130: Motivans discusses how the immigration process worked in 1948. Oftentimes when you think of immigration, you might think of Ellis Island. See how different Motivans’ experience was by reading here.
Pages 130-135: Here is where Motivans talks about his life in Mississippi. He and his family were sharecroppers on a cotton plantation. Working on a plantation was hard. Do you think Motivans still got to go to school? Read here to find out.
Pages 135-138: Here Motivans discusses the relationship between the Black population and the refugee population. He then goes into the relationship that the refugees had with the Southern Whites. How do you think refugees were welcomed after World War II? Read here to find out more.
Pages 138-147: Here is where Motivans discusses his family moving to Walls, Mississippi. Motivans talks about high school, junior college, and cultural influences that changed his life, like smoking. During the 1950s you might think about greasers and poodle skirts. Read here to find out how Motivans fit in with this!
Reviewed by: Katie Buika
This collection is made up of a series of newsletters. Each one contains letters from La Crosse men during World War II. The La Crosse native who started these newsletters was C. Ranous Stewart, often referred to as “Boog” in the letters. He printed them so that all of his friends would stay up to date with each other and current events in La Crosse. The men in correspondence are in the service stationed around the world, so staying in touch was very important. This Friendly Finding Aid focuses on one specific man stationed in the Pacific Theater, John Berg. His letters provide an inside look at the invasions of multiple islands, interactions with native islanders, 1940s popular culture, and what life was like for a soldier stationed in the Pacific. The letters included illustrate the true horrors of war, including face-to-face experiences with the Japanese, while also presenting what men did in their down time. Thus, these letters do a great job illustrating that the war was not constant violence and battles, and that not everyone fully supported it.
This collection is composed of one box with eight folders of newsletters. Each folder contains roughly fifteen newsletters, all written using a typewriter so they are very easy to read. The newsletters are arranged by date for convenience. John Berg wrote several letters found in each folder; however, this finding aid highlights some of his more exciting and important letters for understanding World War II in the Pacific. To access these letters, follow the folder number and date on the front page of the newsletter.
*This collection contains offensive language, mature themes, and racial themes.
November 16, 1943
John Berg begins to describe his experiences and updates his La Crosse readers on his life in the navy out in the Pacific. By various clues, one can assume he is currently stationed at the American Samoa Islands or New Guinea, but he is not able to disclose that information. Read this letter to find out how Berg reacts to his first encounter with natives.
December 28, 1943
Berg describes his experience in the Gilbert Island Invasion and the Invasion of Tarawa. He details the true horrors of war and notes that the papers in America have toned down the bloodshed of the invasion vastly. Berg explains some gruesome images of combat. Reading this letter will give you a first-hand look at the combat strategies of both Japanese and American soldiers.
March 9, 1944
John Berg describes his part in an invasion against Japan. He talks in detail about fighting and killing the Japanese. The newsletter contains a submission from a man stationed in the Pacific, Eddie Schlutter, as well. In his letter Schlutter talks directly to Berg about his experiences. He and John share a mutual hatred for the Japanese, and Eddie talks about not liking being in such close contact with them. He uses a racial slur calling them “yellow apes,” a term that is seen multiple times throughout this collection. Read this newsletter to understand the racial tensions that became prominent during the war.
March 21, 1944
John Berg explains the toll the war is having on the ships and submarines. He also describes a tradition among the Navy of flying the Japanese flag for every vessel they sink. He says how well the submarines are doing and that they should receive more credit for their part in the war in the Pacific. Read this letter carefully because it will help you better understand his upcoming July 19 letter.
April 4, 1944
Berg shares that he is in the mid Pacific and has crossed the equator, stopping at an island infamous for its resistance to Marines. If you want to learn about how soldiers in the Pacific kept themselves occupied during their down time, this is the letter to read!
June 13, 1944
John Berg informs everyone that he has moved to a base that he considers the “last outpost of civilization.” Although his experience there was not horrible, his commander did work them hard. Find out what Navy men did when they were stationed at a remote destination and essentially cut off from the rest of the world.
