Collection number: MC 229
Size: 3 boxes (1.00 cu.ft.)
About Frank Everett Steele (1916-2005) and Roger Steele (b. 1921)
Frank Everett Steele was born on May 3, 1916, into a family of farmers and Seventh-Day Adventists in Campton, New Hampshire. Called “Everett” by friends and family, he was the third child of Frank W. (b. August 1865) and Eda M. Steele (b. March 31, 1884), joining his elder siblings Lawrence (born May 17, 1906) and Eva (born May 5, 1908). It appears, however, that this was Frank W.'s second family. He had been married once before in 1895 to a woman named Alice and they had produced one child, Lester. By 1905, however, the couple had apparently divorced, and Frank married Eda M. Sawyer. In 1921, Eda gave birth to her last child, Roger F. Frank W. died in 1936, leaving his wife and three sons to run the family farm. By the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Lawrence would be too old to participate in the Second World War, but Everett and Roger were the perfect age for military service.
Neither brother was willing to go; as Seventh-Day Adventists, their religion preached pacifism and a strict adherence to the Sixth Commandment. Moreover, with their father Frank deceased, both boys were needed on the farm. Nevertheless, Everett and Roger signed Army enlistment documents on November 17, 1942, in Manchester, New Hampshire and by the end of the month, both were busy packing their things. “None of us,” Eva recalled, “were in very good spirits.”
As "Conchies," or "Conscientious Objectors" (also often referred to as "C.O.s" in their letters), both Steeles enrolled as medics. After a brief stint as an ambulance driver in Kearns, Utah, Everett was assigned to Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas, an Army Air Force base. As a member of the School of Aviation Medicine, a branch of the 27th Army Air Force Base Unit, Everett took classes in math and science and served as a skilled chamber technician. "The chamber," as he called it, simulated conditions at various altitudes, and often carried Everett alongside such test subjects as monkeys, rabbits, and stray dogs. After Japan surrendered in August of 1945, Everett was transferred to the Air Corps. He hoped that the enrollment would secure him a discharge earlier than if he had stayed on as a medic. Besides, as he added in a letter home on August 17, "they can't make me a use a gun". Everett's gamble worked; he remained in the Air Corps as a private first-class until he bought his train ticket home that November.
Like his brother, Roger was also dispatched to the South. Assigned to historic Fort Barrancas near Pensacola, Florida, Roger served as a nurse until his shipment overseas in January of 1945. As a medic in Company B of the 314th Medical Battalion, Roger was stationed in France until the early spring of 1945, visiting such French towns as Cany, St. Valery, Le Havre, Dieppe, Rheims, and the Luxembourg city of Mersh. In early March, his unit was assigned to the tail of Patton's Third Army as it drove through Frankfurt and Arnstadt and nearly to the Czech border. By the end of May, however, Roger was reassigned to Camp Lucky Strike, France, an immense American staging base located near the English Channel and named for a popular brand of cigarettes. Within a month he was transferred to a new outfit and sent home aboard the U.S. Liberty ship Sea Porpoise. After a short assignment at Camp Leonard Wood, Missouri, the Army dispatched Roger back to Fort Barrancas in mid-October 1945. He soon enlisted the aid of Congressman Sherman Adams of New Hampshire in securing his discharge, arriving back at the family farm in Campton in late November 1945.
Frank Everett passed away on April 12, 2005, and is buried at Blair Cemetery in his hometown of Campton, New Hampshire. His younger brother, Roger F. Steele, was living in Campton as recently as 2002. Their sister, Eva, died in 1959, while their mother, Eda M. Steele, passed away on December 5, 1989, at the age of 105. She had kept a framed picture of both sons on a shelf all through the war "where I [could] see it all the time."
About the Frank Everett and Roger Steele World War II Papers
The collection consists largely of correspondence to and from Frank Everett and Roger Steele and their mother Eda. Letters from other family and friends, such as their sister Eva, church friends, and their romantic interests, Alice and Dorothy ("Dot") respectively, are also included. There is one folder of miscellaneous items. The collection also contains a few newspaper clippings and postcards.
The Frank Everett and Roger Steele World War II Papers are most notable for the faith of its authors, who sprinkled their letters with evangelical Christian sentiment. One friend of Everett's wrote him on November 12, 1944, wondering "how those get along who don't know God." To support his brother's faith while overseas, moreover, Everett sends Roger a pocket Bible. The latter, having survived his service abroad, was confident enough on August 31, 1945, to write that God had been sheltering him from the very beginning. "As I look back into the past," he penned home, "he has worked out every thing very good."
