MS 1007 - Gerald M. Rees Papers
|MS 1007 - Gerald M. Rees Papers
The Gerald Rees Papers consist of original letters written during World War II by a resident of Toledo, Ohio (who had been a student his freshman year at Bowling Green State University before his Army service).
The collection was donated to the Center for Archival Collections by Gerald Rees of Ann Arbor, Michigan on November 5, 2004. Many of the dates penciled on letters were provided by the donor. Duplication is permitted for the purposes of preservation and research. The collection was processed and register prepared by Marilyn Levinson, Curator of Manuscripts in November 2004.
Gerald Martin Rees was born in Luckey, Ohio on June 7, 1924 to Chester B. and Frances Eckert Rees. Early in the 1930s the family located in Toledo, Ohio living first on Melrose and later on Putnam Street. With the family home on Putnam Street Gerald had attended Fulton Elementary School (mentioned in a letter of April 21, 1944) and Scott High School, graduating in 1942, where he was active in everything from Band and Hi-Y to Junior Classical League and various student government activities.
In the fall of 1942 Gerald started college at Bowling Green State University. The letter of Sept 4, 1943 makes reference to "The Key" which was the BG student yearbook. In the 1943 volume Gerald is mentioned as having the top grades among freshmen boys, and also is pictured in connection with glee club, University chorus, concert orchestra, concert band, and marching band, continuing his interest in music and cultural activities. His college career was cut short as he left BGSU before the end of the school year (as did many other young men). The decline in male enrollment at this time was so sharp that "The Key" noted specifically that the Glee Club disbanded "for the duration," the Concert Band ended the year with a student director, and the Marching Band admitted women for the first time to fill the ranks.
After a period at the Reception Center at Camp Perry, he started training at the Medical Replacement Training Center at Camp Barkeley, Texas, but then entered the Army Specialized Training Program (A.S.T.P.) established to provide accelerated college degree work in strategically vital areas to qualified recruits at universities around the country. The short-lived program could boast several well-known participants at various training sites around the country, such as diplomat Henry Kissinger, New York City Mayor Edward Koch, TV newscaster Roger Mudd, sports commentator Heywood Hale Broun, author Gore Vidal, and movie actor Mel Brooks.
Gerald's A.S.T.P training sent him to City College of New York for studies in engineering and surveying. Unfortunately, the program was terminated in March 1944 and he was promptly transferred, briefly to Louisiana into the infantry for training with a mortar, then into a Field Artillery Observation Battalion at Camp Bowie, near Brownwood, Texas (where his surveying training was utilized). As part of this training he spent a month at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before returning to Texas again.
At the completion of training, after briefly being stationed in New Jersey, Gerald served in England, France, and Germany during the war. His unit during service in Europe was Battery A, 292 Field Artillery Observation Battalion. After the war, Gerald was discharged from the army on Feb. 4, 1946, and went directly to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where, thanks to the G.I Bill, he was able to complete both a BS and MS. He had a successful career teaching science for forty years at the high school and college level.
|Scope and Content
The collection of World War II service letters written by Gerald M. Rees provides a glimpse of the training experience of a typical enlisted man, but also the thoughtful observations of a well-educated and culturally aware individual in a variety of situations. In many circumstances the descriptions Gerald wrote to his mother of places and events were laced with references to home and comparisons with local sights, such as comparing a rocky beach to the one at Marblehead, Ohio, or using the Toledo Museum of Art as a point of reference in describing other museums he visited.
Thanks to his participation in the short-lived Army Specialized Training Program which had him stationed in New York, the letters from November 1943 through March 1944 are full of descriptions of the cultural activities in New York, a pattern that continues as the opportunities of places like London and Paris were also presented. All through the narrative of his correspondence references are made to concerts, plays, radio programs, and museums, demonstrating his deep and abiding love of music. Some references are fascinating for the double layer of cultural influence, such as in the letter written from Paris on May 21, 1945, where he talks about visiting the Academy de Musique for a performance of the opera "Boris Goudenow", but then spends additional space describing the huge chandelier and connecting it to the central action in the film "Phantom of the Opera".
The content of the letters related to the war are most detailed during his period of training in a variety of places in the U.S., including in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New York, due to the fact that those letters were not subject to censorship. As of the end of April 1944 he had 9 moves in 11 months. Once Gerald received orders for overseas service, however, that situation changed and the content became more general. Although he was able to provide rich details on his living situation, the British lifestyle, monetary system, food, housing, entertainment options, and other daily events, the letters of this period provide almost no hint of his military activities or his locations. He also wrote enthusiastically of the work of both the U.S.O. and Red Cross.
The letters in the collection also demonstrate the effective use V-mail from overseas posts, with initial skepticism on Gerald's part to a whole-hearted endorsement of the system. In a letter dated July 4, 1944, he also expresses enthusiasm for the G.I. Bill of Rights (signed into law on June 22, 1944) and furthering his education, with references in future letters indicating his intention to make use of the program at the conclusion of his service. Other letters with significant content include those of May 8 and 9, 1945 (reporting reactions to VE day and also describing a trip to Dachau). Both were also reprinted in the Pemberville Leader issue of July 4, 1945. It might be noted that a corporal from the 292nd was responsible for the capture of the Commandant of Dachau at the end of April 1945. After July 1945 Gerald returned to the U.S. and due to frequent furloughs, there were few additional letters.
CORRESPONDENCE - WORLD WAR II LETTERS