A unique collection featuring the experiences and memories of a Gilman student who went on to serve in World War II is now digitized and available for public viewing on Digital Maryland. Throughout the spring and summer of 2023, Gilman students Maddox Braue '23 and Andrew Hannan '24 worked with Gilman School Archivist Johanna Schein to process, describe, and digitize this collection, which now will serve as a valuable public learning resource.
Pictured Left: First Lieutenant Howard Baetjer II '38 (second row, center) with the 309th Squadron of the United States Army Air Forces. The full photo can be seen in the gallery below.
In 2014, Betsy Baetjer found a box of her father's, First Lieutenant Howard Baetjer II '38, WWII artifacts in the basement of his house. Lt. Baetjer II had labeled the box "Greater Deutschland" and had placed inside it materials he had created and collected during his service as a fighter pilot in the 309th Fighter Squadron of the 31st Fighter Group in the United States Army Air Force and as a prisoner of war (POW). Between 2014 and 2023, Baetjer began processing her father's wartime materials, including his daily journals that he kept throughout the war. Her tireless work culminated in the release of the biography "Point Me to the Skies: A World War II American Fighter Pilot's Story," documenting her father's wartime experience.
In spring 2023, Baetjer reached out to Gilman School asking to donate her father's wartime materials to the Gilman Archives, stating her father's love and passion for the School. Although the Gilman Archives typically only accepts donations of materials directly related to the School, Schein accepted the collection as a gift to the Archives after consulting with Kevin Hudson, Chair of the Upper School History Department. Hudson acknowledged the unique nature of the collection and its educational potential for Gilman students. This collection consists of diaries, journals, photographs, letters, scrapbooks, military forms, and secondary sources relating to Lt. Baetjer II's service in the Army Air Corps.
For his Senior Encounter project, Braue sat with Baetjer to better understand Lt. Baetjer II's stories and the work that she had done to preserve her family history. Along with Schein, he organized the records into logical series and rehoused the materials by placing them in acid-free folders and boxes. Finally, Braue wrote an inventory of the collection as well as a full finding aid.
Interning in the Gilman Archives in July 2023, Hannan continued Braue's work by describing each record for inclusion on Digital Maryland, "a collaborative, statewide digital preservation program of the Enoch Pratt Free Library / Maryland State Library Resource Center." Two other Gilman Collections, an overall collection of photographs and the Walter Lord Collection, are also available on the website. Hannan also created a short video describing the collection and Lt. Baetjer II's story as a WWII airman.
Ultimately, the Baetjer World War II Collection provides Gilman students and the broader community with an invaluable resource to explore the experiences of a soldier and POW in WWII. Additionally, the collection offers powerful insight into the struggles of warfare while presenting incredibly vivid descriptions of daily life during this tumultuous time.