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David Mendelssohn papers relating to World War II


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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

David Mendelssohn was a Jewish-American soldier in World War II. He was born on December 20, 1915, in Wyoming to Russian immigrant parents, Solomon H. and Jennie Gadie Mendelsohn. He was raised with siblings Harry, Reva, Dorothy, and twin brother Bernard (Ben) Mendelsohn. He moved to California, to live with his uncle Edward Jacob Gadie.

With the escalation of World War II, Mendelssohn registered for the draft on October 16, 1940. On December 1, 1942, he enlisted in San Francisco as a private in the United States Army, after initially seeking service with the Navy. He served with the 104th Infantry Division (the Timberwolf Division), Camp Adair, Oregon, originally as a company clerk, but eventually worked with communications and was responsible for climbing telephone poles to string wires. He served in Europe, landing at Normandy Beach shortly after D-Day and was probably involved in the Battle of the Bulge. He was honorably discharged on November 16, 1945.

His twin brother, Ben (1915-1998), was a teacher who served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. It appears that he registered for the draft on the same day as his brother; but he enlisted earlier than David, on July 16, 1941.

David Mendelssohn was married to Agnes Lichtenfield (1921-1999) in 1942. Following his military service, he worked as a plumber, serving as president of Mendelssohn Plumbing and Supply, in Cotati, California, from at least 1958 to 1963. During the early 1970s, he worked as a plumber for Forman Plumbing. He died on July 12, 1999.

This collection documents, in a very limited way, David Mendelssohn's service during World War II. The collection is arranged in two series: Series 1. World War II service, and Series 2. Family and personal material.

Series 1. World War II service includes administrative documents from draft to honorable discharge. There are letters from selective service, letters relating to a transfer to serve with his twin brother (it was the War Department's policy "to assign twins to the same organization, unit, or station, to the extent practicable and when no urgent military reason exist[ed] to the contrary, provided they so desire[d]" and information about discharge. Of potential interest are Mendelssohn's handwritten notes about training for bayonet combat, as well as a handwritten quiz he took on the causes of, symptoms of, methods of prevention of, and tactics for protecting oneself from malaria. The quiz, which addresses the disease generally, also addresses specific risks to soldiers serving in World War II, particularly in the Southern Pacific theater.

Series 2. Family and personal materials includes photographs of Agnes and David Mendelssohn on their wedding day, in 1942. Additionally, there is one photograph of Agnes after the couple was married. There is also a photocopy from an unknown publication showing David and Agnes Mendelssohn as part of a 50th anniversary committee. It is unknown to what organization the committee belonged.

This collection may be of value to researchers looking at twins serving together in World War II, as well as administrative material relating to the draft and discharge of service members.

Gift of Alexander Akin, 2018.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Anthony Lagana
Finding Aid Date
2019 July 1
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

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Selective Service draft information and Navy recruiting material, 1941 July-September.
Box 1 Folder 1
Enlistment information, 1942 September-November.
Box 1 Folder 2
Request for transfer from Camp Adair, Oregon to Camp Polk, Louisiana (to serve with twin brother Ben), orders, and telegram, from Ben, indicating that Ben's transfer had been approved, 1943 August-September.
Box 1 Folder 3
Life insurance revision and request for one day pass, 1944 May.
Box 1 Folder 4
Departure schedule, memorandum to all persons returning from overseas, and discharge, 1945 July-November.
Box 1 Folder 5
Training material, including bayonet fighting notes and test on malaria, undated.
Box 1 Folder 6

Wedding photographs, David and Agnes Mendelssohn, probably 1943.
Box 1 Folder 7
Photograph of Agnes Mendelssohn, circa 1940s-1950s.
Box 1 Folder 8
50th Anniversary Committee photocopy from unknown publication for unknown organization (with photographs of Agnes and David Mendelssohn), 1975.
Box 1 Folder 9

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