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Jordan Family Papers

Consisting chiefly of World War II era correspondence of brothers Nathan H. Jordan, Jr., a corporal, later a sergeant, in the U.S. Army, William H. Jordan, a radioman second class in the U.S. Navy, and Richard H. Jordan, a seaman first class in the U.S. Navy, this collection of two hundred ninety letters, telegrams, photographs, and miscellaneous related materials sheds light on the social context in which families throughout the nation experienced the difficulties and sufferings brought about by a world at war. The majority of letters were written by Nathan and William to their mother, Mary Frances Bailey Jordan, and sister, Audrey, but the collection also includes letters of Audrey's wartime sweetheart, William Ernest Kelley, whose V-mail communications describe conditions faced by military personnel in North Africa and Italy.

Throughout the period covered by these papers, Nathan Jordan spent most of his time stationed at an infantry training post at Ft. Wheeler, near Macon, Ga., where he served on the cadre of a battalion responsible for training inductees. In part, his letters reveal the thoughts of a Southerner making contact for the first time with men from other parts of the country. Writing on 15 March 1943, Nathan described a group of "rookies" newly arrived from Brooklyn, N.Y.--"they don't have any manners at all. They think only of themselves and eat like hogs." Other letters, including that of 27 March 1943, relate Nathan's thoughts on combat and his sense of personal responsibility to the inductees under his charge--"I am trying to avoid combat all I can. I'm not afraid to go when my time comes, but I just don't want to rush the thing up. As long as I feel that I am doing my part here in training men for combat it doesn't make me feel any too bad. I only hope and trust to God that what I teach these men they will benefit by it and save their life, as well as others and this country." Affirmation of Jordan's concern is echoed in a letter from a former trainee, Pvt. V.J. LaRocco, who wrote from New Guinea, 15 May 1944--"we're resting up after being in combat. I was sure scared most of the times being this my first operation. We gave the Japs a hell of a beating they'll never forget....The training we had back at Wheeler sure helped a lot here. These Japs are sneaky and what we learned there helped us outfox them."

William H. Jordan, Nathan's youngest brother, attended "boot camp" at the Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Ill. While at Great Lakes, William was accepted as a member of the "Bluejacket Choir," a Navy outfit which made frequent trips to Chicago and surrounding cities and performed weekly on the nationally broadcast radio show "Meet Your Navy." In addition to conveying news of the choir's activities and giving his impressions of the North, William's letters comment on the importance of religion to the military community. On 20 October 1943, he wrote about Great Lakes--"Everyone is required to attend church. The Jewish, Catholic and Protestants have their own church to attend, and also their own choir. The negroes the same. Most are Protestant." From his vantage point William was able to catch a glimpse of the Chicago political scene. "Our octette will sing in Chicago with an octette of negroes here at the station," he wrote on 1 February 1944. "They are very well educated negroes and know how to sing. We will sing at the Mayor's office....He is running for a next term and wants all of the votes he can get from the negroes." William was eventually sent to the U.S. Naval Radio School at Auburn, Ala., then to Shoemaker and San Diego, Ca., for more communications training.

After the invasion of Normandy, Nathan Jordan was transferred to Ft. Meade, Md., to await transport to the European theater. He arrived in England on 23 July 1944, and was sent immediately to France, where he was assigned to Co. M, 38th Infantry Division. Subsequent letters home give his impression of the people of France. Writing on 7 August 1944, Jordan noted--"the French people are very nice to us in this section. They give us apple cider. Everywhere we look we see apple trees. The Jerries drank all the good wines and left the cider for us. We too are nice to the French and they are glad that we are here. The Jerries have certainly helped themselves to everything the French people had." Nathan reported to his new outfit on 7 August 1944 and entered combat the following day. His final letter home, dated 11 August 1944, tells of living conditions--"I was promoted to Staff Sgt. this morning. Its rough going & I've got lots to see and learn. Am now in Combat & have been for the past three days. Am living in a fox hole, but we still get hot meals, chance to write letters, cigarettes, gum and candy....I'm getting along fine only wish I had a good bath and this four days growth of beard off my face." The letter concludes--"Don't worry about me. Your Son, Nathan, Jr." Three days later Nathan Jordan was seriously wounded in fighting near Tinchebray, France. Information received by the Jordan family tells of his plight--"After administering first aid, the platoon leader was forced to advance with his unit, leaving your son behind due to the intensity of the battle. A subsequent search of the area revealed no trace of your son." Jordan was listed as missing in action until August 1945, when the U.S. government issued a presumptive date of death, the day following the expiration of twelve months' absence.

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