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 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.
On page 2,
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.”
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
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Murphy Library Area Research Center
Orris “Bob” White, the man behind the collection of the Orris O. White Papers, 1919-1962, lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression. This finding aid will focus only on his experience during and after World War I (1914-1918), because it had a large and long-lasting impact on the rest of White’s life. White was a poet and English professor at La Crosse State Teacher’s College, (which later became UWL), from 1914-1952. His teaching career was interrupted when he left to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France during World War I. The battlefields were not at all what White and his fellow soldiers were expecting. With hardly any training, the AEF was thrust into the first modern war, with machine guns and more advanced weapons than they could have ever imagined.
After the war, White returned home to his job as a professor, but he and many other veterans still could not make sense of their experiences. Because the soldiers felt misunderstood and different, they were called “The Lost Generation.” They carried not only visible scars, but invisible ones as well, like “shell shock,” or what is known today as PTSD. White and many other veterans turned to poetry and creative writing in order to better understand and explain what they’d experienced during the war. Because of this, they became known as soldier-poets. The soldier-poets tell their own personal history of World War I and the aftermath as the world moved into the modern era.
The Orris O. White collection is made up of two boxes. The first box includes various drafts of White’s poems. The second box also contains drafts of poems, as well as some of White’s creative stories and essays. Since there are multiple drafts and copies of each work scattered throughout the collection, this finding aid will indicate only where a particular document first appears. White and his fellow soldier-poets were rather straightforward with their experiences, because they wanted to explain the reality of war and their memories. The poems and stories are fairly easy to read and interpret. His essays are the most straightforward out of all his works. Nearly every document in the collection is typed, except for Box Two, Folder Four. All documents in that folder are handwritten.
A Note on Poetry and the Themes of the World War I Experience and its Aftermath: The soldier-poets aimed to make sense of their own war memories while they showed the public the reality of these experiences. The themes in these poems often vary between bitter feelings of loss felt during and after the war and disconnection to the modern world, to optimistic patriotism and national pride. Works like “War is Hell” and “Cootie” come straight from White’s experiences. However, an important thing to remember is that though these poems hold value as firsthand accounts of memories, soldier-poets often embellished their memories. It wasn’t on purpose, but the modern warfare of World War I rattled many of the soldier-poets. Even with embellishments, White still acts like a historian, writing down his own experiences and his own story through poetry. Poetry may not be a fact-filled history, but it is still a wonderful form of writing history!
This finding aid lists a selection of poem titles that all deal with World War I and its aftermath. There are many more poems included in the collection than are not listed here. Look at the “See Also” section for other topics White writes about.
Folder Two: Poems
“The World…CALLING or…crying”: This is poem is a patriotic call to duty. Look for examples of White’s nationalism. He places the U.S. in a superior status above other countries, even during a time of uncertainty.
“The Unknown Soldier (of France)”: This poem is in memory of Alan Seeger, another famous soldier-poet. It describes Americans getting ready for war, as well as the soldier’s accounts of the French peasants and the countryside. Many soldier-poets would fall in love with this Old World country, which led some to remain in Europe, or to travel often like White did.
“Torch out of Flanders” and “A Stranger”: These two poems describe the post-war experience. “Torch out of Flanders” tells about the end of the war on Armistice Day (November 11, 1918). “A Stranger” tells about losing a companion in battle, as well as the loss of self.
Folder Seven: Poems
“The Freighter Cook”: This poem is filled with gloomy emotions from the physical injuries leftover from World War I, and life in the U.S. before the Great Depression.
Folder Nine: Poems
“Then God Dropped for War”: White writes that “flying (airplanes) was a means of war” and no longer a joy. This poem describes White’s negative response to the war.
“Tomorrow” (to all the Allied Forces): Contrary to the title, this poem details White’s longing for “yesterday,” or the “good old days.” The poem actually reminds fellow soldiers and veterans “to live, not destroy.” It seems to be a direct response to the violence experienced during World War I, explaining White’s personal reflections and thoughts about his experiences and the aftermath he lived in.
