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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

Descriptive Summary

Title: Halbreich Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1941-1946
Dates [bulk]: Bulk, 1944-1945
Abstract: Collection of letters between newlywed couple, Shirley and Lester Halbriech, during Lester’s time serving as a dentist in the Navy during World War II. Also includes a small collection of greeting cards and postcards from the 1940s, including some baby birthday cards.
Quantity: 1.67 Linear feet (4 boxes)
Location note: Manuscript Cage
Call Phrase: MS 2959

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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.

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Scope and Contents note

This collection is comprised of over 600 letters between Lester and Shirley Hlabreich while Lester was serving as a U.S. Army dentist on board the USS Oxford during World War II. Lester’s letters reflect his daily existence on board the Oxford; his dentistry work, interactions he had with other men on board, games they played, books he read, food he ate, movies he saw, and ‘liberty’ trips ashore at these various Pacific islands. Due to censorship regulations he does not go into much detail about where he was and the operations in which the Oxford was involved. When censorship regulations were waived, however, he provided some interesting insights into his experiences at these various places and invasions, most notably the original landings at Okinawa. Lester’s letters also touch upon events of the day, and despite the fact that he was at sea, he seemed to have relatively current information. A possible explanation is that one of his duties on board was decoding messages. Lest also comments on the prevalence of anti-Semitism. All of Lester’s letters to Shirley are headed “My Darling Churl”, a pet-name with which he referred to her.

Shirley’s letters report her daily life, their family and mutual friends, motherhood, and the growth of their son. They touch upon events of the day, theater, restaurants and clubs.

A recurring theme throughout both correspondents’ letters is the frustration they both experienced concerning mail due to the level of delays and incompetence in the mail service during the war. The bulk of letters in this collection were sent via air mail. Shirley posted the majority of her letters in Brooklyn, to which Lester attributed the long delays in receiving them. All of the letters have a ‘Passed by Naval Censor’ stamp on the envelope.

The majority of the letters in this collections are handwritten and typescript letters. There are also two letters sent via ‘V Mail’, a system that was used during WWII as a secure way to correspond with soldiers stationed abroad. V Mail reduced the logistics of transferring an original letter across the military postal system as a V-mail letter would be censored, copied to film, and printed back to paper upon arrival at its destination.

A more detailed Scope and Contents note is provided before each Series.

Arrangement note

The letters in this collection retain their original arrangement by correspondent and are organized within the finding aid into the following three three series:

Series I: Letters from Lester to Shirley
Series II: Letters from Shirley to Lester
Series III: Letters and cards from family and friends

Materials are arranged chronologically.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers. Portions of the collection that have been microfilmed will be brought to the researcher in that format and can be made available by Interlibrary loan. Researchers on site may print out unlimited copies from microfilm reader-printer machines at per-exposure rates. See guidelines in Reading Room for details. Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.) Items that include presidential signatures will be presented to researchers in duplicate form.

Use Restrictions

This collection is owned by the New-York Historical Society. Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from: Manuscripts Department, New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024; or via email at mssdept@nyhistory.org. The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation note

This collection should be cited as the Halbreich Collection, MS 2959, The New-York Historical Society.


Gift of Terri Halbreich David, daughted of Shirley and Lester Halbreich, 2013

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Container List

Series I: Letters from Lester to Shirley, 1943 - 1945

Scope and Contents note

The following synopsis provides an overview of the correspondence and also highlights some of the more interesting letters.

July 1944 – August 1944 Lester’s letters begin with a description of his train journey to the Puget Sound Navy Yard Dispensary, Bremerton, Washington, where he was stationed for training from July-August 1944. He talks about making friends with other officers from Queens and Brooklyn, New York and describes his daily activities there, such as going to the ‘club’ for drinks, and seeing movies in the evenings with the other men. There is an underlying tone of loneliness and worry in these letters as Shirley was due to have their baby at any stage and he was unsure when he would be sent off to war. Much of these letters concern the pending birth of their baby and what the gender will be. In a letter dated July 31, 1944 he writes to Shirley after learning about the birth of their son, providing an insight into what many men went through while being away from their families. He talks about his living quarters and describes the type of training he is doing in his daily courses, most notably a class on chemical warfare. In a letter dated August 22, 1943 he mentions General Patton and the face-slapping incidents, evidently a highly discussed issue. He tells how the rest of his naval crew were stationed in Tacoma, Georgia while he was in Bremerton, WA. He talks about forming friendships with other soldiers and being invited to dinner at some of the officer’s homes. He refers to an argument he had with a woman over dinner about what he refers to as “the Negro” (letter dated August 31, 1944).

