The Roper Papers were donated by Alice Roper in 2005 and consist of photocopies of the correspondence, documents, and photographs of Victor and Alice Roper, the originals having been returned to Mrs. Roper. The collection contains 68 handwritten letters from Victor Roper to his wife Alice, his parents, her parents, and his aunt while he was stationed in France, Germany, and Austria during World War II. The letters to his parents, which cover the longest period of time, include his stay in Belgium. The letters were composed between January and October 1945.
The letters describe his trans-Atlantic voyage, preparation in France, combat experiences in Germany, and post-war duties. The other various other documents are divided into a Subject series: Military Documents (1944-1947), Personal Documents (1944-1997), and Printed Material (1945-1946). The Photographs portray domestic life in the states, social life in the military, and the devastated landscapes of Europe. The Printed Material series includes various war-focused newspapers with numerous issues that focus on the cessation of hostilities.
Processing of the Roper Papers was completed by Eric Weaver July of 2006. The accession number of the collection is P2006.04.
Victor Kenneth Roper was born April 19, 1922 near Barnes, Kansas, the son of Floyd and Dora (Wesche) Roper. Victor ("Vic") attended eight years of county school in the Maple Wood community before graduating from high school in Barnes in 1940. Victor attended Kansas State Agricultural College and was active in ROTC. Before he could graduate, Victor left Kansas State in 1943 to enlist in the US Army. While in basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, he courted Alice Roelfs of Bushton, Kansas via correspondence. He completed his training on October 30, 1943, and after a 17-week course at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant on July 4, 1944. On July 7, he married Alice in Washington County, Kansas.
In the fall of 1944, Vic was stationed at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he prepared for war in Europe. After spending a short time with Alice in New York, Victor departed the United States on January 10, 1945 and arrived in Le Harve, France on January 22. He was deployed in Company E, 65th Division. As Infantry Platoon Leader, Victor was responsible for the training, supply, and tactical employment of the platoon. The 65th Division stayed at Camp Lucky Strike, where they lived in tents, dealt daily with snow and mud, and ate K rations. Victor’s time in France was filled with discomfort and anxious waiting, though at times this tension was broken by the receipt of letters and care packages of candy, cookies, popcorn, and clippings from the Kansas State Collegian. Victor spent much of his time in France training, censoring mail, and exploring the countryside. Beginning March 4 in Saarlautern, Germany, Victor saw three continuous weeks of combat. During this time he could not bathe or change clothes. When another lieutenant, Henry Amster, was wounded and evacuated, Victor temporarily took command of that platoon. Later that month, he recuperated at the Red Cross Service Center in Metz, France. In April, he was a part of the first wave of allied soldiers to cross the Danube to take Regansburg. In April, he was transferred to Anti-Tank Platoon Leader in Battalion Headquarters.
While Victor was away, Alice took a correspondence course in preparation for becoming a teacher in Barnes. After the war was officially over in May, Victor was made Information and Education Officer. That month he relocated to Linz, Austria, and a month later to Mauthausen. In June, Victor took part in the liberation of the concentration camp at Mauthausen, where he personally witnessed and documented the prisoners and mechanisms of genocide. By September, he was in Mons, Belgium, in charge of gasoline supply. From October 1945 until his departure, he handled the administration of 11,000 prisoners of war employed by the Base Depot. On December 26, 1945 he was appointed 1st Lieutenant and the following January he observed the Nurnberg Trials. He returned to the United States June 25, 1946, having served overseas a total of 18 months.
Victor was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze and Silver Star Campaign Ribbons for the "Rhineland" and "Central Europe," the World War II Victor Medal, the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal, and the Combat Infantry Badge. Victor completed his separation from the service on August 28, 1946. He was transferred to the Retired Reserve on January 6, 1965.
After the war, Victor returned to Manhattan and completed his studies at Kansas State, graduating with a B.S. in Accounting in 1947. He was employed 38 years by the First National Bank, retiring in 1985 as Senior Loan Officer. He was a member of the First Christian Church of Manhattan of which he was a Life Elder, Lions Club of which he was a Past President, and the Fraternal Order of United Commercial Travelers of which he was a Past Grand Counselor.
Victor and Alice had two daughters, Barbara Kravitcz and Nina Moss, two sons, Dennis and James Roper, and five grandchildren. Victor Roper died on March 1, 1997, in Manhattan.