Folder Eleven: Poems
“Silhouettes (of Mississippi Valley)”: This poem uses images of ghosts, dreams, and nature to explore post-war grief.
Folder One: Essays
“Modern Ancient Mariner”: This essay shows White’s confidence in America’s “comeback” after the war. He is hopeful for a return to the “good old days.” He explicitly states that his hope for the future lies in the students he teaches every day at La Crosse! (See Box Two: Folder Seven if you want to read more about the classes White taught).
“The Lost Battalion”: This essay discusses White’s life as a veteran and a professor. He is concerned about the “lost youth,” or the Lost Generation, and states that education, literature, and the arts are the way to help this generation and the United States out of the post-war rut. As a college professor, this perspective makes sense. He puts his hope more in the individual and the arts, rather than industry and development. Fun Find: This typed out essay has an edit in pencil, adding “world” between the “recent war.” World War One was simply called The Great War while it was actually happening. The “world” wasn’t added until later, and the “one” certainly wasn’t added until after World War Two.
“After That—The Deluge”: White tries to explain the struggle of his post-war experience. He feels that the United States is caught in a “national game of make-believe,” avoiding the violence and negative aftermath of the war.
“A Reverie (No. 2)”: In describing violent Midwest blizzards, White mulls over the post-war experience and the odd feeling of “gain out of loss.”
Folder Two: Clipped Essays
“Free”: White criticizes post-war government in this essay.
“Reflecting on the Atmosphere of AEF”: This story explains the specific scene of Armistice Day. It describes the French village he stayed in, as well as the French family he lived with during his time at the front. He explains the loss and disbelief he felt, even as messengers declared the Allied victory. Remember soldier-poets embellished their memories even while they tried to show the reality of war.
“War is Hell”: This seems to be another one of White’s memories. This work tells the story of the soldier’s French friend Pierrot who helped the Allies by discovering and relaying important information. The scene actually takes place after the war was officially over, but raiders still attack the French village overnight.
“Cootie”: Cootie is a French woman who runs the Alley-way Café, an improvised cafeteria for the Allied troops stationed in her French village. White describes the reactions of the soldiers and Cootie to recent battles. Fun Find: Before this story, there is a handwritten apology from White. He apologizes for the actions portrayed in the story. White says he was not himself during the “game of war,” and apologizes for this part of himself that committed such violence.
Folder Three: Poems and Prose
“A Bald-Headed Bachelor Looks at Himself in the Mirror”: This is a fictional story, but it directly references “no man’s land” and trench warfare. This story also explains war injuries, referring to them as “noble wounds.”
Folder Five: Poems
“Bombardier”: This poem shows White’s support for the air force. It describes the feeling of flight and the heroic deeds of pilots.
Folder Seven: Poems and Prose
“Creed”: This poem describes the bitter victory many soldiers felt post-war. Although the Allies won the war, the soldier-poets lament the violence they experienced and committed. They fear these memories will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Reviewed by: Jenae Winter
Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)
This collection was put together for the FFA. It is actually ten different manuscript collections, each with their own title and call number. Together all these different sources tell a story about the LaX Rubber Mills . . . and a lot more!
This collection contains two vertical files on the La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. and LaCrosse Footwear, Inc., six oral history transcripts of people who worked for the La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. and LaCrosse Footwear, Inc., and two booklets published by the Rubber Mills Co. that explain the manufacture of rubber. The two booklets have very unusual names: “Caoutchouc,” published in 1915 (31-pages), and “Caoutchouc II” published in 1925 (39-pages). Don’t be turned off by the name. These booklets are very interesting and informative. They are also filled with pictures of the factory and the production process.
