George Seeley Collection Edit

Summary

Identifier
Mss. Coll. Seeley

Dates

  • 1941-1945 (Creation)

Extents

  • 2 linear feet (Whole)

Subjects

Notes

  • Abstract

    The collection includes correspondence sent by George Seeley to his parents, his future wife, Peg Fisher, and other family members during his World War II service, especially with the 105th General Hospital in Australia and New Guinea.

  • Language of Materials

    The records are in English

  • Biography of George Seeley

    In February 1941, George Allen Seeley left Miami University, where he was finishing his senior year. After being drafted for service in the United States Army in April 1941, he was sent to Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana for maneuvers. Then, he went to California, and was sent to Pennsylvania for officer's training. Next, he went to California as a 2nd Lieutenant, to Washington, and finally back to San Francisco. His next stop was in Australia, where he was an Assistant Detachment Commander and Training Officer with the 105th General Hospital of the Army. He stayed in Australia for two and a half years, then ended his assignment at Biak, a Dutch Indonesian island north of New Guinea. Seeley was at Biak during the return of American troops to the Philippines, caring for those troops who were liberated from the Bilibid prison. After five years in the service, Seeley returned to civilian life and studied dentistry at Case Western Reserve University. With the Korean War pending, Seeley was re-commissioned for two years of service as a dentist in Frankfort, Germany. Following completion of his second round of military service, Seeley practiced dentistry in Akron, Ohio for 35 years. Seeley married Margaret (Peg) Fisher in May 1945. Mrs. Seeley also attended Miami University. After retirement, the Seeleys moved to Naples, Florida, where they currently reside.

