In the last week, the Museum has accessioned two unique pieces of World War II history: a P.O.W. diary and a collection of 16 propaganda posters.
On Monday, November 13, 2023, Dianna Dee Damkoehler donated sixteen World War II propaganda posters to the Museum. The Office of War Information published most of the donated 20" by 28" posters throughout the war to encourage citizen participation. Today, they offer a unique glimpse into how life at home changed while the war raged overseas.
Last Friday, November 10, 2023, three sisters, Holly Schultz, Luanne Negley, and Nancy DeLong, donated a one-of-a-kind P.O.W. diary belonging to their father, lifelong Normal resident Robert S. Hall. The green and red "Wartime Log" was printed as a "Gift from the War Prisoners' Aid of the Y.M.C.A." and documents Hall's time as a P.O.W. in his own words, complete with a hand-drawn layout of the camp he was held in.
Hall enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war and was sent to Europe. On the night of May 27, 1944, as second pilot on a British Halifax heavy bomber, he was shot down over Belgium. Captured by the Germans, Hall was sent to Stalag Luft 7 in what is now Bąków, southern Poland. On January 19, 1945, with the Red Army threatening from the east, the prisoners were sent on a death march across the Oder River to Stalag III-A in Luckenwalde, Germany, 30 miles outside of Berlin.
"I've learned many lessons since January 19—it's not a pretty sight to see hungry men fighting their best friends for scraps of food—nor digging in garbage heaps for any kind of food," Hall writes.
"Joe's boys" (Hall's term for Soviet soldiers) liberated Stalag III-A on April 22, 1945. After the war, Hall returned to Normal and worked as a school equipment salesman. He died in 1976 at the age of 61. Click here to peruse select sections of Hall's diary.
Now transcribed and preserved in the Museum's Library and Archives, Hall's story will live on and be accessible to researchers and community members alike.