Wake Forest Biology Professor’s WWII Papers Available at State Archives

Photograph of Charles M. Allen Jr. of Mount Gilead, N.C., kneeling down looking over his Graflex Speed Graphic, Ground Camera Type C-3, mounted on a tripod, with the camera case and flash pictured on the ground in the background. Allen was serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces at Lowry Field in Denver, Colorado, in 1942 during World War II.

The State Archives of North Carolina is excited to announce the availability for public research of the World War II-era papers of U.S. Army Air Forces aerial reconnaissance photographer Charles M. Allen Jr. of Mount Gilead, N.C.. Allen served in Headquarters, 10th Photographic Group (Reconnaissance), and later Headquarters, 363rd Reconnaissance Group, during World War II, and  also served in the European Theater from February 1944 through the summer of 1945. 

Allen’s wartime papers contain letters, photographs, aerial photographs, military service records, and other materials documenting his life before military service in 1942 through 1945. The collection contains over 120 letters written by Allen to his fiancée and later wife Clara David Allen from April 1942 to May 1945. The letters cover Allen’s time working as a biology instructor at Wake Forest College in 1942, and later in the U.S. Army Air Forces. The Wake Forest College letters are an interesting look into the early professional career of a Wake Forest professor. His letters from military service document the training and experiences of a wartime aerial reconnaissance photographer, including the equipment he used during the period. 
The largest set of materials in the collection includes over 360 photographs, aerial photographs, and contact prints, taken by or collected by Allen. while he was serving during the war. Most of these photographs were taken by Allen while he was practicing his photography as part of his training. His was one of the units responsible for taking pre-invasion surveillance photographs of the German forces and defenses along the French coastline as the Allies prepared for the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Of great significance are a series of aerial photographs of Paris, France, believed taken by Allen around 1944 after the liberation of Paris by the Allies. 

After graduating with a master’s degree from Wake Forest College in 1939, Allen began working as a biology instructor at the college. After WWII, he completed his PhD at Duke University, and would go on to become a successful biology professor at Wake Forest, moving with the school when it relocated to Winston-Salem in 1956. Under the supervision of Dr. Allen, Winston Hall was completed in 1961 at Wake Forest, which was the new larger home of the Department of Biology. He was also the driving force behind the construction of the Scales Fine Arts Center at the school.

This collection was donated to the State Archives by the estate of Charles’ late wife Clara Allen and is now stored in the Military Collection at the State Archives.  

The Charles M. Allen Jr. Papers (WWII 141) are available for public use in the Search Room of the State Archives in Raleigh. Allen’s photographs are available for viewing free online through the State Archives’ Flickr page

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