SCUA

Dillon, Robert E.

Robert E. Dillon Papers, 1943-1946.

1 box (0.5 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 635
Robert E. Dillon, 1943
Robert E. Dillon, 1943

A working class native of Ware, Mass., Robert E. Dillon was a student at Massachusetts State College when he was drafted into the Army in 1943. After his induction at Fort Devens, Mass., and training for the Quartermaster Corps in Virginia and California, Dillon was assigned to duty as a mechanic and driver with the First Service Command. Stationed at Rest Camps number 5 and 6 in Khanspur, India (now Pakistan), Dillon’s company maintained the trucks and other vehicles used to carry supplies over the Himalayas to Chinese Nationalist forces. After he left the service in February 1946, having earned promotion to T/5, Dillon concluded his studies at UMass Amherst on the GI Bill and earned a doctorate in Marketing from Ohio State. He taught at the University of Cincinnati for many years until his death in 1985.

The Dillon Papers consist of 178 letters written by Dillon to his family during his service in World War II, along with several written to him and an assortment of documents and ephemera. Beginning with basic training, the letters provide an essentially comprehensive account of Dillon’s military experience and interesting insight into a relatively quiet, but sparsely documented theater of war.

Background on Robert E. Dillon

The youngest of seven children born to Henry (1877-1935) and Mary E. Dillon (1877-1968), born on August 25, 1922, Robert Edward Dillon was raised in in the mill town of Ware, Massachusetts. Ambitious and capable as a student, he attended Massachusetts State College for two years before to being inducted into the military in 1943.

Following basic training at Camp Lee, Virginia, Dillon was accepted into Officers Training School and sent across country to Pittsburg, California, to prepare for the Quartermaster Corps. Once arriving there, however, he discovered that all the OTS was overenrolled and after being required to re-interview for a berth, he was rejected and ordered to train to become a mechanic. Frustrated with his changing fate, Dillon was never enthusiastic about spending time around cars and trucks, and despite all his training, he never considered himself a very good mechanic. Perhaps not coincidentally, he never advanced beyond the rank of corporal in the military.

Dillon was shipped overseas in January 1944, and after a brief period in North Africa, was ordered to the Punjab Region of what was then British India. Stationed for at least some of his time in service at Service Company #6 in Khanspur, now in Pakistan, he worked to repair and service trucks transporting supplies over the Himalayas to support operations by Nationalist forces in China.

With the war’s end, Dillon left behind his mechanical training and used some of his savings and the GI Bill to complete his undergraduate education at the University of Massachusetts. He went on to earn a doctorate in marketing from the School of Business at Ohio State University, later serving on faculty at the University of Cincinnati until 1985, when he succumbed to lung cancer.

Contents of Collection

The Dillon collection contains 178 letters (12 in V-mail format), 4 postcards, 4 telegrams, 4 photographs, and many miscellaneous souvenirs from Dillon’s time in India during the Second World War. The letters can be grouped into three periods documenting Dillon’s experience in the war:

  1. March to December 1943, when Dillon was in training in the United States
  2. late December 1943 to May 1945, while Dillon was in India. These letters are heavily censored and consist mainly of reassurances that he is doing well
  3. May 1945 to February 1946. These letters are less heavily censored and describe some of Dillon’s experiences in India as well as his anticipation of returning home.

Almost all of the letters are written by Dillon and addressed to his family and friends, although a few are from his older brother, Henry, who was also in the army serving in the European theater. Dillon kept a number of small souvenirs from his time in the service, offering a sometimes colorful sense of his experience, including a V-E Day menu from a meal served in the Punjab, a train ticket from India, ration cards, newspaper clippings, and military orders.

Most of the correspondence from Dillon to his family consists of small talk, inquiries about life at home, requests for money or supplies, and apologies for not writing more often — even though he writes several times a week. Perhaps out of self-censorship, there is very little information regarding Dillon’s specific duties while at camp, although he mentions how army life is a lot of sitting around and can get monotonous. Dillon’s more enthusiastic letters are those describing new places he visits and the touring around he does with occasional freedom. It is clear that he had not strayed far from Ware as a child, because even the west coast of California is fascinating to him. In letters to his mother, Min, he sends home pressed flowers and sand glued to paper as evidence that he has been across the country.