July 19, 1944
John Berg updates everyone that he shot down a Japanese plane and now they have a Japanese flag on the side of their ship. (See folder 2 newsletter March 21,1944 to know more about this tradition.) He reports heavy casualties at Saipan, and hearing news over Japanese radio about new German rockets. He mentions that the broadcaster “Tokyo Rose” was starting to get cocky almost challenging the US to a raid. Use this letter to understand the role that media played in the war.
August 22, 1944
This letter from John Berg is one of the highlights of the whole collection because it contains a war poem recited by one of the Navy men at a celebration. Before he gets to the poem, Berg lets everyone know he is now safe in Guam after a tough naval operation. He describes running into John Roosevelt, son of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was president at the time. (Why was the president’s son on Berg’s ship?) Berg complains about the movies they are sent by the government, saying that if he sees another “band playing, flag waving, patriotic production” he will write a letter to his Congressman! Finally, Berg describes the celebration held for his ship’s one-year anniversary where the poem is highlighted. Consider how it reflected the morale and sentiments of Berg and his shipmates. Below is the first stanza:
To The 243
Heres to the LST 243
You old iron clad bitch,
We brought you down the Mississippi,
And right on thru the ditch.
September 12, 1944
Berg gives an update that things in the Pacific are starting to move fast and that his unit is not staying in one spot for long. He thinks that it will not be long before the US takes back the Philippines. He also provides an interesting description of an island he has visited. Notice the contrast of this island with other islands that saw heavy combat. Try to relate what Berg says in this letter with his December 28, 1943 letter.
October 19, 1944
Berg describes an invasion taking place in Peleliu. He mentions Japanese tactics. After winning the battle he is glad to be leaving but wished they would go somewhere “civilized.” Look over this letter to understand the toll war had on soldiers’ mental health.
December 6, 1944
In this letter Berg promises his friend, Al Scott, that he will keep an eye out for his brother who is a prisoner at a camp in the Philippines. Read this letter to see the camaraderie war established between men and how they all shared a common longing for the war to be over.
February 27, 1945
This newsletter contains two submissions from Berg. The first letter dated February 2, informs the men that the censorship restriction has been lifted and he can finally tell them all the places he has sailed recently. Along with many other places, he mentions that he visited Lae, New Guinnea which was the last place Amelia Earheart was seen alive. He also describes his interaction with the Filipinos. The second letter by Berg dated February 8, lets everyone know he is coming home. Read this newsletter to hear Berg’s role in the Linguyan Gulf Invasion and stories of his time spent with the Filipino natives.
Reviewed by: Sarah McKee
This collection is actually a book. It contains over 50 essays written by veterans involved in World War II. It is a collection of the work done in the English courses of Edgar C. Knowlton, a professor at Wisconsin State Teachers College or modern-day University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. Many of the authors have multiple essays detailing their experiences in the war. Entries contain combat experiences, participation in the army band, factory work in the United States, and rest and relaxation. There is even a discussion of a kind of caste system between officers and their men. The essays were written between 1945 and 1946 and are easily found by title and author in the table of contents. The focus of this Friendly Finding Aid is on the combat experiences of the veterans with an emphasis on the psychological injuries that they sustained during this conflict. It was the topic most frequently written about with approximately 20 entries and references. The Knowlton collection features encounters in both the European and Pacific theatres. They are on sea, land, and in the air because some of the missions involved parachuting out of planes and aerial combat.
All of the essays in this collection are within one book. It is a maroon colored book with the title, “World War II: Veterans Experiences in War”, written on the spine. One reason that there were so many veterans attending UWL after the war was the GI Bill. It was national legislation that gave returning soldiers many different opportunities, including funding to attend school. You can think of the GI Bill as one way that the US government honored veterans for their sacrifices overseas.
Please keep three things in mind as you read these essays:
1. Readers must be aware that the intended audience for these works was only the professor, Dr. Knowlton. The essays were graded, so it is possible that there is information that has been omitted or exaggerated on behalf of scoring higher.
2. As an important note, this collection does not have page numbers! If a quote on page one is referenced, it will be on the first page of that particular essay. Page two occurs on the second, three on the third, and so forth until a new essay begins.
3. This collection contains offensive language, mature themes, and racial slurs as a part of the experience of WWII Veterans. The views within these essays are not those expressed of the creator of the Friendly Finding Aid.
