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Series 1, Correspondence from Davis Minshew to Leonard L. Gorin, Jr., 1938 - 1949

 Series — Box: WWII 52, Folder: 8-11, Folder: 1-4

Scope and Contents

This series contains correspondence beginning in October 1938 when Minshew was working for Braniff Airways at Love Field in Dallas, TX, ending in 1949 in Houston, TX. This series comprises the major portion of the collection. It contains Minshew's stream-of-consciouness thoughts on life, relationships, war, authority, sex, and literature. It also contains his more specific experiences in naval training, life aboard a submarine and especially commanding naval tugboat and repair vessels in the Pacific, 1941 - 1946.

Minshew's letters indicate he was very intelligent and well-read. He writes well. He makes many references to authors of philosophy and literature and their works. Minshew's letters reflect his disdain for authority, for the military, and for much of society. Early in the span of letters (p.62), he writes to Gorin, "Do you know what the trouble with me is? It is that I have never found a thing yet that I give a damn about." He often writes of his anger calling it "redass." He proclaims "I early lost a God, I early lost a mother ..." However, he occasionally mentions seeing or writing to his mother. He makes small mention of his father's death in 1939, and expresses his envy and dislike of his sister and of his parents' favoring her. He also occasionally refers to Gorin's Jewishness and exclaims that after living on "Love Field Drive a month, I am willing, even anxious, to turn over my part of America to any Jew that wants it."

Minshew summed up his correspondence in one letter (page number 90 in September 1940):

It is not hard to write letters to people, it is hard to keep from writing them. I can get drunker in front of a typewriter in five minutes than in front of a bar in as many hrs. The thing to do is to wait till you are so near out of cigarettes that you will probably go to bed anyway before you are finished. And, preferably, pick out someone who is not in the least interested in hearing from you, talk about nothing except yourself, do that in as vulgar and noisome a way as possible, throw in all the more revolting old Anglo-Saxon monosyllables dealing with private biology and anatomy you possibly can so you will sound either Bohemian or like little-boys-behind-the-schoolhouse; These for good starting hints. Then, be really thorough in the matter of getting naked enough to prowl and scratch at will, pick out of your glossary a nicely eclectic collection of words that you can spell but that's all and you are reasonably convinced that nobody else can even spell..."

Minshew writes a great deal about his life and circumstances; lodging, drinking, smoking and sex. His letters mention many sexual encounters, but no long-term relationships. In a letter dated May 28, 1946 he writes self-deprecatingly claiming "I was always a taker, never a giver ... I never even loved anyone, did I?...I never gave one of them anything of value, did I? ... I haven't ever made a generous gesture of note in my whole life."

Minshew values his relationship with Gorin above all others and writes often of how important their friendship is, his admiration of Gorin, how much he values his letters, his closeness to Gorin and Gorin's parents. "Your friendship is the only close attachment I've ever formed." (p.288) "you are part of me, I am part of you."" (p. 102) "It has always been a small wonder to me to realize from time-to-time the almost mystical depth I have always attached to my connection with you." (4-21-46)

Although some of Minshew's letters relate specific significant events during his service, such as rescuing ships during typhoons in Okinawa and the tedium of months at sea aboard a submarine, most of his correspondence is stream-of-consciousness writing relaying his moods and thoughts about his life and relationships. Minshew's use of sarcasm, obscure words and Yiddish can make the meaning and intent of his writing difficult to decipher.

Early letters (1938) are during Minshew's employment with Braniff Airways in Texas. He mentions the impending war in Europe, saying

"I see by the papers where the Latter Day Scent, Adolf, is still doing the same old song-and-dance at the old stand---with Mussolini (alias Musica) doing a bit of ad-Libyaing along. Adolf told his team the other day that Roosevelt wanted war; yes, he said that that was the only way he could let the whole damn bumch of his family achieve their manifest destiny; said Jimmy and Sam Godlwyn [sic] could beat Howard Hughes' in a walk after transferring Czechoslovakia and Hungary to a set and letting the Wops and Heinies bomb hell out of it."

Subsequent letters reflect many jobs, military training and periods of unemployment. In March of 1939 he is flight training at Randolph Field in Texas. He fails flight school for "being dangerous in traffic" and returns home to Teague, TX. He then writes of naval navigation training at Maxwell Field in Alabama and Coral Gables, Florida in April and May 1941. He writes of his discharge in July 1941 and subsequent Navy training school at Northwestern University. He writes he is "kicked out" of that training, is hospitalized (the first of several), then reports to New London, CT for submarine duty on the USS R-14. He writes proudly of his capabilities of commandeering a submarine. There are no letters about his war service in 1943. In June of 1944 he writes of amphibious training at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, VA then assignment to LST 954 - USS Numitor and service in the Pacific. In September 1945 he assumes command of the USS Menominee in Okinawa, then in December command of the USS Laysan Island at Pearl Harbor. In April 1946 he is in command of the USS Abnaki in Japan. He applies for command with the regular U.S. Navy but is rejected in May 1946. In December 1946 he is working as a clerk at the Bank of Hawaii. He writes he asked the bank for a raise in June 1947 but was "let go" instead. He writes of his intention to return to Texas and asks Gorin if he knows of any work. Minshew's next letters are from Feb. 1948 on stationery from National Steel Compressing in Texas.

In the last letter to Gorin, April 12, 1949, Minshew writes about his theory "that people don't ever change" and "play their same old record." He writes from a room at the YMCA in Houston, TX and and asks if they might get "together anywhere sometime in the close future."


  • 1938 - 1949


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.


From the Collection: .167 Linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials




Repository Details

Part of the Center for American War Letters Archives Repository

Leatherby Libraries
Chapman University
Orange CA 92866 United States