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Peter Mayo Page was born on March 31, 1919, in Wellesley Hills, Mass., the youngest of three sons of Robert P. Page and Helen White Hamilton. When he was eight the family moved to Ardmore, PA, where his father became president of Autocar Company, a leading manufacturing company for commercial trucks. Page graduated from the Haverford School in Haverford, PA in 1937 and enrolled at Princeton University as a member of the Class of 1941.
At Princeton, Page majored in modern languages. He was drawn, however, to sports rather than academics, and his enjoyment of other aspects of student life at Princeton sometimes landed him in trouble. In his obituary in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, classmates described him as "a boy so alive, so full of charm" and "fond of games and clean fun." He was an all-around athlete, and particularly excelled at golf: Page was the first to captain the Princeton golf team for two years and was elected president of the Intercollegiate Golf Association during his senior year.
According to a note in his student records, Page was unsure about his vocation throughout his years at Princeton, but considered a career in banking or manufacturing after graduation. However, he joined the Naval Air Corps in the early fall of 1941, several months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that caused many other young Americans to enlist.
During his preliminary flight training at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Page was chosen leader of his class of student pilots. He met Pearman (née Aiguier) during a party on Christmas night, December 25, 1941, less than a month before she turned seventeen. Pearman was a high school senior at the Baldwin School, an independent college prep day school in the Philadelphia suburb of Bryn Mawr, who lived with her family at home in Cynwyd, PA.
After finishing his preliminary flight training in Philadelphia, Page received subsequent training as a Naval reservist and aviation cadet at bases in New Orleans and at Pensacola, the primary training base for Navy and Marine aviators. According to Marine Corps records, Page received his commission seven months later, on September 1, 1942 in Miami, Florida, with the rank of 2nd lieutenant. He was first assigned to a Marine dive-bombing squadron, but while awaiting further training at San Diego, the squadron was re-assigned to torpedo bombing, the 'most dangerous phase of aerial warfare,' according to his obituary in the Princeton Alumni Weekly.
Page's squadron was ordered to the Southwest Pacific, where combined Allied forces were involved in their first major offensive against imperial Japanese forces on the ground, at sea, and in the air, on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the southern Solomon Islands. According to a letter from Page's mother, present in his alumni file, the squadron landed in the New Hebrides on January 14, 1943. This was only days after the Guadalcanal Campaign ended, resulting in the first significant strategic combined arms victory by the Allied over the Japanese forces in the Pacific.
Tragically, Page lost his life near the island of Efate during a tropical storm on the night of February 14, while he was flying his 303rd hour. In a letter to his parents earlier that day he had written: "There is a flight planned for tonight. This should be great fun if the storm holds off." All planes ordered to Guadalcanal that night were lost.
Sixty-four years later Pearman describes herself as a young girl who had no idea at the time of what the war entailed, but whose life changed dramatically after Page's death. She accelerated her studies at Vassar, where she had started in September 1942, in order to graduate early and join the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). This was a division of the U.S. Navy, established in August 1942, for women only with the provision that they could not continue their Navy careers once the war had ended. When Pearman graduated from Vassar, however, the Second World War had just come to an end.
The Peter M. Page papers contain letters written by Peter Page to his fiancée Ann Pearman (neé Aiguier) during his pilot training at bases in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Pensacola, as well as in Miami, FL, where he was commissioned in the Marine Corps on September 1, 1942. Additionally, the correspondence contains a few telegrams and letters from San Diego, where Page was assigned to a torpedo bomber squadron, and one letter written from the South Pacific on January 29, 1943, two weeks before his plane crashed in the aftermath of the Guadalcanal Campaign.
The series is chronologically arranged into the following two series:
Series 1, Correspondence, 1941-1943; Series 2, General, 1942, 2006
The records were donated by Lady Ann Pearman (née Antoinette Aiguier) in April 2006. Additional photographs were donated by Lady Ann Pearman in 2017 (accession number ML.2017.030).
