Friday Finds: Love and War

Friday, February 15, 2013
Letters from Truman Smith to his wife Katharine, 1918-1919, Truman Smith Papers,
Wedding announcement of Truman Smith and Katharine Alling Hollister, 1917, Truma

With Valentine's Day still in the air, our thoughts turn to love and romance.  In 1917, Truman Smith, an army lieutenant and Yale University graduate, married Katharine Alling Hollister at a summer home on Long Island.  Shortly after their wedding, Smith became company and battalion commander of the Fourth Infantry, fighting in the Marne and Meuse-Argonne battles with the American Expeditionary Forces in France.

While on the front lines, from 1918 to 1919, Smith wrote to Katharine nearly every week.  In some letters, Smith describes life on the battlefield: "Death is so ever present, at the throw of the dice."  Others are interspersed with romantic proclamations: "Kay, my ideal wife, I hope I make you feel how much you are to me - quite all. When oh when will this debacle be over."  The letters provide researchers with a glimpse into the emotional tolls of battle.

Smith went on to become political adviser to the U.S. Army in Koblenz and later, from 1935 to 1939, American military attaché in Berlin.  The collection also includes Katharine Alling Hollister Smith's memoirs and diaries, mainly concerning her life in Berlin.  Truman Smith's papers are also available for research at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.