The La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. opened in 1896 in La Crosse and moved to Portland, Oregon in 2001. They imported rubber from Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America for making rubber products, mostly footwear. Though they were a small company, they were unique and grew to be one of the largest employers in La Crosse. This collection not only tells the story of a factory, but brings to light ways La Crosse was connected to other areas in the world because of manufacturing. It also tells the story of unions, strikes, and the exploitation of workers in La Crosse.
All the parts in this collection work very well together. For example, many of the people interviewed in the oral histories talk about the same subject, thus providing a number of viewpoints on the same topic. Likewise, the booklets give background and images to some of the things discussed in the oral histories. Lastly, the vertical files have a wide range of information about everything covered in the both the oral histories and the booklets. Each part of this collection is strong, but together it’s even stronger!
PLEASE NOTE: The La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. changed its name to LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. in 1986.
CITATION FOR LACROSSE FOOTWEAR: La Crosse Businesses Vertical File: LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. (1896- present). Special Collections, Murphy Library,University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
CITATION FOR RUBBER MILLS: La Crosse Businesses Vertical File: La Crosse Rubber Mills (1896-present). Special Collections, Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
PLEASE NOTE: The citation for documents in the vertical files changes depending on what is used. For example, a newspaper article would be cited differently than a pamphlet. Look at a Chicago Style citation guide or ask a librarian or teacher how to cite your specific source.
The two vertical files are very similar. They have many newspaper articles, pamphlets, programs, newsletters, and advertisements that explain the history and the people working for the Rubber Mills and/or LaCrosse Footwear. Most articles date back to the 1970s, but there are some from before that as well.
One of the oldest newspaper articles is from 1887. It describes the factory when it was quite small and also tells about the imported rubber the factory used. Other articles talk about workers’ strikes, the company’s name change, and the company’s move to Oregon. There is also an issue from a newsletter called “LRM Footwear Footnotes” with an interview of a woman who started working in the Rubber Mills in 1907!
Bill Larkin, interviewed by Sandra Molzhon, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 8 April 1997.
Jerry Larkin, interviewed by Herbert Tancil, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 22 April 1997.
Donna Lemke, interviewed by Margaret Larson, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 17 November 1994.
Richard Morkwed, interviewed by Sandra Molzhon, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 1 April 1997.
George Schneider, interviewed by Dan Freudenburg, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 19 March 1997.
Herman Tietz, interviewed by Howard Fredericks, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 20 June and 25 July 1972.
The oral histories are interviews with people who worked at the Rubber Mills. Some people worked at the Mills for only a few years, while others worked there their entire life. These interviews cover topics like: unions, working conditions in the factory, pay, child labor, women in the workplace, family relationships, the Depression, the economy, and war. Some interviews focus on the Rubber Mills for only a few pages, while others talk about it for the entire interview.
Bill Larkin worked as a supervisor for various departments in the Rubber Mills. He worked for the company from 1961 to 1996. The entire interview is about the Rubber Mills.
Pages 1-10 Mr. Larkin talks a lot about work and his work experience. In particular, he discusses how he got his job at the mill, and his family and co-workers. (Some of his co-workers are also family.) On pages 8-9 he mentions women in the factory.
Pages 10-13 cover Larkin’s first day on the job and the smell of rubber. Amazing!
Pages 13-21 Larkin addresses wages and the Mill owners. The Funk family was one of the Mill’s founders and also one of the wealthiest families in La Crosse. On pages 14-15, he describes working with rubber.
Pages 21-22 discuss unions.
Pages 22-25 Larkin talks about how World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and Desert Storm affected the Rubber Mills.
Pages 25-31 Larkin reviews the relationship between the company and the community, the company’s name change, and he gives his opinion on why La Crosse Footwear had the success it did.
Jerry Larkin worked as a chief engineer at the plant. He worked there from 1933 to 1976. The entire interview is about the Rubber Mills.
