Finding Aid for the Swanson Family Second World War correspondence 2017.719.w.r

Sharon Clairemont
Center for American War Letters Archives
Leatherby Libraries
Chapman University
Orange, CA 92866

Contributing Institution: Center for American War Letters Archives
Title: Swanson Family First and Second World War correspondence
source: Mark Swanson
Creator: Edwin Georg Swanson
Creator: George E. Swanson
Identifier/Call Number: 2017.719.w.r
Physical Description: .16 Linear feet (6 folders)
Date (bulk): 1917 - 1919
Date (bulk): 1944 - 1945
Abstract: This collection contains correspondence from T/5 George E. Swanson, USA to his parents and sister during the Second World War. It also contains correspondence from Edwin Georg Swanson to Gerda Bohm during the First World War.
Language of Material: English .
Container: WWII 63
Container: 1-6
Container: 1-6

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mark E. Swanson


This collection is arranged by material type, author and date.
  • Series 1, Correspondence from Edwin to Gerda
  • Series 2, Correspondence from George to his parents and sister
  • Series 3, Dog tags
  • Series 4, VFW medal
  • Series 5, Photographs (album), 1943-1945
  • Series 6, Prayer book

Biographical / Historical

From the donor form, by Mark E. Swanson, son of George Edward Swanson: "Edwin Georg Swanson was born in Karlshamm, Sweden, December 24, 1888. He immigrated to the USA in early 1900's after working in Paris, France as a painter, his vocation. He married around 1919 and lived in Corona, New York after being honorably discharged from the Army. He worked as a private painter, and also was employed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for years. He died in the early 1960's. Letters were posted from France, 1918-1919. He was in the infantry as a corporal, inducted into the Army on December 8, 1917. His engagements in France included Baccarat sector, June 21st - August 4th (1918); Vesle sector, August 11th-18th (1918); and Meuse-Argonne offensive, September 26th - November 11th (1918). He was discharged from Army on May 9, 1919." -- "George Edward Swanson was born in Corona, New York on April 4, 1923 and graduated from Newton High School in Elmhurst, New York and Pratt Institute in October 1947 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He worked as a mechanical engineer with General Electric, Schenectady, New York till his untimely death on October 11, 1950 from a medical event. He is buried in the Dunning Cemetary, Malta, Saratoga County, New York. - Letters were posted from England, 1944-1945. His war photo album encompasses his time on the Europe mainland as a technician, fifth grade, in the 3rd Infantry Division, 7th regiment. He was stationed in Austria, Germany, and France. He had entered the service on June 25, 1943 and was discharged on March 26, 1946. His photo album is his pictoral diary of his war time in Central Europe." -- According to Edwin G. Swanson married Gerda C. Bohm on August 30, 1919 in Queens, New York.

Preferred Citation

[Item title, Box number, Folder number], Swanson Family First and Second World War correspondence (2017.719.w.r), Center for American War Letters Archives, Chapman University, CA.

Content Description

This collection contains correspondence from T/5 George E. Swanson, USA to his parents and sister during the Second World War. It also contains correspondence from Cpl. Edwin Georg Swanson, U.S. Army, to Gerda Bohm during the First World War. The collection contains two military dog tags for Edwin Swanson, a VFW medal for Edwin Swanson, a photograph album by George E. Swanson, and a Service Prayer Book belonging to George E. Swanson.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this material except where previously copyrighted material is concerned. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain all permissions. For further copyright information, please contact the archivist.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

