Denny, G. C.
WWII Correspondence & Military Papers, of Lt. G.C. Denny, USNR, written to his mother, Mrs. Edna C. Denny, of Montpelier, Vermont, 1944, while stationed in the Marshall Islands, plus, Civil War Diary of a member of Denny family serving in the Quartermaster's Department with the Union Army in Virginia, 1864

Group of 40 letters, 158 manuscript pages, (35 retained mailing envelopes), dated 22 December 1930 to 20 September 1946, plus 38 pp. of related military documents. With: 1 Civil War Diary 1864; and 6 pieces of related ephemera.

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Description of Collection:

31 letters, 139 manuscript pp., (31 retained mailing envelopes), written by Lt. G.C. Denny to his mother, Mrs. Edna C. Denny, dated 22 April to 27 November 1944. These letters were written by Denny while serving in the United States Navy, first at camps in the United States, and then from the Marshall Islands where he was stationed for at least six months, probably longer.

9 miscellaneous letters, 19 pp., (4 retained mailing envelopes), dated 22 December 1930 to 20 September 1946, includes letters to and from Denny family members, friends, or associates including: L. Denny, Topeka, Kansas, to Addison, Austin, and Ralph Denny, 1933; [Ralph B. Denny], [Montpelier, Vermont], to J.J. Beall, VP Northwestern Mutual Fire Assoc., Seattle, Washington, 1933; J.J. Beall, VP Northwestern Mutual Fire Assoc., Seattle, Washington, to Ralph B. Denny, Montpelier, 1933; Fred [Howard], Montpelier, to Mrs. Ralph B. Denny, Montpelier, Vermont, 1942; [Mike] Kimball, Fleet Post Office, to Mrs. E. Denny, Montpelier, Vermont, 1943; Pfc. Fred H. Myer, Camp Hood, Texas,  to Mrs. Edna Denny, Montpelier, 1944; Lt. J. W. Peck, USNR, Fleet Post Office, to Mrs. Ralph B. Denny, Montpelier, 1944 (2 letters); Secretary of Navy James Forrestal, Washington, D.C., to Capt. George Chatfield Denny, 1946.

38 pp., of military documents, dated 1945-1955, includes various military papers of Lt. Denny including Change of Duty; Mileage Vouchers; Release from Active Duty; Suspend Process Notice; Notice of Separation from U.S. Naval Service; Certification of Physical Fitness to Accept Permanent Appointment in the U.S. Naval Reserve; U.S.N.R. Permanent Appointment Acknowledgement; U.S. Naval Reserve Officer Inactive Status List; U.S. Naval Reserve Status; and Transfer to the Retired Reserve of the Naval Reserve.

1 Civil War diary, 64 manuscript pp., unbound, lacks binding, measures about 3” x 7 ½ ”, not signed, entries dated 1 January 1864 to 10 July 1864, 3 days per page entry format, usually one or two sentences per entry, diary entries end on 10 July 1864, also includes 57 pages used for various memoranda notes, accounts, miscellaneous computations, etc.  The diary is not signed per se, but there are some names listed near the rear of the diary and in the memorandum section, the names of George B.B. Denny and Samuel Denny are listed. Further research would have to be conducted to see if either one of these men were the diary writer. Whoever the diary writer was, he was with the Union Army's Quartermaster's Department, following General U. S. Grant in Virginia, helping to supply cavalry units. There is much information on the issuing of grain, hay, etc., and the movement from place to place as the army, follows, and engages General Robert E. Lee's army.


6 pieces of miscellaneous ephemera, including: 1 Montpelier, Vermont sugar card (ration card?); Certificate of Birth for George Chatfield Denny, 1919; one Bill of Sale (goods) between Edna G. Salmon to George C. Denny et ux, 1965; one Agreement Real Estate (land) between Edna G. Salmon with George C. Denny et ux, 1965; 4 typed pages "D.T. Denny" biography of Seattle pioneer, not dated; and 2 typed pages "Mr. A.A. Denny" history of A.A. Denny's predecessors.

       George Chatfield Denny (1919-2000)

George Chatfield Denny was born 29 December 1919, the son of Ralph Boynton Denny (1871-1938) and his second wife, Edna Harriet Chatfield (1890-1974), daughter of Lewis Chatfield and Ilda Reed. His parents lived on Main Street in Montpelier, Vermont. His parents married in 1917. George's father worked in the insurance business working his way up to become president of the Union Mutual Insurance Company of Montpelier. George's mother was a housewife. Ralph B. Denny's first wife was Clara Maria Adams. She died in 1915.

George's grandfather was George Benoni Buck Denny (1841-1906), of Northfield, Vermont (1841-1906). His grandfather served with 12th Vermont Infantry and mustered out 14 July 1863. While the name of George B.B. Denny is written in the Civil War diary in this collection, so is the name of Samuel Denny. Since George B.B. Denny is shown to have mustered out of military service in 1863, it is unsure who this 1864 diary was kept by. It could have been George who may have gone back into service, or Samuel Denny, presumably a relative.

