Captain Joseph T. Dawson Archival Collection

The Captain Joseph T. Dawson Archival Collection contains 168 detailed letters from Dawson to family members during his service in World War II. Dawson, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, personally donated the collection to the First Division Museum in 1991. His insights on the actions and daily life of the 16th Infantry Regiment are one of the more complete first-hand accounts of the courage and valor of the 1ID during World War II. Below, in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of D-Day, is a curated collection of Dawson’s letters chronicling the Allied push from D-Day through the battle of Aachen.

About Captain Dawson

  • Joseph T. Dawson (CPT) served 28 months overseas with the 1st Infantry Division during World War Two in the European theater of operations. With the 16th Infantry Regiment, he received amphibious training and participated in the landings at North Africa.
  • Dawson led G Company in the initial landing at Omaha Beach, followed by the ascent and penetration of the Normandy beachhead, remembered as “Dawson’s Draw”.
  • After brief treatment in England for injuries sustained on D-Day, Dawson returned to fight with G Co. 16th Infantry Regiment in the combined arms operations through the hedgerows of France.
  • During the 39 days of battle to capture Aachen, G Co. endured constant combat. Three times, Dawson and Co. G repelled enemy attacks at one battleground, later named by press ‘Dawson’s Ridge’ in his honor. This action allowed Allied forces to eventually capture Aachen, the recognized outstanding operation of the 1st Division in the European theater (Kingseed 221).
  • Weighed down by battle fatigue from 6 weeks of relentless warfare, Dawson relinquished command of G Co. & evacuated from front at the end of October 1944.

Before D-Day

Letter dated May 1, 1944
To “Dearest family”. Written from England [Devon]. 2 pps.

“…know it will be a great show because I’ve got a group of men that are as good as they come in anybody’s army.”

Letter dated May 30, 1944
To “My precious Mother”. Written from England. 4 pps.

“There are fewer positions in the Army that provide greater joy and sorrow than a command of front line troops…”

After D-Day

V-mail dated June 12, 1944
To “Dearest Ones” [Dr. & Mrs. J.M. Dawson] dated June 12, 1944. Sent c/o Postmaster, New York, NY.

“…the big show is now on and as I had a front line ticket I can only say that the papers have made no understatement…”

V-mail dated June 12, 1944
To “Dearest Sis” [Mrs. David A Cheavens] dated June 12, 1944. Sent c/o Postmaster, New York, NY.

“The news covered the situation fully well though words can never describe the hell that was created on the beach I stormed…”

Letter dated June 16, 1944
To “My dearest family” dated June 16, 1944. 2pps. Written from “An Apple Orchard in Normandy”

“Justice can never be accorded to the magnificent fortitude and heroism of the fine American soldier and man. He is without peer…”

Letter dated June 21, 1944
To “My dear family”. 6 pps. Written from “A Beech grove in Normandy”.

Dawson announces his unit is to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Letter dated June 26, 1944
To “My beloved family”. 3 pps. Written from “Cold + wet – Normandy”.

“Not once did my men falter so it was that we achieved where other men failed…”

Letter dated June 30, 1944
To “My dearest family”. 5 pps. Written from Normandy.

Dawson’s unit was ensconced in a hedgerow during battle.

V-mail dated July 10, 1944
To “Dearest Ones” [Dr. & Mrs. J.M. Dawson]. Written during “As Usual – Rain”.

“Before it is all over there will be a battle on a scale little realized…”

Letter dated July 19, 1944
To “My dear family”. Written from Normandy. 3 pps.

“I can see so little that I did to be so rewarded. I just happened to do a job and my men followed me and that’s what I get paid to do every day.”

V-mail dated July 20, 1944
To “Dearest Family” [Dr. & Mrs. J.M. Dawson]. [Written from Normandy]

“Took a wonderful trip yesterday throughout the entire beachhead and took stock of all that had taken place since out arrival in France”

Letter dated August 3, 1944
To “My dearest ones”. [Written from Normandy]. 3 pps.

“The road to glory is a one-way road, each milestone a monument to the fallen.”

V-mail dated August 11, 1944
To “My dear family” [Dr. & Mrs. J.M. Dawson]. [Written from “Deep in France”]

“…we are now putting in practice the true application of mobile warfare.”


Letter dated September 23, 1944
To “Dearest Sis”. 4 pps. Written from Germany.

“To be truthful, it has been the supreme test for us…”

Letter dated September 28, 1944
To “Dearest Nonny”. 3 pps. Written from Germany.

“…all hell is breaking loose as we close in on his final positions. The last phase is about as terrible as we have ever experienced…it is a war of attrition now.”

Letter dated October 3, 1944
To “My dearest family”. 4 pps. Written from Germany.

“My men are absolutely without peer, and their courage and matchless fortitude in the face of unbelievable odds will truly stand out forever in my memory.”

Letter dated October 10, 1944
To “My beloved family”. 4 pps. Written from Germany.

“Each successive day, I’ve experienced the impact of total war and all its many faceted sides.”