Each description of each essay will note at the end whether the piece is written in cursive, handwritten in print, or typed. Do not fret if you are inexperienced with reading cursive. It does not take very long to become familiar with someone’s writing style. Ask an adult or archivist for help if you find yourself stuck. The essays have been categorized into the European and Pacific theatres.
“Front Line Duty” (Anonymous) This essay describes some American soldiers who are at first eager to see combat but are dismayed as their supply lines are cut off by surrounding German forces. Their prospects look grim as they go three days without food. Read this essay to find out how they survive. (Cursive)
“Paratrooper Delux” (James R. Meyer) This essay describes a pilot and his squad in a glider being shot at by Germans. “When we got ourselves untangled, the Heinies had us “zeroed” and we all were shot at least once getting out of the glider… One fellow said, in a panicky voice, that he had been hit again… I heard Page’s voice say, “Toss me the pilot’s gun, I think that he is dead.” I had been shot through the right arm and back, so I told him, “I’m not dead, Page, but take the damned thing, I can’t use it.”(Page 2) The situation of this writer and his soldiers is quite grim however the existence of his story if true, is proof of his survival. Read the rest of the essay to discover who saves them. (Typed)
“Re-supply” (James R. Meyer) While soldiers fought for different reasons, they were all affected by the horrors of war. Some troops felt terrible seeing their brothers in arms fall in combat, others were desensitized to the violence and felt nothing. Read this essay for a powerful example of how one soldier reacted to combat. (Cursive)
“D Plus Seven” (Ferne Malde) This entry out of the Knowlton collection details the fear of a new weapon that the Germans had developed. It was a rocket, “A bomb with wings and flame spitting from its tail [that] would dive [just] not on military targets but at random, on any person that perchance was in its wake.” (page 1) This essay is a great way to understand the psychological factors of weapons. (Typed)
“My First Day in Combat” (Ted Dusso) After combat for the first time, reality can set in for many soldiers. “We all escaped unscathed and as I sat in my foxhole waiting for the shelling to stop, I thought that combat wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be. When, after the next time we were shelled, I found that two of our boys had been killed. I began to think differently. This was not a game anymore, but real war.” (pages 1-2) Read more of this powerful essay. (Cursive)
“The Battle” (Joseph Welland) Soldiers are aboard the USS Brant as their radar picks up signs of a German U-boat (Submarine). Find out how they react. (Typed)
“What’s Troubling You?” (Benjamin B. Walter) This essay gives insight as to the psychological effects of war. A soldier is talking in his sleep and murmuring to himself. His bunkmate asks him about it the next day and responds with a story of a deadly encounter. (Cursive)
“C’Est La Guerre” (Virgil Cullen) This essay describes an assault on a Japanese ammunition dump in which a US artillery soldier gets alarmingly close to the enemy position. The soldier being described in the essay (Stanley R. Richardson) approaches the dump and before he can pull the pin on a grenade, something unexpected happens. (Cursive)
“Captured” (Anonymous) As an American patrol quietly advances on a German position, some soldiers determine they aren’t as fit for war. “Before we even got to the first row of bushes, a shot rang out. One of our boys decided he had had enough and shot himself in the hand.” (page1) As they advance, their company becomes separated and panic ensues. Read this essay to gain a better understanding of how war affects people differently. (Typed)
“Standing-By” (Anonymous) A tense situation escalates as a German U-Boat closes in on an American ship. The American ship is damaged after a direct hit to the engine room. The soldiers prepare to abandon ship but before they can do so, something else happens. (Typed)
“The Trip Back” (Henry J. Lukes) This essay is written from the perspective of a soldier on furlough and enroute home. He discusses his combat experiences in Europe with Mr. Johnson and tells about having to bail out of his plane into enemy territory. Read more to find out how they make it back. (Typed)
“First Taste of Action” (Anonymous) This essay is about soldiers who are met with a surprise attack. One soldier succumbs to the effects of the traumatic experience and is sent back to the Hawaiian Islands. Continue reading to discover how one soldier’s first combat experience was almost his last. (Cursive)
