Finding aid for the James N. McNutt Second World War correspondence 2017.321.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: James N. McNutt Second World War correspondence
Creator: McNutt, James N.
source: Gaye McNutt
Identifier/Call Number: 2017.321.w.r
Physical Description: 2 Linear feet (2 boxes)
Date (inclusive): 1941 February 11 - 1945 October 31
Abstract: This collection contains correspondence from 1st Lt. James N. "Snakey" McNutt, USA to his wife Moydale Neuman McNutt during the Second World War. It also includes two diaries written by McNutt as well as the book, Seek, Strike, Destroy which featured McNutt's diaries and digital media containing information pertaining to what was written in the letters and diaries and photos.
Physical Description: Many letters are breaking along folds and are in several pieces therefore are placed in individual paper folders. Both of the diaries are separated from their spines.
Language of Material: English .
Container: WWII 85
Container: 1-6
Container: 1-6
Container: WWII 86
Container: 1-7
Container: 7-13
Container: WWII 87
Container: 1-6
Container: 14-19
Container: WWII 88
Container: 1-6
Container: 20-25
Container: WWII 89
Container: 1-5
Container: 26-30

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Gaye McNutt


This collection is arranged by material type and date.
  • Series 1, Correspondence
  • Series 2, Diaries
  • Series 3, Book
  • Series 4, Gaye McNutt digital material
  • Series 5, Ephemera

Biographical / Historical

First Lieutenant James Nelson "Snakey" McNutt, United States Army (8/7/1917 - 12/2/1979) married Moydale Neumann on October 14, 1941. They had two children, Thomas Carlton McNutt and Gaye Lynn McNutt.
James Nelson McNutt obituary with photographs: --
History of 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion: -- Obituary for Moydale McNutt - --
Excerpts from letters to Moydale:

Preferred Citation

[Item title, Box number, Folder number], James N. (Snakey) McNutt Second World War correspondence (2017.321.w.r), Center for American War Letters Archives, Chapman University, CA.

Content Description

This collection contains correspondence from 1st Lt. James N. "Snakey" McNutt, USA to his wife Moydale Neuman McNutt during the Second World War. This collection also includes two diaries written by McNutt (1944-45), a copy of a discharge certificate, the book "Seek, Strike, Destroy: The History of the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion" which includes accounts from McNutt's diaries, and a CD containing relevant information pertaining to what was written in the letters and diaries and photos.

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 (1939-1945)
Correspondence -- World War, 1939-1945
World War (1939-1945) -- North Africa
World War (1939-1945) -- Italy
World War (1939-1945) -- Germany
World War (1939-1945) -- France
Gaye McNutt

box WWII 85, folder 1-6, folder 1-6, box WWII 86, folder 1-7, folder 7-13, box WWII 87, folder 1-6, folder 14-19, box WWII 88, folder 1-6, folder 20-25, box WWII 89, folder 1, folder 26