World War (1914-1918)
World War (1939-1945)
Correspondence -- World War, 1914-1918
Correspondence -- World War, 1939-1945
World War (1939-1945) -- Christmas
World War (1939-1945) -- England
World War (1914-1918) -- France
Mark Swanson

box WWII 63, folder 1, folder 1

Series 1, Correspondence from Edwin to Gerda 1917-1919

Physical Description: .125 Linear Feet(1 folder)
Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains correspondence from Edwin Georg Swanson to Gerda Bohm during the First World War. Swanson writes from Camp Upton in NY and then from France to Bohm in New York City, NY. He writes of visiting her in NYC from the Camp and some about life at the camp. Arriving in France in May 1918 he writes "This is all country like - small farmhouses all around us, cows and chickens, animals of all descriptions...Our place is about fifty miles from nowhere." On July 4, 1918 he writes "This morning around 2 o'clock Jerry started in to bang away with his big guns and gave us a regular celebration of the 4th all sorts of ways and kept us awake the remainder of the night. Hope it didn't do any damage to our boys at the front... I do not think we are allowed to mention any names of part of the country we are fighting ..." July 19 - "Just back again from our first experience in the trenches ... I would like to see Paris ... It must be a great city but I don't think it can compare with New York. At least as long as you are there... So far our boys are doing very well, and if it keeps up I do not think it will take so very long before we have the pleasure of seeing the Statue of Liberty again." July 27 - "We have had our turn in the front lines but we had very little excitement and we consider us better off without it, but you see we have to be worked in to the game so that when we are needed and called upon we are good and ready." He writes he is able to write letters when they are in camp and not moving. Aug. 1 - "Hope that when I come back to the States that all the women will do the work just the same as they are doing over here. We were working in a lumberyard yesterday and to my great surprise I found that they had lady carpenters here. I saw them working around there and believe me it was quite a sensation to see them walk around in overalls and looking tough." All the farming is done by womans mostly." August 14 - "we are now resting on ground what use to be German for the last eight months but we are here now, and good many interesting things is to be seen and found if you have a little bit of imagination. You can make a story for yourself of a battlefield only a few days old..." Aug. 28 - He writes of rain and digging many trenches, asks for cigarettes, tells her he doesn't need another sweater. Dec. 6 - "We are marching every day about 15 or 20 miles... Jan. 17, 1919 - "Your letters have been my existence during the time I been over here. They have given me new hope and courage when I was ready to give up and held me up in places of great danger and misery... I described my holydays in a previous so... You already know what Joy we had in this God forsaken country that we have fought and died for but you already know this is wartime. We can not expect much of it." -- Jan. 20, 1919 - in the final letter in this series - "All you girls in the States ought to put up some sort of a kick so that they would hurry up and send us back. Something is got to be done... I am jealous of the lucky soul what is having the pleasure of keeping you company, but my time will come sooner or later..."
box WWII 63, folder 2, folder 2

