World War 2 through Owen Hamilton’s Eyes

*Post written by Jessica Reinbold, an English 601 student, at the University of Southern Indiana.

While looking through letters written by a World War II soldier, I couldn’t help but wonder who the man behind the letters was and how he was affected by his three-year deployment in the United States. Below are summaries and annotations of three letters: one from the beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end of his two-and-a-half-year deployment across the United States.

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I have been unable to confirm who Morgan is to Owen Hamilton, but it seems as though he could be a close friend due to the informal writing style and contents of this letter. Morg, as Hamilton refers to him, gives Hamilton access to an application for a job as a Mason, I presume, as the writing is unclear.

After thanking Morgan for the application and inquiring what he should use as his address on the application, he tells Morgan about his military job and surroundings beginning with the airplanes. As though in awe of his surroundings, he writes

Fort Sill is really a fine place Morgan, you really should see it… We have an airport at the Fort… On Sunday they are all grounded and there is some 350 or 400 planes all lined up. You have never seen so many planes in one place.

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Hamilton then references June, who I have discovered to be his sister. Because Morgan is in contact with June and the contents of the letters she receives from Hamilton, I am beginning to think Morgan may be June’s husband or June and Owen’s brother.

Hamilton’s job as “Section leader” is then explained to Morgan. He describes life where he is stationed as “it would be in some resort.” He doesn’t have “extra detail,” and doesn’t have to do the treacherous drills the others must complete. For this, he seems glad because not participating means not working in the stifling 118-degree temperatures.

Lastly, he explains an upcoming opportunity that includes travel and women. Hamilton shares his excitement to travel to Dallas, Texas, a place he has never been before, with a “fellow” who lives there and who promised Hamilton “Texas beauties.” Hamilton’s character changes as he explains his eagerness to meet Texas women and offers an explanation of Oklahoma women.

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Hamilton says he does not think too much of the Oklahoma women, who he describes as “Indian Squaws,” and follows the statement with “and I am not that hard up yet.” Through a little bit of research, I found that a squaw is another term for an American Indian woman but haven’t found anything that says the term is derogatory, though it may have been in the 1940s.

Hamilton tells Morgan that he “got in” with a California girl whose father is a Captain. He explains that “if you play the right angles, you can take these girls out Dutch as they realize the income of a poor soldier,” with “out Dutch” meaning that each person pays for his/her own entertainment; he does not have to pay for two when going on dates.

Hamilton tells “Morg” to write when he gets the chance and closes with “as I enjoy hearing from you.” He signs with his first name, Owen.

The first letter shows Owen Hamilton’s youth, eagerness, and excitement. It also seems as though he enjoys himself and makes the most out of his situation. The second letter, taken from the middle of his deployment, shows a different persona. This can be attributed to one of two factors, or both factors, really: a change to whom he writes and his experience in training.

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The majority of the letters in the archived collection were addressed to June, Hamilton’s sister. He opens this letter with a reminder to his sister that he wants to hear from her regardless of the dollars she sends with her letters. My best guess as to why she might do so is due to the “income of a poor soldier” as stated in Hamilton’s letter to Morgan. Regardless, Hamilton feels appreciative of the dollar and June’s thoughtfulness.

An inquiry about his family and friends follows, which is common in almost all of Hamilton’s letters to his sister. He worries about his mother and ensures she has good company. Also common are updates about his schooling, training, and personal life. Here, he describes the increased difficulty at school, a place where he takes pride in his hard work.

Hamilton updates June about his most recent outage with Edith, presumably his close friend or girlfriend, during which he went on a double date with a Tennessee friend and his new wife to a national park where they swam and “had a good time.”

He excuses himself from June with the want to “write a few more letters before supper.” He requests that June “tell Morgan hello” for him and says he will see them on the upcoming weekend. He closes with another thanks for the dollar and “Lots of Love” before signing “Owen.”

In the letter written towards the middle of his deployment, Hamilton seems as though he found a routine and has settled. His demeanor is much calmer than it was in his first letter to Morgan. In the final letter of the series, Hamilton’s demeanor changes, once again, this time to a more anxious one and one that did not appear until around his final month of deployment.

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In January of 1946, after almost two and a half years of being stationed all over the United States, Owen Hamilton writes his second-last letter to his sister.

With an address to June, he opens this letter. He describes the “fog” he experiences “as to when [he] will leave.” He has knowledge of his Division’s inactivation not taking place until February 15 and expresses his frustration with the thought of having to stay until then with the statement, “I will blow my top.”

Hamilton is unsure of when he will leave; if “they don’t hold [him]” there, June will receive this letter as her brother makes his way home. He assures her that either way, he will send their mother a “cablegram” when he leaves before informing June of the upcoming lack in writing after he leaves.

Disbelief about his approaching leave “after all this waiting around” is expressed. Hamilton seems anxious to go home but says he dislikes thinking about the long trip “as [he] will be really anxious the last 100 miles or so.”

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An update about his job is provided. Hamilton writes that he “made Tech Sgt” on his birthday and follows with “that was quite a nice present.” He mentions the new income of $150 a month that accompanied the promotion but hopes he “won’t draw over a couple more pays.”

Hamilton concludes this letter with an inquiry about “everyone at home.” He requests that June tells his family hello before expressing his hopes to “be seeing [her] shortly.” He closes with “Lots of Love” and signs his name.

In the final letter, Owen Hamilton appears calm, yet anxious. He speaks less of his job than usual; instead he uses this letter to express his thoughts about when he will leave and his return home.

When comparing the three letters, Hamilton goes from excited to settled to anxious. He wrote to June frequently, sometimes, every day of the week. In almost all letters, Hamilton requests updates about family and friends from home and sends updates about his life in various states including, but not limited to, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Kansas. In reading these letters, I learned that Owen Hamilton valued his friends, family, and freedoms. But, because I only had letters to read, I was left wondering about the rest of Hamilton’s life: What was life like upon his return home? Did he remain in the military? How did being away from home affect his person, physically and mentally? Unfortunately, these questions will never find an answer.

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