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
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
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 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
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 I 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 II.
“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
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
Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)
This collection contains many wonderful letters from across the globe. They were all written to Frank J. Fuchs from friends and acquaintances serving in the American Armed Forces during World War II. The letters are divided into two boxes. Box 1 has 14 folders filled with letters dating from 1942-1943, all in chronological order. The first folder is different than all the rest. It holds a few “Return to Sender” letters written by Mr. Fuchs himself. Having never reached their intended reader, they were returned. Folders 2-14 are all letters from soldiers to Mr. Fuchs. They are labelled by month and year, and ordered chronologically (ex: March 1943, April 1943, May 1943, etc.). In each folder the letters are chronologic by day. This organization continues with Box 2, which holds 8 folders containing letters from 1944 to September, 1945. The last two folders in Box 2 contain Mr. Fuchs’ many address cards, ordered alphabetically, and the Eagles Service Rosters. Since the collection of letters is ordered chronologically, it is easiest to find specific letters by knowing the date written.
Frank J. Fuchs was a prominent member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a charitable club still active today. He even became president of La Crosse’s branch of the club during WWII. Throughout the war he wrote to over a hundred fellow members – some close friends, others merely acquaintances – who were serving overseas. These men varied in rank, education, and age. Most were bachelors others, such as Roy Cleary, were husbands. Their military duties varied greatly as well. Many were average infantrymen, but some piloted airplanes, drove tanks, worked artillery, did vehicle maintenance, and saved lives in hospitals and on the field. Some men were brothers, and some served in the same divisions, but mostly they were soldiers scattered across the globe. In the early years, (contained in Box 1) most of the letters are from soldiers still being trained in the U.S., but as time goes by these men all begin to travel overseas to fight. Understandably, letters arrive less frequently from men serving on the front, and combat was rarely the topic of discussion in their letters. Instead, because many of the men were terribly homesick, La Crosse, and club happenings are common topics!
Below are all of the men Frank Fuchs received letters from through the years 1942-1943, sorted by date for easy retrieval. Also, included is their location. If no location is mentioned, it is due to the government’s censorship of mail, a measure taken to protect the soldiers and the war effort. Highlighted are a few of the men whose situations or duties may be of particular interest to readers. Before cell phones or the internet were invented, to keep in touch friends and family needed to write actual letters if they wished to communicate over long distance. While slow and painstaking in comparison to today, the value given to these messages was often much higher than any email or text sent today. It was a more intimate form of communication and letters were often kept for sentimental value.
WARNING: Most of these letters are handwritten in cursive. While most can easily be read, some take a bit more effort and patience. Also, 1940s slang is slightly different from today. Some phrases may be outdated or confusing. When in doubt, ask!
Brothers Alois and William Abel both served on the Pacific front and even in the same base for a short while. They mention one another frequently in their letters and their brotherly bond can easily be seen. Both were sent overseas but only William continued to write to Frank once deployed. Alois signed his letters as Al and William signs them as Bill.
Many of the men served in the Pacific, but Virgil Cullen’s and Charles Boyle’s letters are the most vivid. Virgil even met General Douglas McArthur while in Australia! Charles signs his letters Buzz.
The war across the Atlantic was fought in many places. Don Hall drove a tank in North Africa and sent pictures and foreign money in his letters. Roy Cleary fought in Sicily and Italy. And Karl Fischer describes what Britain looked like after years of Air Raids.
The finest examples of American pop culture from the 1940s come from William Parizek’s letters while stationed in Virginia. William attended musical concerts and many professional sporting events including the World Series and an NFL game. William signs his letters as Bill.
Reviewed by: David Kopczynski