Phyllis Okoniewski collection  1941-1945 (bulk 1942-1945)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection is made up of the World War II-era correspondence of Stephen M. Klima and his wife, Mary Samut Klima. Stephen Klima reported on his experiences with the United States Army's 16th Infantry Regiment at camps in the United States and in North Africa. Mary Klima continued to write letters to her husband after he was reported killed in action in April 1943, and many items pertain to her bereavement and widow's allowances.

The Personal Correspondence series (approximately 1.75 linear feet) comprises the bulk of the collection. The majority is personal letters to and between Mary Samut and Stephen Klima (January 26, 1939-January 7, 1952). Items include manuscript and typed letters, telegrams, V-mail, and picture postcards.

The earliest letters are incoming correspondence to Mary Samut from several acquaintances and, after July 1940, from Stephen Klima, her friend, fiancé, and husband. He wrote about his work with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon until January 1941, when he enlisted in the United States Army. Klima, who served with Company F of the 16th Infantry Regiment for his entire military career, described his experiences at Fort Wadsworth, New York; Fort Devens, Massachusetts; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Camp Blanding, Florida; Fort Benning, Georgia; Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania; and in England and North Africa. He commented on their romantic relationship, his feelings about being separated from his wife and young son, training and military life, travel, and local people (particularly in England). He repeatedly encouraged Mary not to worry about him. His final letter is dated March 15, 1943; he was reported missing in action a short time later.

From March 3, 1943-February 12, 1944, Mary Klima continued to write to her husband. Though she acknowledged that he had been formally reported dead, she believed that he would one day receive her letters and write back. She provided updates about their son, discussed her religious and social activities, and shared her hope for her husband's return. The envelopes from this period have stamps from military post offices indicating that Klima had been reported as killed in action.

Mary Samut Klima received letters from friends and family members throughout and after the war. Joan O'Hara (later Nelson), one of Mary's most frequent and consistent correspondents, wrote about her life in New York, California, and Pennsylvania. Her letters from the late 1940s and early 1950s largely pertain to her family life and her daughter Linda. Klima's other correspondents included military personnel, such as John C. Kulman (Company G, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines), Michael Desko (Company B, 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment), and Donald J. Crocker (Naval Air Technical Training Center, Chicago, Illinois). These men reported on their experiences in the military and usually signed their letters affectionately; Desko wished her luck in her romantic endeavors. Mary's brother Edward ("Eddie") wrote about his training with Company B of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (82nd Airborne Division) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1946. Enclosures include photographs and a matchbook (July 26, 1944).

The Military Correspondence series (approximately 0.25 linear feet) consists of typed and manuscript letters that Mary Klima received from organizations including the United States War Department, United States Army Finance Office, American Red Cross, American Legion, and Army Relief Society. Many items are responses to Mary's repeated requests for information about her husband, who was reported missing in action in late March 1943 and killed in action in April 1943. Other materials concern her pension and her husband's medals.

The Ephemera and Printed Items series (approximately 0.25 linear feet) is primarily comprised of greeting cards for Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and other occasions. Other items include a newspaper clipping with a humorous essay about World War I army service, Mary's manuscript notes begging for censors to let it pass through the mail, an advertisement and order form for a history of the United States Army's 1st Division, and a humorous permit allowing Stephen Klima to associate freely with both men and women.

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