The Hansen papers contain 142 letters from Gordon L. Hansen to his parents and sister, Ev, written during his service in the 14th Armored Division during the Second World War. The collection is supplemented by three valuable manuscripts: a journal detailing his experiences prior to going overseas, a memoir composed in 1995 which describes his overseas experience, and a 2007 article entitled "The Unreported Indignity." The bulk of the collection is concentrated in 1944-1945.
Hansen's letters to his parents include interesting and thoughtful descriptions of his wartime experiences. They reflect a deep longing for home, but an overriding sense of the need to fulfill his duty to serve. Prior to going overseas, he wrote "I am not daunted by the possibility that I may never return. My prayers have been for strength to conduct myself in a manner that will glorify God and be a credit to my family and country rather than for personal safety" (1944 October 1).
There are two main areas of interest in the Hansen papers. First, Hansen's religious faith emerges in nearly all of his letters and throughout his journal. His letters illustrate how his abiding faith helped him to endure the hardships of war with equanimity. He wrote to his parents, "I've seen a lot and God alone has brought me thru!" Men from his squad asked Hansen to read from the Bible, since he was the only one who had one; but he added, "men aren't atheists here."
Secondly, Hansen's memoir provides some truly outstanding descriptions of his combat experiences in 1944 and 1945. Compiled in 1995, the memoir is the true heart of the collection since censorship deprived his letters of any details on locations, troop movements, or engagements. His cohesive and detailed memoir is interspersed with copies of cartoons by Bill Mauldin, excerpts of Hansen's letters, and quotes from Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe. In his memoir, the skirmish near Rittershoffen, Germany, in early January 1945 in which nearly his entire squad was decimated, emerges as a particularly bitter event, though barely mentioned in his letters. The subsequent rebuilding of his company and their morale illustrates their resiliency and Hansen's optimism and faith.