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Charles O. Matthews, WWI Military Records

Title: Charles O. Matthews, WWI Military Records

Creator: Matthews, Charles O. (Charles Oakson), 1890-1944

Collector: Rainbow Division Veterans Association

Dates: 1917-1937

Quantity: 1 box (0.2 linear feet)

Collection Number: MS 0314

Language: English

Restrictions: None

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Preferred Citation: Charles O. Matthews, WWI Military Records (MS 0314). Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.


Charles Oakson Matthews was born in Washington, D.C. on 15 November 1890. On 12 June 1917, Matthews and his brother Jim enlisted in the District of Columbia National Guard. Charlie served with the 165th Field Hospital, 177th Sanitary Train of the 42nd Division out of Camp Mills, Hempstead, New York (later called the "Rainbow" Division.) As part of the Medical Corps, Matthews followed the frontline troops, setting up field hospitals where needed. The 42nd Division moved to the front line in March 1918 and participated in six major campaigns. They held several key positions in France-such as the Lorraine, Champagne and the Marne-and in Germany during the occupation in late 1918-1919. Matthews discharged 14 May 1919 as a corporal.

As a civilian, he picked up his father's trade as a carpenter and received some training in architectural drafting. Matthews married Thelma Beall in 1920. In the 1930s he worked as a foreman with one of the contractors that built the Washington National Airport (now Reagan National Airport.) He also worked for the Army Corps of Engineers on the Coastal Foritification Project to repel possible enemy invasions during WWII. He had bad health ever since exposure to mustard gas in 1918. Matthews died in Washington, D.C. on 15 June 1944 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Scope and Content:

The Matthews correspondence is composed mainly of letters written during World War I by Charlie to his family. Folders 1-6 contain original correspondence to Mathew's father Lewis, his sisters Laura and Helen, his brother Lawrence, Helen's husband and Edith Sullivan, a childhood friend. Correspondence during wartime was read by army censors. Matthews could not divulge his exact location to his family and often began his letters with "Somewhere in France." Of the sample of envelopes in folder 7, the name of the military censor is written on the front of the envelopes. Military records include general military orders and correspondence from Major General Charles T. Menoher commending the men of the 42nd Division for their bravery in France. Additional items include a program from a 1937 RDVA reunion and twenty-seven postcards. The postcards portray several cities in France and some buildings damaged during the war. Materials in folders 11-16 are photocopies of the original materials, which were compiled by relatives of Mathews for a family publication. The materials include transcripts of correspondence, newspaper clippings, correspondence discussing Matthews' personal and military life, and color photocopies of a photograph of Matthews in his military uniform and of a souvenir from France.


Matthews, Charles O., 1890-1944

Menoher, Major General Charles T., 1862-1930

World War I

United States. Army--42nd Division

United States. Military--Hospitals

Container List: Box 1. Folder 1. Correspondence, 1917, Aug-Oct Box 1. Folder 2. Correspondence, 1918, Jan-Mar Box 1. Folder 3. Correspondence, 1918, Apr-Jun Box 1. Folder 4. Correspondence, 1918, Aug-Dec Box 1. Folder 5. Correspondence, 1919, Jan-Feb Box 1. Folder 6. Correspondence, 1919, Mar-Apr Box 1. Folder 7. Envelopes, 1917-1919 Box 1. Folder 8. General military orders and correspondence, 1918 Box 1. Folder 9. RDVA reunion program, 1937 Box 1. Folder 10. Postcards, France, 1-27 Box 1. Folder 11. Correspondence, transcripts, 1917 Box 1. Folder 12. Correspondence, transcripts, 1918 Box 1. Folder 13. Correspondence, transcripts, 1919 Box 1. Folder 14. Newspaper clippings, 1918-1919, undated Box 1. Folder 15. Newspaper clippings, Camp Songs of the Army and Navy, undated Box 1. Folder 16. Family publication, photocopies
Related Material and Resources: MS 104. Rainbow Division Veterans Association, Records. Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.

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