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Frank Gordon Bradley World War II correspondence


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Frank Gordon Bradley was born in Branford, Connecticut, in 1912. His parents were Frank S. and Nettie S. Bradley, and he had three siblings: Richard, Frances, and Janet. During the 1930s, Bradley attended the University of Pennsylvania and majored in journalism.

In 1942, he traveled to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and enlisted in the U. S. Army. He was soon shipped to Fort Riley, Kansas, where his training began at the Cavalry Replacement Training Center. He was assigned to the Anti-Aircraft O. C. School at Camp Davis, North Carolina, in September 1942 and transferred there in October. He then joined the 76th Infantry Division and was transferred several more times during 1943 and 1944, to Fort George Meade, Maryland (January-July 1943), A. P. Hill, Virginia (August-October 1943), and finally Camp Crowder, Missouri (October 1943-April 1944). At Camp Crowder, he was moved to the Army's Signal Corps.

Bradley moved once more to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he lived from April to November 1944 before being deployed to Europe in November 1944. He was eventually stationed at bases in England, Germany, and Belgium and served with the 15th U. S. Army. He received a Purple Heart for his participation in the "Empire Javelin Disaster." (The Empire Javelin was a British ship that was hit with German mines or torpdoes in the English Channel on 28 December 1944. Most of the over 800 men on board, incuding members of the 15th U. S. Army, were saved, but a few were injured or killed.)

Bradley was sent home in December 1945, and he eventually moved to New York City where he worked for the New York Public Library from 1947 to 1953. In 1949, he married Hazel Hemminger Ratajczak of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. In 1953, they moved to Philadelphia and Bradley secured a job at the Free Library of Philadelphia. He worked as a librarian, first for the Walnut Street branch and then for the Wynnefield branch, until his retirement in 1968. Bradley died in 2002 and is buried in the Branford Center Cemetery, Branford, Connecticut.

Frank Gordon Bradley's World War II correspondence is comprised of approximately three hundred letters and V-mails written from Bradley to his family in Connecticut between 1942 and 1945. Scattered among his outgoing letters are a few incoming letters from his family members, clippings, postcards, programs, and other ephemera that Bradley had collected. When HSP received the letters, the majority still in their original envelopes, they were bundled in groups according to Bradley's station, for example, all his letters from Fort Riley were together. Within each bundle, the letters were arranged chronologically. The letters have been unfolded and re-housed according to these groups and have been placed in chronological order. All incoming and outgoing letters have been filed together and the V-mail (both originals and microforms) only appears among Bradley's 1945 letters from Europe.

Bradley, who signed all his letters as "Gordon," wrote most often to his mother and father and to his sister Janet, usually on the same or consecutive days. Even though he usually talked about the same topics in these letters, those to his mother and father tended to be more formal, while those to his sister were more relaxed. He also occasionally wrote to his other sister, Frances, but there are few of her letters in the collection. There are also a couple of letters to Bradley from other friends.

These letters present a very cohesive narrative of Bradley's life between April 1942 and December 1945. Though he was not allowed to discuss the exact details of his work, his letters are far from vague. He often talked about the weather, his meals, the men he served with and under, his furloughs and travels to other cities, and his daily experiences. "Here your fourth child is in the dentist's office here at camp -- just getting my bridge fixed," he wrote on 14 August 1942, "...To tell the truth, I broke it eating one of those well-known Kansas steaks -- it was well worth it." He also sent many notes of thanks regarding care packages from his family. "Your wonderful box of cookies arrived in perfect shape," he wrote from Fort Riley on 28 June 1942, "and they were good...they are a delicacy in these here parts!" On occasion though, he wrote at length about certain aspects of his service. For example, on 6 March 1943, writing from Fort George G. Meade in Maryland, he discussed rifle practice, noting "we're shooting the Garand or M-1 at 200 or 300 yards slow and rapid fire. The rifle as you probably know is semi-automatic, gas operated and clip fed."

Bradley was deployed overseas in late 1944. "Don't know whether it was a very quiet crossing or not," he wrote of his travel to "somewhere in England" on 24 November 1944, "it seemed to be, although the boat did rock a little a couple days....Very few were ill." His letters from Europe remained congenial and he continued to relay tales of the people he met and the places he went. He summed up his situation in a letter of 11 December 1944, "When I write about visiting places in England, and don't talk about my work, please don't imagine it's all just one tour, because we are all quite busy and working hard, but cannot, for reasons you can well understand, talk about what is or isn't even daily routine." He only made passing references to major events, such as D-Day, V-E (Victory over Europe) Day, and the Purple Heart he received for his participation in the Empire Javelin Disaster of December 1944. Among these letters are a few instances of censorship in the form of phrases that were cut out from his letters.

Gift of Joan Schmitt, 2010.

Accession number 2010.020.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz
Finding Aid Date
; 2012
Processing made possible by a generous donation from the Abington Junior High School History Club.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Letters, (1 April 1942 - 30 April 1943).
Box 1 Folder 1-7
Letters, (1 August 1943 - 9 November 1944).
Box 2 Folder 2-7
Letters and other papers, (13 November 1944 - 1 December 1945, undated).
Box 3 Folder 1-6

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