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Theodore Babbitt Second World War correspondence

 Collection — Box: WWII 111, Folder: 11, Folder: 1
Identifier: 2019-195-w-r

Content Description

This collection contains eight letters from LtCol. Theodore "Ted" Babbitt, GSC, USA to his sister Eleanor Babbitt in Thomaston, Connecticut during the Second World War. Also included is one photocopied obituary for Babbitt.

LtCol. Babbitt's correspondence include a letterhead on all but one letter, with his title and location, beginning with the Pentagon and each were censored by himself and include a censor stamp with his name and signature on the envelope. He discusses some of his work, though not in tremendous detail since he worked with intelligence materials, as well as his locations and locals while overseas, and he asked about Eleanor's children, his wife Margaret "Peg" Babbitt and their sons, one of whom recently joined the Army.

The correspondence begins on April 18, 1943 with a letter from the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. by mentioning a move to the International Zone in Spanish Morocco, asking if Eleanor had been there on her African travels. He met with General Escudero of Chile and a Colonel Johnny Castle. He served as Military Attaché in Tangier, Morocco but did not expect to stay long so he never hunted for an apartment, opting to stay at the Minzah Hotel. He explained that Tangier was "dead commercially" because of the war, noting that the everyone stays away from the Germans and Italians who patronize their own bars, usually dictated by the nationality of the owner. In this regard, he jokes, the Swiss have lost all of their business by virtue of staying neutral in the war. He hopes to go to Fez, Tetuan, and Marrakesh soon for goods and presents since they are more bustling.

While still in Tangier, Babbitt had an abdominal surgery and stays to recover before an expected move. He told Eleanor about the cultural diversity of the area, including the lower and higher classes of each group: the Spanish, the "wild" Arabs and the French Arabs, and how the Allied forces seem like an elite class due to paying no taxes and having all they could need in gas and food.

On October 3, 1944 he wrote from Ankara, Turkey where he was moved to serve as Assistant Military Attaché to Brigadier General Joseph E. Harriman, and shortly as Acting Air Attaché in place of Colonel Frederick A. Pillet who was assigned that station. He sort of laments the fact that events had moved the war away from that area and questions what they are doing there, especially with respect to the "inhospitable" Turkish who do not like foreigners and refuse any attaché to enter a military base. There was a reduction in staff and constantly "rumors of the wildest sort." He continues, "I gather that is the normal state of things here, given the uncertain equilibrium of the Balkans even in peace time." He stayed at the Hotel Park Palas but this time began an apartment search.

Christmas day 1944 Babbitt wrote a letter mentioning a Christmas Eve party that was thrown by the Ambassador to Turkey, Laurence Steinhardt, to whom he referred as "His Nibs," a mock title for those who think themselves important. Steinhardt left shortly after to London where he took the job as Ambassador to the government of Czechoslovakia. At this time, he asks about an arm operation that Peg had, though he expects everything will be alright. He also is hoping that his son Tommy will be able to leave Italy and visit him in Turkey soon, though he has no high hopes of that (he eventually does).

On April 7, 1945 there is an elaborate discussion of a mustache bet with the Counselor in the Polish embassy, officated by the man of the same title in the French embassy, and what Peg would think of it (he won and expects Peg will hate it but he had one when they married). By October 14, Babbitt moved to Istanbul, keeping his same role. He met with some men that came into town on official business, including Colonel Grant Mason who it turned out knew Eleanor. He also mentions a plane coming in from Bucharest, which was sort of exciting because not much comes in "from behind the steel curtain."

