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David B. Biddle Second World War Correspondence

 Collection — Box: WWII 103, Folder: 1-8
Identifier: 2017-304-w-r

Content Description

This collection contains 95 correspondence from Sgt. David B. Biddle, USA to his wife Kathleen H. Biddle during the Second World War. Included in the correspondence are letters to David from Kathleen and various authors, as well as 33 lipstick kisses. The collection also contains photographs, military documents and supplementary materials added by the donor. The lipstick kisses were torn off of letters that were sent to David by Kathleen. He could not keep the letters due to space, but kept these kisses. They are arranged at the front of the correspondence due to the lack of dates.

The photographs include one black and white photo of Sgt. Biddle in uniform, one black and white photo of his wife Kathleen, and one wedding photo of the two of them. Two more photos were added to the collection that are contained within Sgt. Biddle's bible; one of Kathleen and one of their daughter Linda.

The bible contains the photograph of Kathleen inside the front cover and Linda inside the back cover, as well as three inscriptions. One "To Beryl from Mother and Father," and two notes from Sgt. Biddle to Kathleen on the inside front page and back page saying how much he loves her, and a short make-shift will in case he were to be killed and she find the bible. The bible is made with a metal cover, etched with "May the Lord be with you."

Also included is one patch for the 1st Infantry Division. He sent more than one that are not included here, but this one was included with the letter dated September 17, 1944.

The military documents include one Order to Report for Induction, one certificate of completion of training at Camp Blanding awarded to then Pvt. Biddle, one Honorable Discharge for Sgt. Biddle with Enlisted Record and Report of Separation on the back, one Separation Qualification record for Sgt. Biddle, one form letter given to Sgt. Biddle from President Harry Truman thanking him for his service, and one Service Recognition Certificate from the State of Illinois presented to Sgt. Biddle thanking him for his service.

The supplementary materials included are two ancestry.com reports for David and Kathleen Biddle, one timeline of their lives, and one photocopy of the Zion Youth Fellowship Chapel Times from December 1944 with a printed letter from David to "Wayne." That letter is mentioned in his letter to Katherine on December 22, 1944 stating that he "never expected him to publish it but it was written just as I feel..." Arranged with the supplementary materials are the First Division patch and two Belgian Franc notes described later with the letter with which they were sent.

Biddle's correspondence to Kathleen begins November 2, 1943 with a quick note from Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois and is signed "Beryl," and his next letter is signed "Dave." On November 5 Biddle arrived at Camp Blanding in Florida and sent a form letter that explains camp and the process, along with a return address denoting he has been assigned to D Company, 2/3 Training Battalion, 66 Training Regiment. He discusses training and how much he misses her until March 1944, then writing from Fort Meade in Maryland and mentions wanting to save all of her letters but the Army is strict about what they can take with them to their next station.

On April 6, Pvt. Biddle wrote from a transport ship en route to England and then continues correspondence while in England, preparing to join the war and hoping to get started soon so they can return home sooner. He then wrote a letter on June 6 at eight o'clock the night of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy in northwest France, and two letters written the next morning, mentioning the bible included in this collection which he kept in his shirt pocket close to his heart. The second letter on June 7 was written at 10 p.m. and a large section of the first page was cut out by the censor, and he notes that he is sending home some items for safekeeping, including his social security card. He arrived in France on June 11, written in a V-Mail on June 13, "I've been in France two days and am ok..." On June 14, he mentions the anniversary of their daughter Linda's death of menengitis, caused by the measles. He continues writing, not noting too much due to censors but says he is happy to be a part of an experienced outfit, the First Army.

In France, Biddle discusses his spirituality. July 25 he says, "Little did I ever dream a year ago that I'd be sitting in France in a apple orchard with a gun laying across my knees singing a hymn and worshipping God." Several of the letters from this period are postmarked August 1, but range over more than a month according to the dates he wrote on the letters. His letters during this period discuss some of his daily activities as if they did not involve combat, such as borrowing milk from the next house over for cookies he ate. He does, however, mention hearing Browni's unit, a friend, firing artillery nearby and hoping he is okay, as well as someone named Herb Mann that he heard may be dead.

On August 22, 1944 Biddle mentions Linda, who passed away from an illness months before he was drafted. He was "bitter" at first but explains to Kathleen that he has found faith in his religion that has turned his disposition around. In this letter he also mentions the "kisses" that he has ripped off of her letters to keep.

On August 30, he sent a streamer (not included) that was thrown at them when his unit passed through liberated Paris and describes the "happy faces" and the flags that come out in any town through which they pass. He also describes marching through "the old battlegrounds of the First Division" in the First World War and meeting men who fought with the Americans in that war, pleased to find themselves talking to the same unit so many years later. He continues to describe an old church that served as the 16th Regiment's headquarters during the "last war" and they used it once again. His unit again repeated history on September 17 when they were the first to cross the border into Germany, commanded by General Clarence R. Huebner (which he spells Hugner).

