Marcus Ahlenfeld papers  1825-1876
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The bulk of this collection (1 linear foot) consists of over 300 letters that Private Albert Starke Drischell wrote to his family in Baldwin, New York, about his experiences in the United States Army from January 21, 1943-December 6, 1945. The collection also contains letters and postcards that Drischell received during his military service and a few ephemera items.

Drischell addressed the majority of his letters to his parents, and occasionally wrote to his younger siblings, Ralph and Ruth. He composed his first letters while at Camp Upton in Long Island, New York, soon after entering the service, and provided his impressions of the camp, his companions, military life, and training exercises. At Camp Swift, Texas, he wrote about his experiences at Texas A&M University, where he was among a group tested for entrance into a selective educational program. After being accepted, he moved to New Mexico and began taking college-level engineering courses at New Mexico College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts. He and many others found the coursework difficult, and by November he had failed a course and was removed from the program. While in New Mexico, he shared his determination to succeed and gave his opinions of other men in the army, particularly his negative opinions of those who drank to excess (July 8, 1943). He also mentioned his moral objection to the war.

Drischell left New Mexico for Fort Custer, Michigan, where he attended courses in military government and occasionally guarded German prisoners. In one letter, he expressed his fear that soldiers would have difficulty readjusting to civilian life after being schooled in "mass murder" (January 23, 1944). In early 1945, Drischell moved to Camp Reynolds, Pennsylvania, where his unit awaited overseas deployment. He continued to describe his experiences, offered his opinions on the army, and mentioned trips taken to the surrounding towns while on temporary leave. In mid-May 1944, Drischell arrived in Scotland, though he was transferred to England soon after. As part of a replacement battalion, he occupied much of his free time by accompanying women to dances and befriending local families. He also acted in a play put on by the army, and briefly toured with an army theatrical group in the fall of 1944, an experience he enjoyed and hoped to continue in his post-army life. Many of his letters from this time focused on the economic and physical hardships of the war, and other letters mention a visit to London (February 15, 1945), his support for Thomas E. Dewey in the 1944 presidential election (August 6, 1944), George Bernard Shaw's views on capitalism, communism, and democracy (August 8, 1944), and his efforts to obtain conscientious objector status.

After being deployed on the Continent in March 1945, Drischell shared his impressions of the devastated French and German countryside, through which he advanced as part of the 318th Infantry Regiment. After the war, he described the small Austrian town where he was stationed, in which German children born out of wedlock were being "raised for use in foreign lands" (May 16, 1945). Drischell also accounted for the gap in his letters between April and May, when he advanced deep into Germany and Austria and participated in active combat (May 31, 1945, et al.). Freed from the constraints of censorship after V-E day, he reported on some of his combat experiences, and he believed that he never directly killed an enemy soldier. Throughout his European service, Drischell continually voiced his appreciation for the United States and compared it to Europe, occasionally calling his native country a relative "utopia."

Drischell sometimes enclosed souvenirs from his European travels in his letters, including a French 50-franc note (March 25, 1945), German stamps (June 20, 1945), and clippings from the Stars and Stripes and other papers. By late August 1945, he was in Paris as a member of a traveling dramatic troupe, and he wrote less frequently. His final letter, dated December 6, 1945, reveals that he went on tour in Germany.

Additional items include 2 printed church programs from 1944, a newspaper clipping featuring an English unit's canine mascot, and a list of men from St. Peter's Church who served in the war, including Albert S. Drischell. One undated letter fragment from "Iggie" discusses his experiences as a soldier in India, and another by an anonymous writer concerns Drischell's acting and a mutual acquaintance named "Fip."

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