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Finding aid written by Helene van Rossum in 2007.The materials were arranged into two series, and collection- and series-level descriptions and file-level inventory were created at this time.
No material was separated from this collection during processing in 2007.
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The letters from Peter Page to Ann Pearman (neé Antoinette Aiguier) cover the period December 29, 1941, when Page was still based at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, to January 29, 1943, when he last wrote Pearman from the Pacific, two weeks before his death. The first eleven letters are written from Philadelphia, during which period he saw Pearman any night he was free. The letters are followed by fourteen letters sent from the Naval Reserve Aviation Base in New Orleans, where he stayed from January 20, 1942 until he moved to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Florida where he arrived on February 3. The bulk of the letters are written from Pensacola, where Page stayed until he passed all his exams and moved to Miami to continue his training as a Marine.
Annotated photocopies with personal comments, written before she donated the collection to the Mudd Manuscript Library, are filed with the letters, as well as photocopies of notes that were clipped to the letters.
According to the Princeton Alumni Weekly obituary Page's letters to family and friends were typically "gay and confident, attempting to make them see the privations and hardships of life in a combat zone through his own irrepressible sense of humor as something to be laughed over." In contrast, Page's letters to Pearman also address his feelings of loneliness, exhaustion, and at times boredom at the training bases, as well as his moments of satisfaction and joy, and his determination to persevere at all cost. In a letter Pearman dated 'June (?)' Page writes: "Two of my friends are quitting; and many others are getting plenty of quick 'downs' (...)—lots of the boys are getting pretty discouraged. It's not right to make them feel like that—damned if they'll ever discourage me—the hell with 'em (...)".
Page took much pride in having been selected to become a Marine, particularly because of the friction that he experienced at Pensacola between the regular 'A' boys (officers from Annapolis) and the Reserves, a friction that did not exist among Marines. Although the correspondence is informative about the atmosphere and tensions at the base, information about his pilot training and work itself is not detailed. The letters are love letters primarily and express Page's feelings for Pearman, his frustrations with long distance romance, and dreams of married life. He was anxious that he might lose Pearman, who only graduated high school in June 1942, and was, despite her assurances of her love, very jealous of other young cadets and officers in training whom Pearman met socially.
Pearman visited Page at the Pensacola base, according to her own notes, between March 19 and 22, 1942, spending the nights in a hotel in nearby Jacksonville. After this visit, Page began to address her as his fiancée. In the latter part of the correspondence there are references to Pearman's planned visit to Miami in the summer, once Page finished his training at Pensacola, the expected date of which changed several times.
The correspondence after July 1942 is scarce. In an undated letter, apparently written from Miami, Page wrote about the four weeks he was going to spend with Pearman both in Miami and at home, presumably before he received his commission as a Marine on September 1. The letters Pearman received at Vassar, where she started her studies in September 1942, are lost. All correspondence present in the collection was sent to her home address, where her mother preserved them after Page's death. The correspondence from July 1942 contains one telegram sent from Princeton, where he visited after a last weekend with Pearman on his final leave. In addition there are two telegrams from San Diego, one letter written "in flight," and a postcard from Seattle. Pearman and her mother visited Page in San Diego for a week during Pearman's Christmas break, before Page left for the Pacific.
The letters are arranged in rough chronological order. Page wrote Pearman several times a week and usually dated his letters by weekday only. The order is therefore based on penciled annotations that Pearman made many years laterPhysical Description
THe letters are arranged roughly in chronological order.
This subseries contains letters written from Page to Pearman while Page was in Pensacola. Page stayed in Pensacola until he passed all his exams and moved to Miami to continue his training as a Marine.Physical Description
This series contains portrait photographs of Ann Pearman (neé Aiguier) that appeared in the 1942 Baldwin School yearbook, and of Peter Page in uniform.
In addition to the photographs, the series contains personal notes from Lady Pearman concerning dates of the letters.
The order in which these materials have been sent to Princeton has been maintained.Physical Description