letters describe Dole's life at KU and in WWII
A day trip to Russell to pick up some of Bob Dole's
personal items in his hometown netted much more for
the newly dedicated Dole Institute of Politics at KU.
1943 Ever-Victorious Big 6 Champions
basketball team. Bob Dole is second player from
left in back row. Click here
for complete list of Dole's teammates on the 1943
A treasure trove of forgotten letters home written
between 1941 and 1945 by Bob Dole, then a young KU student
and an Army lieutenant, along with replies from his
family, was found stored away, untouched for decades,
in the basement of Dole's family home.
The institute released excerpts of the letters on the
eve of its four-day dedication celebration, attended
by former President Jimmy Carter, former New York City
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, National Security Adviser Condoleezza
Rice and many other dignitaries.
(See photo gallery)
About 300 letters, 94 of them written by Dole, reflect
Dole's life at KU and life in the Army and in Italy.
Dole wrote the first set of letters while he attended
KU between September 1941 and December 1942. The early
letters often focused on grades and sports achievements,
but they sometimes accompanied loads of laundry, which
Dole explained could be done more cheaply in Russell
than in Lawrence.
April 1942 Jayhawker yearbook
photo of Kappa Sigma fraternity class. Bob Dole
is first on left in top row.
The early letters also addressed some of Dole's concerns
about being called away to war.
"I haven't heard a word from the Army so I'm still
going to school although I can't say that I'm getting
much out of it," he wrote in the fall of 1942.
"About every day we hear a different story as to
when we will be called and I just can't see this studying
when we will be called. My orders to report will come
to Russell so as soon as you get them call me and let
Dole was called to duty in December of that year. The
next set of letters came to Russell from locations including
Fort Leavenworth; Camp Barkeley, Texas; Brooklyn, N.Y;
Camp Polk, La.; and Fort Benning, Ga., where Dole attended
officer candidate school.
Dole relayed home information about his training. He
said he got "tired of taking orders," but
he supposed it would be good for him later on.
Dole also kept his sense of humor.
"Tomorrow is Sunday so we're going to church,"
he wrote from Camp Barkeley. "Moon' is going too,
he's a little short on change and he thinks he can get
a little out of the collection plate."
When Dole arrived in Italy in late 1944, he first reported
on the conditions before requesting candy, Vicks VapoRub,
wool socks, liver and onions, fruit cocktail and Frank
Navy Training. Sailors marched
from their bunkhouse in Strong Hall to classes
and to mess at least three times at day. They
were among some 500 Navy machinists from the Great
Lakes Naval Training Station for machinist training
in Fowler Shops at KU.
"I guess you might as well send the whole house
if you can get it in a 5-pound box," he wrote.
The Dole Institute will include the letters in its extensive
Dole's personal and professional papers. The archive
of the Dole Institute will house, preserve and make
available Dole's House and Senate papers and the related
papers of Dole staffers (more than 900 people worked
for Dole between 1961 and 1996) and other close associates
who played an important part in Dole's career and campaigns.
The collections will be a unique tool with which researchers
and future generations of students may study the workings
of American politics in the latter half of the 20th
The collection reflects Dole's 36 years, spanning 1961
through 1996, on Capitol Hill, and it consists of 4,000
boxes of papers and close to 1,000 square feet of artifacts.
Because of Dole's extensive legislative career and his
majority leadership position, it is the largest collection
of one politician's papers outside of presidential collections
- 60 percent larger than the Hubert Humphrey Papers
at the Minnesota Historical Society and six times the
size of the Tip O'Neill Collection at Boston College.
Read excerpts of the letters:
Life at KU
September 1941, Beginning of First Semester at KU
I hated to send all this laundry home but it costs too
here, shirts are 15 cents, shorts and short-shirts 6
cents, towels 5 cents and washrags 2 cents, socks 3
cents and that adds up pretty fast when you have as
little money as I have...The only job that will trouble
will be that milk delivery job. You get up at 5:00 and
you're not through till around 8:30 or 9:00. That makes
me miss part of my economics class which starts at 8:30.
