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William Jennings Bryan Dorn Papers, 1927-1984

The latest addition to the William Jennings Bryan Dorn collection consists of three-quarters linear feet of papers dating from 1927 to 1984. The bulk of the material consists of correspondence with family and friends while Dorn was serving with the Sixth Tactical Air Communications Squadron, Army Air Corps, during World War II. Dorn entered the Army in 1942 and was stationed at several military bases across the country, chiefly in the South and Midwest, before being shipped to England in the spring of 1944. He was sent to France shortly after the D-day invasion, and then to Belgium and the Netherlands before arriving in Germany in early 1945.

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This personal correspondence reveals a great deal of Dorn's personality and conveys his thoughts on people and society more than his military experiences. The young Dorn emerges as an ambitious, outgoing, thoughtful person with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Dorn's love for his home state and his close-knit family resounds throughout his letters. He frequently urged his parents to take care of themselves, to keep busy, and not to worry about his brothers and himself too much. His early, sustained interest in politics is reflected in his subscription to the Greenwood Index to keep up with local politics, though he was disgusted with "cheap politics" in local government. He wrote that he was determined to succeed in life so that his family would never be ashamed of him. "My greatest ambition is to be a second Henry Grady....He was a great man who helped heal the hatreds of [the] Civil War."

Dorn had a strong work ethic and admired people who overcame hardships to become successful. "If there is anything that thrills me, it is the story of a man who started from the bottom and rose up towards the top." He was repelled by the loose morals he sometimes observed in Army towns and remarked—"every Army town is worse than Babylon in the days of Belshazzar." He did enjoy the opportunity to travel and talk with people from different backgrounds. Though he had a high opinion of the residents of the Great Plains and the Midwest, he loved his home land and wrote—"...down there in the South there is a civilization that is unique and strange and sometimes weird, but I like it more than all the rest....at heart I am still very much a rebel."

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