This collection contains around 580 letters that Lieutenant Herbert Brigdon Syrett ("Brig") wrote to his mother while serving with the United States Army during World War II, as well as a scrapbook (around 60 pages) about his military experiences.
The Correspondence series contains Syrett's letters to his mother from January 6, 1943-December 11, 1945; and 13 letters from Syrett to Howard and Miriam Cusack, January 10, 1944-August 23, 1945. He first described daily life and training exercises at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Arkansas. In April 1943, he was transferred to Camp Barkeley, Texas, where he participated in an officers' training program and recorded details about his daily schedule and courses. By August 1943, he had graduated and had joined the 102nd Medical Battalion for training at Camp Grant, Illinois, filling his correspondence with descriptions of the scenery and his travels. In December 1943, Syrett reported his safe arrival in Hawaii and his unit's preparations for campaigns in the jungles of the Pacific Theater. While in Hawaii, Syrett became a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club on Waikiki Beach, and he also wrote about his training, military life, officer duties, and leave periods in Honolulu.
After May 1944, Syrett wrote from Saipan, where he participated in active combat during the Allied invasion. He recounted some of his experiences during the battle, such as living in a foxhole and witnessing bombing raids. After the battle, he commented on native life, the impact of the fighting, and insects. Syrett also reported his increasing religious faith and mentioned his religious activities, particularly after his first experiences in active combat. On December 3, 1944, he wrote about non-United States citizens who had joined the country's military forces. In April 1945, Syrett was transferred to Okinawa, Japan, and he compared the United States Army and United States Navy during his voyage. Throughout the summer of 1945, he anticipated the end of the war and wrote about the power of the atomic bomb, while expressing his hope that the war would end soon. After the Japanese surrender, he served in Okinawa, Muramatsu, and Niigata, Japan, which he described. An avid souvenir hunter, Syrett discussed his acquisitions throughout his military service. He also responded to news from home, provided information about other servicemen with whom he corresponded, and discussed the military's encouragement of V-mail services. An undated photograph of an unidentified soldier is housed at the end of the series.
Syrett occasionally enclosed items such as dried flowers, magazine articles, and newspaper clippings in his letters. In his correspondence with the Cusacks, Syrett occasionally sent snapshot photographs of himself, fellow soldiers, destroyed buildings, and scenery (November 24, 1944, 3 photos; January 25, 1945, 6 photos; March 1, 1945, 7 photos). He often wrote on stationery depicting the logos of the United States Army, United States Navy, Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Camp Barkeley, and Camp Grant, as well as stationery with scenes from Camp Barkeley and Hawaii. In 1945, Syrett sometimes composed letters on paper he took from Japanese soldiers. Some letters are V-mail letters, including pre-printed Easter and Mother's Day greetings.
The Scrapbook (around 60 pages) is comprised primarily of newspaper clippings and ephemera from Syrett's World War II service. The items are arranged roughly chronologically. He also collected newsletters, programs, and tickets during his time in the United States, as well as currency during his time abroad. Official documents such as Syrett's draft cards, military orders, and vaccine records are also present. Newspaper clippings relate to the 27th Army Division, jungle training exercises in Hawaii, the Battle of Saipan, the Battle of Okinawa, and the Pacific Theater. Christmas cards are also pasted into the volume.