WWII Pacific Theater Letter and Photo Archive of North Carolina Sergeant Lee W. Harwell
ArchiveAn informative Archive of letters, photographs, and ephemera from the Army career of Sergeant Lee W. Harwell (1918-2006). Six letters, totaling seventeen pages; about 150 photographs of varying sizes; Six letters, totaling 17 pages; and miscellaneous military documents and ephemera. Sergeant Harwell hailed from Mooresville, North Carolina. He enlisted as a Private in April 1941, training at Fort Bragg (NC), Camp Blanding (FL), Camp Shelby (MS), and Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Harwell was sent overseas in August 1944 as part of the 694th Field Artillery Battalion and fought in campaigns in New Guinea and the Philippines. The photographs in this archive include scenes from all of these locations, showing camp life, fellow soldiers, training operations in the States and army life, indigenous peoples in New Guinea, and more, including a healthy number of family photographs likely from Harwell's post-war life.
Harwell's letters, which were written to his fiancée Louise, are nicely detailed and provide an intimate view of Harwell’s experiences. All five of the letters from the Philippines date from September 1945, when, in the immediate aftermath of the war, Harwell was charged with guarding Japanese prisoners at a Prisoner-of-War camp north of Baguio, Luzon, the Philippines (the sixth and final letter emanates from a few months later, when Harwell was on his way home on the U.S.S. General Mitchell). Harwell’s letters include some general details of his combat experience and a list of places where his unit was positioned during the last six months of the war, as well as discussion of his present occupation. Brief excerpts from just a few of the letters are as follows, and provide a flavor of Harwell's experiences, and his use of contemporary language:
September 11, 1945: "This afternoon I was called to Battalion HQ, and on the way down I passed an untold number of Japs. MPs of course were all along the road, but it made me feel funny to be right in the middle of them without any fear of trouble. All seem very cheerful and glad the war was over, and of course an American cigarette brought a smile from all.... Here at out stockade we are expecting several hundred of Japs to come in tonight or early in the morning. I have been trying to keep away from the Japs as much as I can because they are laden with lice and other body insects.... Speaking of stealing, we (our Battalion) had a bad name while at Hollandia. And we were not the only ones doing it, either. To get coffee at times we stole from the navy and outfits that were there. And before coming into combat they would not issue us enough trailers so night after night groups of men would go out to borrow a trailer from some Base Command outfit.... The generator we have now for our lights at our rest camp was taken by two of our men out on, as we called 'Midnight Requisition" party. [They] happened to be at back as it was being unloaded from a ship, so they backed a truck up hook it up and went right on past the M.P. at a checking point. We had to lock the gears of vehicles to keep them from being stolen."
September 12: "We have company tonight, there [are] about five hundred Japs in a stockade about fifty years from where I am at. They are Jap sailors and much cleaner and look as if they have had better care. I imagine they are from some Jap ship sunk off Luzon and went into these hills to wait rescue, but we stepped in and have other ideas for that. There [are] guards about every twelve feet and waiting for a false move by any of them.... One of our trucks just came in from a two-day trip hauling Japs out to a P.O.W. Camp. And they told me of going through Baguio and the people there even shot at the Japs going through town and they all (drivers) had to fight to keep the civilians out of the road and keep them from killing the Japs."
September 15: "The Japs are still pouring in and the stockade being made bigger and all that we get seem to be navy personnel, so it looks as if the whole Jap navy was destroyed around this island. And lots of the Japs are too sick to walk. Since Wednesday, four Japs have died. And the strange part of it is the cruelty they display on each other. I went down yesterday to where they keep their sick and wounded. A Jap was dying and the other Japs picked him up and rolled him out of the tent into the mud and left him to die.... The Jap doctors don't seem to care if they all would die. And they leave the dead bodies out in rain and pass by and look at the bodies and laugh about it. We (Americans) wouldn't treat a dog like that."
The ephemeral items include a smattering of military paperwork, a shoulder patch, a pamphlet on Fort Sill, an American Red Cross pamphlet, and more. A unique and informative collection of images and letters documenting one soldier’s experiences in training and in the Pacific during World War II.Images removed from a disbound photograph album, some trimmed. Some caption on verso or onclips of album pages attached to the relevant image. Original folds, minor wear to letters. Very good condition overall.
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