Pages 2-10 hit a wide range of topics, from politics and the Great Depression, to fellow mill workers, wages, and Tuberculosis! These are just a few of the subjects, therefore, for anyone interested in an overview of mill-related topics, these pages may be just the ticket. Also in this section, it is interesting to note that Jerry Larkin talks about his first day on the job. Bill Larkin’s oral history discusses the same topic, which may make for some enlightening comparisons or connections.
Pages 10-15 talk more about what his job was like, including having to take work home. In addition, Mr. Larkin discusses what he enjoyed about the job, unions, and how wars affected the company.
Pages 15-20 largely cover the mill’s relationship with La Crosse, the company’s growth, and his brothers’ jobs. However, on a completely unrelated topic, Larkin also provides insight into college sports!
Pages 20-29 also cover a lot of topics, including Larkin’s boss, Prohibition, changes made at the factory, and the Great Depression.
Donna Lemke worked on the assembly line and talks about what work was like as a woman. She worked there in the winter of 1947-1948 after graduating high school. Pages 9-16 cover the Rubber Mills.
Pages 9-13 Lemke talks about getting hired and what it was like to work at the mill, including how she dressed. In particular she discusses some of the dangers related to mill work and her memory of the factory’s smell. (She specifically notes the smell of the rubber cement.) Two other topics of note from this section are lay offs and the mill’s production during the wars.
Pages 14-16 discuss workers’ wages and more about getting laid off.
Richard Morkwed did not work on the factory floor. He worked in the billing department, the purchasing department, and later became the Vice President of Distribution. He worked at the company from 1948 to 1992. The entire interview is about the Rubber Mills.
Page 2-11 cover his history with the factory, including his first day on the job. Mr. Morkwed explains some of the different work duties related to the factory, and just like in Jerry Larkin’s interview, he talks about taking work home.
Pages 11-15 cover a number of different topics, but most notably, workplace atmosphere, layoffs, and the mill’s transfer to a new owner.
Pages 15-20 cover some very interesting topics, including, unions, the Korean War, buying rubber and cotton, the U.S.’s dependence on synthetic rubber during WWII, and company innovation. This part of the interview pairs nicely with the “Cauotchouc” booklets because they talk about the history of the La Crosse Rubber Mills where the factory got the rubber for making its shoes. Just a hint, it didn’t come from Wisconsin!
George Schneider bought the company in 1982 and became Chairman of the Board. The entire interview is about the company.
Pages 2-6 discuss how Schneider became involved with the company, product changes that happened during his watch, and his philosophy about the the mill.
Pages 6-11 comment on other factories that competed with the La Crosse factory, and innovative changes made.
On pages 11-15 Mr. Schneider talks about hist relationship with workers. These pages also discuss strikes. Remember Schneider was the mill’s owner, so his perspective is important to keep in mind.
Pages 15-20 cover the mill’s role in the community, places Schneider traveled on business trips, and his vision for the company.
Herman Tietz worked in the factory from 1906 to 1908 making shoes. Only pages 31-38 cover the Rubber Mills. The rest of the interview is about other topics.
On pages 31-33 Mr. Tietz describes what the Rubber Mills looked like way back in 1903. He talks about what his job was like, and also his wages.
Pages 33-36 covers how shoes were made, and again, the smell of the rubber is brought up. (See also Donna Lemke and Bill Larkin.) Mr. Tietz goes further on this subject and describes the lack of ventilation in the factory.
Pages 36-38 discuss unions, working conditions,and his brother’s fallout with management.
PLEASE NOTE: “Cauotchouc II” is also available as a digital resource at: http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/digital/lacrosse/LaxFootwearCatalog1925/01.htm.
La Crosse Rubber Mills Company. “Caoutchouc: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear: An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its Growth to the Finished Product.” La Crosse, WI: La Crosse Rubber Mills Company, 1915.
La Crosse Rubber Mills Company. “Caoutchouc II: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear: An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its Growth to the Finished Product.” La Crosse, WI: La Crosse Rubber Mills Company, 1925.
The two booklets “Caoutchouc” (1915) and “Caoutchouc II” (1925) are very similar. Indeed, the second one is just an updated version of the first. Both explain where the factory’s rubber came from, how it was produced, and the products manufactured. Also, both have pictures to go with the text. Reading these booklets will help establish the context needed to better understand the La Crosse Rubber Mills.
PLEASE NOTE: The Rubber Mills published these booklets for their own purposes, and can be considered corporate propaganda. Think about this while reading the words and looking at the pictures too.
“Caoutchouc: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear, An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its growth to the finished Product,” (1915) is 31-pages long.
Pages 3-10 go through the history of rubber, where it came from, and how rubber manufacturing was invented. These pages are very interesting because they show that over 100 years ago La Crosse had connections with places you may have never thought possible.
Pages 11-26 discuss rubber manufacturing. These pages also have many photographs of workers in the factory, which along with the text, provides a kind of virtual tour of the rubber mills!
Pages 27-29 tour the administrative offices and give a conclusion to the booklet.
Pages 30-31 has pictures of different shoe styles made by the company.
“Cauotchouc II: The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear, An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its growth to the finished Product,” (1925) is 39-pages long. It is longer than the first one because it has more information and a more complete tour of the factory buildings with additional pictures. Inside the front cover is also a flyer stating the purpose of the publication of this booklet.
Pages 3-5 give a history of rubber and where rubber came from. (Remember that this booklet is very similar to the first!)
Pages 6-7 explains the “vulcanization” of rubber.
Pages 8-10 discuss where rubber comes from. In particular, this book looks at rubber from wild rubber trees vs. plantations.
Pages 11-26 covers rubber manufacturing and footwear production. There are many photos and it feels like a tour through the factory.
Pages 27-30 give a brief history of the Rubber Mills, its founders, and company growth. There are also pictures of the founders and illustrations showing factory changes over the years.
Pages 31-34 give a description of the administrative offices with photos.
Page 35 shows product distribution throughout the world.
Pages 36-39 has pictures of different styles of shoes made by the company and gives a conclusion to the booklet.
Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher
The real title of this collection is the Wisconsin Extension Homemakers Council (WEHC). From 1920-1960 the WEHC was a volunteer organization for women that organized social, educational, and community development activities. The homemakers held frequent meetings, cooking lessons, and a range of other volunteer activities. They greatly valued volunteerism and education. These women worked with other organizations, such as the YMCA and the Children’s Home in La Crosse, and supported each other during the Great Depression and World War II by learning how to ration items and create budgets. This collection tells the stories of thirteen women – members of the WEHC – who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the changing roles of women in society. This box includes women from places such as Onalaska, Holmen, and Sparta.
This is a primary source collection of oral history interviews of local women who were members of the WEHC. They are separated into fourteen folders. Each folder includes one interview of a Wisconsin woman. All of the interviews are typed, double spaced, and have very wide margins. Easy reading! The interviews vary in length, but none are very long. The collection also includes two small books that contain pictures and recipes.
Folder 1 is the only folder that does not include an interview. This folder has five documents, including a pamphlet with pictures of the councils, a description of the WEHC, a guide that lists questions used in the interviews, an advertisement for the WEHC, and a project from one of the homemakers. This project is a mini-drama written by Betty Epstein, whose interview is found in Folder 5.
Folder 2 is the account of Helen Basset, a farmer’s wife. Basset described her community work with the council. For example, Basset was part of the Indian Mission. The mission worked to dress Native American children in “clean and suitable” clothing. This interview is 14 pages.
