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WWI Letter Project

Fort Monmouth, then Camp Alfred Vail, was an active place during World War I. A recent loan from a local resident helped bring this era to life. 

 This past spring, the CECOM Historical Office received on loan approximately 300 letters to a local woman, Miss Amelia Armstrong (“Bonnie”).  These correspondences date from 1913 (prior to the Army’s 1917 arrival at Fort Monmouth) through 1926, and many of these letters came from men stationed here when it was still Camp Vail.  Throughout many of the letters, the men describe their duties and activities at Camp, and some include glimpses into military life in France where some men, including Bonnie’s brother, were stationed.  A couple of highlights in Camp Vail’s history include the talk about the “aeroplane” hanger and the quarantine for the Spanish flu.  The letters shed light on an era of the Camp unlike any other collection within the archive.

 The WWI project consisted of several steps of archival work: scanning, transcribing, and databasing.  The project took approximately 4 months of work, and was completed before the scheduled deadline of mid-August.  The letters are nearly 100 years old, and they have survived very well.  The donor preserved everything to excellent standards.  Only a few only suffer from minor dog-eared tears, and the ink has not faded on them.  Some of the scans also include souvenir handkerchiefs from France; those are in fairly good shape having been tucked away for years.

Many soldiers stationed at Camp Vail later joined the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) in France. One of the “Souvenir de France” handkerchiefs includes the flags of the WWI Allies: Great Britain, Portugal, United States, Serbia, Belgium, Italy, Romania, and France.

Each letter, its contents (pictures, handkerchiefs, etc.), and its envelopes are scanned into a Acrobat PDF file.  Afterwards, they are transcribed, keeping the original grammar and spelling; though this may be adjusted in the future for readability.  Everything is then entered into a spreadsheet to be used as reference for the collection.  The originals, as well as copies of the typed transcriptions, will be returned to the donor.  The scanned digital images and the typed transcripts will remain with the archive.  One idea for future research is to cross-reference the full archival collection to learn more about the men who wrote the letters. 

 Keep on the look-out for more blogs about the WWI letters and their contents!

 Note:  This blog was authored by Suzanne Moore, Monmouth University graduate and historical office intern.  Chrissie Reilly, Staff Historian, edited and posted the entry.

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  1. WWI Letter Project – CECOM Historical Office linked to this post on August 17, 2010

    Read the rest here: WWI Letter Project – CECOM Historical Office