  • Scope and Content

    The collection opens with George Seeley's letters to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Clifton Seeley of Oak Harbor, Ohio. They begin with describing Seeley's entrance into the United States Army and his arrival at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio on April 18, 1941. Subsequent letters describe Army activities such as 14-hour K.P. duty, undergoing intelligence tests and other examinations, and receiving a uniform. Later that month, Seeley leaves for Camp McClellan, Alabama, where he joins the Medical Corps. The following month, Seeley is transferred to Camp Forest, where he participates in a 30-day maneuver in Tennessee. On May 29, 1941, Seeley informs his parents that he will not be able to attend his commencement exercises at Miami University that June. After writing to the registrar for permission to graduate in absentia, Seeley asks them to send $10.50 to the university to cover the cost of the diploma and packing and mailing fees. When Father's Day arrives, Seeley writes that his financial standing and inability to get to a town to make a suitable purchase is prompting him to continue his practice of writing letters in place of sending presents. "...I realize that the sentiment rather than the gift itself is the important thing," Seeley writes on June 11, 1941. "I am well aware of the fact that I have one of the grandest Dads a fellow could ever wish for and if it weren't for your sacrifices and generosity I would never have had the social and educational advantages that I have enjoyed." On July 31, 1941, Seeley writes that he was made a fifth class specialist-medical technician. "I don't receive any stripes but according to the older fellows a specialist rating is more desirable both in experience and chances of further advancement. I am not up on my duties as yet but I will now get in on the medical lectures and will work with the dispensary. From now on I will receive $36.00 a month. I never thought I would get so excited about such an insignificant advancement but I really am tickled." Seeley reflects about the passage of the draft extension bill on August 15, 1941. "I am taking the attitude that it will have little effect on me since I think my chances of getting out at the end of one year are good. Regardless of that, I think events will have taken a definite turn by next spring when my year of service is up. Either we will be at war which would mean an extension of service regardless of the present bill, or peace will be probable enough to make two and a half years' service unnecessary. We will just have to wait and see what happens. Many (too many) of the fellows have become very bitter and cynical about the whole thing." Later in the letter, Seeley continues, "It gives me a strange feeling when I think of practically all of my college friends as either being in the army or planning to enter it soon. It makes me stop and wonder at just what the outcome of all this interruption of life-plans will mean." After returning from a furlough at home, Seeley writes on October 28, 1941 that he has learned that he is not going to medical technician school, but instead to officer's training school. Hoping to enter medical or dental school the following fall, Seeley is disappointed to hear from his captain that he thought it would be impossible under the present 18-month extension law. January 1942 finds Seeley beginning officer's training school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. His January 25, 1942 letter to his parents describes a typical day of classes. Subjects include a conference on the principles of the electrical system, a demonstration of camouflage in relation to aerial photography, a lecture on the organization of the medical department, a lecture on evacuation of the wounded in war, and a drill. In the same letter, Seeley describes a practice blackout in which the town and barracks participated. "Due to some mix-up our power went off before supper and since we couldn't study we went up town to see the lights go off there. The streets were lined with parked cars filled with people who wanted to see the fun. Four of us were in a restaurant when the sirens began to wail. Before we could even get our coats sorted out, the management turned out every light in the place - you can imagine the scramble over chairs and other people that ensued. We finally got onto the street just as the last lights were going out - it was certainly an odd feeling to be in the center of a town and not be able to see a thing. We joined arms so as not to get lost and edged our way along the walk, bumping into someone every other step. I can readily see why Londoners make use of black-out accessories." On February 22, 1942, Seeley reflects about Americans' views toward war. "I sometimes wonder if the American people as a whole will ever awaken to the desperate seriousness of the task we are just beginning. Everywhere I go I am impressed by the remoteness with which people view the war. I think it will take a direct attack on our shores to rouse us out of our lethargy. The fact that newspapers are playing up the words "we can lose this war" should help a lot. We must face the facts." In June 1942, Seeley is transferred from the Presidio to Australia. Subsequent letters are censored. On October 30, 1942, he writes his parents about his interest in the Australians. "There is no doubt about their being a leisurely people - they love to sit and talk and sip tea or cocktails, very often they have coffee since they take for granted that's what we Americans want. There is no end to their curiosity about the U.S. and they have the idea all Americans are sophisticated & cosmopolitan. One lady said that she was amazed when she met an American who was a typical 'country boy.'" On January 31, 1943, Seeley writes that he has not only been given charge of the landscaping and gardening of his post, but also is a unit censor. "That job takes the cake," George writes. "Never again will I criticize the poor censor, his is a thankless lot. What with censoring letters and checking the water sprinklers, my evenings can no longer be called my own." When Seeley's letter to Miami University faculty member Dr. Sears Croswell is published in the January 1943 issue of the Miami University Alumni News Letter, he writes to his parents on February 13, 1943, "Ye Gods, I hate to think of that screwy letter of mine being published - I hope the irrelevant parts were cut out." Reflecting after one year of service, Seeley writes to his parents on March 26, 1943, "I hope and pray it won't be too long before I can come home again....I have no desire to return home to stay. I know there would be no satisfaction in that until the war is over. But I do hope that after several years of foreign duty whole units will be able to return home for several months before being sent elsewhere." On August 21, 1944, Seeley writes his parents that the ban on revealing