I'm sending two pair of pants home too...I'm also sending
a list of the freshman rules, so that you won't have
to worry about me.
Well I suppose you think it's terrible because I haven't
I've been so busy studying for test besides my work
and football and basketball practice. I guess Russell
really poured it on Hays Tuesday...I asked our treasurer
about putting a slot machine on second floor and he
thought it would be a swell idea. He believes I could
make around $5 a week. If I could do this I could quit
one of my jobs and have more time for study.
March 2, 1942
...My grades are still O.K., so far I think I have around
a B in German a B in Geology and a C in Rhetoric.
Dear Mom and Dad:
...I haven't heard a word from the Army so I'm still
going to school
although I can't say that I'm getting much out of it.
About every day we hear a different story as to when
we will be called and I just can't see this studying
when we will be called. My orders to report will come
to Russell so as soon as you get them call me and let
I'm running the quarter for K.U. next week in Kansas
City in the Big
Six indoor track meet. I will run against boys from
Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa State, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
I haven't much chance to win but I'm sure going to try.
The fastest anyone has run it indoors so far is 52 and
my best time is 54 but I'm not in very good condition.
In December, 1942, the nineteen year old Dole signed
up for the Army's Enlisted Reserve Corps. Six months
later he reported to an army base in his home state
June 9, 1943, Ft. Leavenworth
How is everyone - I'm feeling fine and like it fairly
left here yet but expect to in a day or two. Probably
going to Texas
although I don't know for sure...I made 130 on my test
so I qualified for O.C.S., but I have to wait 6 months
I imagine or at least until I finish Basic Training.
After Basic Training which lasts 13 weeks they may send
me back to school. Just depends on how I do...It sure
would be easy to get mad at some of these sergeants,
corporals and lieutenants around here but it doesn't
pay so one just has to grin and bear it.
September 4, 1943, Camp Barkeley, Texas
...This Army life is O.K.; I get tired of taking orders,
but it is
really going to be good for me later on. I'm the leader
of my platoon, I'm right guide if you remember what
that is. The sergeant likes me pretty well so I'm getting
along pretty well. I'd like to be home, but there are
about 7 million other boys who would like to be too.
They keep us pretty busy and you'd be surprised how
fast time passes. I don't get too homesick for being
away to school 2 years helped me...Tomorrow is Sunday
so we're going to church. "Moon" is going
too, he's a little short on change and he thinks he
can get a little out of the collection plate.
December 1943, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, New York
...I spent more time in school this week here than I
did in a month
at K.U. They throw assignments at us so fast that we
have to take our books to bed with us to keep up. I've
already had seven tests and will probably have more
this week...These New York people still think there
are Buffalo and Indians in Kansas and they think the
only city there is Kansas City. They believe anything
that you will tell them so some of [the]Kansas boys
have a lot of fun teasing the girls around here...Christmas
is only a week away but it sure doesn't seem like Christmas
for some reason...
March 20, 1944, Camp Polk, Louisiana
From the sidewalks of New York to the Swamps of Louisiana,
oh how this Army changes. They've really kept us busy
so far. We arrived here at 3:30 Thursday afternoon and
at 10:30 that night we were out in the wide open spaces
on maneuvers...I'm in the infantry attached to an Anti-tank
outfit but until I learn more about it I can't explain
what it is...This outfit is a little tougher than the
medics but at least we have something to fight back
with. They are giving us "Carbine" rifles
and the Anti-tank company also is equipped with 57 mm
guns, which are big and powerful...Tomorrow is an easy
day so I may have time to write. I'm one A.S.T.P. boy
they're not going to break, so don't worry about me,
I even sort of like the place.
