MS - 084: The Letters of Gerald Koster, World War II

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MS-084: The Letters of Gerald Koster, World War II

(1 box, .27 cubic feet)

Inclusive Dates: 1943-1946

Processed by Krystal Thomas

February 2007

Additions by Jenna Fleming

September 2013

Link to Full Finding Aid - PDF

Provenance Purchased from Charles Apfelbaum Rare Manuscripts & Archives, 2000; Additional materials gift of Gary Keck, 2011


Gerald Koster was a Seaman, first class, aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey from her commission on May 23, 1943 to his discharge from the Navy sometime in 1945. He attended the United States Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois until he was assigned to the first crew of the New Jersey. The New Jersey was in service in the Pacific Theater of World War II and helped support the occupation of Japan in 1945.

Series Description

The collection is divided into four series.  Series I: Letters Home 1943-1946; Series II: The FM Gazette; Series III: Negatives; Series IV: Artifacts & Ephemera.

Scope and Content

The collection is compromised mainly of letters written by Koster home to his family in West Toledo, Ohio. The letters follow Koster through training in Great Lakes, Illinois and into combat as well as giving a fairly complete portrait of life on board ship.  While Koster’s letters to his parents focus on naval operations and descriptions of military life, those addressed to his younger sister, Phyllis, include more information and queries regarding friends, family, and neighbors on the home front.  Koster is very careful about censoring; few of his letters have been edited. As the war continues, he becomes more critical of the Navy and the handling of the war in general. His last letters from Japan are particularly critical and illustrate the frustration Gerald felt after being in the Navy for three years.

The collection also includes copies of “The FM Gazette,” the ship newsletter for the FM division of the New Jersey. These newsletters are “scandal” sheets, however they provide a glimpse at life on board ship and how Koster and his shipmates entertained themselves as well as chronicling new commanders and supply officers as they came and went.

There are also negatives of Koster family photos depicting Gerald and his family, the family home and the grocery store that Gerald’s father bought during the war, Hopewell Grocery.

Included also are miscellaneous memorabilia from life onboard the New Jersey as well as postcards sent to Mr. Erlin Koster, Gerald’s father.

SERIES I: Letters Home 1943-1945 [99 letters/6 postcards/2 envelopes/1 V-Mail letter]

SERIES II: The FM Gazette [14 newsletters (some duplicate copies)]

SERIES III: Negatives [36 negatives with original envelope]

SERIES IV: Artifacts & Ephemera [see series inventory]

Processor’s note: Unless otherwise specified, all letters are written on board the New Jersey

Link to Full Finding Aid - PDF