Prior to the war, George Chatfield Denny attended Montpelier High School and then Dartmouth University where he graduated about 1941 and went to work for the Telechron Electric Clock Company in Ashland, Massachusetts.

George C. Denny served as a Lieutenant Commander in the Pacific Theater during World War Two. When the correspondence begins on 22 April 1944, he is listed as a Lieutenant with the U.S. Naval Reserve. He is the lead officer of a small military unit. He has been shipped out to California, where he spends time touring San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, before being dispatched on a ship to the South Pacific, where he visits Hawaii, before being sent closer to the Pacific theater of the war. He writes of crossing the International Date Line, southwest of Hawaii, on an island that the American took from the Japanese, as stated in a letter: "The tropical vegetation which the movies feature is conspicuously lacking. It got removed pretty thoroughly during a recent unpleasantness over possession of the place." Later we learn he is in the Marshall Islands. He is an officer, so his work is not too difficult. Due to censorship, he cannot write directly what he is doing, but there are clues what is happening on the island. Later he becomes a censor, censoring the letters going out of the island. Denny has a great sense of humor and his take on his predicament stationed on the Marshall Islands, which had recently been the scene of heavy combat operations and is pretty much barren of everything, including trees, is fun to read.

Denny married, Joanne Lord, in 1951, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Lord of Portland, Maine. At the time of their marriage, both Denny and his wife worked for the Union Mutual Life Insurance Company in Portland. After their marriage, they lived in Cumberland Center, Maine before moving to Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  In 1952 he joined Berkshire Life Insurance as an underwriter and by 1959 was named manager of the application and policy division of the new business department, and eventually became their underwriting secretary. While in Pittsfield, Denny served as one of the directors of the Association of Family Services. Later Denny moved to Richmond, Massachusetts where he was found living in 1974. He was a one-time president of the Dartmouth Club. George C. Denny died on 31 May 2000.

       WWII Letters of George C. Denney

“April 22nd, 1944 (USO Letterhead)

Dear Mum,

This is being composed while I’m waiting for a connecting plane to San Francisco. I thought I’d better put this down before it was replaced by something new. I have been doing all sorts of things which do not seem proper for a fellow to do. First off, I’d better put a swansong on the Sub Base by telling you I spent a day on and under Long Island Sound in a sub. It was a very interesting experience altho it was a bit dull at times. The sensation of diving is not very remarkable. There is a change of air pressure and the ship stops rocking but that’s about all. The interesting part is watching the men at the controls. The whole dive is accomplished in much less than a minute. I had a good time and I’m glad I did do it before I left. The air experience has been even more interesting. That is because there are windows to see out of. It gave me the same feeling I had below water; that I was someplace where I had no business to be…..You will hear again from me soon, Love George.”

“May 10th, 1944

Dear Mum,

The heading of this paper (American Red Cross) only indicates that I got it for free and not that I’m in a hospital. If I am in need of hospitalization it will be because of nervous disorders. Being senior officer of a unit that not one, including myself, knows anything about presents more problems than I ever thought existed. With considerable trouble I've got them all this far safely, but I don't know what will be coming next. Time again will tell.

We enjoyed a very pleasant cruise on a transport where we lived in style, ate prodigiously, slept too much and were very lazy. We saw porpoises and flying fish in an amazingly blue ocean. It was a fine passage and I was sorry to see it end.

We have seen some of the sights here while various authorities have puzzled what to do with us in much the same way as in San Francisco. We have seen Waikiki Beach and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which is very grand. I imagine that this place is very beautiful all around during normal times.

So far, I've run into quite a number of previous Navy acquaintances from both Boston and New London. I imagine I'll strike even more as time goes on.

I guess that this is all I can offer for Mother's Day this year, except all my love. Bye for now. Love George.”

“May 27th, 1944

Dear Mum,

Don’t let the date up above confuse you. We are now beyond the International Date Line so we are one day ahead of you or something like that. We flew down here form our last place in a navy seaplane and had a pretty good trip. It was still a lot of fun but not nearly as nice as the commercial planes in the states…….I guess that I am here for a while to settle down which is a good point. Being in transit is not too good. We live in tents which are quite comfortable. The food is all right and we have quite a lot of cold drinks served with the meals. Other than that we drink out of canteens which we carry around with us all the time. We also have a daily allowance of two bottles of beer which is passed out in the evening and quite poplar. There are several movies on the island to go to see if it does not rain….We are allowed one pail of water a day for washing and there are showers going for an hour a day…….We are still somewhat up in the air over our business. We have not actually started to operate as yet and there are a lot of problems to come up yet. We are now operating under the army to some extent to confuse matters even worse…..I was quite surprised to discover that the officer in charge of the Naval outfit here is the man who interviewed me in Boston when I first made application to join the Navy……                                    Bye now, Love George.”

