Jimmy Ley Papers 1922-1981 1940-1945

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Reference code

US US-IaGG MS/MS 01.162

Name and location of repository

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Jimmy Ley Papers 1922-1981 1940-1945



Name of creator

Biographical history

James “Jimmy” Jay Ley was born in Algona, Iowa in 1922. He grew up in Lakota, Iowa and participated in Boy Scouts and basketball. After graduating from Lakota High School in 1940, Ley attended Grinnell College for two years. Ley did not complete his studies at Grinnell because he enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1942. Ley completed basic training at Sheppard Field, Texas. He was additionally stationed and trained at bomber-engineer school in Baltimore, Maryland; gunnery school in Buckingham Field, Fort Myers, Florida; and combat service and flight engineer school in Barksdale Filed, Shreveport, Louisiana. Ley was sent to England in 1943. He completed twenty-one missions over Europe as an engineer gunner on a bomber in the 451st Bombardment Squadron. In 1944, Ley was reported missing in action over Abbeville, France. His death was confirmed in 1945. In 1949, his body was found in an unmarked civilian grave in France and returned to his family in Lakota for burial. Ley was awarded the air medal, two oak leaf clusters, and the Purple Heart.

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Scope and content

This collection is organized into four series: Biographical, Correspondence, Military, and Photographs.

Series 1: Biographical (1924-1981)

The Biographical series includes personal items including Ley’s birth certificate, framed high school basketball letter, and Catechism bible, as well as a handwritten copy of a poem composed by his mother for his funeral service. The series also includes an extensive scrapbook including photos, personal and educational documents, and newspaper clippings from early childhood until after his death.

Series 2: Correspondence (1939-1946)

The Correspondence series consists of three sub-series: letters written by Jimmy Ley, letters written to Ley and returned to his parents, and letters written to his parents after his disappearance. Ley’s letters are almost exclusively addressed to his parents and date from between just before he first attended Grinnell College in the fall of 1939 until his disappearance in February 1944. Ley’s letters are organized chronologically and divided into folders by location, mostly military camps where Ley was stationed. Mostly written by the families of other missing men in Ley’s flight crew, the letters to Jimmy’s parents after his death date from between November 1944 and August 1945 and are arranged alphabetically by sender’s last name.

Series 3: Military (unkown-1948)

The Military series consists of Ley’s official certificates and awards, bomb squadron yearbook, air force patch, and framed medals (Distinguished Flying Cross, 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, and Purple Heart).

Series 4: Photographs (unknown-1945)

The Photographs series includes fifteen unframed photographs, a portrait in a display folder, a framed photo collage documenting the medals Ley earned, a large framed portrait displayed at Ley’s funeral, and a large framed artistic collage of Ley’s plane and flight crew.

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Languages of the material

  • English

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Notes element

General note

Accession Number 2014.06.2.

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