“Baptism” (Richard Frick) This essay takes place in the Pacific Theatre at night off the coast of New Guinea. The soldiers are ambushed by a squad of Japanese planes. The soldier wrote, “It was, as the shrapnel whistled overhead, that I began to be scared rather than excited. It was the fear of death hanging over me that changed things.” (page 2) Read more to learn about the terror of a Japanese ambush. (Typed)
“You Can’t Tell” (Richard Frick) This essay describes an attack on a US ship by Japanese subs. Multiple times, torpedoes narrowly miss the side of the ship. Eventually, the men aboard the US vessel are able to return fire. Read more to discover who ends up sinking. (Typed)
“The First Japanese Plane I Saw Downed” (John Jameson) The soldier being described in this essay boards a ship in February of 1945. Within the first few days, an enemy plane has been sighted and it appears to be going straight for the ship…not slowing down. This student’s essay describes what could have been a kamikaze attack. (Handwritten, print)
“Bennie” (John Jameson) This entry tells a story of an American soldier named Bennie. From the author’s account, it seems as though Bennie was a great guy. The author spends time speaking about his qualities but suddenly there is an attack on their vessel. A Japanese plane divebombs into the side of their ship but something goes wrong and Bennie is missing. (Cursive)
Reviewed by: Brian Allen
This exciting collection boasts plenty of documents showing how Civil War soldiers from Wisconsin fought and lived as members of the army. Since these soldiers were all from Wisconsin they fought for the Union side against southern states, or the Confederacy. Both sides had huge armies separated into smaller units. These documents correspond to the smaller units called companies and regiments (see glossary). They give you access to a ton of great details about brave Wisconsinites and fighting in the Civil War.
The documents in this collection can be thought of as falling into two categories: 1) documents tracking individual soldiers and their experiences and 2) descriptions of the combat activities.
There are a range of documents that help bring the characteristics and experiences of individual soldiers to life. Muster in papers, for example, give information about the soldiers when they signed up for the army, like height, hometown, and occupation. Discharge records give reasons why soldiers left the army, often because they were injured or killed. Court cases shed light on the rules soldiers needed to follow and the corresponding punishments. The large numbers of troops and savage combat of this war meant that armies were constantly replacing their soldiers. As a result, muster in and discharges appear in every folder in this collection and provide a great sense of the range of Wisconsinites who fought in the Civil War.
Soldiers’ letters and written histories are much rarer but reveal the important role these Wisconsin units played in combat. There is a letter from one of the North’s most famous and brilliant generals, William T. Sherman. He praises his Wisconsin troops for their success in battle. There is also a written history by Lucius Fairchild. It gives specific details about battles. Fairchild describes the “murderous fire” and “disaster” his regiment encountered in some of the most important battles of the war like Bull Run and Antietam. Amazing stuff!
The handwriting in these documents can be challenging – but not impossible – to read. Documents which describe individual soldiers’ identities (like muster in roles and discharge papers) are forms with a lot of filled in blanks, which makes figuring out the handwriting relatively easy, while Fairchild’s documents contain paragraphs of rather sloppy penmanship. I suggest beginning with the documents that describe individual soldiers so that you can get used to this style of cursive before tackling long written paragraphs in Fairchild’s and Sherman’s documents.
This collection consists of one small box with six folders and two larger boxes each containing over ten folders. The folders in the small box correspond with a company, while those in both large boxes focus on the 2nd Wisconsin regiment. This review focuses on just a few of the folders from each box, focusing on soldiers and combat.
Folder 3 contains William T. Sherman’s letter praising Company I of the 8th Wisconsin regiment for their success in battle (until an illness in camp kept them from entering future combat).
Folder 4 holds Colonel Lucius Fairchild’s written history describing the fighting and marching his regiment endured.
Folder 4 holds an order given to the whole regiment which describes soldiers’ daily routines like when they woke up, ate and drilled. Very interesting!
File 8 contains lists of clothing which show that many soldiers lacked full sets of clothing!
Folders 1 and 2 contain the largest group of court cases in the entire collection. These documents reveal the rules soldiers needed to follow and the punishments if they disobeyed them.
Reviewed by: Steven Bonin