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Charles Gillispie Wartime Letters


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. 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


Charles Coulston Gillispie (1918-2015) was an American historian of science and the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History of Science, Emeritus, at Princeton University, where he taught from 1947 until transferring to emeritus status in 1987. The son of Raymond Livingston Gillispie and Virginia Coulston, Gillispie grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1940 with a major in chemistry, where he also completed a thesis in British history. After a year of graduate work in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gillispie left to pursue graduate study in history at Harvard University in 1941. His studies were interrupted the following year when he was drafted into the United States Army and enlisted as a private on July 29th, 1942. Serving in the 94th Chemical Mortar Battalion, Gillispie's company was involved in the invasion of southern Germany during the final weeks of World War II in Europe. His unit afterward returned to the United States to prepare for anticipated future battles in the Pacific, though they never redeployed following the atomic bombing and subsequent surrender of Japan. Gillispie resumed his studies at Harvard in 1946 and completed his PhD in 1949, going on to become an expert in scientific technological activity in 18th century France and to establish the Program in History of Science at Princeton in the 1960s.

The collection consists of thirteen letters from Charles Gillispie home to his parents, Raymond Livingston Gillispie and Virginia Coulston, while he was stationed with the United States Army in France, Germany, and Austria during the final months of World War II in Europe in 1945. Letters are addressed from France, often from his army post near Rouen, (March 9th to March 25th; April 9th to April 13th), Germany (March 30th; April 19th to May 1st), Austria (May 5th to May 8th), Bavaria (June 4th), and Camp Shelby in Mississippi (August 25th). In his detailed letters, Gillispie describes the state of the citizenry and infrastructure in the French and German countryside; the living conditions of the soldiers; learning of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's death, and later, the death of Adolf Hitler; abysmal conditions at German prison camps for United States prisoners of war; the perception of African American soldiers by southern white soldiers in integrated military units; visiting Hitler's mountain retreat in Bavaria; his anticipation of future military service in the Pacific; and other topics. Most of the letters are typed versions of handwritten letters, and several exist in two drafts. Included with Gillispie's June 4th letter from Bavaria is a printed map titled "Obersalzberg, Hitler's Mountain Retreat."

Arranged chronologically.

Transferred from Mudd Manuscript Library in 2016 (AM 2016-44).

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This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in October 2016. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in October 2016.

No materials were separated during 2016 processing.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Kelly Bolding
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

Open for research.

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Collection Inventory

Charles Gillispie Wartime Letters, 1945 March 9-August 25. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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