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Kent I. Powers Second World War correspondence

 Collection — Box: WWII 102, Folder: 18
Identifier: 2017-105-w-r

Content Description

This collection contains eleven typed correspondence from SSgt. Kent I. Powers, USAAF to his family and friends during the Second World War. Also included is one black and white photograph of SSgt. Powers in uniform with a Sergeant patch and Army Air Force Headquarters patch on his left arm. All but one of the correspondence are communiqués written to several recipients on carbon paper, with some of the papers further back on the pile when typed and are therefore more faint (this is mentioned in one of his letters).

SSgt. Powers' writing is directed at his audience, though admittedly in a sort of diary form. His wife suggested he start a diary while overseas but he figured she was keeping all of his letters so he would fill them with his experiences, including weather and climate conditions.

In these letters, he discusses slowly learning the French language through a pamphlet, the people and the poverty, destruction, and black market bartering occurring near the end and after the war. Also discussed early on in the collection is the food and rationing situation. French civilians that work with them eat in the Army mess hall and they eat a lot, leading Powers to believe it is their only meal of the day. Canned fruits and other goods are discussed as well, particularly in relation to the situation in the US.

Once the war ended, he says that VE Day "meant very little," since he knew he would still be overseas for a long time. He also mentions his hatred for the Germans and that he wants to "make slaves" out of them, exclaiming, "The more I read about these concentration camps the hotter I get." What Powers saw "of Germany and its people, and what I read, I think we have already lost the first phase of the Peace."

SSgt. Powers says England is doing a good job of rebuilding, while much of France, Belgium and Germany are completely destroyed. He also mentions seeing the remnants of battles, with German equipment, vehicles, and tanks left behind or pushed off the sides of the roads.

According to SSgt. Powers, much of the road and maintenance work in France and Germany was being done by German prisoners and they were monitored mostly by "colored" units, whom he states "I think are the wrong men for that sort of job since the colored race (ordinarily by environment) have a inferiority-complex, and the Germans have a superiority-complex through education." Powers did not have a high opinion of most Americans, however, as he said they complained about saluting Germans, who do not work as much as they do, and that most GIs "look like Dopey of the Seven Dwarfs," compared to the still sharp looking German prisoners. He later expresses his "disgust" at American soldiers for their participation in the black market, not paying for services, and being "nouveau riche" and acting superior to the poor population while they had more money.

While in France and Belgium, SSgt. Powers saw many bombed out cities, such as Metz, Saarbrucken, Mainz and Trier. He specifically liked that Trier was devastated because of the stories he had heard regarding Germans feigning surrender only to shoot at Americans. Every house, he said, still had white flags in the windows.

He also took several trips to Paris and Brussels during his stay and described them with great enthusiasm. He was enamored with both the architecture and the history of these "ancient" cities and several times wished Cynthia could be there to see Europe. There were rumors that occupation forces would eventually be allowed to bring their wives over, and this was a motivation for Powers to consider either reenlisting, which would have granted a 90 day furlough to the US as well, or joining one of the civil jobs that were being created for good pay and to stay in Europe.

SSgt. Powers later worked with two Belgian interpreters, Jan and Maurice, and a Jewish man named Everett Julian. Jan told him that he shot at American planes during the war because they were bombing villages, many of which were nowhere near military targets. Maurice was with the 7th Armored Division during the Battle of the Bulge and given a seven day pass to find and bury his father's body in "Rochet" (La Roche-en-Ardennes), Belgium after American bombings destroyed the small village.

Everett worked with Powers earlier but left to Paris to learn French and met Gertrude Stein and got into the trial of Philippe Pétain, the Chief of State of Vichy France. Upon his return to work with SSgt. Powers' unit, he worked with a German girl who though cleared by the CIC (Army Counter Intelligence Corps), referred to by Powers as Army FBI, he described "her ideas [as] German and Nazi through and through." Jan claimed that she was typical of most of the Germans, especially girls "who seem to be bitten by this Nazi bug harder than the German men and boys, who had to do the fighting." Powers points out that the "biggest joke is that this girl does not know that Everett Julian is Jewish," but Everett plans on telling her before he leaves.

Dates

  • Majority of material found within 1945 April 2 - 1945 October 18

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this material except where previously copyrighted material is concerned. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain all permissions.

Biographical / Historical

Staff Sergeant Kent Irving "Kip" Powers, United States Army Air Force (11/14/1917 - 7/10/2005) was born in Butte, Montana and raised most of his life in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He worked one year as a ranch hand on his uncle's dude ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming before his draft registration was sent October 16, 1940. He did not join the military until later in 1942, and then married his wife Cynthia in September 1943 before being deployed overseas to the European Theater on March 10, 1945.

He began writing home in the form of communiqués sent to several family and friends on April 2, while serving in Berry au Bac, France (20 miles north of Reims) and Beaumont (20 miles north of Paris) with Detachment "B", Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Team "B", 30th Service Group. That unit was organizationally converted to the 719th Air Material Squadron, 477th Air Service Group, and he was expecting to be transferred to the Pacific "DIRECT" but he and several others were transferred to HQ and HQ Sq., 30th Air Depot Group. On a trip to Belgium in July 1945, he met a lieutenant that needed a man with his skills and instead of going with his new unit to the States and then the Pacific, he moved to Tirlemont (Tienen), Belgium. There he stayed many nights a week with a Belgian couple at their home, Pierre and Octavie Genicot, and became friendly with their family, including Pierre's aunt who lost both of her legs in an American bombing. The Genicots were struggling and did not have much food, even sharing a toothbrush though it is mentioned that their custom may not have been to brush often. Powers gave them doughnuts which they had never seen, and shared his cigarette rations with many of his French and Belgian friends, which he admits may be part of why he had made so many friends, but he insists that he kept them through his kindness. On one trip, Powers also met Walter Selleneriek, a soldier stationed in France and Cynthia's brother in law.

In October, SSgt. Powers went with an advanced unit to his new base, an airfield in Illesheim, Germany where he and his unit stayed until the correspondence in this collection ends.

SSgt. Powers' wife Cynthia gave birth to their daughter Priscilla Evelyn Powers in June 1945, whom he nicknamed "Thumper" and referred to her red hair like Rita Hayworth.

SSgt. Powers passed away in Minneapolis at the age of 88 in 2005.

Extent

.07 Linear feet (1 folder)

Overview

This collection contains correspondence from SSgt. Kent I. Powers, USAAF to his family and friends during the Second World War.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Georgiann Olsgard.
Title
Finding Aid for the Kent I. Powers Second World War correspondence
Status
Completed
Author
Andrew Harman
Date
2/11/2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Center for American War Letters Archives Repository

Contact:
Leatherby Libraries
Chapman University
Orange CA 92866 United States