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MS 1048 - Donald F. Rodawig Papers


The Donald F. Rodawig Papers consist of transcripts, with some photocopies, of original letters and a diary written by a physician serving during World War II.

The transcription agreement with the Center for Archival Collections was through the cooperation of Susan R. Reams of Perrysburg, Ohio, on May 16, 2006. Copyright is retained by Susan Reams, but duplication is permitted for the purposes of preservation and research. The transcriptions were prepared by student assistant David Kuebeck, and the register prepared by Marilyn Levinson, Curator of Manuscripts in October 2006.

Biographical Sketch

Donald F. Rodawig was born on February 10, 1905 in Saybrook, Illinois. As a young man he studied medicine at the University of Iowa, graduating in 1930. He interned at the Henry Ford Hospital, 1930-1931 and did a surgical residency at the Lucas County Hospital in Toledo, Ohio in 1931. Later studies also included a course in advanced surgical techniques at the University of Vienna between October 1938 and March 1939. At various times he served as an examiner for the Equitable Life Insurance Company, the New York Life Insurance Company, and the Insurance Society of the United States. Dr. Rodawig, along with Dr. Phillip Scott, was the co-owner and operator of the Spirit Lake Hospital in Spirit Lake, Iowa. He was married on July 17, 1926 to Mary Elizabeth Ellis of Mercer, Missouri, having a family of four children, Bill, Don, Sandra, and Susan.

Donald entered Army service in May of 1942 as a Captain. He was promoted to Major on February 29, 1944, holding the position of assistant chief of surgery of the 52nd Station Hospital, serving primarily in North Africa and at Naples.

Scope and Content

The collection of World War II service letter transcripts written by Dr. Donald F. Rodawig, 52nd Station Hospital of the United States Army, as well as a small diary, provides a perspective on the medical services in World War II from a surgeon serving in a Station Hospital in North Africa and later one set up in Naples.

From the brief entries found in the pocket diary he describes the voyage across the Atlantic in a convoy in late 1942, the work to establish a Station Hospital at Oudja in French Morocco, and later relocating to Naples at the end of 1943. Since the diary was not subject to the same censorship restrictions that correspondence was, his descriptions, although brief, were fairly candid about such things as ongoing efforts to control local brothels, opinions about military operations and leadership, and his own efforts at gaining a promotion from Captain to Major.

The more extensive series of correspondence, primarily to his wife Mary but occasionally addressed to one of his children, covers a wide range of topics, but is more constrained due to censorship of V-Mail. He makes frequent references to friends and family affairs, particularly to activities of his children and economic decisions involving property and the medical practice he left in Spirit Lake. Within the limits of censorship, he also discusses medical situations of his work, the pride he takes in the job, references to new techniques being developed, and also such novelties as the new drug penicillin. Although work at the Station Hospital in Naples was intensive and there were some references to morale and the need for diversions, he also makes a point of describing the area and people around him, both while in North Africa and in Naples. One extensive series of V-Mails describes a visit to Rome, including an audience with the Pope.

As an example of the wartime experience of a member of the medical support services provided during World War II, the letters of Donald Rodawig provide a diverse and intelligent commentary.

Series Description


Arranged chronologically
Transcripts, with some photocopies of originals, of correspondence (primarily written as V-Mails) from a physician serving in World War II to his wife and children


Entries in a small pocket diary describing the trip to North Africa, setting up a hospital, medical conditions and treatments, and general opinions on military matters and the conduct of the war


1938, 1943
Photocopies of newspaper clippings, one from an unidentified newspaper describing experience of Dr. Donald Rodawig while studying advanced surgical techniques in Vienna, and the other clipping from the Des Moines Register showing a photograph of the Rodawig family during his absence during the war


Box 1


  1. Correspondence (Transcripts), 1938-1943
  2. Correspondence (Transcripts), 1944
  3. Correspondence (Photocopies), 1938-1944
  4. Diary (Transcripts), 1942-1944
  5. News clippings, 1938, 1943

MS 1048 - Donald Rodawig - List of Transcripts