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Chesley R. Hall manuscript collection

Identifier: MS 3070


This collection contains documents related to Chesley “Chet” Roland Hall’s service with the Navy during World War II. This includes a diary kept by Hall during his time in Africa and London, England from 1943 to 1944.


  • 1920-1943


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical Note

Chesley “Chet” Roland Hall was born on April 24, 1907 in Georgetown, South Carolina. He eventually moved to Baltimore and worked for the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company. He married Margaret Genevieve Schmidt and they had five children.

Hall enlisted in the United States Navy on November 16, 1942 as an electrician’s first mate, influenced by the events of Pearl Harbor. His wife was pregnant with their fifth child at the time. In 1943, he was sent to the North African theater of war, where he spent most of his time at bases in Algeria. He received several promotions for his leadership. After a few months in Africa, he was sent to London, England to prepare for the Normandy invasion. He was not called to fight in France, but he stayed in London. There, he worked in rescue and recovery during Germany’s air raids of Southern England after D-Day.

He returned to the United States in September, 1944. He died just a year and a half after his discharge from the Navy. On October 4, 1947, Hall succumbed to pancreatic cancer, which doctors initially believed was tuberculosis contracted during his time in the service.


0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John Basmajian, April 15, 2005.

Scope and Contents

The collection contains documents related to Chesley “Chet” Roland Hall’s service with the Navy during World War II. This includes a diary kept by Hall during his time in Africa and London, England from 1943 to 1944. Hall recorded the events of almost every day of his active duty. He includes details about his day-to-day activities, battles he fought in, and the men he met along the way, as well as his emotional state and opinions.

Many of the entries talk about his work as an electrician for the Navy. He was in charge of setting up camps and hospitals, so he was constantly moving from base to base in Africa. He received several promotions for his efficient work and his leadership skills. He also frequently discusses the impact of battle on his mental health, which caused him to drink heavily, have nightmares, and talk in his sleep. He often discusses whether his experiences in battle would be damaging in the long-term and how much he had changed since he left home. Hall also expresses his displeasure that his wife took a job while he was away.

Another major topic of the diary is the preparations for what would be the Normandy Invasions. He describes training new soldiers and the work done to ready them and the ships for battle. In the end, he is not sent out with the invasion forces, but stays in London to continue work there.

The last entries in his diary were written during Germany’s final aerial assault on London after D-Day. In these passages, Hall recounts the horrible aftermath of the bombings, as he was often called out to assist in rescue and recovery efforts. The diary ends with his return to the United States in September, 1944.

Photocopies of a photograph of Hall and a commendation for his service are also included in the collection.

Guide to the Chelsey R. Hall manuscript collection
Under Revision
Lara Westwood
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-03-30: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States