Collection inventory
Correspondence
1943-1946
0.5 lin. feet
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1943 Mar
Box 1: 1
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1943 Apr-May
Box 1: 2
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1943 June-July
Box 1: 3
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1943 Aug-Sept
Box 1: 4
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1943 Oct
Box 1: 5
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1943 Nov 3-19
Box 1: 6
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1943 Nov 22-29
Box 1: 7
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1943 Dec
Box 1: 8
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1944 Jan-Feb
Box 1: 9
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1944 Mar
Box 1: 10
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1944 Apr
Box 1: 11
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1944 May
Box 1: 12
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1944 June-July
Box 1: 13
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1944 Aug
Box 1: 14
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1944 Nov
Box 1: 15
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1944 Dec
Box 1: 16
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1944 Sept-Oct
Box 1: 17
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 Jan
Box 1: 18
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 Feb
Box 1: 19
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 Mar
Box 1: 20
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 Apr
Box 1: 21
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 May
Box 1: 22

Includes menu for VE Day dinner, served at US Army Rest Camp #6, Khanspur, India.

Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 June
Box 1: 23
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 July
Box 1: 24
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 Aug
Box 1: 25
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 Sept
Box 1: 26
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 Oct-Nov
Box 1: 27
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1945 Dec
Box 1: 28
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1946 Jan
Box 1: 29
Dillon, Robert E. Letters
1946 Feb
Box 1: 30
Identification Cards
1942-1946
Box 1: 31
Immunization Register
1943-1970
Box 1: 32
Label: Cigar
1943-1946
Box 1: 33
Label: Tax Free
1943-1946
Box 1: 34
Newspaper Clippings
1943-1945
Box 1: 35
Photographs
1940-1985
Box 1: 36
Ration Cards
1944-1945
Box 1: 37
Ticket: Railway from Howrah to Baidyabati
1945
Box 1: 38
Ticket: Weight machine
1945 Jan 24
Box 1: 39
U.S. Army Headquarters Military Orders
1943-1946
Box 1: 40
Realia
1943-1946
0.5 lin. feet
Buttons: U.S. Army button with eagle emblem
ca.1945
1 item
Box 2
Buttons: “U.S.” Army lapel insignia for Class A uniform
ca.1945
1 item
Box 2
Buttons: U.S. Army Quartermaster lapel pin (eagle over crossed sword and key)
ca.1945
1 item
Box 2
Dogtags
1943
3 items
Box 2
Medals: World War II Army Good Conduct Medal (with service ribbon)
ca.1945
2 items
Box 2
Medals: World War II Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal (with 2 service ribbons)
ca.1945
3 items
Box 2
Medal: World War II Victory Medal (with 2 service ribbons)
ca.1945
3 items
Box 2
Uniform patches: China-Burma-India Theater uniform patch
ca.1943
2 items
Box 2
Uniform patches: Discharge Insignia
ca.1945
1 item
Box 2
Uniform patches: hand-made name patch in English and Chinese
ca.1943
1 item
Box 2
Uniform patches: Service Patch (single stripe for three years’ service)
ca.1945
1 item
Box 2
Uniform patches: Service Patch (four stripes for each six months’ service overseas)
ca.1945
1 item
Box 2
Uniform patches: Supply of Services uniform patch
ca.1943
2 items
Box 2
Administrative information
Provenance

Gift of Edward O’Day, Sept. 2009 (2009-188).

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Goldstein, Oct. 2009.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: Robert E. Dillon Papers (MS 635). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Subjects

  • California--Description and travel
  • India--Description and travel
  • Pakistan--Description and travel
  • World War, 1939-1945

Contributors

  • Dillon, Robert E

Types of material

  • Letters (Correspondence)
  • Menus
  • Photographs
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