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Writing a World War II Veteran's Daughter ~~ 3rd Armored Division
I spent six years at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, 1989-1995, working on my Masters and Doctoral degrees in Modern European History. My long term goal was to teach university level history, but my short term goal, dictated by the requirements for the Ph.D., was to conduct original research and complete a dissertation. Because I was already very interested in World War II and the Holocaust, I decided to conduct research on the American GIs who liberated the concentration camps.
The research and writing process took a long time and during that period I was in touch with many World War II veterans. Some of them filled out a questionnaire for me. Others had completed surveys about their experiences for other researchers, projects or archives. In some instances the veteran and I developed a correspondence and they often sent me valuable historical materials, in addition to answering my survey questions.
Even after teaching for over fifteen years, I still occasionally hear from a family member of one of the veterans. Recently I had the pleasure of being contacted through HubPages by the daughter, Louise Fletcher, of a soldier mentioned in my dissertation, “Henry Soderberg.” Louise has never read my dissertation, but she found my name on a piece of paper in her father’s possessions after he died. She contacted me hoping for copies of anything her father might have written. Below is her message to me and my response to Mrs. Fletcher.
A Veteran's Daughter Seeks Information
Louise Fletcher - Hi, I commented yesterday without realizing I had to sign up first. I apologize. My Dad was a WWII vet Third Armored Division. I found evidence that he may have taken part in your survey but I'm not sure if it was yours or it was another one. He was writing to 'Miss Ast'. His name was Henry Soderberg. If he did, I'd love to have a copy of what he sent you. He died 2/14/2010.
Confronting the Holocaust
Letter to a Veteran's Daughter
Hi Louise, I am so sorry for the loss of your father. I know how hard that is, my father an Air Force Veteran passed away December 2010. I had to do a bit of searching to find your father's name (there are over 500 veteran’s names listed in the back of my dissertation.) Mr. Soderberg, did not fill out a survey for me, for the Crawford, Witness to the Holocaust Project at Emory University. However, long before I started working on the liberator projects at Emory, your father and many other veterans completed a survey conducted by the United States Army.
It was called the World War II Survey Questionnaire, and they are located at the United States Army Military History Institute, which is in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. The purpose of the survey as I'm sure you can imagine, was to gather as much information as possible from the World War II veterans before it was too late. The survey asked all kinds of questions about their military service and experience.
I wish I could remember specifically if your father and I corresponded, but I worked with the questionnaires, surveys, tape recordings, letters, and photographs of over 500 veterans. What was interesting, and which might explain why your father had my name, was that if I did conduct an Emory University Questionnaire with a veteran, they often either wrote to or talked to other veterans they were in touch with, about me and the project.
Henry Soderberg, 3rd Armored Division, Greatest Generation
In fact, I think one of the veterans mentioned all the questionnaires at Carlisle Barracks. Otherwise, I would never have known about them because I lived in Georgia. I will say this about all of the many, many veterans whom I have talked to, who wrote wonderful letters to me, who shared their personal war-time letters, pictures, memoirs, and memorabilia with me...they were incredibly thoughtful, generous, kind, and helpful. They were everything we think about, when we think of the men of the Greatest Generation.
I don't have a copy of his questionnaire because they did not allow us to make copies. They allowed me to see them and make handwritten notes in pencil. I no longer have those pencil scribbled notes, which ended up filling eight shoe-boxes, as I completed my dissertation fifteen years ago.
I don't know where you live, if you are close enough to make a trip to Carlisle barracks. But if not, I suggest writing the archivist in charge, explaining who you are, that your father a World War II veteran recently passed away, and ask them to make a copy of his questionnaire and mail it to you.
A Belated Thank You to a Generation of Soldiers
There might be a small charge for the copying expenses, but I'm not sure. Since he was a veteran and you were his family, they might do it for free. I had to pay for anything that I copied -- letters and reports -- but that is understandable because I was doing a research project.
I wish I could be of more help and I'm very glad you contacted me and I hope that Carlisle Barracks will be able and willing to provide you with your father's information. My condolences to your family and please convey to them the enormous respect and gratitude that so many of us feel for the men (and women) who fought in World War II. Thank you. Theresa Ast
P.S. Occasionally, I will use comments or questions that people write to me, as the basis for creating a new Hub or essay. I would like to do that with your request and my reply. I think we all need to remember our World War II veterans and especially remember that as they pass on, they are leaving beloved families behind. I hope you do not mind.
Louise Fletcher responded: I have a letter here that Dad started to write to you, but I am guessing he never sent it. We live outside of Philadelphia so I will check out the Carlisle connection as soon as I can. It's not close by but it's in the state!!
I am looking forward to reading more on the site as I loved to hear Dad's stories about the war. He didn't say a lot, but I did videotape him for 8 hours about 3 months before he died. We made a 30 minute video - you can google it under Henry D. Soderberg if you have time. Thanks for the information, Theresa!!
A Daughter Responds - The Conversation Continues
Theresa! Thanks so much for the beautiful essay, for the information about Carlisle and for being here for me and all the others interested in what happened during WWII and to those who were there, since that time. And thank you and Patriette for the condolences for Dad. It's funny how things happen.
I had put Dad's things aside for a bit, but on the anniversary of D Day this week, a business colleague, Ed Snyder, sent me an email reminding me of the D Day anniversary. I told him briefly about Dad and that I'd be sure to wear his dog tags on this special day. He called me and was very emotional; he said that he was working on collecting information on those who helped liberate the concentration camps.
I sent him the letter that Dad had started to write to Miss Ast - he was thrilled to have it. I will direct him to this website on Monday when I get back into work. I have another friend whose Dad was on the USS Missouri when the Japanese surrendered. I'll have to renew my efforts to have his daughter record his memories of that time. I am very impressed by the activity on this site, and the quality of the responses from all.
I feel like we are all on the same page - and we all want to know more about this time in America's history - and the Greatest Generation. A big "Thank you" to "Miss Ast" for her dedication to history via writing, teaching and maintaining this site, and to all who contribute so thoughtfully, to this site. I look forward to sharing more information in the future.
You are so very welcome, Louise. And there are quite a few people in addition to Patriette who appreciate your father’s service and sacrifice and are excited about the possibilities that await you at MHI. (I went on their website last night and things have changed since I was there 19 years ago. Just be very persistent and tell them what you want to see are the WW II Survey Questionnaires. Eventually they will put you in touch with the right person in the right building.)
Mr. Snyder sounds like a wonderful friend. It takes some digging, but there is a lot of information on the Nazi camps and the American Liberators on the USHMM website, but it is general information, probably not specific to a single individual. But they do have some very good bibliographies which list the most relevant books.
“I sent him the letter that Dad had started to write to Miss Ast - he was thrilled to have it. I will direct him to this website on Monday when I get back into work.”
Please do. I have about ten essays on HP specifically dealing with the concentration camps and these have foot notes giving the names of the solders and the location where I found their testimony. And I am so glad you are encouraging your friend to record her father’s memories. Soon all we will have are the letter and tapes and photographs.
“I am very impressed by the activity on this site, and the quality of the responses from all. I feel like we are all on the same page - and we all want to know more about this time in America's history - and the Greatest Generation.”
It is a great site and we appreciate the HubPages staff, who maintain this platform-site for all of us to use. There are all kinds of writers, all kinds of topics, and all levels of writing here. Each of us chooses what we are interested in and what we want to read. Of course I am most interested in history. I, quite a few of us on HP, look forward to hearing from you again.
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