New Repository for war letters

90,000 war letters from Washington DC historian form basis of recently established Center for American War Letters

Soldier Writing Letter Home

A member of a 240-mm gun crew that is tossing heavy shells across the Rhine into German positions, Pfc. Alvin Gentry, of Lonaconing, Maryland, takes time out to write a letter home. He is bivouacked in what was formerly the Colmar Pocket.

(Photo courtesy of

Washington DC historian Andrew Carroll has donated his entire collection of 90,000 war letters to Chapman University in California which established the Center for American War Letters to house the collection and make it available to the public and to scholars. Lots of institutions wanted the collection but Carroll felt most of these institutions would lock the letters up and not do a whole lot with them. So he went to Chapman who established the center as I mention above.

The link to the center is here:

A story about a year ago in the Washington Post caught my eye because I have some family letters from World War Two and since I have no children I was wondering what to do with them.  Here is the beginning of the Wash Post story.

By Steve Vogel of the Washington Post of November 9, 2013

“Andrew Carroll gingerly opened the FedEx box that arrived at his Washington apartment on a recent morning and carefully pulled out a letter, written in beautiful cursive script on paper browned by nearly a century of age.

“Chère Madame,” begins the letter, which is in French. “It is a mother who is writing to you, a mother who has been with your dear child in his last days; and it had seemed to me that to tell you a little of his last acts and gestures may soften the bitterness of your grief.”

A French woman had written the letter in 1919 to the mother of Carl Saunders, a 22-year-old from Upstate New York who died in France during service with the American Expeditionary Forces after the end of World War I.”

The rest of the story is here

LA Times story from 24 December 2012 is here:



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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: