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Guide to the Halbreich Papers
1941-1946 (bulk 1944-1945)
 MS 2959

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Megan Dolan

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 14, 2014
Description is in English

Biographical/Historical note

This collection of over 600 letters documents the almost daily correspondence between a newly married couple, Lester Halbreich and Shirley (Scheller) Halbreich, during World War II (largely from 1943 - 1945). Lester and Shirley were both Jewish natives of Brooklyn, New York. Lester attended Cornell University, graduated in 1937, and then attended New York University's School of Dentistry. Shirley also attended NYU, but left school after completing her freshman year to become a full-time wife. They married on December 24, 1941.

Shortly after they were married the United States entered WWII and Lester enlisted into service as a dentist in the US Navy. During the time Lester was away, Shirley and their son, Jeffrey Neal, who was born in July 1944, lived with her parents and sister at 921 Washington Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. This area had a significant Jewish population in the 1940s and many of the men from this area fought in WWII. Throughout Lester and Shirley’s letters they frequently mention other people from Crown Heights who were away at war and Lester describes making friends with other men from Brooklyn and bumping into people they knew during his time away.

Lester was first stationed for training at the Beeville Naval Air Station, Texas in 1943, and then, after returning to Brooklyn, was sent out to the Puget Sound Navy Yard Dispensary in Bremerton, Washington, where he was stationed from July-August 1944. He spent his time there working as a Navy dentist and completing a variety of training courses such as fire safety and prevention and chemical warfare. Lester’s time at war was spent on the USS Oxford APA 189, a newly commissioned ship that transported troops to and from combat areas in the Pacific. The ship also had a permanent crew of men which included medical personnel to attend to the troops, to which Lester was assigned. This ship was commissioned on September 11, 1944 at the Naval Station, Astoria, Oregon by Commander Crandall. Lester boarded the USS Oxford here and remained on this ship until he was decommissioned in December 1945.

The ship’s itinerary is as follows: The Oxford embarked 1,478 troops at San Francisco, California, and set sail for the South Pacific Ocean on October 26, 1944. She arrived at New Guinea on November 12, 1944, and then operated between Hollandia and Noumea, New Caledonia, and between Florida Island and Mantis Island. On the Oxford, Lester participated in landing operations in Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, and the Philippine Islands in January 1945. The Oxford then continued to transport troops between Leyte, Manus, and Wakde Islands. She also provided troop transport services during the initial landings at Okinawa April 1-5, 1945; of which Lester provides a detailed account. She then travelled to Guam, Pearl Harbor, and finally to San Francisco, California in May to take replacement troops on board the ship. The Oxford set sail again for the South Pacific in May 1945, this time to the Carolines, the Philippines, New Guinea, and Eniwetok, which she reached on July 22nd. On July 24th the Oxford departed with three other ships for San Francisco, where she spent the second week of August 1945. She departed August 23rd for Eniwetok with U.S. Army replacement troops. After stops at Ulithi, Manila, Subic Bay, and Japanese ports, the Oxford returned to San Francisco in late November 1945. Lester’s experiences throughout these events are reflected in the letters.