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© 2011 New-York Historical Society logo

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

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.