“June 6th, 1944

Dear Mum,

Guess quite a time has passed since I wrote…..We have a radio here and have just got the word on the invasion. I surely hope everything goes ok for them. So much depends on success…..I’m afraid I’m not going to have much to write about here. If there is any excitement it will be a military secret. I’m trying to find a good souvenir but the place is picked pretty clean. All I have to date is a little empty Jap shell...I have 3 officers and 6 enlisted men under me and I’m the youngest officer. That seems to be my usual fate…..Love George.”

“July 1st, 1944

Dear Mum,

……Our island is showing encouraging sings of becoming vegetated once again. Grass is growing with amazing speed by itself and I understand more will be planted. It will make a big difference. This barren island covered with tents, Quonset Huts and unmentionables was about the grimiest looking thing I ever saw that I was going to call home when I landed in a rainstorm a month ago. I’m completely acclimated now and it doesn’t look bad but with something green on it, it will be much nicer……Guess this is all for tonight, Love George.”

“July 10th, 1944

Dear Mum,

Your letter of the second got here on the ninth which is the fastest service I’ve gotten so far. There seems to be quite a few questions that I’ve left unanswered. I’m stationed in the Marshall Islands, a fact which is permitted in the mails. I thought I had told you before but I guess it got overlooked. As you can see from the map we are quite a long way from the current field of operations. Everyone is happy here to learn that Saipan is secured. It surely must have been a bloody thing. The Republican nomination didn’t cause much comment here. Politics is not a burning issue on the base as far as I can see. Everyone spends his time figuring on how long the war will last and how soon they can return to their families…..Roger Frail must be insufferable. If my men thought I was God, I wouldn’t admit to anyone that they were such idiots. He is the kind of fellow who in the Navy gets lost overboard on stormy nights…..Love George.”



"15 July 1944

Marshall Islands

Dear Mum,

This week hasn't offered very much in the line of excitement. Since Saipan was started, we have become a back base which is ok by everyone here since the further back we become, the sooner we get home. I'm now a mail censor and find that a lot of the men expect the war to be over soon, but I'm afraid they are unfortunately mistaken. I hope they are correct tho.

Some of the natives have been brought back here to this island to do clean up work and other minor tasks. They look for the most part like negroes, but with less coarse features and are the happiest people imaginable. One day they were picking up stones and putting them in a truck. The truck driver had difficulty starting his vehicle and all work stopped while these people double up with laughter. One evening we saw them playing a game where they were all in a circle except two in the center. A ball made of something was kicked up in the air by one and whoever was under it on the way down kicked it up again. They were quite agile at it and some were real fancy, kicking the ball behind their backs over their shoulders. The rest of the circle clapped hands together; one hand clap when the ball was kicked and two softer ones white it was in the air. Sometimes just the hand clap was used and sometimes none at all. We couldn't figure out any scheme or plan to either the game or the clapping. Every once in a while some buck would try an unusually tricky kick and miss which always stopped the game while the players roared with laughter. They dress in clothes that they have gotten some way from the troops and might be mistaken easily for negro soldiers or sailors if you didn't speak or try to speak to them...Guess I'm done again for this time, by now, Love George"

“July 26th, 1944

Dear Mum,

…..I now have a souvenir. Many fellows buy sea shell necklaces for fantastic prices which someone has made in his spare time, or writes bands of airplane aluminum all “From a Jap zero shot down on Tarawa.” That plane must have had a wingspread of 2 miles from the amount of stuff that is reputed to have come from it. My Yankee penuriousness has kept me away from those things….Last night Bob Hope and company were here and gave a show……I’ve been indulging myself to what everyone seems to indicate is a forbidden pleasure, optimism. With the Germans revolting and retreating, and the Japs being chased off their own front doorsteps things look really good. Getting out of the Navy is something highly to be desired but I’ve been at this so long now I wouldn’t know how to act in normal society…..My inspiration seems to have run out. Excitement here is not exactly at fever pitch….Love George.”




“November 27th, 1944

Dear Mum,

Today marks the 6th month anniversary of my landing here and in a few days it will be seven months since I left San Francisco. Time has not exactly flown but it has passed quickly enough. In another 11 months I will be eligible to apply for a return to civilization……Everything that could close down (Thanksgiving) but we had to stay open so I sent everyone except myself and another fellow away. However in the morning the whole crew showed up. The island commander was having one of the questionable blessings of civilization, a “patriotic ceremony” and the master-at-arms was out rounding up anyone not on duty to participate. After the ceremony they all wandered off again…..One of the features of our island paradise is Black Widow spiders which inhabit nooks and crannies about here. We have a spray gun and one of the boys chases them out about once a week. The breed here is violent looking but don’t seem to bother anyone. I’ve heard of only one fellow being bitten and it didn’t bother him any. I think their poison isn’t very strong in this climate…..This week has been rather dull so I haven’t had much to offer. Methinks I’ll off to bed and scratch myself to sleep. Bye now, Love George.”

