Photo: Daniel G. Hill in WW II army uniform with the inscription, To a Swell Mother, Buddy

Like his father had done during the First World War, Daniel Hill III entered the army during the Second World War. Included here are excerpts from a number of letters written to his parents during his service in American Army camps in WW II.

These letters show Daniel Hill III learning as a young man about the bombing of Pearl Harbour, entering the American Army during World War II, attempting but failing to make it through officer’s training, and struggling in the oppressive and segregated atmosphere of military life.


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Daniel G. Hill in WW II army
uniform with the inscription,
"To a Swell Mother, Buddy"
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-9-2-13
Archives of Ontario, I0027958

Letter from Daniel G. Hill to father, December 7, 1941
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Letter from Daniel G. Hill to father, December 7, 1941
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario

December 7, 1941

Dear Dad,

While sitting here listening to the radio with my friend Wesley Jawes, I heard the startling news telling of the bombings on Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, and other United States bases. This news knocked me off my feet, and took me completely unaware. Wait, I have just heard an open declaration of war by Japan against the U.S. and Britain. Wesley and I are both quite worried. This mess is too darn close to our home and loved ones. …

Excerpt of letter from Daniel G. Hill to
father, December 7, 1941
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario

Letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother and father, February 28, 1943
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Letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother and
father, February 28, 1943
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario

February 28, 1943
Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Dear Mom and Dad,

. . . The army is changing me in one aspect. My days of individualism are over, I am beginning to realize that I am part of a group. Living, eating, sleeping, learning to fight side by side with my companions makes me realize that when I do wrong, the group as well as myself suffers. When I, and everyone else does right and strives to get ahead, the group advances. Don’t get the impression that I am turning communist but take out Hemingway’s book, "For Whom the Bell Tolls", and you will understand what I feel. The fellas in this battery are supposed to be on a higher mental plane than the other fellows since we are a specialist battery. They are darn nice fellows and keep me laughing all the time with their pranks and songs.

 

Excerpt of letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother and
father, February 28, 1943
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario

Excerpt from Dan G. Hill III’s April 25, 1943 letter to his mother from Fort Sill, Oklahoma:

Letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother, April 25, 1943
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Letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother, April 25, 1943
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario

April 25, 1943
Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Dear Mom,

Happy Easter …

....Today is a beautiful day here. It is about 85 degrees and it is making me feel lazy. Maybe I feel lazy because of the huge dinner I ate. It consisted of five pork chops, sweet potatoes, pineapple salad, hot rolls, peas and carrots, gravy, hot rolls (6), lemonade, mustard greens and three helpings of apple pie, all at the government’s expense. But, the psychological effect wasn't there. I don’t care how good the dinner was, the home atmosphere wasn't there. I would rather have Easter dinner home than anywhere I know. Many of the fellas don’t have any table manners, and remind me of a bunch of hyenas and barbarians at times. It seems like the army just can’t hold discipline at their mess hall…

Excerpt of letter from Daniel G. Hill to
mother, April 25, 1943
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario

Letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother, May 9, 1943
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Letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother, May 9, 1943
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario



Fort Sill, Oklahoma
May 9, 1943

Dear Mother,

… Woe be unto those hypocritic, two-faced rotten negroes who have tried to block you but have failed and will always fail, for a person who, as the army would say, is on the ball cannot be kept down. Jealous, selfish, backbiting negroes are a detriment to their race, as well as to society… I took an exam for officer’s candidate school in artillery and passed. Two white boys and three colored took the exam. Only three passed, I was one. It may be weeks, it may be months before I will get the chance to go; but now I'm eligible. Time and fate will tell soon. At any rate I am not stopping at anything short of a pair of bars. Artillery is a highly mathematical and technical phase of war. But in as much as I am crazy and young, I will try and do anything once. It may never happen but I want some bars {indicating the rank of officer} before I turn 20. Lieutenant D. G. H. III at 19 is my goal. If artillery is too hard a branch of the service to crack, I will {take a} crack at the calvary, for I like horses....

Excerpt of letter from Daniel G. Hill to
mother, May 9, 1943
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario

Letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother, June 21, 1943, Page 1
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Letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother, June 21, 1943, Page 2
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Letter from Daniel G. Hill to mother, June 21, 1943
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario

Fort Sill, Oklahoma
June 21, 1943

Dear Mom,

Gee I was glad to get that swell picture of you. You still seem to hold your beauty amazingly well. I showed the picture to my buddy Duke and he said these exact words, quote “I don’t see how you can have such a young, beautiful mother and yet be so plug ugly.” (smile). I keep the picture in my wallet, beside the dime dad gave me that he carried in the last war. The dime with your first name and his first name on both sides. Little things like that mean the world to me and give me things to remember, memories that are worth living for …

....Have you been reading about the race riots that have been fanning the nation? The riots are spreading to the army camps now. It seems that negroes are not going to tolerate any more prejudice. I am with them and would just as soon clean up on these crackers here as to go overseas.

Your devoted son,

Buddy

Excerpt of letter from Daniel G. Hill to
mother, June 21, 1943
Daniel G. Hill fonds
Reference Code: F 2130-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario



"You are not made for this Country"

Daniel Hill III did something that few Americans of his generation did: after serving in the highly segregated American Army during World War II, graduating from Howard University and taking a year to study abroad at the University of Oslo in Norway, he decided that he was not made for life in the United States.

He could not accept the entrenched patterns of racial segregation in his country, and he found the situation even more intolerable after living for a year in Oslo, where he was free to move about and associate with people as he saw fit.

Daniel Hill III used to tell his children that one day, when he was a young man, his father took him aside for a heart-to-heart talk and said, “Son, you are not made for this country.”

It must have been an extremely difficult thing for Daniel Hill II to say, because he loved his son deeply and had always been close to him.