geographical locations in Australia has been listed, so he informs them that he is located in the middle of a race track in Brisbane. Later, he is transferred to the Dutch East Indies. The collection continues with letters that Seeley wrote his future wife, Peggy Fisher, during the same period of time. In his first letter to her on June 6, 1941, Seeley writes about what it is like to be in the army and how the physical training is indispensible in toughening him up. "There is a feeling of fellowship in the army which is grand - it probably arises from the fact that we are all on the same level in a man's organization; we are all in for the same credit or discredit, for better or worse, and as long as regulations are abided by we all share the same ordeals." Seeley also observes that the greatest disadvantage is the lack of control he has over his destiny. "All of our thinking is done for us by our superiors and whether or not we believe an order to be logical, that order must be carried out. This sacrificing of individuality is one of the necessities of a smoothly operating army and, to me, is one of the most convincing arguments against the desirability of living in a Totalitarian State where everything is for the Government rather than the individual." Writing from Carlisle, Pennsylvania on March 1, 1942 during his studies at Officer's Training School, Seeley tells Peg, "If and when I receive my assignment I will be on top of the world. All my life, in school and in the army, I have been training and preparing for the future. Now at long last, I will begin to apply something for which I have studied. The training won't cease, but I will be reaping, so to speak, some of the fruits I have always been cultivating." After sending Peggy a record player for her birthday, George writes on May 1, 1942 of his wish to marry her. "No girl has a right to tie herself to a soldier, so I don't want any kind of promise from you. If the wait is too long or only half of me returns, you will be free of any promises that might have to be broken. However, that doesn't keep me from making a promise to you, and I do solemnly vow that when this whole business is over the one thought in my mind will be to return to you." Although his exact location is censored, Seeley describes much about his surroundings and activities in Australia. On August 8, 1942, he writes that he has finally obtained a genuine Aboriginal boomerang. "My skill at tossing the thing is sensational. The first time I gave it a try the darned thing practically sailed into oblivion. The second time it shot straight up and I had to dodge to prevent being knocked senseless. On subsequent throws it made a half-hearted attempt to return to me but never quite made it." Additional letters to Peggy detail their future plans, including his efforts to buy her an engagement ring, but also record a difficult period in their relationship, during which Peggy breaks their engagement for a time. Other letters in the collection that Seeley writes to his extended family provide accompanying information about similar topics, including concern among civilians about improving army morale. Seeley's correspondence also offers interesting insights into popular culture of the 1940s. Seeley writes of purchasing and sending records of popular songs to Peg to play on the record player that he bought for her. He also mentions reading books like Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd Douglas, Good-bye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton, Louis Bromfield's The Green Bay Tree, and Ernie Pyle's Brave Men. "Pride of the Yankees," "Random Harvest," "To Have and Have Not," "Laura," "Mrs. Parkington," "Sun Valley Serenade," "The Little Foxes," and "Mrs. Miniver" are some of the movies that Seeley writes of seeing. Seeley uses a blank book titled "My Stretch in the Service" to record his experiences in the Army from May 5, 1942 to February 25, 1945. Seeley's account begins with being transferred from the Presidio to Ft. Lewis, Washington and back again, until his transfer to Australia. "I have often wondered what one's emotions would be at a time like this and found my own to be very unsensational," Seeley writes on May 19, 1942. "I felt nothing but excitement and eagerness for adventure. Everyone was in a mood comparable to that of a group of passengers setting out on a pleasure cruise." The diary continues with Seeley's descriptions of social activities in downtown Melbourne, including concerts, restaurants, and Australian football games. In his entry dated June 5 to 18, 1942, he also observes that "evenings on the post were often spent at the recreation tent where almost nightly entertainment was held - movies, dance bands, and vaudeville troupes. The biggest treat was a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit cake at the Salvation army hut." In his entry dated June 23 to July 10, 1942, Seeley describes Brisbane. "Due to the imminence of a Japanese invasion or air raid all windows of downtown stores are taped or entirely boarded over. Entrances to important buildings are protected by heavy brick walls. All but the busiest thoroughfares have rows of concrete air-raid shelters built down the center. Arcades, domes and skylights are reinforced with crude scaffolding. Mirrors, chandeliers and fragile ornaments are surrounded by wire mesh. Looking at the reinforced face of Brisbane one can have no doubt about there being a war on." When Seeley describes the post where he is stationed at Gatton, Queensland on July 20, 1942, he conveys information about its buildings, which consist of a headquarters, a dining hall, officers' quarters, two nurses' quarters, a recreation hall, one large ward (shelter hall), two small wards and a building for the detachment offices, and registrar. Helping to place some of his fellow men as ward attendants, he writes, "I am still amazed at the variety of duties they must fulfill. We must have clerks and typists, guards, military police, truck and ambulance drivers, mechanics, cooks, butchers, bakers, boiler operators, sign painters, plumbers, carpenters, switchboard operators, surgical, medical, dental and x-ray technicians, janitors, buglers, gardeners, yardbirds, all from our Detachment Medical Department of five hundred men." On October 20, 1942, Seeley writes about a gruesome experience two days previously, when he had to attend to an American soldier who had been killed by a train. Later that month, Seeley describes social activities at the post, including bicycling, dances for officers and nurses, cocktail parties and movies. Officers gave titles to these routine activities, such as the "Children's Hour," the "After Breakfast Shaving Club," the "Grass and Blanket Club," and the "Saddle and Sprocket." Despite these clever initiatives, Seeley records on November 26, 1942 that the morale of enlisted men is growing increasingly worse by the day. "I can see no remedy to the situation except the completion of