September 1944 In September 1944 he moved to Astoria, Oregon where his ship was “fitted out” and where he boarded it. He tells how he was anxious to get to sea as he felt the sooner he left the sooner he would return, and tells how he found the aspect of ‘waiting’ very frustrating. He tells how he was temporarily quartered at the Tongue Point Naval Air Station before moving to the Astoria Naval Station in Oregon. He describes attending a ceremony where their ship was handed over by the director of the port to Captain Crandall and describes getting organized and accustomed to their ship. He describes life on the ship and the politics on board between the medical officers; he particularly refers to ‘Dr. Dickey’ with whom he and other officers had issues with. He talks about Ralph Goldman, one of the junior medical officers on board whom he became good friends with. He outlines his daily activities for Shirley and gives her an account of how he spends his spare time. He describes his daily activities and a trip to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He talks about preparing himself for departure and asks Shirley to take the pregnancy clause off their hospitalization policy as they will not need it while he is away. He talks about how homesick he feels, how much he misses Shirley and refers to how the nickname ‘Churl’ came about while reminiscing about old times they had together.

October 1944 In October his ship set sail off the coast of California to prepare the ship and get used to functioning together as a crew. Lester describes the difficulties in writing an informative letter of his daily activities due to censorship regulations. As a result the nature of his letters largely focus on his daily activities on board the Oxford, such as cleaning and inspections, his dentistry work, the other officers on board, and liberty time; time off from their daily work routine. He describes how while he was at a bar during liberty a famous American film actor, Laird Cregor, was there also. He also recalls being ‘thrilled’ when someone at a bar bought him a drink for being in the service. He describes the various drills on board the ship, in particular the “General Headquarters” drill, where the loud speaker announces “General Headquarters” and everyone goes to their battle stations, which in his case is the after battle dressing station. He also mentions other drills such as gunnery practice, man overboard, collision, fire, and strafing attacks. He speaks extensively about how much he loves his wife and son and is very poetic about his love for Shirley and how happy he is in their marriage. He gives detailed descriptions of the movements of the ocean and the sunsets he witnesses from the top deck while he thinks of her in the evenings.

In a letter dated October 26, 1944 Lester wrote a goodbye letter to his wife before he went off to, in his phrase, the ‘wizard of oz’ and comforts her by saying that the mission “will be of such a nature as to be relatively safe”. He describes getting used to living on a ship and dealing with sea-sickness, the various moods of the sea, and provides his first impressions of the Pacific. He mentions they have troops on board and tells her how they have been told where they are going but cannot say due to censorship regulations. He describes the intense heat and humidity they are experiencing, the activities they get up to on the ship, the books he is reading, his dentistry work, games he plays with other officers, and the various inspections they have and how they prepare for them. He provides a detailed account of an incident where the General Quarters alarm went off for real rather than a drill and describes how people reacted.

November 1944 In letters dated November 5-7, 1944 Lester describes the ceremony that took place concerning the crossing of the equator and explains how before this event he was referred to as a ‘pollywog’ but now that he has crossed the line he is a ‘shellback’. He tells how when they passed the ‘International Date Line’ they became members of the ‘Society of Golden Dragons’. Lester gives examples of the prevalence of anti-Semitism on board and tells how a chaplain told him that Dr. Dickey is rude to Ralph is because he ‘is a Jew’ and presumes that this is the reason why he is also unkind to Lester. In a letter dated November 10, 1944 he tells how he was upset by a piece of anti-Semitic literature circulating among the ships officers entitled “Our Day” dealing with the "supposed alliance between Roosevelt and the Jews."