In his last letter, dated May 9, 1946, he mentioned that his son Tommy had made it out to see him and they really enjoyed their time together, as well as everyone else enjoying his company. He then goes on a lengthy tirade about the disorganization of the United States government and military after the war:

“You sound, as always, very busy, but thank Heaven, there is no longer the undercurrent of weariness which used to peek through your letters during the war years. Not that there is much difference except for the actual fighting, as far as I can see from here. In fact, we seem to be demonstrating pretty clearly to all the world that it is only when under the most severe pressure that our famed efficiency and know-how works at all, and that when it is released we revert to the most extreme selfishness and indifference, unable or unwilling to see that even from the purely materialistic point of view, we lose business now and in the future, as well as the immense stock of goo will with which we finished the war. Just how the hell can anyone trust us to fulfil our obligations when we are putting on such a miserable demonstration of futility, obscurantism, and inability to make up our minds what we want? I have never been so pessimistic about the future of the country in my life. We seem to be great only in war, which is not an encouraging trait.”

Dates

  • 1943 April 18 - 1946 May 09

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

Lieutenant Colonel Theodore "Ted" Babbitt, United States Army (2/17/1897 - 2/17/1984) was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado to Kurnal R. and Lucie Cullyford Babbit, an immigrant who had been naturalized by marriage. He had two sisters, Eleanor and Genevieve. Kurnal was a lawyer and they lived with three Irish and English servants in the house in Manhattan, New York. Theodore graduated from Collegiate School and St. Paul's School in New Hampshire and then attended Yale University and served with the National Guard at the Mexican border.

By 1918 he graduated from Yale and joined the Army during the First World War. He served at Camp Devens, Massachusetts beginning January 6, 1918 and with 147 Field Artillery, then joining 1st Battalion 3 Officers Training Camp, 1st Training Battery in May as a private first class. He was discharged to accept commission as 2nd Lieutenant in July and assigned to 116 Field Artillery, serving time at American Expeditionary Force Camp Hill in Virginia and overseas until March 1919. He was honorably discharged in April and moved home.

Babbitt went on to graduate from Harvard Law School in 1922 before returning to Yale for a doctorate in 1932. During that time he met Margaret "Peg" Fisher and they lived together while he worked as a lawyer in Manhattan before marrying on June 17, 1922 and enjoying their honeymoon in France. They then made their home in Connecticut where they lived with a nurse and servant, having three sons; Theodore F., Thomas C., and Samuel F., all of whom he took on a trip to Marseilles, France in 1932. He was associate professor of Spanish and assistant dean of freshman at Yale from 1925 until 1941. In that year he joined the Army once again and served with the Foreign Liaison branch in the Pentagon and Washington, D.C. as a lieutenant colonel before deploying as assistant military attaché in Tangier, Morocco and later Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey.

After the war, Babbitt served with the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. from 1947 to 1951 and as an intelligence officer with the Federal Civil Defense Administration until retiring in 1964. He received the Legion of Merit, the Army Commendation Medal, the Mexican Border Medal, the Order of the British Empire from Great Britain, the Order of Military Merit from Brazil, Medal of Merit Czechoslovakia, the Polonia Restituta from Poland, the Order of Haakon VI from Norway, the Order of the Cloud and Banner from China and the Order of the Condor and the Andes from Bolivia. He enjoyed memberships in several social clubs, was secretary of his class at Yale, including participating with the Eli Society Orchestra and the Whiffenpoofs at Yale.

Theodore Babbitt passed away in his home after a brief illness on his birthday in 1984 and is interred at Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut.

All information either from the donor provided obituary or Ancestry.com (passenger manifests, census, etc.)

Extent

0.01 Linear feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials

English

Overview

This collection contains eight letters from LtCol. Theodore Babbitt, USA to his sister Eleanor Babbitt during the Second World War. Also included is one photocopied obituary for Babbitt.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in chronological order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Theodore Babbitt Family, donated by Lydia D. and Sarah M. Babbitt.
Title
Finding Aid for the Theodore Babbitt Second World War correspondence
Status
Completed
Author
Andrew Harman
Date
12/18/2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Center for American War Letters Archives Repository

Contact:
Leatherby Libraries
Chapman University
Orange CA 92866 United States