Dewitt R. Smith Papers

Identifier: MSS.1011

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection contains 49 letters from DeWitt Smith to his sweetheart, Marion, while serving in the Air Force during the Korean War in 1952. There is also a gold-colored name place and a photograph of Smith in flight fatigues.

Beginning as an Airman Basic, Smith was sent to Sampson Air Force Base in Seneca Lake, New York in May 1952, only a few years after the branch had been established. "I just officially started my basic training at Sampson on the above date...ever since then we have been marching, marching, marching, and more marching." Sampson was last used as a training facility during the Korean conflict and was ultimately closed in 1956. During 1952, training was sporadic and could span anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks due to the urgent need to get soldiers prepared and overseas as quickly as possible. "Next week we will be shooting carbines or a twenty two rifle. I can't 'hit the broad side of a barn' and they're going to try to teach me to shoot a gun. They will never do it. Isn't that something? They teach us about a carbine in class and we shoot a twenty two rifle, but that's the Air Force for you."

In August he was sent to Frances E. Warren Air Force base in Cheyenne, Wyoming to attend combat school before being sent overseas. "It is going to be fun going to school here because half the class is made up of W.A.F.S. [Women in the Air Force or Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron]. Don't take me serious I am just teasing you. I wouldn't even look at any of them twice." His attitude towards his female colleagues was typical for the time. Women training with men was controversial, as they had only recently been integrated into the service in 1948. This airbase was one that attempted to embrace the new way of doing things, especially since being unprepared for the conflict lead to a greater need for volunteers of any gender.

Smith spends most of this time lamenting the distance between himself and Marion, not impressed by the Air Force or the girls in Wyoming: "I went to a dance Saturday and Sunday night. I had a pretty good time except for the girls around here don't know how to jitterbug the way you do." His final orders were given to him as he was about to leave for home, "I am not going overseas...I am going to a place where the sun shines all the time, where there is hardly any snow. You guessed it Florida." He would serve the remainder of his tour at Eglin Air Force base.


  • 1952 - 1953

Conditions Governing Access

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact


.21 Linear Feet (1 Half-Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



This collection contains 49 letters from DeWitt Smith to his sweetheart, Marion, while serving in the Air Force during the Korean War in 1952. There is also a gold-colored name place and a photograph of Smith in flight fatigues.

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives

Processing Information

Envelopes were clipped to their letters when the letters were undated. If dated, the envelopes were placed at the end of the folder.

Finding Aid for the Dewitt R. Smith Papers
Zach Johnson
May 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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