George M. Dorsey letters

Biographical and Historical Notes

George M. Dorsey was born in Wilmington, Delaware on April 15, 1897. He was the third of four children born to George W. Dorsey and Mary Elizabeth Spence Dorsey, and one of three sons. Dorsey served in the Armed Forces in both World War I and World War II. He enlisted with the Marines on June 29, 1918, and twenty five years later, on June 28, 1943, Dorsey began basic training with the Army.

After World War I, Dorsey resumed life as a civilian, working for a time as a tariff inspector in Wilmington, and later for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He eventually married Katheryn Dorsey, and together they had a daughter, Jane. The Dorseys had settled in Floral Park, New York, before George's re-entry into the Armed Forces in 1943, this time as a commissioned officer in the Army.

In 1944, Dorsey was briefly stationed in Africa before being transferred to his permanent station in New Delhi, India. In New Delhi, he was assigned to the Transportation Service, where he oversaw the transfer of Allied supplies and Army vehicle maintenance. During the summer of 1945, Dorsey was promoted to the rank of Major, and his position was upgraded to chief of the rail section of the Theater Transportation Service.

By the spring of 1945, the war effort in India had, for all intents and purposes, come to a close. Soldiers were required 75 points, which were acquired through tasks and details, to be considered for return to the United States with an honorable discharge. Major George Dorsey fell 25 points short of the rotation mark in 1945, and was forced to stay in India and reallocate tasks to those soldiers who remained with him on active duty. By December of 1946, the post-war evacuation had left the Transportation Service with a skeletal crew under Dorsey's command. In early March 1946, the Transportation Service was sold to the Indian National Government, and Major Dorsey was issued his orders of dismissal.

Dorsey boarded the "Marine Cardinal" on March 23, 1946, departing from Calcutta. He arrived in San Francisco towards the end of April 1946, and was then sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey for debriefing, after which he reunited with his family in Floral Park, New York. George Dorsey died on October 30, 1984 at the age of 87.


Reed, H.C., ed. Delaware: A History of the First State. New York, 1947. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc.

Scope and Contents

The 93 letters in this collection span the dates July 3, 1943 to March 23, 1946, and reflect George Dorsey's experiences and observations while stationed in India during World War II. All of the letters are addressed to Mary Emily Dorsey, George's only sister, who resided in Wilmington, Delaware. George Dorsey's responses to his sister indicate that she provided him with care packages, information regarding family affairs, and situations arising in Wilmington, such as the coal shortage of 1944-1945, and the reorganization of Wilmington's downtown marketplace.

Many of George's letters to his sister convey to her the beauty and climate of India. India inspired Major Dorsey to pursue photography, and included with the letters are several enlarged negatives which George sent to his sister, though all of the negatives failed to retain the photographic images.

The letters are comprised of both regular mail and V-Mail, which is the process of shrinking and photographing standard mail onto a three by five card for the purposes of mass bulk shippings during war time. Dorsey did not like V-Mail service and advised his sister against using it, although a few examples of V-Mail do exist throughout the collection. Because of the confidential nature of military information during war time, George Dorsey often referred to his location as "somewhere in India," although he divulges his location as New Delhi later in the correspondence. A sample of envelopes containing Dorsey's letters were retained to display official seals from military mail examiners.