October 21, 1944, Fort Benning, Ga. (Officers Candidate
...We have 127 men now out of our original 200 so I'm
to still be here I guess. We had our last physical achievement
test 3 weeks ago. I received a superior rating and was
1st in the company I think. We haven't been told how
we rated yet but I know that I was pretty high. My grades
are getting better now too. I have a "B" average
now but we still have 6 more tests before graduation
November 18th...(looking forward to Thanksgiving with
in Russell) I haven't figured out how I can get home
yet. I don't know about the plane situation but if I
take a train it will take me 2 days and nights to get
home. I want to get home the fastest way I can even
though it costs a little more... P.S. 27 More days to
Dole entered "the Benning School for Boys"
a corporal; he left a
second lieutenant in December, 1944. Ahead was a two
week Atlantic crossing, ending, a few days before Christmas,
in Naples harbor. Dole was about to join the Tenth Mountain
Division in the battle for Italy.
January 2, 1945
I haven't written for 3 days so here goes my first letter
Hope you all had a Happy New Year, we had turkey for
dinner, there wasn't much but what their (sic) was good.
It's a little colder here than it was at my old station.
We have a stove in our tent so we keep pretty warm most
of the time...I've visited Florence since I arrived,
it really is pretty nice since it hasn't been bombed...You
can send me something to eat whenever you're ready.
Send candy, gum, cookies, cheese, grape jelly, popcorn,
nuts, peanut clusters, Vicks vapo-rub, wool socks, wool
scarf, fudge cookies, ice cream, liver and onions, chicken,
banana cake, milk, fruit cocktail, swiss steak, crackers,
more candy, lifesavers, peanuts, piano, radio, living
room suite, record player and Frank Sinatra. I guess
you might as well send the whole house if you can get
it in a 5 pound box. I would like some food though,
honestly...Has my footlocker gotten home yet, don't
forget to check on it if it doesn't get there in six
weeks. I've got some wool socks in it that I could sure
use now. P.S. Keep your fingers crossed.!!
February 20, 1945
Dear Norma Jean (Dole's sister):
...Let me know whether you've received your January
allotment check or not yet. Save it for yourself for
I'd really like to see you go to school. Somebody should
be a college graduate in our family and it may as well
be you. Think it over seriously now-still not much doing
where I am, I'm almost getting lazy from doing nothing.
Almost all my buddies are gone so it shouldn't be much
longer for me...P.S. Let me know if any of my mail has
March 13, 1945
I hope you haven't worried too much because you haven't
received any mail from me. I think its been about 2
weeks since I've written. I've really been keeping pretty
busy. I've got a platoon of men to look out for and
it means that I never have much time to myself. When
I'm not busy I've generally got a big stack of mail
to censor. I'm a combat soldier now folks. I suppose
you've been reading about the 10th Mountain Division
in the paper the last few weeks. We've really
done some pretty good work so far and I hope we can
continue to do as well. I'm feeling better than ever
so far. I guess this outdoor life agrees with me. I'm
starting to get a suntan since the weather has warmed
up. We are in a rest area now so whenever I do have
a chance to write you'll know that I'm writing from
a rest center. It is really nice around here, we are
living in a hotel and I really enjoy sleeping nights
in a bed, instead of a foxhole. A foxhole isn't as bad
as you probably think, we generally fill the bottom
with straw which makes it pretty comfortable. I received
your letters written the day after you returned home
from Yuma. I'm sorry to hear about all the Russell boys
being killed or wounded but I'm glad you write and tell
me anyway. I guess so many were meant to be killed in
this war, there's nothing either you or I can do but
trust in God and pray that he will look after us.
March 21, 1945
Dear Mom & Dad:
...When I'm not in my foxhole ducking German artillery
I'm generally on night patrols or trying to catch some
sleep. I'm pretty dirty night now, I haven't shaved
or washed for several days but I guess it won't hurt
me any. I can't see why the Jerrys don't give up but
I'm just a second lieutenan who doesn't know too much
about the big picture.
