By Robin Waldman
Agency correspondence files are like treasure troves. One never knows what one will find inside. Unlike program or subject files, correspondence files often vary widely by topic, capturing the inquiries, suggestions and outrages of the American public.
Records of the U.S. Marine Corps are, of course, no exception and the series “General Correspondence, compiled 01/01/1939 – 06/30/1950, documenting the period ca. 1916 – 06/30/1950” (NAID 576468) contains, of all things, an entire folder on minors who sought to be drafted as mascots or other underage positions of their inventions.
Included is the November 10, 1943 letter of L. J. Weil to President Roosevelt (a transcript follows beneath):
Dear Mr. President,
I really don’t know how to write a letter to the President of the United States, but I’ll try to do my very best. The point is I’d like to be mascot of the Marines. I’m 12 year old and a little young to get into anything right now, but when I’m a little older well just you wait and see. A lot of people are going to kid me about this letter but I don’t care. And if sometimes you get tired up there in Washington you can come down South and stay with us a liittle while, “of course that’s if you bring your ration book.”
Your friend and also a Democrat,
L. J. Weil
Also included in the correspondence file is the response, signed not by President Roosevelt but by a Lt. Colonel in the Marine Corps. In his response, he expressed regret that the Marines do not have a mascot. He complimented Weil’s patriotic motive, and invited the boy to enlist with the Marines just as soon as he reached the appropriate age.
As it turned out, Weil did enlist after high school — in the Army. And that is the frustrating and tantalizing thing about conducting research in correspondence files: so often the story continues outside the parameters of the folders.
Luckily, it’s not hard to find a talented researcher around here.