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Artifact Friday: Day by Day in the U.S. Service

Well, it’s Friday again-which means that we have another awesome artifact to show y’all this week!

Because this week was the 79th anniversary of D-Day, and we presented the story of a D-Day veteran (William H. Duncan), we decided to write about one of the items in his collection!

During World War Two, items for servicemen to buy were provided at the local base store or PX (Postal Exchange). Here one could purchase candy bars, cigarettes, post cards, pillow cases, toiletries, and even these journals.

They came in different sizes, styles, and shapes, however, almost all of them were titled “Day by Day in the U.S. Service”.

The one that we have in our collection was purchased by William Duncan shortly after he joined the Coast Guard.

In it, it takes the reader literally day-by-day through his military life in 1942. When he entered the Coast Guard, he was 22 and he details in the book the day he turned 23 which is a special note.

Throughout the little pages he talks about the docks on which he worked; his Coast Guard job; when he got a letter from his beloved “Juanita”; and even if he stayed at home during his “liberty” or went out on the town!

He would also write about the weather and how certain spots in New York actually looked like his home state of Arkansas.

One of the entries is for today in 1942 ( Tuesday, June 9), and Duncan writes,

Got clothing stencil stamp. Went to see Conley at 5 W. 65th St. And saw where he lives now.

(Conley was a Coast Guard buddy he mentions frequently in the diary.)

Just a few days later, Duncan mentions that he went to see a movie, “Is this our Life” starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland.

Duncan also writes that in August he buys a ring, a new uniform, and a marriage license for his wedding to Juanita back home in Arkansas.

All these pages are sweet snapshots into the life of a serviceman. A simple life during a chaotic time for the country and the world.

Next to letters, journals are one of my favorite things to find in our collection because the other artifacts (such as uniforms, patches, and firearms) only tell a fraction of the individual’s story. But, when there are letters or a diary, then one can experience-on a small scale-five more minutes with that individual.

I hope this blog gives you those five minutes with William Duncan!

"June 1942

9 Tues- Got clothing stencil stamp. Went to see Conley at 5 W 65th St and saw where he lives now

10 Wed- Ensign O'Brien came today. Nita told me her hair was 'red' now,

11 Thurs.- Liberty with Geo. Beidler, fellow truck driver. To yankee. Detroit Ball game, stage door Canteen and eating Spaghetti

12 Fri- Rain today, and I'm so miserably hot. Resting after fire aboard AM. ship Crude Robbie

13 Sat.- Liberty, saw yankees v.s. St. Louis Browns at Yankee Stadium and then to Lenore's to a party-"

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