This is a wonderful collection documenting the state-side World War II experience of the average homesick Michigander, pressed into duty for his country and wanting desperately to get home as soon as possible to his wife and new baby. It is also a unique collection documenting the prisoners of war, mainly German, who were processed in/out and worked in North Carolina, their treatment, work projects, and care.
The collection includes 173 letters that Lillian received from her husband, Lloyd Thompson. 165 were written between February and December 1945, and eight were written in 1946. Lloyd wrote them from North Carolina, where he was stationed either at the Prisoner of War Camp of Fort Butner or Hendersonville. Lloyd always wrote of missing her, wishing to be discharged, of his friends and officers in the army, of working on and driving various vehicles, of their baby, of life in the barracks, of prostitutes and drinking in town and at parties, of the arrest of prostitutes and GIs caught with them in Durham, and of the point system by which U.S. soldiers were dismissed from duty. Mostly, Lloyd wrote of the prisoners of war (POWs), who were all Germans until November 23, 1945 when French, Czech, Polish and Dutch prisoners were added to the camps. He noted the weekly American movies they watched, the crops they harvested, POW escapes, a tunnel and bomb they created, searching them, transporting them, what they ate, changes in their status and privileges after VE Day, how his truck drivers occasionally hit POWs, and how local farmers and pulp wood manufacturers fought Washington, D.C. to extend the time they could employ POWs. (The deadline originally was January 1, 1947, but this was extended through the end of March.) Lloyd was assigned to clean out side POW camps and eventually Camp Butner. His dismissal was delayed until the camp was nearly emptied, at which point he collected supplies for his wife and himself (new shoes, wool trousers, a jacket, soap, and towels) and shipped them home. He also noted others, particularly civilians, who were caught sneaking into POW areas and, later, civilians who stole camp supplies.
Also included in the collection are letters Lillian received from female relatives and friends, including two from her mother-in-law, Mrs. M. Thompson, in 1944 and 1945; one from a friend Corporal Abbigail Balgooyen [spelled with two b’s]; two from her sister, Ella Jannetta, in Durham, North Carolina, in 1945; two from Thompson relatives, Mary Ellen, and Bob, Helen and Kids; and a congratulatory baby card form two friends, all dated 1945. Most of the letters are pretty general in nature and brief, inquiring about Lillian and the baby, Lloyd being gone, and noting the health and activities of mutual friends and family members. Of special note is the letter from Lillian’s friend, Cpl. Abbigail Balgooyen, dated June 20, 9144. Abbigail was a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (a WAAC) stationed “Somewhere in England”. Her letter vividly describes the extremely uncomfortable living conditions in her “camp,” which included straw mattresses (bolsters), “cell” like rooms, and having no pillows. She had had measles, which delayed her being sent to England. A U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Record of Lloyd W. Thompson (copy) is included.
The letters are all handwritten, mostly in ink, a few in pencil, on various types and sizes of paper. A few of the letters are acidic and yellowed. Two photographs are included, one of an old man and two young boys ( with letter of March 27, 1945) and one of Lloyd, who has his back towards the camera (with letter of June 8, 1945). Information about POW camps in the U.S. and Fort Butner is included (copies, 2006), as well as a rough inventory of the letters.