Leonard Larsen Papers
Language of Materials
The Leonard Larsen Papers, dating from 1942 to 1945, chronicle the Larsen family during World War II on the home front and abroad. The majority of the collection is letters between Leonard Larsen and his wife, Helen.
Leonard Larsen was born in Buffalo, New York on February 15, 1922 and, with the exception of his army service from 1942 through 1946, spent his entire life in Erie County, New York. Prior to WWII, he married Helen Brader, born March 28, 1922, also from Buffalo. Leonard enlisted in the United States Army on October 29, 1942, signing on for the duration of the war plus six months, unless extended by the President of the United States. The couple would not see each other again until his discharge in 1946. Shortly after Leonard left, Helen discovered she was pregnant with their first son, Kurt H. Larsen.
Following his completion of basic training, Leonard passed the US Army's Warrant Officer examination. As assistant to the officers of a unit, the rank's responsibilities were defined by Executive Order 8938, 10 November 1941: " ...the duties assigned to Warrant Officers of the Army include the command of stations, units, or detachments, the disbursement and administration of funds, including the certification of vouchers and payrolls, the issuance of travel orders, bills of lading, and transportation requests, the receipt for, and accountability for, and administration of property, the certification and verification of official papers, or the performance of similar routine administrative duties, they shall be vested with all the powers usually exercised by commissioned officers in the performance of such duties."
Since Warrant officers were attached piecemeal to companies, Leonard was assigned to the 563rd Ambulance Company. He served with the unit through five European campaigns, but due to the absence of letters during his 1944 service, details of his experience are limited. His later letters indicated that from the end of the war until June 22, 1945, his unit was stationed somewhere in Germany. Due to army censorship, he is unable to inform Helen of the exact location. Leonard was then stationed in Rouisllon, France. During this time he writes of a camp full of bored homesick soldiers, including himself. Leonard took advantage of this period of little duties by traveling throughout France visiting Paris, Nice, and the Mediterranean coastline. Leonard was then ordered to the Calas Staging Area and arrived there October 29th. His last letter was sent from the Straits of Gibraltar on November 6, 1945 from a ship taking him back to America.
There is no documentation citing the exact date Leonard returned to his wife and child, but most likely would have been early 1946. Kurt would have been approximately three years old when he saw his father for the first time. In her husband's absence Helen had learned to drive and bought a car, so that she could transport herself to work. She supported herself and Kurt by working in a factory during the war, but like many other wartime women workers was fired in 1945 to make room for returning servicemen. After returning home, Leonard found a job at General Motors and remained there for thirty-four years. He passed away April 5, 1999 after nearly 60 years of marriage. Helen died five years later on November 20, 2004 at the age of eighty-two.
Sources: "Larsen, Helen K. (Brader).", Buffalo News 21 November 2004. "Leonard H. 'Jack' Larsen." Buffalo News, 5 April 1999. Social Security Death Index [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration. National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006. Original data: National Cemetery Administration. Nationwide Gravesite Locator National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Original data: Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
Correspondence within the first series is arranged chronologically, and correspondence in the second series is organized alphabetically by sender. The third series is arranged alphabetically by folder name. Undated or fragmented letters can be found at the end of series. A number of damaged letters were removed for treatment and can be found at the end of series three.
The documents have been arranged into three series.
- Series I: Correspondence Between Leonard and Helen Larsen, 1942-1945
- Series II: Other Correspondents, 1942-1945
- Series III: Clippings, Coupons, Poetry, and Other Enclosures, 1942-1945
Scope and Content Note
The Leonard Larsen Papers, 1942-1945, consist of 2 linear feet of material. The bulk of the papers date from 1943 and 1945 and consist primarily of personal correspondence, but also includes stamps, coupons, newsletters, and other printed materials. The collection documents the Larsen Family during World War II, particularly during Leonard's service from October 1942 until the end of 1945. In addition to documenting Leonard's Army experience, the collection provides insight into the Homefront during World War II. Topics such as rationing, the hiring of women factory workers and their firing following the conclusion of the war, and the war's impact on the citizens of Buffalo are extensively covered. The first half, late 1942 until end of 1943, is mainly composed of letters from Helen Larsen to Leonard, who is away at Army Warrant Officer training, following his October 1942 enlistment. The year 1944 is extremely underrepresented, but regular correspondence resumed in 1945. Leonard Larsen while overseas in Germany and France until November 1945 wrote the majority of the latter part of the collection. There also are an additional sixteen individuals who corresponded with Helen Larsen, predominantly her brother, John Broder, and a serviceman in the Pacific, Walter Overfield.
Open to qualified researchers.
Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)
Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote, to:
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
This collection should be cited as The Leonard Larson Papers, The New-York Historical Society.