West Family
Papers, 1933-1955

SC23270

Quantity: 6 boxes (1.75 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift: Mary Burntitus, Hillsdale, N.Y.,  December 2012
Processed By: Regina Berry, Student Assistant, State University of New York at Albany for Manuscripts & Special Collections, January 2015

View catalog record

Biographical Note:

Howard and Mildred West had been married less than three years and were living on Long Island, New York, when the United States entered World War II and Howard enlisted.  Like so many young couples, the war disrupted the life they had expected to live. Howard Miller West was born on April 10, 1918, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Howard C. West and Adelia H. Blessing and the youngest of three children.  The family moved to Long Island when Howard was young; he attended Valley Stream High School and was active in athletics. Following high school, he tried several lines of work before taking a job at Sperry Gyroscope Company as a payroll supervisor in 1940.

That same year, on November 17, Howard married Mildred Wahle.  The couple likely met in high school, as they lived in the same town.  Mildred was born on June 22, 1918, possibly in Queens, New York, and was the eldest child of Frank and Irene Wahle. In the autumn of 1943 Howard enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a private.  He was sent to Greensboro, North Carolina, for basic training, then to Meadville, Pennsylvania, for aviation training at Allegheny College.  He became a navigator of B-26 bombers and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.  After World War II he was stationed in West Germany and fought in the Korean War in 1951-52.

It appears that Howard and Mildred had no children. Mildred, who had worked in Valley Stream during the war years, may have become an x-ray technician in the 1950s.  Howard retired from the military in 1967.  Following his discharge he became a professor at Florida Atlantic University and was involved in special education.  Public records indicate that Howard and Mildred divorced in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 18, 1976.  Howard subsequently married Shirley Merlin, a Dade County educator.  Howard passed away on July 25, 1995, and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Following the divorce, Mildred lived in Ancram, New York, in a home that had been purchased many years before by her parents.  She passed away on August 11, 2006.

Scope and Content Note:

These papers consist chiefly of the letters exchanged between Howard and Mildred during the periods he was away for military training or service.  Most of these letters fall between the periods of October 1943-December 1944 and June 1951-April 1952.  They are affectionate letters full of loving concern for each other’s well-being.  Many of Howard’s letters contain descriptions of life in a military barracks, how soldiers spent their time and did their chores, and of the kinds of training they received.  On April 18, 1944, he describes his first flight instruction.  His reports of the classes and examinations he took at flight school in the summer of 1944 are particularly noteworthy.  Many of the letters from both periods cover the difficulties involved in the many transitions from base to base.  In several letters from November 1951 Howard detailed his moves from California to Japan and then to Korea.  In December of that year he sent Mildred several programs from the chapel services held on K-8 Air Base.

Mildred’s letters report to Howard how much she loves and misses him.  She includes details of work and family doings and discusses the couple’s plans and finances.  There are details of her travel plans to meet up with him in numerous places, by car, bus, train and plane.  She includes relevant items from the newspaper on occasion.

Also included are a schoolgirl diary of Mildred Wahle (age 14); a few family photographs (mostly without captions); picture-postcard souvenirs from the places Howard saw in his travels; holiday greeting cards the couple exchanged; product and advertising materials from the 1950s; and a silver half-dollar coin (found with letter from November 2, 1943).

Box and Folder List:


