LAWRENCE — 2015 marks 70 years since Bob Dole’s injuries on a battlefield in Italy and the end of World War II as well as a decade since the release of the former senator’s 2005 memoir, “One Soldier’s Story.” The Robert J. Dole Archive & Special Collections, part of the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, has created and made available an online collection titled “Dole Family WWII Letters” in order to bring historical work featured in Dole’s memoir to a global audience.
“The letters tell a story common to millions of Americans serving on the warfront and the homefront of World War II,” said Dole Institute Senior Archivist Audrey Coleman. “Reading the handwritten documents, we’re able to connect with and honor the tenacity, sacrifice and leadership of Bob Dole and the Greatest Generation 70 years on.”
The Dole family donated the letters, which document the military experiences of Bob Dole and his brother, Kenneth Dole. The exhibition currently showcases a selection of letters written between Bob Dole and members of his family beginning from the day before his first day of school at KU in September 1941 through his time in recovery at the Percy Jones General Hospital in April 1947. Additional letters will be released on an ongoing basis.
The new online collection feature is available here. Within the collection, online viewers and researchers can search full texts, review original documents and transcripts, and sort by letter writer, recipient, date and location.
In addition to these materials, the Kansas University Council for the Social Studies, in partnership with the Dole Institute, has created instructional materials for middle and high school teachers using both the WWII letter collection as well as the 2005 memoir. KUCSS is a student organization that has partnered with the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics since 2012 to develop curricular and instructional materials for secondary teachers.
“The injuries Dole sustained in World War II shaped his life and career, influencing him to enter public service and politics, and to become an advocate for people with disabilities,” Coleman said. “His story is one that continues to inspire. Releasing these resources online can only encourage that, particularly among young people likely unfamiliar with his story.”
Dole reported for active duty in June 1943. He was gravely wounded on the battlefield in Italy on April 14, 1945.
Dole served in the U.S. Congress for 36 years. He is the longest-serving Republican leader in the history of the U.S. Senate (1985-1996), the 1996 Republican nominee for president and President Gerald Ford’s vice presidential candidate in 1976. He served in many roles throughout his career, including chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance (1981-1985) and 47th chairman of the Republican National Committee (1971-1973).
KUCSS seeks to provide professional development to pre-service and alumni teachers, to hold public discussions and programs, to advance social studies education and to cooperate with schools, districts and communities.
The Robert J. Dole Archive & Special Collections at the Dole Institute of Politics is home to one of the nation’s largest collections of papers and artifacts for a nonpresidential politician. It contains the complete records of Dole’s political and post-political career, including manuscripts, photographs, audio-visual material, oral histories, textiles and artifacts. The collection is a window to the legislative process as well as a resource for Kansas history and a chronicle of late 20th century history and popular culture.
The Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated to promoting public service, civic engagement and politics. It is located on KU’s west campus and, in addition to the Archive & Special Collections, offers programming with world-renowned guest speakers on a variety of topics that intersect politics, as well as opportunities for students of all ages. All programs are free and open to the public.