Conrad A. Desautels Family Papers
Correspondence, 1942-1960 (bulk 1944-1945)
Size: .25 ft.
Catalog number: MSS 1100
Processed by: Karen Eberhart, October 2002
©Rhode Island Historical Society
Conrad A. Desautels was born March 22, 1920 to Arthur and Albertine Desautels in Woonsocket, RI. He married Lillian Ethier in 1941 or 1942 and they had two sons, Conrad E. and Robert P. The boys were born before Conrad went into the army in June, 1944. He was assigned to the Army Air Corps with the 3706th Army Air Field Base Unit in Sheppard Field, Texas. During his training in Texas, Conrad was disqualified from combat duty for medical reasons and assigned to support roles. He was then transferred in September, 1944 to the 430th Bombardment Squadron, 502nd Bomb Group, Army Air Corps stationed in Grand Island, Nebraska. That unit was sent overseas in April, 1945 to Guam. Conrad boarded a boat for home in mid November 1945 and was home before the end of the year. He and Lillian lived in Woonsocket the rest of their lives. Conrad is listed in the Woonsocket City Directory as a machine operator and later a supervisor at the Imperial Box company. He died March 29, 1973.
Conrad had at least one brother named Germain George "Blackie" Desautels who also served during the war. Germain spent much of the war in Alaska with Squad K, 1466th, Army Air Field Base Unit.
Lillian (Ethier) Desautels was the daughter of Leon Edmond and Georgianna Ethier of Woonsocket, RI. She spent her life as a mother and homemaker. Her brother Paul Leon Ethier also served in the army during the war. They had a little sister named Elise. Lillian dies sometime in the early 1980s.
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Scope and content:
This collection consists primarily of the letters written by Conrad and Lillian to each other during the war. It is not a complete set, as there is a large gap in Lillian's correspondence to Conrad with letters missing during February thru October, 1945. The collection also contains letters written to both of them from parents and siblings.
The letters Lillian writes to Conrad are full of information about the children and constant reminders to Conrad that she loves and misses him and prayers to the Sacred Heart that he would be home soon. The letters are a wonderful record of the difficulties faced by women left with children. Lillian does not hesitate conveying to Conrad the difficulties she faces raising two young children with very little income. Lillian suffers frequently from exhaustion, nervousness and insomnia. She has a medical condition only vaguely described which puts her in the hospital several times and apparently threatens her ability to have more children. She is anemic and the doctor gives her some type of injection to correct that situation. Her children are also prescribed medication to "build up their blood" as Lillian describes it. Lillian goes to work at a textile mill in Woonsocket to make ends meet and is fortunate to have family nearby in the form of grandparents to help take care of the two boys while she works.
Several of the letters Lillian sent, starting with the one dated November15, 1945, were returned to Lillian by the post office and were never opened nor read by Conrad. But that situation was far from a tragedy, it was instead a sign that he was coming home. Lillian writes in a letter dated November 20, 1945: "I received your lovely letter this morning & tonight I feel so darn happy I could burst. Gee darling I'll keep my fingers crossed for sure & I'll pray real hard that this letter will come back to me stamped 'on the way back to the states.' Because honey if it does come back like that it will mean you are on your way home . . ."
Conrad's letters are also filled with his expressions of love for Lillian and the kids. He never mentions what he does for work, only that he is in the Air Corps working with the ground crew. In a letter written by Germain Desautels to Lillian, Conrad's brother speculates that Conrad is probably loading bombs on the planes. When he is shipped off to Guam, Conrad's letters are censored by the army and he is not allowed to reveal what his work involves. After the war is over he does mention that he is helping to build a chapel on Guam. His father writes to him in French and Conrad mentions socializing with another fellow from Woonsocket and they speak in French to each other most of the time. However, Conrad and his brother correspond with each other in imperfect English.
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Letters to Conrad Desautels from Lillian Desautels
B.1, F.1 June - July, 1944
B.1, F.2 August - October, 1944
B.1, F.3 November - December, 1944
B.1, F.4 January, November, 1945
B.1, F.5 Envelopes from Lillian, 1944-1945
Letters to Conrad Desautels from family and friends
B.1, F.6 1944-1945
Letters to Lillian Desautels from Conrad Desautels
B.1, F.7 June - December, 1944
B.1, F.8 January - November, 1945
B.1, F.9 Envelopes from Conrad, 1944-1945
Letters to Lillian Desautels from family and friends
B.1, F.10 1942-1947
Letters to Lillian and Conrad Desautels from family and friends
B.1, F.11 1943-1960
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Desautels, Conrad A., 1920-1973.
Desautels, Conrad E.
Desautels, Lillian (Ethier)
Desautels, Robert P.
French Americans - Rhode Island.
Textile workers - Rhode Island - Woonsocket.
United States. Army - Military life - World War, 1939-1945.
Woonsocket (R.I.) - Social life and customs.
World War, 1939-1945.
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