Special CollectionsBetsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives
Clifford E. Keenan, born in Humboldt, Tenn. in 1920, was drafted into the Army in 1942. He completed his infantry training at Fort Wolters, Texas and paratrooper training at Fort Benning, Ga. Keenan was then assigned to Company D of the 1st Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry and deployed to Europe. He did not survive the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
The folder highlighted in the World War II Teaching Collection (Folder 5) contains condolence letters sent to Keenan’s parents. These letters include correspondence from friends and family, a Western Union telegram from the military announcing Keenan’s death, letters from major military figures and politicians, and a letter to Keenan’s father announcing Keenan had been awarded the Purple Heart. The folder also contains Veterans’ Affairs documents regarding Keenan’s life insurance policy, including a certificate, a notice of settlement, and a letter notifying Keenan’s parents of the policy.
Topics and Themes – Veterans’ Affairs, European Theater/Western Front, history of West Tennessee
Ted Carlson was born in 1922 in Connecticut. He was drafted into military service in 1944, but after only ten days on active duty, he was placed in the Enlisted Reserve Corps and assigned to work as a laboratory engineer for the Chrysler Corporation in Detroit, Mich. Carlson worked on top-secret research projects related to harnessing atomic energy. One month after V-J Day, he was recalled to active duty to serve in various capacities at Fort Sheridan, Ill., Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Oak Ridge, Tenn. before being transferred to Monsanto Chemical Company in Dayton, Ohio. Eventually Carlson graduated with a medical degree and became a psychiatrist and part-time professor in New York.
Letters of note in the highlighted folder (Folder 2) include correspondence written the week the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and letters written the week of and the week after President Harry S. Truman announced Japan’s intention to surrender. Carlson expressed his disgust that his research for the Chrysler Corporation had been used to develop a weapon but could not elaborate further due to the classified nature of his work. He also discussed his post-war plans.
Topics and Themes – evil acts, morality of using nuclear weapons, morality in war/conflict, Pacific Theater/Eastern Front, communication freedom vs. secrecy, history of East Tennessee (Oak Ridge)
Clyde W. “Bill” Fulk, born in 1925 in Winston-Salem, NC, was drafted into service in October 1943. He received basic training and completed Ordinance Supply School at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md. The military deployed him in the European Theater on June 15, 1944, and he served as a replacement in the 333rd Infantry (Aberdeen Forest) beginning January 1, 1945.
Fulk wrote his memoir, Why Me?, in 2001. On pages 16-28 of his memoir, Fulk wrote about German soldiers capturing his platoon and holding them in German prisoner-of-war and concentration camps until the war ended. He described how his captors treated him and his comrades, how often they traveled to different camps, how he and his platoon were liberated on Victory in Europe (V-E) Day, and how he recovered and adjusted to post-war life after being a POW.
Topics and Themes – evil acts, morality in war/conflict, European Theater/Western Front, nonfiction vs. creative nonfiction, holocaust, treatment of POWs, memoirs, Veterans’ Affairs
Don J. Rutledge worked as a civilian for the Corp of Engineers at the Panama Canal during the start of World War II. He enlisted in the military in 1943 and served in Europe and Japan. The bulk of the correspondence in the teaching collection centers on Rutledge’s combat experiences in Europe.
Rutledge wrote to his wife, Louisa, who lived in Fayetteville, Tenn. The letters highlighted in this collection, written in March 1945, describe French, Belgian, German, and Dutch culture. They also indicate the stresses and horrors civilians had endured in German occupied territories, such as one incident of his platoon encountering Polish citizens who had been liberated from a concentration camp. He mentioned several instances of rationing for both U.S. soldiers and European citizens.
Topics and Themes – civilians in war/conflict situations; evil acts; morality in war/conflict; European Theater/Western Front; treatment of POWs; history of Middle Tennessee
Edward G. Harris was born in Morristown, Tenn. in March 1924. He enlisted at age 18 in December 1942 and trained as a radar operator. He served in the 63rd Bomb Squadron of the 43rd Bomb Group (Heavy) of the 5th Air Force. After the war, he became a physics professor at the University of Tennessee and a consultant to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Harris wrote letters to his mother, grandmother and great-aunt back in Morristown, Tenn. during his training and deployment in the Pacific Theater. Letters numbered 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, and 16 in the collection folder describe his deployment to the South Pacific, with stops on the U.S. West Coast and in Australia. He wrote of his frustration with the military censoring his letters. He also described his life in the military, including the people he worked with, the culture of where he lived at the time, and amusing anecdotes such as his squadron harboring a canine “mascot” that flew on missions with them.
Topics and Themes – history of East Tennessee, Pacific Theater/Eastern Front, communication freedom vs. secrecy, morality in war/conflict
Documents the life of a U.S. born soldier who grew up in Luxembourg, a country annexed by Germany during WWII. Swartz expressed his opinion on German soldiers and culture, and his frustration over U.S. soldiers’ confusing Luxembourg citizens with German combatants.
Available for instruction is also a World Wars Digital Teaching Collection that can be found here. The following Digital Collections are additional digitized Special Collections materials that may be relevant or useful to topic of World War I and World War II.
World War I
This collection consists of postcards written between the Calahan family of Asheville, North Carolina. Most are authored by Arthur Calahan (1896-1976), who served with the U.S. Army National Guard during World War I.
The Vocational Voice departmental newspaper was dedicated to the interests of the Vocational Department of the University of Tennessee in the mid-1920s.
World War II
The Air Scoop weekly newsletter informed and entertained members of the 63rd College Training Detachment based at the University of Tennessee during World War II. The detachment’s goal was to run a publication for and by aviation students in the detachment to unify the organization and to share news related to military training and social events occurring on and around the Knoxville campus.
These WWII oral history interviews, captured over the last 25 years by the Center for the Study of War and Society (CSWS) at the University of Tennessee, uniquely capture the experiences and memories of the veteran beginning with their lives before combat, motivations to enlist, personal experiences during the war, and their experiences readjusting to civilian life afterwards.
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