December 1944 – January 1945 He describes landing in one of the South Sea Islands and going ashore after so many weeks at sea. He outlines various liberty trips ashore and activities such as items they purchased and going to the ‘club’ for drinks. He also mentions meeting members of the cast of Porgy and Bess. He gives descriptions of some of the men on board and gives an outline of a man referred to as ‘Chips’, describing him as the character of the ship and calls him a ‘real old sea dog’. He talks about the various drills that required them to get to their designated ‘battle stations’ throughout the day and describes ‘coding duty’ whereby they underwent the process of ‘breaking strip messages’. In letters dated December 23-26, 1944 he wondered what the war was all about and discusses himself and others sacrificing their lives and asked what it all was for. He describes Christmas aboard the ship.

In this period Lester's letters include many complaints about the mail.In December 1944 he tells how he had finally received mail from his wife for the first time in over a month and tells how bad this lack of mail made him feel. He explains his frustration at how, after checking the date of the post office stamp of the day they were sent out, the date was a month after much of the letters had been written and posted. He complains extensively about the Brooklyn Post-Office for not sending letters as they were posted and describes how after receiving no mail for over a month he had sleepless nights and was very worried. In a letter dated January 16, 1945 he explains how they were informed at dinner that they had been censoring mail too severely and that they could tell people where they had been up until the last 30 days. Thus he informed her of the places they had been for the past month and lists; New Guinea, Hollandia, New Caledonia, Noumea, Soloman Islands, Tulagi.

In a letter dated January 24, 1945 he tells how the Navy sent their first class mail to the port they had just left and how distressed he felt due to this lack of mail. He explained how the last letters he received described his son at two months old, whereas he was then six months old and had not heard anything about him in that four month period. The level of delay in mail is evident by the stamp dates on the envelopes which do not correspond to letter dates. This provides an interesting insight into the importance of regular mail for soldiers, the impact mail had on morale levels, and the extent to which it gave people a sense of connection to their loved ones at home. By March 1945 he had received only 25 letters from his wife since he left the US in July 1944 and explains how disgusted he was by this fact as he was aware she wrote to him every day.

He provides detailed descriptions of the evening sunsets on board the ship. He tells how he watched them nightly on the top deck, and how sometimes music was played on the victrola as he watched which made him feel homesick. He requested Shirley to get professional pictures taken of herself and Jeff and explains how much it means to him to have recent photographs of his family. He talks extensively about how much he loves Shirley and tells her how he loves her more than “cold beer and Swiss cheese”.

He discussed the progress of the allied war effort and what New York would be like when the war was over. He predicted a similar economical situation to WWI and an intensification of competition for jobs in NYC, thus he was trying to think ahead and have some plan for when he returned home. He tells how they were waiting for Germany to ‘crack’ and explains how he predicted that this will help with the subjugation of Japan. In a letter dated January 29, 1945 he discussed getting liberty at an island which was controlled by the Japanese up to nine months previously and conveys the level of damage done by the conflict and his surprise as to how much of it was still evident nine months later. He describes the Japanese ‘coconut log bunkers’ that still remained lined along the beach. He tells how they received daily news from Europe and was happy to learn that the Russians were 90 miles from Germany.

February 1945 In a letter dated February 12, 1945 he explains that the censorship regulation has been lifted in relation to their previous operation and tells how they landed in the Philippines at the Linguyen Gulf on the island of Luzon and gives a detailed account of this. He describes a number of liberty experiences he had in February, in particular a very drunken boat ride back to the ship and talks about play fighting that verged on real altercations and how one of the men fell overboard. Another example of his experience of anti-Semitism is his account of overhearing a conversation in which one of the men referred to him as a ‘Jew’ in a very derogatory way.

April 1945 Throughout his letters in April 1945 he refers to Eisenhower crossing the Rhine and the possible end of the war, how he feels about the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, hearing that the Russians had entered the outskirts of Berlin, and how he heard on the radio that Mussolini had been killed and gives his views on this. He also requests that Shirley be careful around men and to be not in the least bit encouraging towards them as he feels this could be taken the wrong way. He comments on the volume of married women who have taken up with other men while their husbands are away at war.

