Paul A. Putnam Papers, 1926-1953

Manuscript Collection #313

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: Paul A. Putnam Papers
Creator: Putnam, Paul A. (Paul Albert), 1903-1982
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1926-1953) of Brig. General, U. S. Marine Corps, an aviator, who was captured at Wake Island and was a POW in Japan, 1941-1945, consisting of correspondence, diaries, photographs, clippings, citations, orders, recipe book, copies of awards, citations, publications, newspaper articles.
Extent: 0.43 Cubic feet, 306 items , consisting of correspondence, diaries, photographs, clippings, citations, orders, recipe book, and miscellany.

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

July 19, 1976, ca. 250 items; Papers (1926-1949) of Marine Corps officer, including correspondence, diaries, photographs, clippings, citations, orders, and related materials. Diaries pertain to capture of Wake Island by the Japanese and imprisonment in a Japanese POW (prisoner-of-war) camp. Gift of Brig. General and Mrs. Paul A. Putnam, Fairfax, Virginia.

August 22, 1986, 9 items; World War II POW recipe book and correspondence (1941, 1945-1947). Gift of Mrs. Virginia M. Putnam, Mesa, Arizona.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Preferred Citation

Paul A. Putnam Papers (#313), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Gift of Brig. General
  • Gift of Mrs. Paul A. Putnam
  • Gift of Mrs. Virginia M. Putnam

Processing Information

  • Processed by S. Hill; L. Turner, January 1992

  • Encoded by Apex Data Services


Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Brigadier General Paul Albert Putnam (1903-1982) was a native of Milan, Michigan. He attended Iowa State College, at Ames, where he later enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant on March 3, 1926, while he was stationed at the Navy yard in Norfolk, Virginia.

After he was commissioned, Putnam went to Nicaragua, where he won the Nicaragua Cross of Valor and a letter of commendation for suppression of banditry. After taking flying lessons in San Diego in 1928, Putnam returned to Nicaragua as an aviator. He assisted in the rehabilitation of that country after an earthquake in 1932.

Following his return from Nicaragua, Putnam served at Pensacola, Florida, St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and at the officers' school in Quantico, Virginia. Putnam returned to San Diego in June, 1939, where he served until his departure for duty in the Pacific during World War II. By then a major, he commanded Marine Fighting Squadron 211, engaging in temporary aviation duty on Wake Island. Putnam arrived on Wake Island on December 4, 1941, and was captured by the Japanese when the island fell on December 23, 1941. Putnam and other prisoners arrived at Zentsuji Prison Camp in Japan on January 29, 1942. He remained in Japanese prison camps until liberated by American troops in August, 1945. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism at Wake Island.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The most significant materials in the collection pertain to the defense of Wake Island and Putnam's imprisonment in Japan. Of particular importance are Putnam's three diaries which mention his capture on Wake Island and describe his imprisonment by the Japanese (1942-1945). Portions of the diaries were written in shorthand; however, they have been transcribed. Also included is a POW recipe book from the prison camp in Zentsuji, Japan.

The diaries discuss life in prisoner-of-war camps: problems with food, unsanitary conditions, the difference in treatment of officers and enlisted men, and day-to-day routines. The routines included work around the camp, raising rabbits, and agricultural activities. Putnam also recorded the prisoners' move to Rokuroshi (June, 1945) and the reaction of the Japanese to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Aug. 6-17, 1945).

Also in the collection are a report, rosters, and other records that reflect the activities of the Marine Fighting Squadron 211. Putnam recorded information about his squadron's defense of Wake Island and noted details of the service of each man in the squadron.

Among the chiefly routine correspondence pertaining to Putnam's military career (1926-1953) are letters reflecting the service of Putnam and his men on Wake Island and their subsequent imprisonment. Included are copies of letters Putnam wrote to his family from Japan and correspondence recommending some of his men for citations. In addition, the correspondence includes a confidential letter regarding a clandestine naval operation to Wake Island (1941), and post-war correspondence between Putnam and the men that served under his command on Wake Island and between Putnam and his superiors (1942-1947). In the post-war correspondence Putnam recognizes the spirit of the men during captivity and the justice of their receiving delinquent flight-order pay.

Additional material pertaining to the defense of Wake Island includes copies of awards, citations, and a variety of publications, including newspaper articles and the score of a song, "Wake Island."

Routine orders (1926-1952) provide details concerning Putnam's military career.

Among the miscellaneous material in the collection are a photograph of Putnam and his wife and a chronology of Putnam's service in the Marine Corps. Oversized material includes three watercolor prints done by Arthur Beaumont of Wake Island fighting scenes dramatized in the Paramount movie "Wake Island."

Subject Headings Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Preliminary Inventory Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.

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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Special Collections Department, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. The materials described here are physically available in our reading room. To see what's been digitized in this collection, please click on the "View Digitized Objects" tab, or look for hyperlinks in the preliminary inventory
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