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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the John William Graham World War II Letters

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1942-1945
Creator: Graham, John William (1915-1999)
Extent: 3.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MsC1001
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Letters February 1942 to September 1945 from a technician on a ground crew in the 464th Bomber Group.

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: A gift of Graham's daughter, Willona Graham Goers, in April 2014.

Preferred Citation: John William Graham World War II Letters, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

John William Graham was born in the West Union Hospital in West Union, Fayette County, Iowa on August 2, 1915. He attended West Union High School and worked on summer weekends at the Graham and Schenk Lumberyard, where he earned $1 a day. After graduating in 1932 he attended Upper Iowa University where he lettered in football. He graduated in 1936 with a major in biological sciences with minors in speech and political science.

He tried to enlist in the military but was sent home to be a farmer, but then was drafted after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He entererd the service in February 1942 at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. After training in Wichita Falls, Texas, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tucson, Arizona, Wendover, Utah, Pueblo, Arizona, and Pocatello, Idaho he was posted to Italy, where he arrived on April 17,1944. He served at Pantanella Hill until late May, 1945, where he worked on the ground crew for several planes. Here he lost two fingers when the crew cleaning the gun on the plane next to him accidentally discharaged a bullet left in a gun. He had achieved the rank of Master Sargeant. In late May 1945 he was assigned to the Air Transport Command and sent to Trinidad. On September 26, 1945, he was discharged at Jeffereson Barracks in Missouri. He took a bus from there to Cedar Rapids. From there he hitchhiked to West Union.

On December 20, 1947 he married home economics teacher Frances Ruth Hill at her parents' home in Coggon.

In 1945, Graham began farming, a profession he followed for more than thirty-five years, on a farm north of Hawkeye, Iowa. He raised beef, hogs, and crops. He loved horses and raised them as a hobby. Traveller, his Tennessee walking horse, was a favorite. He also drove a school bus for the North Fayette County Community School for 19 years, where his first passengers were his own three children.

John and Frances volunteered at the Historical Center, where Frances was a researcher and administrator and John was a historical resource and the local storyteller. John served on the Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service, Fayette County Cattlemen, and Hawkeye Cooperative, as well as being a member of the Farm Bureau, a Bethel Township Trustee, a Bethel Township school director, and a long-time member of the Hawkeye United Methodist Church. He was also a member and a board membr of Whistlin' Bit Saddle Club. After retiring from farming he was active in the Fayette County Helper Club and Historical Society.

John William Graham died at home on October 29, 1999.

The letters are arranged chronologically.

Browse by Series:
Series 2: LETTERS

  • Box 1:
  • Biographical material
  • Series 2: LETTERS
  • Box 1:
  • February-April - 1942
  • May-June - 1942
  • July-September - 1942
  • October-December - 1942
  • January-March - 1943
  • April - 1943
  • May-June - 1943
    Became Master Sergeant, May 3.
  • July-August - 1943
  • September-October - 1943
  • November-December - 1943
  • January-March - 1944
  • February-April - 1944
  • May-July - 1944
    First letter after being shot. (He didn't tell his parents until he returned home.) May 6
  • August-September - 1944
  • October-November - 1944
  • December - 1944
  • January-February - 1945
  • Box 2:
  • March -April - 1945
    News of FDR's death, April 13.
  • May-June - 1945
    News of Hitler's death, May 2, VE Day, May 8. Point totals; getting out. May 10.
  • July - 1945
  • August - 1945
    Includes reactions to the dropping of the atomic bomb, August 8; "Wonderful news," dancing in the streets, relief, August 15.
  • September - 1945
    "Red letter day." May never need to touch another airplane engine, September 10. Last letter, September 15.
  • Series 3: PHOTOGRAPHS
  • Box 2:
  • CD of photographs
    The photographs themselves are not here -- they are represented by electronic media.
  • Thumb drive containing photographs

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.