Benjamin Segan letters
Language of Materials
Approximately 740 letters written by U.S. Army private Benjamin Segan (b. 1924) to his fianceé, Judith Berman, in New York City, describing his activities at basic training in Fort Dix, New Jersey, Camp Croft, South Carolina, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, and his experiences in Italy, France, and Germany during World War II. The letters are digitized and are available in New-York Historical Society's Digital Collections.
Benjamin David "Ben" Segan was born in New York City on 27 August 1924, to Jacob and Lillian Segan, immigrants from Vilnius, Lithuania. Ben attended George Washington High School in Manhattan, where he met his future wife, Judith "Judy" Berman. During his senior year he attended school by night to work in a defense plant by day.
Nineteen-year-old Ben was drafted into the United States Army as a private on 28 April 1943. His initial processing took place at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he began his correspondence with Judy, writing to her almost daily until he left the service. By mid-May 1943 he was at Camp Croft, South Carolina, where he remained in basic training through late September and to operate radio equipment.
By October 1943 he was sent to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, and from there shipped to Italy to join the 93rd Armored Field Artillery Battalion. In Europe he served in Italy, southern France, and Germany. During the Battle of Monte Cassino (a.k.a. the Battle for Rome), January-May 1944, he worked in the 93rd's communication section.
Although he saw combat, Ben refrained from graphic descriptions in writing to his fianceé. Some of his reticence was due to restrictions imposed by the censors. For example, on 7 April 1945, during the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp from the Nazis, which he witnessed, Ben wrote, cryptically (in letter 574), "I've been extremely busy recently darling, & don't think it's so necessary to tell you as you must have a[n] inkling from the latest news reports on our progress."
The war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945, but Ben was still there as late as November 10th (the date of his last letter in the collection), when he wrote from the French port of Le Havre, unsure of which ship he'd be on or indeed when it would sail.
Ben was honored with the American Service Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Once home he married Judy on 10 March 1946 at Temple Ansche Chesed on Manhattan's Upper West Side. They raised two children and worked together for many years in New York City's Garment District.
The letters are numbered 1 through 754, probably in the order they were received by Benjamin Segan's fianceé, Judith Berman. That order is retained in the current arrangement. Generally, the numbering follows a chronological sequence, with occasional deviation from strict date order. Twelve letters are missing from the collection, as noted in the container list, below. Segan's summons from the Selective Service System precedes the first letter in box 1.
Scope and Contents Note
Approximately 740 letters written by U.S. Army private Benjamin Segan to his fianceé, Judith Berman, in New York City, describing his activities at basic training in Fort Dix, New Jersey, Camp Croft, South Carolina, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, and his experiences in Italy, France, and Germany during World War II. Although Segan participated in the Battle of Monte Cassino, in Italy (January-May 1944), and was present at the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp from the Nazis (April 1945), his letters contain little if any specific detail due to censor restrictions. Careful reading of his voluminous correspondence may reveal detail that is not apparent in passing.
The collection contains a variety of formats, such as postcards, telegrams, and stationery from different organizations (e.g., the Red Cross and USO). Also included are numerous examples of V-mail—short for Victory Mail—a hybrid process used by the United States during World War II. Service members abroad would write their letters on preprinted V-mail forms; their messages would next be censored, microfilmed to thumbnail size, shipped home, printed at 60-percent of their full size, and delivered.
The collection also includes digital images (PDFs) of the letters provided by the donor. The digitized letters are available on-line in New-York Historical Society's Digital Collections.
NOTE: The letters are digitized and are available in New-York Historical Society's Digital Collections. Patrons are asked to refer to these digital versions, rather than call for the originals, as much as possible.
The original letters remain folded, inside their original envelopes. If they must be consulted, remove only one letter from a box at a time, and use a flag to mark the place of that letter. Exercise extreme caution when removing letters from their envelopes, which are often in poor condition.
Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit www.nyhistory.org/library/visit.
Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.
Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.
Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit: https://www.nyhistory.org/about/rights-reproductions
Preferred Citation Note
Thist collection should be cited as the Benjamin Segan Letters, MS 3024, New-York Historical Society.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition Note
Gift of Benjamin Segan, 2016.
About this Guide
Processing Information Note
The collection was processed by archivist Joseph Ditta in April 2017. The collection was processed to only a minimal extent. Consequently, the letters remain folded in their original envelopes and the scope note in this finding aid may not include the full range of subject matter covered in the letters because only a small sample was reviewed for content.