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jgsmith

About this collection

Correspondence and photographs by an ordinary soldier in WWII writing home from the European Theater to his wife and parents in Minneapolis. Over 300 letters and 100 photographs of scenes of Germany at the end of the war. Purchased by the Hennepin County Library.

The James G. Smith Collection is a collection of World War II correspondence and photographs organized chronologically. It documents a U.S. soldier's life during World War II, beginning as an enlistee in the U.S. Army in March 1942 to his being shipped back to the U.S. and released from duty in October 1945. Included are letters to his wife and parents documenting his responses to their letters and detailing his everyday life and concerns while being acutely aware of the need to censor his letters for privacy and national security concerns.

James Gordon Smith was born in Minnesota in 1909. Prior to enlisting, he was co-owner/operator of the Goal Line which sold beverages and was located at 1506 E. Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis. His wife Melba worked at the Red Owl Store at 900 North 4th Street. His parents worked at Greenwood Lodge in McGregor, Minnesota, in the summers. In March 1942, at the age of 32, James enlisted in the Army. His battalion left for Europe in early March 1944.

 

He continued his military career as a Technical Sergeant with the 519th AAA Gun Battalion. He received bronze stars for service in the Normandy campaign (Utah Beach), the Rhineland Campaign, and in the Belgium campaign at the Battle of the Bulge. In May 1945, he was promoted to 1st Sergeant and was stationed at one of the largest prisoner of war camps on the continent. He had two noncombat injuries during his military career, including serious injuries from a jeep accident that resulted in hospitalization in France. He returned to the United States in October of 1945. Smith later worked as an insurance agent in Minneapolis. He died in 1995.

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