what I hope is a normal cycle. We are beyond the stage of enthusiasm for a new job and haven't yet settled down to the long grind. Many things have contributed to the unrest: monotony, war news which gives little encouragement for the future, lack of recreation, and poor living conditions. The latter is probably the most important. The men live in tents which have no floors, with the result that they are either covered by mud or dust. They have no lights and no place where they can read or write letters in the evening. At night they are hounded by mosquitoes, by day - flies. There is no hot water for showers. And there is no indication of improvement for months. I feel it's a disgrace that those in authority can't realize that for a hospital to function smoothly it must first provide living accommodations for its personnel." Seeley continues his observations about morale on December 14, 1942, when he writes how "the ceaseless trivialities of which every job has its share" impact his work. "We don't have enough guards; we have difficulty in relieving the men for meals; the prisoners must be marched to their mess en masse and create a potential danger of escape; prisoners come in and out so fast that we must make innumerable checks to see that they have no razor blades or knives; we must keep unauthorized persons and vehicles out of a post that has numerous unguarded entrances; we must prevent patients from obtaining alcoholic beverages; we must conduct every visitor to the adjutant's office under guard; each prisoner who has an appointment at a clinic must be escorted by a guard; we must keep people off the grass and trucks off the streets; we must keep order in the mess lines; and every little problem that doesn't happen to come under someone else's realm, ends up at the Provost office." As patients increase and the size of his detachment decreases, Seeley observes that shortage of manpower is terrific. On an inspection of the hospital on January 12, 1943, Seeley writes, "I frequently visit individual wards, but this was the first time that I had seen every single ward in one morning. I received many impressions: efficient care, tender nurses, spotless rooms, over-worked ward boys, ugly wounds, amputated limbs, but by far the most haunting sight, the impression I will longest remember, is the expression on the faces of those wounded soldiers. They had that look which no American should ever have to endure - listless & gaunt, bewildered, unseeing...I stopped to wonder just how many of us here and at home actually appreciate the sacrifice that these boys have made." On October 14, 1943, Seeley provides information about the Coral Sea Battle (May 4-8, 1942) and its importance in preventing the invasion of Australia. He includes a description of the campaign and statistics on casualties. By May 30, 1944, Seeley observes that "the lethargy of our two-year stay in Gatton seems finally to have been broken. A sense of change is appreciated but there is the disquieting feeling that things are breaking up, probably because of the altered routine after such a long time. Our patient census has dropped below two hundred - the lowest we have ever been - and the census continues to drop. It appears that a move for the 105th is definitely in the cards." By July 14, 1944, the last of the 105th personnel moved out of Gatton College. "We hated to leave; we knew that in the future we would look back on our Gatton days as the most pleasant of our overseas service," Seeley writes. "We were leaving a lot: two years of memories and hard work; a beautiful post of comfortable buildings, smooth lawns and well-kept flower beds; a spot we had almost come to think of as a second home." Leaving Brisbane on October 8, 1944, Seeley reflects, "It is seldom that one leaves a place with such a feeling of finality. Usually one believes he will some day be back. I don't believe I shall ever visit Australia again; the distances are too great and the attractions too few." The diary concludes with some descriptions of Seeley's time in New Guinea, including conditions that Americans endured in internment camps. Furthermore, on November 8, 1944, Seeley writes about the outcome of the presidential election. "As I had feared Roosevelt is in for another four years with Harry Truman as Vice President. I have faith in Roosevelt as a war leader but if the war should end sooner than expected and Roosevelt should have a hand in establishing domestic affairs for a U.S. at peace, it would be a real calamity." The collection continues with two issues of The Post Record, the publication of the 105th General Hospital, A.P.O. 920. Contents of the issues include notice of parties sponsored by the local Red Cross and the Officers' Club of the 105th General Hospital, news of intra-mural sports events, a report from returned furloughees on the home front, promotions, a wrestling show and a performance by Javanese soldiers, nurses and island natives. A magazine-style memoir of United States Army 105th General Hospital provides a detailed history and highlights of the 105th activities in Australia. The publication states that the 105th General Hospital was activated on April 20, 1942 and represented Harvard University in the southwest Pacific. It operated a station hospital on the post, and built new wards, huts and tents as a result of a rapid increase in the hospital census from battle casualties, including those from New Guinea campaigns. The magazine provides photographs and text describing commanding officers, buildings, dances for enlisted men, picnics, entertainment for officers and nurses, Christmas parties, athletic competitions, inspections, reviews, and visits by several distinguished individuals. Additional details about United States Army General Hospital 105 are available in "All the Boys Remember Maisie," an article from The Saturday Evening Post. The collection concludes with a photograph taken of Seeley during his years in the service.

  • Statement of Arrangement

    Series I: CorrespondenceSubseries I: Correspondence from George Seeley to Dr. and Mrs. C.M. SeeleySubseries II: Correspondence from George Seeley to Peg FisherSubseries III: Miscellaneous CorrespondenceSeries II: ManuscriptsSubseries I: The Post RecordSubseries II: DiarySeries III: Printed MaterialSeries IV: Photographs

  • Related Material

    "'Up and Down' Says Seeley," Miami University Alumni News Letter, January 1943, pages 11-12.

  • Restrictions on Access

    This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections, Miami University Libraries.

  • Restrictions on Use

    Reproduction of materials in the collection is subject to the restrictions of copyright law. To use any materials not yet in the public domain, the researcher must obtain permission from the copyright holder.

  • Preferred Citation

    George Seeley Collection, Walter Havighurst Special Collections, Miami University Libraries

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