May 1945: Throughout the month of April he wrote an ongoing letter (dated April 5 – May 2) to Shirley detailing his experience of the invasion of Okinawa. He mailed the letter in early May and explains how he was waiting to send it when the censorship regulations were lifted in relation to recent operations. He tells how in previous letters when he was describing various bridge games that they were in fact traveling from Guinea to Luzon and then on to invade and capture Okinawa. He explains how nervous they all were at this prospect due to the knowledge of what happened at Iwo Shima fresh in their minds. He was in the original landings at Luzon and Okinawa and also took part in the reinforcing operation at Luzon. He recounts what he experienced during this invasion. He tells how he saw a destroyer ship very close to their ship destroy a floating mine and how multiple destroyers then began the same process. He recalls the night before the invasion and how he watched various people on board prepare themselves for what was to come. He gives an account of his experience of their landing at Okinawa and the battle that ensued over the next few days from his viewpoint. He attributes his cranky letters complaining about the lack of mail during this time to be as a result of this pending invasion and explains how he had really needed to hear from his family. This is another example of the impact mail delays had on soldiers during the war.

July 1945: By July 1945 Lester had been away at war for one year. His letters encompass much details of how sad he has been to miss his son growing up and be away from his wife and family. He writes to Shirley requesting she organize a trip to San Francisco at the beginning of August as his ship will be stationed there for two weeks and talks about how much he is looking forward to seeing her.

September 1945 In a letter dated September 7, 1945 he explains how they received an ALNAV, a message directed to all Navy units and Marine Corps, that removed blackout restrictions and what it was like going above deck and seeing the lights of all the ships surrounding them. He describes how during the night there was a death of one of their patients and that he was buried at sea the following day. He discusses the new revised point system where the minimum requirements for discharge are 49 points and tells how he currently has 42 points. He wonders when he will have enough points to finish his overseas duty and has requested that his next duty be in the Brooklyn Shipping Yard.

He informs Shirley that they have arrived in Manila and describes a variety of experiences he had during his liberty time there. He then reports how they have left Manila and are travelling to Linguyen for the third time. He tells how they are going to Japan next and are stopping at Nagoya on the way but are delayed due to an oncoming typhoon, which is causing big delays on oncoming mail, thus putting a downer on the ship. He philosophically debates the future of the post war world providing an interesting insight into the attitudes and perspectives of some of the men on the ship.

October – November 1945 In October 1945 he describes the journey on the seas through the Luzon Straits towards Japan via Formosa and Okinawa. He tells how they received a change of orders and instead of going straight to Nagoya as planned they were redirected to the small city of Wakiyama. He recounts a trip to a local officers club and describes the conditions of the premises. He describes passing unarmed Japanese soldiers and how there was no animosity between them and provides a detailed account of Wakiyama. When discussing their options for the future he broaches the option of going to South America after the war to gain further education funded by the army and work as a dentist. He informs her that he is learning Spanish from a book called ‘Hugo’s Spanish Grammar’. In a letter dated October 16, 1945 he describes how he “broke the monotony of boredom” by going ashore at Wakiyama and describes his day there. He provides a very humorous account of the men interacting with the female Japanese workers in the officers club and an experience he had with one of the women working in the club. He recounts another liberty where the men got into a raucous singing competition at the club and mentions how he got the last boat to the ship but that other men went to the Geisha house.

He explains that a new ALNAV has clarified the situation regarding the number of points needed for discharge and states how he will have 44.5 points in December, enough to be decommissioned. He explains how they are at San Pedro on the island of Samar to bring between 16 and 17 hundred enlisted men back to the states. He tells how they are on the way back to San Francisco and reveals that he feels sad because he worries that his son’s image of ‘daddy’ will be of Shirley’s father and not him. He puts plans in motion to meet Shirley first in a hotel and spend a few days with just her alone, then to return to Brooklyn and meet his son, Jeff, just the three of them, and then see the rest of their family.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Letters, October 1943
1943 October 6-15
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Letters, October 1943
1943 October 16-26
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Letters, July 1944
1944 July 16-22
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Letters, July 1944

Scope and Contents note

Writes after learning about the birth of their son and describes how he received the news.

