World War II

This page provides links to records, manuscripts, and lesson plans for those interested in Tennessee's involvement in World War II.
​Hardy A. Mitchener, Jr. was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 509th Bombardment Squadron, 351st Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, stationed in Polebrook, England, during World War II. He was shot down and captured on May 30, 1944, after a bombing mission in Oschersleben, Germany, and sent to Stalag Luft III shortly thereafter. During his stay at this POW camp in Sagan, Germany, known principally for the famous “Great Escape” that took place in March 1944, Mitchener kept a diary of his experiences. The diary contains detailed drawings of life at the camp as well as documentation of the prisoners’ rapid evacuation of Stalag Luft III on January 27, 1945. Mitchener was fond of writing songs and poems in his diary, and has included numerous examples of works that speak to the prisoners’ depression, boredom, frustration, and overpowering desire for freedom.
This collection documents the careers in the United States Army Air Service during and after World War I of two brothers from Gallatin, Tennessee. George Wright Puryear was a fighter pilot with the 95th Aero Squadron, was taken prisoner by the Germans, and subsequently became the first American officer to escape from a German prisoner of war camp.
World War II was the greatest armed conflict in history, and Tennessee played a significant role in the Allied victory. Over 300,000 men from all parts of the state served in America’s armed forces and six were decorated with the nation’s highest award for valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. The materials cited in this guide are only a sampling. Please consult with reference staff for additional materials.
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