Previous Next World War II Exhibit Page Home Search
Record 426/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Enlarge Image
Admin/Biog History John E. Elbert was the pastor at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church located at the south east corner of Bowen and School. His wife's name was Ella J. Elbert.
Classification Archives
Collection John E. Elbert
Dates of Accumulation 1943
Abstract Letter from Corporal Harold J. Riedi, US Army Air Force, to Reverend John E. Elbert. He discusses race relations in the south and uses ethnic slurs.

7th. December 1943
Sheppard Field, Texas

Dear Rev. Elbert;
I realize that it has been quite some time since the last time I've written to you. I don't believe there is an excuse except that I never can seem to keep up with my correspondence. As a matter of fact, I could count the numbers of letters that I've written before the war, and almost tell you to whom they were written. Considering these facts, I'm sure that I've made a little improvement.
That is enough for excuses so I'll do my best to tell you the latest news. Things have been going along pretty much the same as before with the exception of one unusual change. We are now teaching a group of Negroes. Of course that won't be for good; because headquarters also intends to send a group of Free Frenchmen to school soon. Our "Technical School" was picked because it is one of the best that the Army has up to date. We're supposed to have more equipment than any other, and also better weather conditions, which permits round the year flying. The Frenchmen are supposed to be veterans of the war in Europe so I'm looking forward to meeting them. There ought to be some interesting stories of combat conditions, and if I'm allowed, I'll write and tell you about them. All of us were quite surprised to find that the average colored person makes a better student than some white boys. They are better mannered as a rule, and cause less trouble than the southern boys coming. I believe I can explain though, and so here's what I think; The Negroes have a natural inferiority complex so they'll, as a rule, try to get along, but the southern boy is quite disgusted, and doesn't care who knows it. Mainly because of the fact that almost all of the technical instructors are "Yankees". (A fact which makes me proud to be one of them) We were told that northern men were picked as instructors because their mentality rating is quite a bit higher than the southerners. This has proven to be true because, all over the U.S., seven out of every ten army technicians are northerners. Please don't misunderstand me now as I am speaking only of the average "Yankee" & "Rebel". There are some men down here who probably could out-smart any of us. (I bet if you checked up on him though, he probably was born up our way!)
I believe that the climate has a lot to do with a man's ambition. A southerner as a rule will walk slow, talk slow, and work slow. That is; unless or until he gets mad! Then you have to watch because they are sure hotheaded. Maybe that's why they seem to make such a good showing overseas.
We used to have a lot of fights when I first came down here because they always called us (northerners), nigger lovers. That was because we give a nigger a chance for education and a chance to support a family. Well, I'm not a nigger-lover, but neither do I hate them. A Texan won't let a nigger work except for almost nothing so to keep his family from starving, he steals, or kills, or is killed. Then a Texan will say, "See what a nigger is like?" "All they do is kill or steal!" Well, I guess they don't realize that it's their own fault. I could tell much more, but I suppose you hear enough of people's troubles so enough said.
I would like you to extend my thanks and appreciation to the Welfare Committee and also I want to thank you for sending me the booklets & pamphlets, which help me a great deal. The "Church Messenger" is also interesting because it helps me to keep tract of some of my former pals. I'd like especially to hear where these fellows are: Myron Jovagg, Irving Kellenberger, & Edward Gorchels. I hope they haven't forgotten me because I certainly haven't forgotten about them. Could you please send me their addresses? (Thank you)
I hope to hear from you soon as I expect to "ship-out".
Best of regards,
Harold Riedi
Event World War II
Category 8: Communication Artifact
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Object ID RG72.12.1
Object Name Letter
People Elbert, John E.
Riedi, Harold J.
Subjects World War II
Military camps
Military training
United States Army Air Force
Race discrimination
Race relations
Title Letter
COPYRIGHT INFORMATION ~ For access to this image, contact

NOTICE: This material may be freely used by non-commercial entities for educational and/or research purposes as long as this message remains on all copied material. These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format for profit or other presentation without the permission of The Oshkosh Public Museum. 2005 Oshkosh Public Museum, All Rights Reserved   
Last modified on: December 12, 2009