Once in Germany, his unit fought in the Hürtgen Forest. On September 23, he responds to Katherine about news she had heard regarding "activity in that forrest," saying, "Honey all I can say that he's a pretty good man if he has the words that would describe it.". On October 12, he lays out his feelings about the homefront and entertainment. He says:

"Yes Dear all those things that people are doing back home that they think so little of are things that we think about and are fighting to get back to and enjoy once more."

In regards to entertainment and the USO, he says, "...for one thing we're too busy and another about as close as those shows come is still a long ways from us...We're not kicking but it sort of goes the wrong way when we read about this show and that one showing to front line troops when there [sic] about 50 miles or more in the rear."

On October 18, Biddle describes the consequences rendered to French women that "made up to the Germans" by the "true French people and the underground," including shaving their heads and branding swastikas on their foreheads.

On November 4, Biddle mentions being a private first class for the past three weeks and did not know it. On November 9, he mentions where he is at and the censors cut a complete sentence out of the first page. He also sent two Belgian franc notes (10 francs and 5 francs) and discusses listening to a radio in his dugout in the snowy forest, with the Command Performance broadcast with Betty Grable. On November 29, he mentions their daughter for only the second time because it would have been her sixth birthday.

On December 22, Biddle mentions earning the Presidential Unit Citation with two oak leaf clusters for the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment (three awards). He claims that makes them the most highly decorated battalion in the US Army. On Christmas Eve, he lists songs he is singing, pointing out "little did I ever think I would be singing those songs on a Battle Front with shells landing close by."

Beginning in January 1945 envelopes show Biddle had been promoted to Sergeant. Sgt. Biddle sent home a poem about his foxhole, followed by a letter dated January 24 explaining how he is making it better despite the snowy weather. He also mentions the news of the Russian progress and the hope that brings, and he sent home a negative of his platoon sergeant asking for enlargements (postcard size) for everyone in the platoon.

Sometime in April 1945, Sgt. Biddle was wounded and went to a hospital in England, he wrote a letter on April 16 following his medical evacuation to England and references Kathleen's relatives that live nearby. He follows that with a letter on May 8, VE Day, and says "what I wouldn't have given to be up there to see the end, after going as far as I did..."

The collection picks up his correspondence on August 3 from Birmingham General Hospital in Van Nuys, California with Detachment of Patients, Ward D-4. He expresses how much he misses Kathleen since their apparent time together for two months. In October he writes from Company 3, Army Ground and Service Forces Redistribution Station at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. While at Ft. Sam Houston, on October 31 he describes locals harassing veterans that are being separated at the separation center there. One was held up for money and another killed. Some have even entered the base and attacked a WAC Lieutenant. He says not to worry because they travel in pairs since this began, and even broke both of a man's arms because of it.

In Sgt. Biddle's last letter to his wife, December 1, 1945, he is awaiting separation from the Army and hopes to see her soon. He also alludes to the fact that she is pregnant though they would not have their next daughter, Susan Marie, until June 1947. (Kathleen also mentions being pregnant in her last letter, around this time)

The collection of Kathleen Biddle's correspondence to her husband begins November 26, 1943 shortly after he left for training. Her 27 letters (and one empty envelope) discuss home, friends and family, traveling to see him while in training, and some sparse news of the war. Mostly she discusses friends and family, asks about his time and answers his letters. The correspondence covers his training period until March 1944 and pick up again in March 1945. Though Sgt. Biddle could not save her letters while in combat, only saving some of the kisses attached to them, it can be presumed that these were the letters he was able to keep due to being in the states or in a hospital for illness and then injury. Ten of the letters are stamped "Returned to Writer" as she addressed them to his hospital. The correspondence ends while he is at Fort Sam Houston shortly before his separation.

In March 1945, Kathleen guesses at David's position based on news coverage. "Well the American flag is flying in Cologne. I thot [sic] at first you were headed that way, but the way I figure you are in Bonn tonite, not so far from the Rhine." She also mentions the finding of a book called "War Sketches by Sgt. Biddle." This is in reference to George Biddle, a famous artist at the time who served in Tunisia and Italy. On March 8, she expresses her excitement at the news that Army units have crossed the Rhine, saying "I sure have listened to the news reports tonite."

On April 24, Kathleen writes to Sgt. Biddle while he is in the hospital after being wounded. She says it was his foot, and that he got the chance to visit some relations while in England. She ends by saying, "Well the Russians are in Berlin's outskirts tonite. I wonder how much longer the war will last after Berlin falls. How I hope you don't have to go back into combat."

