SALISBURY, MD---Seventy years ago, the United States was deep in the throes of World War II. As young men and women found themselves fighting foreign enemies in unfamiliar territory, most any comfort from home was welcomed.
Anna Jones Cooper understood that. An assistant at the Salisbury State Teachers College (STC) library and manager of the school bookstore, she also helmed the STC Alumni Committee. In that role, she regularly wrote and sent copies of the student newspaper, The Holly Leaf, to SU students, faculty and alumni serving overseas.
She saved the letters she received back, along with newspaper clippings about the soldiers, in some cases even after they returned from the war. Salisbury University’s Blackwell Library presents a sampling of these materials in the digital exhibit “STC Serving Our Country,” available at http://www.salisbury.edu/library/archives/cooper_wwii/cooper_intro.asp.
Curated by senior history major Jessica Simpson of Mt. Airy, MD, with assistance from senior English and political science major John Plinke of Greensboro, MD, the exhibit includes photos, correspondence, newspaper clippings and more discovered in the Anna Cooper Alumni Committee Collection of the SU Archives at Blackwell. University Archivist David Ranzan supervised the project.
A handful of students are highlighted. They include Samuel Colgain of Denton, MD; Thomas Flowers of Hooper Island, MD; and Robert Heatwole, Robert Hill Jr., Walter McAllister and David Somervell of Salisbury. Photos of them and others who served reveal young men and women whose experiences made them mature beyond their years.
The exhibit also features quotes from letters sent by students and alumni Vernon “Pat” Gawain, Richard Schallon, Chas Elliot, David Perry, Philip Haddaway, Olin Bedsworth Jr. and William Hollis. Their words convey pride, optimism and sometimes fear.
“It looks as if the war with Germany is about over,” wrote Gawain in September 1944. “If Adolph isn’t shaking in his shoes, he should be.”
Flowers, also stationed in Germany, echoed a feeling that the war soon would be over in a letter dated April 1945, adding, “There are so many things I would like to tell you, things I would not have believed myself had I not seen them with my own eyes. It is just one big mess over here.”
Hollis weighed in from the Pacific Theatre: “The Japs gave us a warm welcome. In fact, it turned out to be a hot one … the heavy barrage of 4.7 shells and smaller stuff like 20 mm burst all around us, but we got through it all right.”
Schallon longed for the comforts of the classroom: “By the way, when — and if — I ever get out of this army, I’d like to enroll for another year. … I guess the army taught us a little lesson that we couldn’t learn in books — the value of a good education.”
Newspapers featured in the exhibit range from Eastern Shore publications such as The Federalsburg Times, to military camp and ship newsletters, to the official service publication Stars and Stripes. Their headlines shared more horrors than the soldiers’ sometimes-censored letters could: “Reds 91 Mi. From Berlin; Shut Ring Around Breslau,” “6,000 Planes Rip Rail Net; 800,000 Nazis Killed in East,” “509 Jap Planes Destroyed on Honshu.” The Phillips News, newsletter of the Cambridge, MD-based Phillips Packing Co., encouraged its employees to “Help End the War in ’44.”
In addition, the exhibit includes photos and archival materials from the Service Honor Roll plaque, unveiled at SU on December 8, 1942. Hung on the front of Holloway Hall, the plaque included the names of SU students, alumni and faculty who were serving in the war, beginning with the Class of 1927.
A permanent plaque listing all of the school’s World War II veterans known at that time replaced the Service Honor Roll plaque in 1948 and remains in place today. An updated list of 316 names, including some not on the 1948 plaque, is showcased as part of the exhibit.
For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.