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Virtual museum houses war letters of the 10th Mountain Division

Published: Jul. 11, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) -From Pearl Harbor-

“Dear sis, it’s now 9:05 a.m. Sunday morning and we’ve been bombed for over an hour,” said Andrew Carroll, Director of the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University.

-To the liberation of Italy.

“He writes all this, puts the letter in his ruck sack, and then moments later as he goes into battle, he’s shot through the back,” said Carroll.

These war letters are snapshots of history. Andrew Carroll has spent years curating them and just recently opened a virtual museum for American War letters. Its inaugural wing on the Vietnam War opened earlier this year.

This letter written by a soldier to his wife saying ‘I am about to drop dead here. Or go out of my mind.’ Now, Carroll has an idea for a new section of the museum.

“But we want to do an entire wing dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division,” said Carroll.

They would be the first division to have its own exhibit in the museum. For one organizer, this project is a no-brainer.

“What it does, it tells a very unique side to war and the suffering and as well as some of the accomplishments and challenges we had out there,” said Jill Van Hoesen, Community Coordinator.

Van Hoesen says they’re in the process of collecting pictures and donations to help get the project off the ground. She says they received a letter from a former Fort Drum soldier - Josh Harapko. He sent this letter to his mother while deployed in Afghanistan. He survived, but later died in a tragic training accident on Fort Drum.

It’s letters like these that hit home for Douglas William Schmidt, a former Fort Drum soldier, now a 10th Mountain Division historian, whose gathering letters.

“I’ve got a pretty good stack of maybe 20 to 30 letters that I just wrote myself from family members in Minnesota and for my wife,” said Schmidt.

And the timing to begin this effort is perfect. Saturday was the 78th anniversary of the 10th Mountain Division’s activation into World War II. Carroll says they have curated about 175,000 letters so far spanning across all American wars. But he’s hoping that number will grow even more, before other letters get lost.

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