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Joseph F. Kemmer World War II Letters

Identifier: SC MS 0395

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 59 letters written to his parents and sister, also includes 7 picture postcards, a Maxwell Field Christmas card, 14 sketches (some quite humorous), 11 photos, a flow chart describing the Army’s classification process, a map of his section of Maxwell Field, a page from “Yank” with letters pertaining to the voting rights of servicemen in the absence of a federal voting law, and 4 other clippings. Some of the letters are handwritten and some are typed. There are some impressions and observations about Northern and Southern attitudes and on the military way of doing things. The collection’s last letter indicates that he is on a train going on to another posting.


  • 1943-1944


Access Restrictions

Access Restrictions: Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Use Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Please inquire about copyright information.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Francis Kemmer was born in Westchester County, New York in 1921. He and his family lived in Mamaroneck and Larchmont, New York. At Lehigh he graduated with the Class of 1942. During his time at Lehigh, he was active in the Brown and White as Editorial Manager, The Epitome as art editor, Mustard and Cheese, Student Concerts-Lectures Series, Pi Delta Epsilon and Lambda Chi Alpha. He joined the Army in February 1943. After orientation at Camp Upton on Long Island, New York, he was sent to Miami Beach for basic training (February 1943 to September 1943) then was transferred to Maxwell Air Field in Alabama (September 1943 to November 1944) and eventually ended his career in the U.S. Army Air Forces. In Miami Beach he joined the staff of the “Take Off” a special services supplement to the “Miami Beach Daily Tropics,” a local newspaper. The editor of the “Take Off” was also a Lehigh graduate, a former classmate of his who also had worked on Lehigh’s Brown and White. All the staff of the “Take Off” were professional journalists except for Joe. At Maxwell Field, Mr. Kemmer did clerical work for the publications unit. Mr. Kemmer’s letters describe the living conditions and daily schedule at these posts, the people he met in the course of interviewing and writing for the “Take Off” (including one of America’s first abstract expressionists Max Schnitzler (1903-1999) and a man (Steve Melgrim) who was the prototype for a character in “What Makes Sammy Run” by Budd Schulberg), encounters with other Lehigh graduates who were also posted to Miami, observations about politics, race relations, and the interactions between Southerners and Northerners. He also states his thoughts on his preference to remain with other enlisted men rather than apply for OCS and on the field of public relations in general with specific advice for Reynolds Aluminum, where his father worked as a metallurgist. He had a older sister Gretchen to whom he addressed some of his correspondence.


1 Linear Feet (1 flat box)

Language of Materials



This collection of letters describes experiences of men in non-combat roles during World War II and encounters with other Lehigh graduates in the military. The creator of this collection was an observer of life in the military and also a humorous sketch artist.


The materials are arranged chronologically.

Acquisition Information

The material was donated by Joseph Kemmer’s family on 23 August 2021.

Related Materials

SC MS 0081 World War II Memoirs of Henry K. Wetherhold

Joseph Kemmer '42 WWII Letters
In Progress
Eleanor Nothelfer.
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Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)