Folder 3 describes the life of Joanne Dach from Viroqua, Wisconsin. Dach described charities that her chapter of the WEHC took part in. For example, she discussed food pantry donations and raising money for Haiti. Dach also described the challenges faced by women who attended college and worked full time jobs. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 4 includes the story of Dott Dobbs, from Ontario, Wisconsin. Alongside her farm duties, Dobbs described the volunteer work and roles of the WEHC. The council assisted with the local 4-H club and supported community members in need. For example, her council provided aid to families that were impacted by house fires and unexpected deaths. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 5 presents the story of Elisabeth (Betty) Epstein, from Jackson County. Unlike the other women in this collection, Epstein had a college degree. She described her work in the offices of army camps during World War II, and like Joanne Dach (folder 3), Epstein discussed gender roles. At one point Epstein described her community as a “man’s world” based on the opposition her council faced over railroad crossings. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 6 is the narrative of Marion Fauska from Onalaska, Wisconsin. Fauska described her educational experiences attending a six week course in order to become a teacher. This folder also includes discussion about the Great Depression and World War II. Fauska provides the perspective of a young bride who could not afford a honeymoon and how she was encouraged to work due to a shortage of teachers during the war. This interview is 35 pages.
Folder 7 describes the life of Mae Flaig from Sparta, Wisconsin. She was part of the WEHC, a Leadership Development Committee, and the 4-H Club. Flaig experienced the economic challenges and the shifting gender roles of women during the Great Depression and World War II. For example, Flaig noted that women became increasingly interested in political activity. This interview is 59 pages.
Folder 8 contains the interview of Leila Halverson, a farmer from Holmen, Wisconsin. She discussed lessons given by the Homemakers Association. These lessons included dressmaking and food preservation. Halverson also described food substitutes and how even in birthday cakes sugar had to be rationed during World War II. This interview is 5 pages.
Folder 9 holds the account of Dolores Kenyon, from Sparta, Wisconsin. After her marriage in 1943, Kenyon’s husband left to fight in World War II. She described women’s shifting roles, such as non-domestic work and financial planning. Kenyon was a volunteer with 4-H and the “Association for Retarded Citizens” (people with cognitive needs) in 1958. Small portions of this interview are hand written. This interview is 16 pages.
Folder 10 holds the interview of Effie Knudson, from West Salem, Wisconsin. Knudson was involved with the YMCA and the Children’s Home in La Crosse. Knudson described the Great Depression in an account about rationing sugar. She also discussed World War II and Victory Gardens. This interview is 16 pages.
Folder 11 contains the story of Josephine Sullivan Nixon. Nixon’s father served in the Civil War between 1863 and 1865, being discharged after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The interview also gives an account of what life was like during the Great Depression, including meat rationing and flour substitutes. This interview is 31 pages.
Folder 12 belongs to Alice Nuttleman from Onalaska, Wisconsin. Nuttleman described the lessons that the council taught, such as bread making and sewing. She also described growing gardens, picking berries, and rationing sugar during the Great Depression. This interview is 12 pages.
Folder 13 describes the life of Margaret O’Rourke, a mother of twelve from Monroe, Wisconsin. She discussed sugar stamps, gas stamps and the difficulty of getting new tires during World War II. O’Rourke also described the Women’s Movement and gender roles during the war. For example, O’Rourke stated that men took part in more domestic duties in comparison to previous years. This interview is 39 pages.
Folder 14 contains an interview from Elsie Roberts, who discussed the Great Depression. Roberts described a shortage of money and food stamps. This interview is 14 pages.
Reviewed by: Krystle Thomas
Miss Myrtle Trowbridge was a history professor at the La Crosse State Teachers College (LSTC), or what we know today as the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. During World War II, Miss Trowbridge sent many letters and gifts to former LSTC students who were serving. This collection includes the men’s letters to Miss Trowbridge written from battlefields in Europe, the Pacific, and bases throughout the U.S. Some letters were written after WWII, during U.S. military involvement in Korea and the Pacific Islands during the 1950s. Most of these letters show that the men are in good spirits, however homesickness is not uncommon! The letters are organized by date and almost entirely handwritten in cursive, although some are typed. Sometimes a letter’s location may not be clear due to censorship. For example, many list their location as “Somewhere in France.”