The correspondence also describes the worship and socialization of Christian communities, whether it be church services in New England or bible study groups on or off the base. It also details the obstacles that Seventh-Day Adventists (often referred to as SDAs in the collection) faced as they navigated army life while adhering to their religion. In particular, the Adventist creed forbids the taking of human life and the performance of work on the Sabbath, and these two tenets posed challenges to the Steele brothers. A friend wrote Everett on February 25, 1943, to recall how one SDA refused to do duty on the Sabbath, at which point his Sergeant "dumped his douffle bag on the floor + made him pick it up and then dumped it on the bed and told him NOT to pick it up because it would be working." Roger and Everett ameliorated such hurdles by joining other Christians in both prayer and play. As such, the collection provides a glimpse into evangelical Christian sociability in World War II. More material concerning the Steele's religious beliefs, including personal soul-winning convenants, church tithe receipts, and a Christian newsletter, are contained in the miscellaneous items folder.
Also notable is Roger Steele's correspondence from Europe. His letters, especially those from March until May 1945, detail the bomb-wrought destruction of France, from smashed cities to countryside craters, as well as descriptions of the Allies' triumphant march towards Berlin. "This side of [the] Rhine (East)," he wrote his brother on April 4, "is all plains. It is great country for old pat's tanks," (in reference to his commander, General George S. Patton), adding that he looks forward to celebrating the fall of the "Master Race" with a ride "down the streets of Berlin." While Roger never saw combat, his impressions of German roads choked with freed Russian and French soldiers streaming home, the smoldering wreckage of combat, and long lines of retreating German forces are noteworthy (see letters of March 22nd and 25th, 1945).
Other subjects of interest reflected in the Steele papers include the lives of rural New Hampshire farmers and how they were impacted by the departure of their sons for war. Both Everett and Roger hoped and prayed for furloughs or discharges around the Christian and the agricultural calendar in order to help on the farm. This desire was compounded by Eda's frequent bouts of illness. As one friend wrote Everett on the 2nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, "When the war is over I bet you will be glad to get your foot back in the soil." They almost certainly were.
This collection is open.
Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.
[Identification of item], [Folder], [Box], Frank Everett and Roger Steele World War II Papers, 1942-1945, MC 229, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.
Purchase, Charles Apfelbaum, Watchung, New Jersey, 2009 (Accession number: 2009.17)
|Box 1, Folder 1||December 1942-August 1943|
|Box 1, Folder 2||September-October 1944|
|Box 1, Folder 3||November-December 1944|
|Box 1, Folder 4||January 1945|
|Box 1, Folder 5||February 1945|
|Box 1, Folder 6||March 1945|
|Box 1, Folder 7||April 1945|
|Box 1, Folder 8||May 1945|
|Box 1, Folder 9||June-July 1945|
|Box 1, Folder 10||August 1945|
|Box 1, Folder 11||September 1945|
|Box 1, Folder 12||October-November 1945|
|Box 1, Folder 13||Undated outgoing correspondence|
|Box 2, Folder 1||February-May 1943|
|Box 2, Folder 2||July 1943-March 1944|
|Box 2, Folder 3||September-November 1944|
|Box 2, Folder 4||December 1944-February 1945|
|Box 2, Folder 5||March-May 1945|
|Box 2, Folder 6||June-November 1945|
|Box 2, Folder 7||Undated incoming correspondence|
|Box 2, Folder 8||February-May 1943|
|Box 2, Folder 9||June 1943|
|Box 2, Folder 10||July 1943|
|Box 2, Folder 11||August 1943|
|Box 2, Folder 12||December 1943-March 1944|
|Box 2, Folder 13||January 1945|
|Box 2, Folder 14||February 1945|
|Box 2, Folder 15||March 1945|
|Box 2, Folder 16||April 1945|
|Box 2, Folder 17||May 1945|
|Box 2, Folder 18||June-August 1945|
|Box 3, Folder 1||September 1945|
|Box 3, Folder 2||October 1945|
|Box 3, Folder 3||November 1945|
|Box 3, Folder 4||Undated outgoing correspondence|
|Box 3, Folder 5||1942|
|Box 3, Folder 6||January 1943|
|Box 3, Folder 7||February 1943|
|Box 3, Folder 8||March-April 1943|
|Box 3, Folder 9||May 1943|
|Box 3, Folder 10||June 1943|
|Box 3, Folder 11||July 1943|
|Box 3, Folder 12||August 1943|
|Box 3, Folder 13||December 1944-October 1945|
|Box 3, Folder 14||Undated incoming correspondence|
|Box 3, Folder 15||Miscellaneous correspondence|
|Box 3, Folder 16||Miscellaneous items (including Roger's "Personal Soul-Winning Covenant," special orders for various bases, SDA worship schedules, church tithing receipts, base and Christian service newsletters, and ration coupons)|