1922 Born Apr 19 near Barnes, Kansas, son of Floyd and Dora (Wesche) Roper 1940 Graduated high school in Barnes Attended Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science 1943 Left Kansas State to enlist in US Army Completed basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama Oct 30 1944 Completed 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant on Jul 4 Married Jul 7 to Alice Roelfs of Bushton, Kansas 1945 Departed Jan 10 from New York, arrived Jan 22 at Le Harve, France In combat in Germany in March Reassigned to Red Cross Service Center in Metz, France Transferred to Anti-Tank Platoon Leader in Battalion Headquarters Alice Roper takes correspondence course in preparation for teaching Assisted in liberation of concentration camp in Mauthausen, Austria Appointed 1st Lieutenant Dec 26 1946 Observed Nurnberg trials in Jan Returned to United States Jun 25 1947 Graduated from Kansas State with B.S. in Accounting 1965 Transferred to Retired Reserve Jan 6 1985 Retired from First National Bank as Senior Loan Officer 1997 Died Mar 1 in Manhattan, Kansas
The Roper Papers consists predominantly of photocopied letters from Victor Roper to his wife, Alice Roelfs, while he was participating in the European Theater of World War II. Victor ("Vic") and Alice were married only days after he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, and they were together approximately six months before he was shipped overseas. The collection contains facsimiles of 43 handwritten letters and two V-Mails from Victor to his wife while he was stationed in France, Germany, and Austria from January to June 1945. The letters depict a lieutenant’s life before, during, and after combat, as well as reflections on his past and his hopes for the future.
The correspondence describes his trans-Atlantic voyage in January 1945, a period of anxious inactivity in France through February, intense combat in Germany in March and April, the end of the war in May while stationed in Austria, and the liberation of the concentration camp near Mauthausen, Austria. The letters contain mundane details of army life, including housing, weather, and food, as well the loneliness of a husband separated from his wife. The letters often discuss the frustration and uncertainty of wartime communications, as letters often took weeks to arrive. They are varied in mood and tone, reflecting the alteration between times of stress and rest. During times of combat, the letters are necessarily vague as to locations and actions, though details are frequently provided in subsequent letters and Victor's accounts of his time overseas are emotionally poignant throughout.
The collection also includes a series of letters to Victor’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Roper, his aunt Clara Wesche, and Alice’s parents, the Roelfs. The facsimiles of 18 letters and one V-Mail to his parents cover the longest period of time, from January to October 1945, including his time in Belgium. Three letters are addressed to his aunt, and one to his parents-in-law.
The Subject Series includes copies of various official and personal documents. Military Documents preserve Victor’s official service records, while Personal Documents contains important family papers. Printed Material includes a copy of The 65th Halbert Division Daily News Letter from June 15, 1945, as well as two programs from Army-sponsored church services. A second box of Printed Material includes original copies of wartime newspapers, including The Chanute News, The Stars and Stripes, and Yank: The Army Weekly. The majority of issues were published after the official end of hostilities.
The Photograph Series contains 161 photocopies of personal photographs and postcards. Photographs are numbered in the order in which they appeared in the original albums. The pictures capture Victor and Alice in their youth in Kansas, his early military career in Mississippi and Alabama, and portraits of his friends in the service. The largest series of images, taken while Victor was stationed overseas, depict both the landscape of war-torn Europe, as well as casual life within the military. Some notable photographs include images of the Mauthausen camp following its liberation. The photographs have been scanned and digital images can be viewed upon request in the department until they are available through the KSU Digital Library.
The documents are housed in two boxes. In the first box, the correspondence is arranged first by addressee, then chronologically. Other materials are housed by subjects in alphabetical order, followed by the photographs, duplicated in their original album order. The second box holds additional Printed Material, placed in alphabetical order by publication title.
Box Folder Description Correspondence, 1945 01 Roper, Alice (Roelfs) 01 Jan 02 Feb 3-13 03 Feb 17-24 04 Mar 05 Apr 06 May 4-9 07 May 16-19 08 May 20-31 09 Jun Roper, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd 10 Jan-Feb 11 Apr-May 12 Jun-Sep 13 Oct Roelfs, Mr. and Mrs. 14 Jan Wesche, Clara 15 Jan-Jun Subjects 16 Military Documents (1944-1947) 17 Personal Documents (1944-1997) 18 Printed Materials (1945-1946) Photographs 19-22 1915; 1922; 1941; 1943-1946 02 Printed Materials The Chanute News (Jun 16, 1946) The Chanute News (Jun 17, 1946) The Chanute News (Jun 18, 1946) The Chanute News (Jun 19, 1946) The Chanute News (Jun 20, 1946) The Chanute News (Jun 21, 1946) The Chanute News (Jun 22, 1946) The Chanute News (Jun 23, 1946) The Chanute News (Jun 24, 1946) Midweek: The Stars and Stripes (Jan 3, 1946) Midweek: The Stars and Stripes (Jan 9, 1946) New York Herald Tribune (Aug 15, 1945) Paris Post (Aug 14, 1945) The Stars and Stripes (Aug 14, 1945) The Stars and Stripes (Aug 15, 1945) The Stars and Stripes (Jan 9, 1946) The Wheel and Eagle (Jan 5, 1946) The Wheel and Eagle (Jan 12, 1946) Yank: The Army Weekly (July 14, 1944) Yank: The Army Weekly (Jul 28, 1944) Yank: The Army Weekly (Sep 8, 1944) Yank: The Army Weekly (Aug 18, 1944) Yank: The Army Weekly (Dec 30, 1945)