March 31, 1945
Dear Mom and Dad:
...I've been hoping that I might get a pass but so far
unfortunate. I'm a new officer in the company so consequently
I've been catching all the assignments. Eventually I'll
get caught up with the other officers and may be I'll
get a few of the breaks...Keep the packages coming,
I received one 3 days ago, it contained candy bars and
sunflower seeds. I'm the "OD" today, there's
not much to it but I'm not getting much sleep nevertheless.
I think I get more sleep on the lines than I do when
we are in a rest area. There's really not much danger
in the lines a few artillery and mortar rounds now and
then. The thing I dislike most is night patrols, I think
I age about ten years on each patrol. You can't see
a thing, which is probably the worst part of it. I've
led quite a few patrols and I'm gradually getting used
to it. Tomorrow I intend on reading all my letters again
and I'll try to
answer some of the questions in them. I'm going to sleep
for a while now so don't forget the packages. I hope
Russell Hi won the State Tournament----------------------
April 4, 1945
Dear Mom, Dad:
...I finally got a break and wound up in Rome. It's
really swell here almost like home, but it won't last
long. I was very fortunate today I ran in to Dean Nesmith
and Bill Hargiss who are in Rome conducting a sports
program. Nesmith was our trainer at K.U. and Hargess
was my track coach. I've spent the entire day visiting
with them. I've a pretty good chance of going to the
next class if I do I'll be back in Rome before too long.
Maybe you've read about the Sports School in
the K.C. paper. A class lasts 2 weeks and is composed
of 60 men, half officers and ½ enlisted men.
During the two week period you are taught practically
every sport in the business. What they are trying to
do is to develop instructors for the post war world.
If I'm lucky enough to get in I'll let you know. I'd
sure like to relax for 2 weeks with nothing to do but
play basketball, football, and run. I plan on taking
a tour tomorrow to see some of the sights that I used
to study in history. I had my first plane ride yesterday.
I caught my ride from Florence to Rome, it was really
a thrill. I'm really convinced now that the Air Corp
is a racket. I think I'd trade my bars for a (P.F.C.)
stripe in the Air Corp. They go home after 50 missions
we stay until the war ends. When I saw Coach Hargiss
and my old trainer Nesmith I was convinced that I'm
going back to school. Primarily to study but also to
compete in athletics. I love to play basketball and
football and compete in track meets. I hope I'm not
too old when the war ends for I really want to do a
lot of things.
April 7, 1945
Dear Mom, Dad:
What a life. I can hardly believe that I'm living in
such a wonderful place. My rest is about over, but I've
really enjoyed myself so far. I'm going on a tour this
afternoon also one tomorrow morning. I should see about
everything when I've finished. The radio is playing
it reminds me of the times that I've been home paying
Norma Jean's records. So far I haven't heard any records
by Frank Sinatra. I guess he isn't too popular over
here. The war news really sound good. I guess Russia
plans on helping us with Japan. Keep your eyes on the
news for big things to happen. Had a fine breakfast
this morning, scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato juice, toast
and coffee. I sure miss my quart of milk per day. Tell
Aunt Mildred to be sure to save some for Kenny and I
when we get home.
One week after this letter was written, Dole was severely
while leading a charge against a heavily fortified German
position in the hills around the northern Italian village
of Castel d'Aiano, not far from Bologna. For the next
three years he was in and out of hospitals, unable to
dress or feed himself, his weight reduced at one point
from 194 to 122 pounds. With the help of a pioneering
Chicago surgeon named Hampar Kalikian and the people
of Russell, who raised $1,800 to defray his medical
expenses, Dole rebuilt his life as "Dr. K"
rebuilt his shattered shoulder. Putting aside his own
youthful dreams of becoming a doctor, by the fall of
1950 Dole had embarked on a new career path campaigning
for a seat in the Kansas