Series 2. Correspondence -from George to his parents and sister 1944-1945

Physical Description: .25 Linear Feet(1 folder)
Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains correspondence from T/5 George E. Swanson, USA to his parents Edwin and Gerda and sister Irene at home in New York during the Second World War. He writes from England beginning August 11, 1944, ending January 20, 1945. There are 25 letters in this series. There are no envelopes for the letters. An early letter (undated, due to missing first page) refers to being in the hospital. He writes of learning "a great deal about the English while here... by means of British radio and British papers." He writes of life in the camp, moving quarters, food, washing clothes, K.P., mud, training hikes, making friends with other soldiers, the lack of regular mail, the progress of the war. He writes about local farms and crops, his amazement at the ability of herding dogs, the weather. He asks about family health and their jobs. Aug. 21, 1944 _ "I've got myself a job ... I'm a mail clerk...gets me out of K.P. and guard." He tells of meeting a local "gentleman" who invited him and a friend to visit and eat at his home and of meeting a girl who was sent to live with them to escape the "flying bomb attacks" in London. Sept. 7 - "Mom, you hoped that I would come home the way you used to know me. I hope I do, know I will. I'm just getting to see a lot, learning a lot. Guess it's just that I'm growing up a bit." Oct. 3 - Writes to his father of frustration "We're replacements and the majority of us haven't gotten a job yet... A man's in the Army - and yet there's nothing for him to do..." Oct. 13 - "finally got my ballot...was able to stick my 2 cents in. I suppose we're fighting for that..." Oct. 23 - he writes in detail about a tour of Oxford University. Oct. 29 - He writes about finally being issued stoves for heating their tents and about stealing a chimney for it from a local abandoned building. Nov. 14 - He writes of new work doing engine repair, of shoveling truckloads of coal and of gathering up blankets to ship out ..."Most of the men in England now have only three blankets to their name - the others being taken away and sent to the front. That's the way it should be." In a Nov. 25th letter to his sister he tells about Thanksgiving dinners, cigarette ration cut in camp and asks about cigarette shortage at home "Heard rumors to the effect girls back home are beginning to smoke pipes. That's just a little too much...What's this world coming to. The fellows would like to come home and find the women as sweet and feminate as ever." Dec. 28 - He writes about infantry training - long hikes and learning to shoot the M-1 rifle, anticipating going to France. New Year's Eve/Day 1945 - in London at Red Cross Club on his first 48 hour pass where he enjoys hot water in "honest to goodness bathtub," shave from a barber, haircut and clean clothes; reminisces about home while wondering what new year will bring. Jan. 18 - "I'm feeling fine and am in the best of health. Guess that's what you hope for. As for my mental state - let's just say that I've sort of trained my mind to put up with this kind of life." The last letter in the series is written to his sister on January 20, 1945. He writes "As for understanding women - I've given it up as a bad job. Right now I'm content to be carried along by the tide - taking things as they come.... We finished our training yesterday - it looks as though we'll be going to the Continent before long."
box WWII 63, folder 3, folder 3

Series 3, Dog tags 1917-1919

Physical Description: .125 Linear Feet(1 folder)
Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains two metal dog tags on a single cloth cord. Each of the tags is inscribed EDWIN G. SWANSON. CO.L. 307. INF. on one side, and 1707152 U.S.A. on the reverse.
box WWII 63, folder 4, folder 4

Series 4, VFW medal

Physical Description: .125 Linear Feet(1 folder)
Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains a Veteran of Foreign Wars of U.S. medal awarded to Edwin Geog Swanson. The medal is a Maltese cross with radiating rays and the Great Seal of the United States in the center. It is attached to a ribbon of red, white and blue. The ribbon is in poor condition, nearly torn in half.
box WWII 63, folder 5, folder 5

Series 5, Photographs (album) 1943-1945

Physical Description: .25 Linear Feet(1 folder)
Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains photographs of people, buildings and landscapes, including snapshots and 5x7 images, taken during George E. Swanson's service in the United States and Europe. Early images in 1943 are of training camp at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA. There are images at Tidworth Camp, England (August 1944 - Feb. 1945) and in continental Europe (1945-46). Swanson's European service travel included France, Germany, Austria, and Denmark. -- Places mentioned in writing on the backs of photos, or apparent in photo subjects, include Youngstown, OH in June 1944; Paris, France; Alsace, France; Kassel, Rechtenbach, Aschafenburg, Lohr am Main Fritzlar, Geismar, Hersfeld, and Reinhardshausen at Bad Wildungen in Germany; Salzburg, Austria, and Nyborg, Svenborg and Copenhagen, Denmark. -- In addition to scenery, the series includes images of Swanson, fellow soldiers, military buildings and encampments, abandoned German artillery, historic buildings and structures, farms, bridges, rivers, trains, ships.
box WWII 63, folder 6, folder 6

Series 6, Prayer book

Physical Description: .125 Linear Feet(1 folder)
Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains a "Service Prayer Book" typical of those given to military personnel. It includes an "identification card" page containing the handwritten name Pvt. George Swanson, his serial number, address, name and address of next of kin. His military address is written in the book. The book contains, prayers, psalms, verses for meditation, hymns, order of worship. It is in fair condition - some water damage, cover and binding are loose.