The Jack Carr Papers are an extensive collection of letters from Jack Ladd Carr to his family while he was enlisted in the U.S. Army during WWII, where he served as a radio operator for the Joint Assault Signal Company (JASCO). The letters date from between March 1943 to December 1945, during which time Carr was stationed at military bases in South Carolina, Missouri, California, and Hawaii; participated in the Liberation of the Philippines campaign; and served as part of the occupational forces in Korea. Much of the stationery is variously decorated with military insignia, army camp letterheads, and drawings of the Hawaiian Islands. There are also many original copies of V-mail. Along with the letters, the collection includes a soldier’s sewing kit from the American Red Cross, a post card from the Selective Service notifying Carr to appear for a physical examination, and three newspaper clippings.
The letters begin in March 1943 while Carr was stationed at Camp Jackson, S.C., as part of the 106th Signal Company. These early letters describe basic training, discuss his homesickness, requests for items (particularly clothing) he needs, and visits to Columbia, S.C. Carr writes of his radio school classes and practicing to increase his typed words per minute. The letters of 9 and 10 June describe the test to earn his Marksmanship Qualification Badge, for which he qualifies as a sharpshooter on the Tommy gun. A series of letters near the end of August 1943 describe the struggles of Army training, including the infiltration and combat courses, living in leaky tents during rainstorms, insect bites, exhausting workouts, and poorly maintained equipment (especially his rifle).
At the end of November 1943, Carr was transferred to Camp Crowder, Mo., for a brief time until being transferred to Camp Pendleton, California, at the beginning of December. Upon transfer to Camp Pendleton, Carr joined the 592nd Joint Assault Signal Company (JASCO). During this time, Camp Pendleton was still new and as yet unfinished, and Carr writes that he first had to stay in a tent while waiting for the barracks to be built. Carr then had the good fortune to spend the Christmas holidays with his best friend, Tom Meeder, and his family who had recently moved to Sierra Madre, Calif. Beginning in January 1944, some of the letters are incorrectly dated as 1943, which is an error on Carr’s part and have the corrected date written in pencil. Of interest is a letter dated 15 January 1944 wherein Carr gives a description of practice landings on the beaches at night and then hiking back to camp in the morning.
Towards the end of January 1944, Carr was moved to Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif., and the first letter from there is dated 25 January. During his time in California, Carr’s letters describe daily camp, life practicing maneuvers, cleaning equipment, and eating in the mess hall, as well as leisure activities available, particularly watching films and visiting with the Meeder family as often as possible. The letter of 5 February provides news that Carr was promoted to technician fifth grade (T/5), which carries the rank of corporal, and the letter of 15 April tells of further good news as Carr was awarded the Good Conduct medal.
On 28 April, Carr writes that he is sick with a sinus infection in the hospital, while the 592 JASCO is moving out to Fort Ord, Calif. Carr follows nearly a week later once he is well again. The letters continue to discuss daily camp life until the letter of 5 June when Carr says JASCO has moved again but he cannot say where as they are in the process of shipping overseas. Finally, on 30 June censorship is lifted and he is allowed to disclose that they are in Oahu, Hawaii. Carr’s letter to his mother on 5 July gives his impressions of Honolulu: “I found Honolulu crowded, quite dirty, a bit expensive, not what the travel folders would have you believe, but, nevertheless, it has possibilities when all the servicemen leave.”
There is a large gap in dated letters between 16 August and 22 September, wherein the letters marked “Undated, Pacific Theatre” fit (from folder 1242.3.d Undated and Unidentified Pages). These unspecified letters are written while Carr and his company are aboard ship en route to the Pacific Theater. In the letter of 22 September 1944, Carr declares, “Today I yamma veteran!” The letter provides his account of the Battle of Angaur and his perceptions of the island afterwards. Letters to his family on 1 and 13 November provide further details of his landing at Angaur and describe his feelings of fear and exhilaration as he went into battle - “I’ll never forget when I ran out of the VP Higgins boat…” The 24 February 1945 letter tells of Carr’s participation in battle again shortly after the 19th though with a lack of specifics other than that their unit has been attached to the 38th Division. On 5 March, letters to Carr’s mother and brother provide a description of the ribbons and medals Carr has earned so far. With censorship slowly lifting, he is able to write on 28 April that he had participated in the battles to recapture both Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippines but did not go on to Manila. Again on 28 June censorship has been lifted further and Carr is able to provide a review of his activities since he arrived in the Philippines.
Despite these instances, many of the letters from the Pacific Theater do not contain details of Carr’s current situation because of the Army’s censorship. Some letters even have pieces cut out of them by the censor. As a result of this censorship, despite Carr’s participation in many landings, there is not much description of his involvement, and many of the letters from his time overseas contain continuous complaints about the weather, bugs, and frequently moving.
With the surrender of Japan on 15 August 1945, Carr’s participation in any battles ceases and his unit remains briefly in a state of indecision as they await further orders. On 28 August, Carr is glad to write that he has been promoted to the rank of T/4. Shortly afterwards on 12 September, he writes from aboard LST 626 while en route to Okinawa, Japan, where he will then head to Korea as part of the occupational forces. By 3 October, Carr is writing from Inch’on, Korea (now known as Incheon). He reports that the 592 JASCO has been deactivated, and the men are to be assigned to the local military government for various jobs. During this time, Carr is assigned to work as a shipping clerk, a job which he finds incredibly boring and is regularly trying to find a way out of. By 21 November, Carr is back with JASCO, and reports on 26 November that he will be leaving for a personnel center and then to board a ship in a few days. On 1 December, he writes that he will board the USS Golden City the next morning heading towards Seattle. The final dated letter in the collection was written on 18 December, when Carr writes that he will depart the ship tomorrow for Seattle and then on towards home in Pennsylvania.
Throughout the collection, the majority of the letters are directed to Carr’s mother, though there are also letters to his father; his sister, Jane; and his brother, Richard “Dick.” Carr’s letters to his father, although rare, are often more detailed on his training and experiences in battle. With his writings to both his mother and brother, it is also possible to trace his brother’s life and military career. During Carr’s time in the Army, Dick married Joan Carson and they had two children, Susan Martha and Richard Jr. All through Carr’s military career, his letters home talk of his dreams for after the war, especially enrolling in college and he deliberates often about what college he would like to attend. He seems at time to have a romanticized view of war and dreams of being a veteran and bragging about his experiences and the trips the family will take after the war is over. He also shares his reminiscences of life at home and thoughts on what the family may be doing while he is writing his letters. He writes as well of the visitors to camp, and the latest films he has seen and books he has read.
Carr’s love of music, movies, and reading shines through in his letters. He regularly mentions going into town to watch films or watching what is shown at the camp, and gives brief reviews and opinions on them. He talks at length about his record collection, and regularly attends concerts or “musicales,” gatherings to listen to records. He is particularly fond of jazz music, citing Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman more than once, though he also has an appreciation for classical music. He encourages his sister to listen to different artists and recommends ones he thinks she would enjoy. While overseas, he reads quite often and many of his letters describe what books he has been reading and his opinions on them. In multiple letters of early July 1944 in particular, he raves about how much he enjoyed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.