Box Folder Description
Correspondence
Letters from Howard West to Mildred Wahle West
1 1 Letters: Howard West, Brooklyn, [N.Y.], to Mildred Wahle (West), DeWittville, [N.Y], 1939  (3 items)
1 2 Letters: Howard West, Greensboro, [N.C.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], October 1943  (20 items)
1 3 Letters: Howard West, Greensboro, [N.C.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], November 1943  (13 items)
1 4 Letters: Howard West, Greensboro, [N.C.], and Meadville, [Penn.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], December 1943  (9 items)
1 5 Letters: Howard West, Meadville, [Penn.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], January 1944  (12 items)
1 6 Letters: Howard West, Meadville, [Penn.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], February 1944  (8 items)
1 7 Letters: Howard West, Meadville, [Penn.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], March 1944  (10 items)
1 8 Letters: Howard West, Meadville, [Penn.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], April 1944  (9 items)
1 9 Letters: Howard West, Memphis, [Tenn.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], May 2-15, 1944  (6 items)
1 10 Letters: Howard West, San Marco, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], May 17-31, 1944  (13 items)
2 11 Letters: Howard West, San Antonio, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], July 1-14, 1944  (12 items)
2 12 Letters: Howard West, San Antonio, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], July 16-31, 1944  (14 items)
2 13 Letters: Howard West, San Antonio, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], August 1944  (16 items)
2 14 Letters: Howard West, San Antonio and Harlingen, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], September 1944  (14 items)
2 15 Letters: Howard West, Harlingen, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], October 1-13, 1944  (9 items)
2 16 Letters: Howard West, Harlingen, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], October 16-30, 1944  (8 items)
2 17 Letters: Howard West, Harlingen, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], November 1944  (9 items)
2 18 Letters: Howard West, Hondo, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], December 1944  (9 items)
3 19 Letters: Howard West, Houston, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], June 1951  (5 items)
3 20 Letters: Howard West, Houston, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], July 2-12, 1951  (6 items)
3 21 Letters: Howard West, Houston, [Texas], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], July 15-28, 1951  (6 items)
3 22 Letters: Howard West, Houston, [Texas], and Hampton, [Va.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], August 1951  (4 items)
3 23 Letters: Howard West, Hampton, [Va.], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], September 1951  (9 items)
3 24 Letters: Howard West, Camp Stoneman, [Ca.], Japan, and Korea, to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], November 1951  (8 items)
3 25 Letters: Howard West, Korea to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], December 3-15, 1951  (6 items)
3 26 Letters: Howard West, Korea, to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], December 16-30, 1951  (8 items)
3 27 Letters: Howard West, Korea, to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], January 2-16, 1952  (7 items)
3 28 Letters: Howard West, Korea, to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], January 19-31, 1952  (11 items)
3 29 Letters: Howard West, Korea, to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], February 1952  (12 items)
3 30 Letters: Howard West, Korea, to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], March 1952  (15 items)
3 31 Letters: Howard West, Korea, to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], April 1952  (3 items)
Letters from Mildred West to Howard West
4 32 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West,  Greensboro, [N.C.], October 1-10 1943  (7 items)
4 33 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West,  Greensboro, [N.C.], October 11-20 1943  (10 items)
4 34 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West,  Greensboro, [N.C.], October 21-31 1943  (10 items)
4 35 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West,  Greensboro, [N.C.], and Meadville, [Penn.], November-December 1943 
(9 items)
4 36 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West, Meadville, [Penn.], January 1944  (6 items)
4 37 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West, Meadville, [Penn.], February 1944  (11 items)
4 38 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West, Houston, [Texas], June 28-July12, 1951  (9 items)
4 39 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West, Houston, [Texas], July13-31, 1951  (9 items)
4 40 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West, Houston, [Texas], August 1951  (6 items)
4 41 Letters: Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], to Howard West, Hampton, [Va.], September 1951  (10 items)
Other Letters and Telegrams
5 42 Letters: Howard West, San Marco, [Texas], to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Wahle, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], May 1944  (2 items)
5 43 Letters: Mildred DeBorger, Earnest Harmon AFB [Newfoundland], to Mildred West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], November 1951-March 1952  (5 items)
5 44 Letter: Mr. and Mrs. Heinlein, Athens, [Ohio], to Mildred and Howard West, Valley Stream, [N.Y.], March 11, 1946; Photo and Negatives enclosed (8 items)
5 45 Letters: Various authors to Mildred West, 1943-1952  (13 items)
5 46 Telegrams: Howard West to Mildred West, 1945-1952, undated  (7 items)
Family Records
5 47 Diary of Mildred Wahle (West), 1933 (4̎ x 5.5̎; 240 pages)  (1 item)
5 48 Military and work-related papers: Howard West, 1937-1952  (19 items)
5 49 Work-related papers: Mildred Wahle West, 1940-1951  (13 items)
5 50 Bills and receipts, 1944, 1951-1952, undated  (14 items)
5 51 Memorabilia, 1947-1951, undated  (12 items)
Graphic Materials
5 52 Photographs, undated (enclosed in letter from Howard to Mildred West, January 22, 1944) (4 items)
5 53 Photographs, August 1948 (found tucked in Mildred Wahle diary – Box 5, Folder 47)  (11 items)
5 54 Photographs, Korea, February 1952 (enclosed in letter from Howard to Mildred West, March 22, 1952)  (3 items)
5 55 Picture Postcard Souvenirs (unwritten); From: Alabama., California., Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, and Texas, undated  (21 items)
5 56 Advertisement and Product Information Items, ca. 1950  (8 items)
5 57 Miscellaneous, undated  (4 items)
Holiday Greeting Cards
6 58 Greeting Cards: Anniversary, between Mildred and Howard West, November 17, 1947-1954  (17 items)
6 59 Greeting Cards: Birthday, between Mildred and Howard West, 1947-1954 
(16 items)
6 60 Greeting Cards: Christmas, between Mildred and Howard West, 1942-1954, undated  (15 items)
6 61 Greeting Cards: Easter, between Mildred and Howard West, 1947-1955
(14 items)
6 62 Greeting Cards: Graduation and Valentines, between Mildred and Howard West,1938, 1948, 1950, undated  (7 items)
6 63 Greeting Cards: Various Authors to Mildred and Howard West, 1938-1955 
(13 items)
Last Updated: November 4, 2016