This collection consists of one box, with 9 folders organized by date. There almost 500 letters total! Most of the letters are from soldiers and only about 5 are from Dr. Trowbridge. Also included in the collection is an index of names, dates, locations, and letter summaries. The index is available online through the complete finding aid. It provides another way to prepare before visiting the ARC. Take note however, reading a letter summary is not the same as reading the real letter. It would not be correct to cite the summary as a primary source document.
Folder 1 contains letters from late 1941 and all of 1942. Most of the letters are from former students who are in basic training, and so are very optimistic about the war. For example, a letter from LeRoy Holm, who was at a training base in Georgia, stated that training was boring and that he couldn’t wait to be shipped overseas to fight the Germans.
Folder 2 contains letters from January to June 1943. In these letters many of Professor Trowbridge’s former students ask her about events back home and how the University is doing. This shows that there is quite a bit of homesickness among the soldiers. However, attitudes towards the war remain high. Also in the letters, many of the soldiers stress how important it is to write to a soldier. For example, after Private J.E. Allen of the United States Marine Corps got done with a grueling 4-month battle on a small Pacific island called Guadalcanal, he wrote, “I don’t think people in civilian life know the importance of writing to fellas in the service. It gives us all hope.” He goes on to write how he is a new man after that battle and he doesn’t think he will ever be the same.
Folder 3 contains letters from July through December 1943. Homesickness is a common theme with the former students. One of the students, LeRoy Holm, has just finished artillery school and is in New York City waiting to be deployed across the Atlantic. He stressed his concerns about not being home to help his sister start her college career and asks Miss Trowbridge to help her. On the other side of the United States, James F. Quinn of the United States Naval Seventh Amphibious Force is being shipped to Australia. He misses home cooked meals like the steak dinner Dr. Trowbridge made for him and a few of his friends before he left for basic training. His ship’s name is blacked out on the letter. This is an example of the military censorship going on during the war.
Folder 4 contains letters from January to June 1944. Miss Trowbridge fell ill over the winter of 1943-44 and many of her students show concern with her health and are happy to hear she is better. The war is really heating up at this time and many letters talk about the rising casualty rate. Corporal Ole Owens of the Office of Strategic Services in London, England writes about a friend shot down over occupied Europe and captured by the Germans. Owen is aware of the number of war casualties, and he believes that the general public is too optimistic about the war.
Folder 5 contains letters from July through September 1944. There’s a lot going on in this folder. The men write about their education in the service, their efforts trying to keep up with developments back in La Crosse, as well as the devastation of war. Many men are optimistic that the war will end soon because the “boys” in Europe and the Pacific are “doing the job.” Meanwhile, soldiers stationed in the U.S. are eager to join the front lines. As a whole, the letters in this folder do a great job showing the range of experiences and points of view that existed during WWII.
Folder 6 contains letters from October through December 1944. Some of the men talk about the upcoming Presidential election between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas E. Dewey. They discuss the election’s impact on the war, as well as their attitudes towards the British and the Russians. The upcoming holidays put a damper on the soldiers. The men in the Pacific complain of the heat and tell Miss Trowbridge how much they miss snow. Bill Keppel, a former LSTC student, is missing. Many of the men have feelings of homesickness.
Folder 7 contains letters from January through April 1945. In these letters there is a sense of confidence that Germany will fall soon, and the men in Europe look forward to “meeting” the Russians in Germany. (Because the Russians invaded from one side, and the Americans from the other, meeting would signify that the allies had taken over all of Germany.) However, there are concerns that the death of President Roosevelt will delay peace talks. The letters also discuss a memorial for La Crosse’s fallen soldiers back home. One man even proposes the idea of building a football stadium with a memorial to honor the fallen. (In 1948, Veterans Memorial Stadium was built, and it still stands today on campus!)
