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Collection Overview

Gillispie, Charles Coulston (1918-2015)
Charles Gillispie Wartime Letters
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box B-000792


Consists of thirteen letters from Charles Gillispie (1918-2015) home to his parents, Raymond Livingston Gillispie and Virginia Coulston, while he was stationed with the United States Army in France, Germany, and Austria during the final months of World War II in Europe. His letters, which span from March 9th to August 25th, 1945, are addressed from France, Germany, Austria, Bavaria, and Camp Shelby in Mississippi, and describe the conditions for American soldiers and prisoners of war in Europe, the state of the people and infrastructure in the German and French countryside, and other topics.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of thirteen letters from Charles Gillispie home to his parents, Raymond Livingston Gillispie and Virginia Coulston, while he was stationed with the United States Army in France, Germany, and Austria during the final months of World War II in Europe in 1945. Letters are addressed from France, often from his army post near Rouen, (March 9th to March 25th; April 9th to April 13th), Germany (March 30th; April 19th to May 1st), Austria (May 5th to May 8th), Bavaria (June 4th), and Camp Shelby in Mississippi (August 25th). In his detailed letters, Gillispie describes the state of the citizenry and infrastructure in the French and German countryside; the living conditions of the soldiers; learning of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's death, and later, the death of Adolf Hitler; abysmal conditions at German prison camps for United States prisoners of war; the perception of African American soldiers by southern white soldiers in integrated military units; visiting Hitler's mountain retreat in Bavaria; his anticipation of future military service in the Pacific; and other topics. Most of the letters are typed versions of handwritten letters, and several exist in two drafts. Included with Gillispie's June 4th letter from Bavaria is a printed map titled "Obersalzberg, Hitler's Mountain Retreat."


Arranged chronologically.

Collection Creator Biography:


Charles Coulston Gillispie (1918-2015) was an American historian of science and the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History of Science, Emeritus, at Princeton University, where he taught from 1947 until transferring to emeritus status in 1987. The son of Raymond Livingston Gillispie and Virginia Coulston, Gillispie grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1940 with a major in chemistry, where he also completed a thesis in British history. After a year of graduate work in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gillispie left to pursue graduate study in history at Harvard University in 1941. His studies were interrupted the following year when he was drafted into the United States Army and enlisted as a private on July 29th, 1942. Serving in the 94th Chemical Mortar Battalion, Gillispie's company was involved in the invasion of southern Germany during the final weeks of World War II in Europe. His unit afterward returned to the United States to prepare for anticipated future battles in the Pacific, though they never redeployed following the atomic bombing and subsequent surrender of Japan. Gillispie resumed his studies at Harvard in 1946 and completed his PhD in 1949, going on to become an expert in scientific technological activity in 18th century France and to establish the Program in History of Science at Princeton in the 1960s.

Collection History


Transferred from Mudd Manuscript Library in 2016 (AM 2016-44).


No materials were separated during 2016 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in October 2016. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in October 2016.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Charles Gillispie Wartime Letters; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box B-000792