1944 July 22-31
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Letters, August 1944
1944 August 2-17
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Letters, August 1944
1944 August 18-31
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Letters, September 1944
1944 September 1-17
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Letters, September 1944
1944 September 18-29
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Letters, October 1944
1944 October 1-9
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Letters, October 1944
1944 October 11-21
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Letters, October 1944
1944 October 24-31
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Letters, November 1944

Scope and Contents note

Includes a letter describing a ceremony that took place on the ship when they were passing the equator, whereby people who had not crossed the line before were referred to as 'shellbacks' and became 'pollywogs' once they had passed the equator.

1944 November 1-16
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Letters, November 1944
1944 November 16-30
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Letters, December 1944
1944 December 3-18
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Letters, December 1944
1944 December 19-31
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Letters, January 1945
1945 January 2-12
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Letters, January 1945
1945 January 14-24
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Letters, January 1945
1945 January 25-31
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Letters, February 1945
1945 February 2-15
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Letters, February 1945
1945 February 16-28
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Letters, March 1945
1945 March 1-9
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Letters, March 1945
1945 March 11-19
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Letters, March 1945
1945 March 19-30
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Letters, April 1945
1945 April 1-17
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Letters, April 1945
1945 April 18-30
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Letters, May 1945

Scope and Contents note

Includes a letter dated April 5th – May 2nd detailing Lester's experience of the invasion of Okinawa.

1945 May 1-12
Box: 2 Folder : 14 Letters, May 1945
1945 May 14-31
Box: 2 Folder : 15 Letters, June 1945
1945 June 2-11
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Letters, June 1945
1945 June 13-21
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Letters, June 1945
1945 June 22-30
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Letters, July 1945
1945 July 1-10
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Letters, July 1945
1945 July 10-31
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Letters, August 1945
1945 August 20-30
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Letters, September 1945
1945 September 3-14
Box: 3 Folder : 7 Letters, September 1945
1945 September 15-30
Box: 3 Folder : 8 Letters, October 1945
1945 October 1-15
Box: 3 Folder : 9 Letters, October 1945

Scope and Contents note

Lester provides a humorous account of going to an officer's club during liberty time and an interaction he had with a Japanese female worker at the club (letter dated October 16th).

1945 October 16-26
Box: 3 Folder : 10 Letters, November 1945
1945 November 4-8

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Series II: Letters from Shirley to Lester, 1943 - 1945

Scope and Contents note

The majority of Shirley’s letters reflect on their relationship and her love for Lester and their new born baby, Jeffrey Neal. She talks about her friend’s husbands who are also away at war and wonders whether they are being faithful to their wives. Shirley tells how many women are seeing other men while their husbands are away. Both Shirley and Lester repeatedly reassure one another of their fidelity.

Much of the correspondence concern plans for their future; where they will live after the war is over, whether they will rent or buy a premises and where Lester will set up a practice. Shirley describes the level of inflation that has taken place since the beginning of the war and how there is a serious housing crisis in New York due to the influx of men returning. She talks about the elections for mayor in NYC between Morris, Goldstein and O’Dwyer and remarks on what she feels is a comedic element of the elections as, she claims, the ‘Jews are voting for O’Dwyer and the Catholics for Goldstein’. She writes a poem in which she mentions Tammany Hall.

A recurring theme throughout Shirley’s letters is motherhood. Throughout all of Shirley’s letters she provides detailed descriptions of their son, Jeffrey, as he goes through the various stages of infancy. Her accounts of daily life with Jeff provide an interesting insight into motherhood in the 1940s, for example how rationing affected items such as children’s shoes. In a letter dated March 24, 1945, when complaining of how Jeff cries when in the stroller and is not pushed, she gives an example of ‘leaving him outside a store’ while she went inside to buy groceries and tells how other women kept coming in to tell her that her baby was crying. This was apparently a very common practice during this period.