      Sample Quotations from 1864 Civil War Diary:

“January 11th, Warm and pleasant. Had nothing to do. Wrote letters to Lizzie Add and Walter Edson Mosby and his men came and paid Brigd. That is here a short visit and then left last night.”

“January 20th, Warm and pleasant. Went up to Brandy and up to the 2nd Brigd. Horse artillery. Saw the boys.”

“February 6th, Rainy. Been fighting all day in the Rappahannock. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd corps crossed last night.”

“March 10th, Went up to Brandy with reports. Was paid $20.00. Sent home $10.00 by express. Slocumb came back from Washington. Weather a cold rain. Had a muskrat for dinner. Wrote letter to Den.”

“March 14th, Had nothing to do. Standing. Went up to Brady. Passenger train run the track, killed one darke,  weather, warm and pleasant.”

March 19th, Staid with Sid last night. He went to Fort Bunker Hill on inspection and back about 3 o’clock. Went round in the fort. Weather warm and pleasant.”

“April 26th, Went up to Rappahannock station and turned over some hay and grain to Capt. Thomas. Wrote a letter home. Weather warm and pleasant. Slocumb went up to Brandy. Cut some bushes and put around the tent.”

“May 2nd, Issued grain to the 1st Div. Slocumb went to Brandy. Sam Edwards and Edd Hall were here today. Capt. Smith moved last night to Alexandria. Weather warm and pleasant until four o’clock the wind rose and commenced raining. Wrote a letter to Larie.”

“May 4th & 5th, Weather warm and pleasant. The army moved today. Lee observed his fortifying and fell back toward Richmond. Grant after him. Burnside his Genl. (? General), also Capt. Pitkins moving to Alexandria. I expect to go to night if Mosby does not get me. Cars run off the track and killed one and wounded 6 more. Started or Alexandria at 7 P.M. Arrived at three A.M……Arrived at Alexandria this morning at three A.M. Got our tents up about noon. Weather warm and pleasant. Wrote a letter to Mrs. Finn (?) and one home.”

“May 8th, Been in camp all day about one half of the Dept. gone up to Rappahannock. Staid after the wounded. General Grant has had a hard fight and drove the Rebs. Weather warm and pleasant.”

“May 11th & 12th, Had orders to pack up and go to Belle Plain. Started at two o’clock P.M. on Young America. Arrived at 8 P.M. Weather rainy……Staid on the boat last night. Have to work hard all day. Grant had a hard fight today and drove the Rebs, 11th Regt. Stopped here tonight on their way to the fort. Chauncy came here tonight. Rainy.”

“May 18th, George Dunham staid with me last night and went back to the front this morning. Been very warm and showers. Wrote latter to J. P. Brook Jr. Mosby made a raid on a wagon train at this place last night but did not get much. Grant had a hard fight with Lee.”

“May 25th, Started this morning up the river. Have a gun boat with us. Has fired a few shots into the bank. Anchored about 8 o’clock P.M. for the night within five miles of Port Royal.”

“May 27th, Rest of the Dept. came this morning. Been issuing grain all day. Expect to go to White House Landing tomorrow. Received a letter from home and one from Marion F_____.”

“May 31st, Arrived at the White House about eight o’clock A.M. Unloaded and pitched tents. Had nothing to do yet. Wrote letter home.”

“June 5th, Had to work hard all day issuing grain. Had a hard fight about 9 o’clock P.M. Lasted about one hour.”

“June 14th, Had orders to pack up and get ready. Went aboard the John Brooks and started for Harrisons Landing about 1 o’clock P.M. Started at York Town and to Fort Monroe. Anchored at New Port News over night.”

“June 16th, Had to work all last night tallying wagons that crossed the Pontoon Bridge. Had nothing to do today but go to Windmill Point. Weather very warm and pleasant. We are on board the General Howard, 5th & 6th Corps. Crossing the James River. It is reported that Petersburg is taken.”

“June 21st, Been issuing grain all day. Wrote a letter home. It is reported that George Dunham and Chauncy were taken prisoner.”

“June 29th, Pitched our tent this morning. Had to issue grain and hay all day. Been fighting last night and this morning out to the front. Went to City Point tonight after some things.”

“July 10th, Have not had to do much today. Six corps went to Washington today. Had some firing tonight out front.”

“August 9th & 10th, Ordnance blew up at City Point killing 100 men and wounded 100 more….Went to City Point this morning to see how Edd Wright was. Do not expect will live.”