Series 1, Correspondence 1941-1945

Physical Description: 2.1 Linear Feet(26 folders)
Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains correspondence from 1st Lt. James "Snakey" McNutt, USA to Moydale Neuman McNutt. Most of the correspondence is written on original stationery, athough there are telegrams and V-mail. He always ends his letters with a declaration of his love for her and signs them all with his nickname "Snakey." He usually begins letters with an accounting of how many of her letters and packages he has received. He writes nearly daily and expects she will write to him as often. His handwriting is very difficult to read.
In early letters he is writing to her in Rosenberg, TX from Camp Bowie where he is training. He writes of his intense loneliness and how much he misses her. Of her mother's suggestion they get married he writes "I think that would be the grandest thing in the world. It would be just like walking out of hell right into Heaven..." She later suggests it would be best if they wait until he is out of the Army. They marry 10/14/1941. He writes of daily life, drills, hikes, field manuevers, guard duty, K.P., driving trucks, target practice, and of keeping up his car, occasional gambling with cards and dice, and of his plans for weekend passes to see Moydale. He often writes of his lonliness.
July 16, 1941 he writes of receiving a new rating as a mechanic resulting in monthly pay of $43. In his next letter he writes "I think we are in this Army for an indefinite time. That really sounds bad and really disgusts me. I have never felt so bad about anything in all my life. I wish I could get out of this thing in some way."
July 23 he writes, " I guess it is pretty well a settled fact that we are going to get married in October... I have been ready to make the fatal step for quite awhile. I can hardly wait." -- McNutt served and saw action in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. He ocassionally writes about his feelings about war and what he is doing.
In a letter dated 12/17/43 he writes "when the people on Wall Street have had all they can get out of this war, they will probably call it quits.." On Christmas Eve, 1943, in Italy "... I pray each night I will not have to go on like this... I wish it was possible for me to tell you of the hardships we go thru daily..."
From France, Aug. 26, 1944, "Surely do wish they would call this whole thing off and let us come home." In April and May 1945 as his company moves through France and Germany his letters share his anti-German sentiments and thoughts about looting and fraternization. -- McNutt trained mainly at Camp Bowie, but also at Camp Blanding, FL and Camp Edwards, MA. -- Many excerpts from Snakey's letters to Moydale, 1941-1943, can be found at Note there are some inaccuracies.
The following are more excerpts from the correspondence:
September 3, 1942 - I am deeply buried in my new job and I mean it is a lot of work. I have to start out in the morning about 5:30 and work until about 10:00 p.m. I don't know just how long this will have to keep up, but it may possibly ease up a bit after I catch up on my work and just how to do it. I can at least say I have more authority than anybody else in the company. I don't know whether I like that or not because I have to tell everybody else what they can do and what they can't do. That seems like a big job but I guess I will be accustomed to it just in case I do happen to stay with this job long enough. The only really big thing that bothers me is that about 99% of the men have come around and told me how much they want me to keep the job and how much they think I am qualified for it. That is what makes things a little tough, because I have so awful much to live up to. September 6, 1942 - Today a new order came out raising the pay of the first sergeant to $138 besides the quarters allowance of $37. I guess that is worth working for even if the job does carry so much responsibility. We moved to our new area but it is not on an island as we thought it would be, but we are close to it. We will go out to the island to practice making landings and also practice invading islands.
November 1, 1942 - We are moving into barracks tomorrow and I have been doing about twice as much work lately, as I was doing. I have been doing all my regular work at night and doing everything I could over there in the day time. We are going to have a real nice set-up when we get straightened out. We are going to be within a block of division Headquarters and we will have a bus station, canteen, chapel, and a few other things right in our midst. I am going to have a nice room all to myself.
November 8, 1942 - Captain Kinnison is going on leave Tuesday for ten days and I really do hate to see him leave with these new Lieutenants here to run the Company. It is really going to keep me busy, trying to tell my men what to do and also keep the lieutenants lined up on what to do next. I also have to keep up on my regular duties. This is going to be the hardest ten days I have put in since I have been in the Army.
November 20, 1942 - I thought for a while that I was going to have to write home for money because I gave a boy $50 to go home the other day when his mother died, but today I received a check for the full amount so I have enough cash on hand to make the trip. Separate letter, same envelope: Drunk so I wouldn't know what the date is. I am running the company to suit myself and believe I am doing a pretty good job of it because we got "excellent" on our in-spection this morning and that is something rather unusual. -- On furlough late November through early December 1942.
December 14, 1942 - I supposed they were all trying to make me feel good but everybody seemed so glad to see me get back. I thought the Captain would wring my hand off. He is the swellest guy I have ever known in all my life.
December 24, 1942 - All the officers gave me a shirt, tie and light colored scarf for Xmas, the Captain presented it to me and gave a pretty little speech that almost made me cry. I was really surprised to get it and certainly was glad at the same time. I gave the Captain a bottle of VVO.
December 31, 1942 - I had another Court Martial case this morning, at least I was the main witness against a boy for being AWOL for five days. He got four months at hard labor in the brig and a fine of $18 per month besides so I don't guess it pays too much to be absent. -- January 1, 1943 - This afternoon, I went out and tried one of these new Jeeps that travel in water as well as on land. Went to North Falmouth and ran it out in the bay, it certainly does work good and seems awful silly to drive off into the water.
January 5, 1943 - I went out today and fired the Thompsons submachine gun, it was the first time I have fired it and really thought it was fun ... I figured up my income for the year 1942 and it all figures up pretty good. I do not have to pay income tax on the money that I drew for quarters allowance which is $37.50 per month since I was a Staff Sergeant. After figuring these deductions my total income for the year was 1100.00 and that isn't bad at all.
January 28, 1948 Feeling rejected because Moydale won't quit her job and move to be with him until he goes overseas. "The only way I can see it is: You are comparing your job, home, mother and dad and friends with but one thing and that is merely a husband."
Sept. 10, 1944 - "was in my first real scrap with the Germans" (tells of shooting, wounding and capturing) -- Writes "... I am now a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. What do you think of that my Darling Wife?" He writes of being made a platoon leader. Requests gloves, cigarette lighter, and writes of how much he enjoys the food she sends.
Oct. 6, 1944 - commends her for paying off their house. Tells her not to say what she writes about "silly things" as he wants to hear only about life at home. Of one of his experiences he writes " I have passed my worst experience now Darling and since I was spared then, I feel that the worst is over. I spent six hours lying on my back while Jerry threw everything in the book at me. Shells hit so close that my gums started bleeding. Had to wait until dark and then crawl out on my belly. Don't let it worry you because that is past and forgotten."
Oct. 17, 1944 - writes of his feelings about taking a another's life in war "you don't even feel it ... just another job that has to be done..." -- Of being on the front lines..." I am hoping it will not last long because my legs are entirely too long for fox hole life."
Nov. 12, 1944 - :No, Darling, I will not be home for CHristmas
Dec. 3, 1944 - "I hate to bother you with my own troubles but it always makes me feel better so I will tell you a little something about my job. When the infantry loses contact with the enemy it is our job to gain contact and the only way you can do that is to get in a vehicle and ride until you are shot at and then we shoot back and get the hell out of those parts. It is a risky business ..."
March 22, 1945 - "in Germany."
April 8, 1945 - "Freed a bunch of American P.W.s the other day and it is really a great feeling to do something like that."
May 17, 1945 -Some censorship restrictions lifted so can now tell of his location south of Augsberg, has new administrative assignment, desk job. Writes the Army is sending men home though no officers are discharged yet; has 101 points, wishes he hadn't taken the commission because he might have been going home now; hoping to be sent home rather than to Pacific theater. Writes of life in Germany awaiting orders, enjoying electricity and hot water, officers club, getting ice cream, playing baseball and poker in leisure time. Assigned to be an investigator for his battalion investigating crimes ranging from rape to AWOL. Believes having a chance to be out of combat and living "normally" will help with adjusting to life at home. He worries about his wife "working too much" and asks "How easy will it be to quit your job when I come home?" Praises her management of their finances.
In July 1945 he writes of how living is pretty good while waiting to go home - beautiful countryside, nice house, laundry and cleaning done for them, good German beer, horseback riding, swimming, "swell" company commander - "All in all, I am pretty well satisfied to wait right here until the time comes when I can come home to you and that is all I am living and waiting for."
July 26 - advises her to stop sending packages as he may be headed home before they arrive.
July 27 - "That salary of yours of $2200 sounds like a lot of money to me, Darling."
August 1 - "The twenty-eight months that I have been over here have been pretty rough on me, but that has been nothing in comparison to how hard it has been for you."
Aug. 6 - writes he has received a Bronze Star and 5 more points so hopes his 111 point total will qualify him to go home soon.
August 12 - writes of a new temporary assignment at 2nd German Panzer Division in charge of trucks to transport German soldiers home.
August 16 - "...I was so very, very happy when I found out that you were quitting your job at the theatre ... Now all you have to do to make it complete is to quit the Post Office and then everything would be all right and I really mean it."
August 25 telegram says "Happy Birthday Darling. Will be home soon (some) time in September. Stop all mail ..." -- August 16 he writes he is on the coast of France waiting for a ship to U.S.A. Tells her he will be sent to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio.
Sept. 9 - "I am quite sure that this will be my last letter to you from Overseas."
Sept. 17 - telegram confirming reservation for the McNutts at Hotel Gunther in San Antonio from September 20 - 24.
box WWII 89, folder 2-3, folder 27-28