Shirley’s letters give the reader a good sense of what it was like for the average female in the US while their husband/boyfriend was away at war. During the war Shirley lived with her parents. She gives an insight into her family life, telling how she attended Broadway shows, plays at Madison Square Garden, and dined with them at upscale restaurants, such as Arnold Rothstein's ‘Longchamps.' She also mentions having maids, one in particular, Nora, who she described as ‘their colored girl’. Shirley talks extensively about her female friends and describes how they regularly called to each other’s houses and socialized with each other. She gives accounts of many of the conversations had at these social gatherings, providing an interesting insight into what other women were experiencing during this time. She speaks of many of her friend’s relationships and how they were managing life without their husbands/partners/family members who are away at war. She remarks on how her sister Elaine reacted to her 21 year-old boyfriend returning from the war and describes how her sister was a little disappointed in him as she had built him up in her head to be more mature. She was surprised to find he was just as immature as he was when he left, a poignant reminder of the youth of some of the men who were at war and the many who did not return. In another letter, written in April 1945, Shirley informs Lester that a friend of theirs was killed in Leyte, Philippines. This man was due to wed Shirley’s close friend Gloria, who is frequently mentioned throughout the letters. Shirley describes the emotions Gloria went through after she received the news and how she was coping with the death of her fiancé. She also tells how Gloria received back over a hundred letters she sent her fiancé that he had never received and describes the level of Gloria’s distress at this information.

Shirley's own frustration with the mail is another frequent theme of her letters. There were chronic mail delays, both from the US to soldiers and from soldiers to the US, and Shirley could go weeks without hearing from Lester. The letters also provide insight into the difficulty of communicating in the pre-digital world. For example, Shirley describes organizing a trip to San Francisco to see Lester after receiving a letter from him in Manila telling her to meet him in San Francisco on August 5, 1945. She explains how she communicated with various people and hotels to organize the trip through letters and telegrams and outlines the difficulties in organizing this trip due to being unsure as to when he was actually arriving in San Francisco.

Shirley’s letters provide an interesting insight into how the people of New York reacted to details that were emerging about the war. In a letter dated April 14, 1945, she describes a tribute paid to Roosevelt before a show she attended at Radio City and tells how sobbing could be heard throughout the audience. In a letter dated May 1, 1945 she describes the emotions she felt about hearing of the death of Hitler and tells how the news showed ‘atrocity pictures of the German concentration camps’. In a letter dated May 7th she discusses the unconditional surrender of the Germans and describes the reactions of people she knows who have lost loved ones. She describes the general feeling in New York concerning the victory in Europe and explains how it is quieter than expected as many of the New York troops were still stationed in the South Pacific, and for those men and their families, the war was not yet over.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 11 Letters, August 1942
1942 August 28
Box: 3 Folder : 12 Letters, September & October 1943
1943 September 7- October 26
Box: 3 Folder : 13 Letters; October, November, December 1944, & January 1945

Scope and Contents note

Includes newspaper clippings that Shirley included in her letters to Lester.

1944 October 13 -1945 January 18
Box: 3 Folder : 14 Letters, February & March 1945
1945 February 1 - March 26
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Letters, April 1945
1945 April 6-30
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Letters, May & June 1945
1945 May 1 - June 25
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Letters, July & August 1945
1945 July 1 - August 29th
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Letters, October 1945
1945 October 4-31
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Letters, November 1945
1945 November 1-8

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Series III: Letters and cards from family and friends to both Shirley and Lester

Scope and Contents note

Includes letters, cards, and postcards to Lester from his friends and family. Also includes documents relating to the Halbreich's wedding and the birth of their son, a collection of birthday cards for Jeffrey Halbreich's 1st and 2nd birthdays, and letters to Shirley from Abe Greenstein and others.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 7 Cards, postcards, and letters to Lester from Shirley and others
Box: 4 Folder : 8 Letters to Lester from his family and friends

Scope and Contents note

Includes a V Mail letter from Lester's aunt and a letter from Ralph (his closest friend on the Oxford) dated 1946.

Bulk, 1943-19451941-1946
Box: 4 Folder : 9 Letters to Shirley from Abe Greenstein and others
Box: 4 Folder : 10 Documents relating to the Halbreich's wedding and the birth of their son
1941, 1944
Box: 4 Folder : 11 Birthday cards for Jeffrey Halbreich's 1st and 2nd birthdays
1944 July 28 & 1945 July 28
Box: 4 Folder : 12 Related documents

Scope and Contents note

Includes a V Mail letter from a family member to Shirley's mother.

Circa 1941-1945

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