Folder 8 contains letters from May through December 1945. As the war comes to an end censorship is reduced, and the men write more detailed letters about their location and past involvement in the war. One man talks about being one of the first of the allies to reach Nanking, China, while just eight years earlier he was in Miss Trowbridge’s class learning about the Nanking Massacre. Many men are still overseas but no longer in combat. They express their desire to return home, although some are enjoying the “extended vacation at the government expense.” Some of the letters show a nervous optimism and uncertainty about their return. After the war, many men talk about returning to college on the GI Bill.
Folder 9 contains a mix of letters from the late 1940s-early 1950s, during when the US enters the Korean Conflict. Also included in this folder are undated letters and three letters from Miss Trowbridge herself.
Reviewed by: Eric Graf and William Weidert
Created by Kaley Brown
Thai Vue was born around 1953 near the Vietnam border in Laos. He grew up during the Vietnam War era and the American funded “Secret War” in Laos. The Hmong supported the Americans fighting against the communists during the war, but because it was secret, few Americans knew about what the Hmong did. America lost the Vietnam War, and so Thai Vue and the rest of the Hmong population had to go into hiding to avoid being killed by the new government. As a result, thousands of Hmong risked their lives to escape Laos, and many, like Thai Vue, immigrated to the United States.
UWL professor Charles Lee interviewed Vue during the summer of 1994. The interview covers all of Vue’s life until that point. He discusses everything from his childhood in Laos, to hiding from the Communists and escaping to Thailand, to his experiences in America after immigrating in 1978. The recorded interview lasts for over six hours! This finding aid concentrates on the interview’s written transcription and digital version, and covers just the sections that relate to Thai Vue’s life during the war, escaping Laos, the refugee camps, and the cultural differences between America and Laos.
The collection consists of a 160 page typed transcript, several tapes, and a digital audio recording.
Listening to oral histories allows the researcher to become more familiar with the subject. Thai Vue shows a lot of emotion and laughs a lot during the interview, and the transcript does not capture that. He also repeats words or phrases that are important to him, and the transcriber cut a lot of those out. However, listening to the tapes can be difficult since they are frequently recordings of earlier recordings. The tape numbers do not match up with the ones written in the transcript and they can be very fuzzy at times. Tape players are also difficult to use if you are not familiar with them. The digital recording might be easier to use since it is on the computer and allows the user to jump to a specific spot in the interview.
If you decide to listen to the interview, the numbers below will help you locate topics on the digital version. Use the numbers to pick sections for listening – listed below – and quickly jump from subject to subject.
1. Personal Background (pgs. 1-5)
3, 10. Vietnam War (pgs. 5-8 and 26-28)
5. Education (pgs. 8-12)
6, 7. Parents (pgs. 12-17)
8. Leaving Laos for Thailand/ Living with Communists (pgs. 17-24)
11. Communist Soldiers
12. American Evacuation (Fighting Communists) (pgs. 32-53)
13, 14. Hiding in the Jungle and Deaths (pgs. 53-57)
15. Marriage (pgs. 57-65)
24. Hmong People and the Government of Laos (pgs. 95-96)
8. Leaving Laos for Thailand/ Living with Communists (pgs. 17-24)
9. Experiences, Prison Camps (pgs. 24-26)
16, 17, 18. Leaving for Thailand, Prison and Refugee Camps (pgs. 65-86)
21. Resettlement Interview (pgs. 86-92)
23. Refugee Camps and Thai People (pgs. 92-94)
25. Finances, Family separation (pgs. 97-98)
4. American Impressions (pg. 8)
25. Finances, Family Separation (pgs. 97-98)
26. United States (pgs. 98-101)
27. Cultural Differences (pgs. 101-105)
30. Employment/ English/ Winter (pgs. 105-109)
35. Opinions, La Crosse (pgs. 115-122)
36. Parenting (pgs. 122-131)
37. Shamanism (pgs. 131-132)
38. School Board Membership/Hmong in Public Schools (pgs. 133-153)
39. Social Issues, La Crosse (pgs. 153-159)
Reviewed by: Kaley Brown