Her letter dated May 8, 1945 discusses the end of the war in Europe, VE Day. She says, "Well this is the day we have been looking forward to for a long time. I imagine over there in England they are really celebrating...We listened to Pres. Truman at 8 oclock this morning," adding that all of the stores are closed down. She and some friends went to Chicago later in the day to see the governor speak, though he was not there, and she said there was not much celebrating, just confetti throwing, but it was worth the trip to see the people and some of the shows, such as the WGN Choir. The remainder of Kathleen’s correspondence, continuing to write until November 1945, only discusses the day to day of her life waiting for David to return, financial concerns, and occasional mentions of soldiers returning, as well as continuing to wonder when the First Army would be returning. There is a short mention of landings in Tokyo after VJ Day, but nothing more about the war in the Pacific. Also included in the collection seven correspondence to Sgt. Biddle from other authors. They include his mother, older sisters Pearl and Vera, Kathleen’s brother Private First Class Lawrence Pratt, and his nephew Private First Class Richard W. Bull. PFC Bull was a Hollywood actor, most famous for his role in “Little House on the Prairie.” Most of these letters were sent in 1945 during Sgt. Biddle’s hospitalization. Of note: PFC Bull wrote from 17th Radio Security Section in the Marianas Islands in the Pacific Theater and describes the weather and his base, and mentions the small presence of some remaining Japanese forces. In September 1945, after the war and censors had ended he goes into more detail about the island and his work, as well as officers he did not like. Mrs. Biddle wrote in April 1945 about a false radio report about a German surrender, and Pearl describes rumors she had heard by May 1. Pearl continues, “They have broadcast that Truman will give the official report. Then I just hope there are enough intelligent Japs in Japan to admit they can’t lick the whole world and really finish up this war.”

Dates

  • 1943 November 2 - 1945 December 1

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

Sergeant David Beryl Biddle (8/16/1914 - 12/19/1974) was born in Zion, Illinois to Allison Harry and Lula Mae Biddle. On June 4, 1937 he married a classmate named Kathleen Helen Pratt, an immigrant from Saskatchewan, Canada. His own family had moved from Missouri for the same reasons as the Pratts, to congregate at the Christian Catholic Church, known today as Christ Community Church. A history of Zion, with information on the founder of the city and the church, was provided by the donor: http://www.zionhs.com/history.htm.

On November 29, 1938 they had their first baby, a girl named Linda Ann. She died from an illness on Jun 10, 1943 and just a few months later, David was drafted into the Army. He received notification on September 29 to report on October 11. He reported to Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois and travelled around the country until beginning training with heavy weapons at the Infantry Replacement Training Center at Camp Blanding, Florida with Company D, 213th Battalion, 66th Regiment from November until March, 1944 when he was assigned to Co. C 5th BN, 2nd Replacement Regiment at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Biddle then landed in France on June 11, after the Normandy invasion and served in France and Germany, first with Company D 16th Infantry, then with Weapons Platoon, Company C, 1st Batallion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division ("The Big Red One"), 1st Army. He served in France and marched through liberated Paris, reaching Belgium by early September 1944 and Germany within a couple of weeks. He was on the front lines for most of his service, only spending short periods of 36 hours in the rear with the exception of a brief hospital stay due to illness and a short rotation to the rear in November and December 1944. He was wounded in April 1945, sent to England for care and then to California. He was honorably discharged at Fort Sam Houston, Texas on December 6, 1945.

During the war, according to her letters, Kathleen worked as a photographer and lived with her family. After the war, Sgt. Biddle and Kathleen had two more children, Susan Marie and David Allison. Sgt. Biddle passed away from a heart attack in 1974 and is interred in northern Chicago, Illinois.

Extent

0.5 Linear feet (1 box)

Overview

This collection contains correspondence from Sgt. David B. Biddle, USA to his wife Kathleen H. Biddle during the Second World War.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged by material type and chronology. The correspondence is arranged by author and chronologically, and various materials sent with letters have been physically separated but described with their corresponding letter. All other supplementary materials and photographs, including bible, are contained in folder 8.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of David A. Biddle.

Accruals

The donor sent an additional seventeen letters and one bible on July 23, 2019. This has been added to the original accession and placed within the arrangement of this resource. The letters and bible were stored separately for an unknown reason, perhaps for their significance.

Fifteen letters are dated April 6 through July 8, 1944, a previously almost empty gap in the correspondence. The other two letters are dated April 16 and May 8, 1945 (VE Day). The bible includes one photograph and notes, described in the contents note.
Title
Finding Aid for the David B. Biddle Second World War correspondence
Status
Completed
Author
Andrew Harman
Date
5/2/2019
Description rules
dacs
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