Series 2, Diaries 1944-1945

Physical Description: 0.05 Linear Feet(2 folders)
Physical Description: Both diaries have loose or separated bindings. Portions of the covers have disintegrated.
Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains two diaries, one each for 1944 and 1945, written by 1st Lt. James N. "Snakey" McNutt, USA. Correspondence with his wife, Moydale, indicates she gave them to him. They contain daily accounts of his activities - orders, maneuvers, patrols, meals, location, weather, living conditions, number of letters sent and received, accounts of engagements with enemy, taking prisoners, activities of men in his outfit, names of soldiers wounded or killed. Entries are printed and therefore much easier to read than McNutt's cursive handwriting in his correspondence.
box WWII 89, folder 4, folder 29

Series 3, Book - Seek, Strike, Destroy: The History of the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion 1986

Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

Seek, Strike, Destroy: The History of the 636th Tank Destroyer Battallion, by Thomas M. Sherman, 1986. Autographed by the author with inscription to Gaye McNutt, 11/04/2002.

Series 4, Gaye McNutt digital material

James N. McNutt digital files: 1941-1945

Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains a Microsoft Word document and PDF file of war-related information from the correspondence (Series 1), information from the diaries (Series 2), a PowerPoint slide show of images taken by James McNutt during the war. There are PDF copies of the Word and PowerPoint files.
box WWII 89, folder 5, folder 30

Series 5, Ephemera

Physical Description: 0.01 Linear Feet(1 folder)
Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

This series contains a copy of a discharge certificate for 1st Lt. James N. McNutt, USA and five souvenir postcards. The certificate indicates his discharge as First Sergeant on 09/20/1944 in order to accept a commission as 2nd Lieutenant. It is a Certificate in Lieu of Lost or Destroyed Discharge Certificate and was issued in March 1946. The postcards are ink and watercolor prints of scenery and people and contain no correspondence or handwriting.