“Welcome to the Red Cross, Mr. Klingel”

During World War II, Jim Klingel from West St. Paul, Minnesota, wanted to wear a uniform and serve his country. A perforated eardrum made him ineligible for the armed forces. His wife Henny was a Red Cross volunteer who learned about paid jobs working with soldiers and their families. Accepting a Red Cross job like this would mean leaving behind his family for a while and living “for the duration” nearly anywhere in the United States and perhaps overseas. After applications, physical exams, and interviews,  the Red Cross offered Jim an Assistant Field Director position, which he accepted. Below we share excerpts from Jim’s correspondence to his wife Henny and their friends. The letters help tell the story of how Jim became a Red Cross Man in uniform when he was needed most.

West St. Paul, Minnesota, July 5, 1943

A week ago today, Henny and I boarded a train for St. Louis, and last Friday morning we returned. It was a rather sudden trip, and resulted from negotiations commenced last January. The result was that, after a couple of interviews, etc., a chap shook hands with me and said “Welcome to the Red Cross, Mr. Klingel”. I’m to report to Washington D.C. August 9th to start my training and schooling, then to some Camp under supervision of several superiors for further training. After three months, I should be a “graduate” Assistant Field Director, and will then be assigned to some Army Camp.

The work itself, with the Red Cross, sounds very interesting. The Field Director’s job, as I presume many of you know, is to alleviate any troubled circumstances between someone in the service and his home as I understand it. When finally assigned, I will be stationed on an Army Post, and wear a regulation uniform. One thing that I understand will be appreciated is that I don’t have to find my own living quarters in Washington while attending school there. I understand that the Red Cross has sufficient living quarters for their classes there and that as one class completes its course and moves out, the next one moves in. I believe I’ll be in Washington only 15 days or so, but that should be long enough to take in some of the sights. After the three months are up, if possible, Henny and I hope to make some kind of arrangements so that we can live together near whatever Camp I’m at. There’s no way of being sure now, but my hunch is that I will be stationed in Texas someplace. That will be sometime in November.

All of this means that we are about to join the many others who are jumping around from place to place, with ever-changing addresses, living from suit-case, duffle-bag or what-have-you. It also means that, except for perhaps one more issue, the publication of the Kronical will become more irregular and infrequent than ever until the early part of November at least.


Washington D.C., August 12, 1943
Dearest Honey pie —

I’m down in the lounge after supper as janitor, caretaker, officer of the day or what have you. Primary duty is to take care of Spec. Delivery letters, telegrams, or telephone calls. (I’m hearing a radio program too that is talking about white gabardine pants.)

Seems to me I started to tell you about “My Day” a while back. I started to tell you about our classes, then thought instead I’d briefly outline all classes we have had so far. I think you’re familiar with nearly all of the stuff we have had thus far, but maybe not as thoroughly. First class was history from Henry Dunant’s the Battle of Solferino to 1929 and the Geneva Conference on Prisoners of War. One of our speakers was Vice Chairman of Domestic Service. The 7 primary Domestic Services are:
Disaster Relief & Civ. War Aid
Serv. to Armed Forces
First Aid
Blood Donors
Volunteer Spec. Serv. Corps.
(I’m trying to write this without resort to my notes, but I’ve had to peek a couple of times).

We had a long lecture on #2 – S.A.F. That’s the group I’m under – S.A.F. (Serv. Armed Forces). That’s quite a big service these days. We have also had some small talks on Field Director work. The fellow that gave the talk said there had been considerable confusion by many of the enlisted men insofar as Red Cross Men in uniform. He said that one fellow sat beside him on a train and finally asked him what the A.R.C. pin on his collar stood for. When he was told it meant Am. Red Cross he said “Oh, you’re one of those fellows that follows troops and gives them blood?” –

All next week we spend on Job Instruction (and I’m not fooling, it sounds tough) and Military Post Information and how we should dress, act, etc. One of the fellows was enumerating some of the problems that come up, like a guy that walks in and says “I think my wife is running around with another guy, and what can I do?” or “I’m not married but I just learned that my girl is going to have a baby so can it be arranged that we get married?” I guess there’s practically every kind of situation you can imagine.

They related one story of one soldier in the hospital – a very simple case, — who wasn’t getting better at all and wasn’t eating. The medical officer finally asked that a Red Cross worker take the case – they gave it to a Hosp. worker who finally found out that he had a letter 3 weeks before from his wife who said that the baby was sick & he had not heard from her since. He was sure the baby had died and that his wife didn’t want to write him about it while he was in the Hosp. The R.C. worker checked thru the Home Chapter & found the baby well and that the wife’s mail hadn’t been forwarded to the hospital. The fellow was out of the Hosp. in less than 1 week. There are stories like that one after the other that bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes.

Gosh, I’ve been writing so long I’m getting writer’s cramp.

Washington , D.C., August 19, 1943, Wed. Nite — 1:30 A.M.
Dearest Sweetheart —

You can see by the time & hour that this is being written, that it is going to be short & – I hope – sweet. We came home from down-town about 11:30 and I have since packed my box to send home. That took me a long time & I found I forgot one sock. I tucked that in along the side – you will see it if it stays in.

Today I received the letter you mailed yesterday noon – which is why I like air mail. I also received your Sunday Nite letter, so I’m not expecting one tomorrow, but I’m happy anyway. …next week we will be 400 miles apart!! — My whole winter uniform is in the box I’m sending home. Save my ration book (I mean use it but don’t turn it in) as I’m still a civilian. A.R.C. staff men in Military & Naval Welfare wear Army Officers Uniforms for the respect they will then command from the men. I have found out that the major part of our job will be practically social case-work, primarily in psychology. Some job, and I’m not fooling!

All my love — & you’re Wonderfuller
Nite Rascalian –

I’m at the breakfast table with a few minutes before classes this morning (Thurs.). Yesterday I bought some sox, & two new shirts while I was down town – and also bought a pair of shower slippers – you know, those big soles with a strap over the top.

 — Bustle Bustle Bustle —

Now I’m in class awaiting “last bell” – Think I’ve about covered everything. The weather is wonderful. All the southern boys are shivering – & I guess you would be cold at night too. It’s swell with me. We should get our reservations this afternoon which will get us to Camp Grant by Sunday night. We report for duty (?) at 8:00 A.M. Monday morning.

Tonight, or rather this afternoon at 4:00 we have uniform inspection to be sure we are all dressing correctly, then I have to dash down-down for my pants & reservations. The gang is talking about a boat-ride on the Potomac for tonight. It sure seems funny to think that day after tomorrow we are all going to be split up. Four of us are going to Camp Grant which will keep us together for two weeks more. Chick is one of them. We are looking forward to a good time on the train. There’s the bell darling – Bye for now –

Much Love — Jim

American Red Cross, Camp & Hospital Service Council, Camp Grant, Illinois, August 26, 1943 quote – There’s no time like the present – unquote.
Dear Bee & Jad –

“There’s no time like the present” means in this case that it is 9:30 A.M. and I’m one of five “trainees” here at Am. Red Cross Hdqts. for practical training. One of the fellows permanently stationed here (there are 6) is in charge of our instruction, and as he is very busy at the moment, I have a little free time. The girl just handed me your card, forwarded from Am. Univ. – Wash. D.C….

Here’s the “teacher” again —

Back again in 10 minutes – that was short.

My health is fine, and I’m holding out o.k. They sure gave us a heavy short course our 2 weeks in Washington. We are to spend 2 weeks here for what is called “continuation training”. Here we are actually in the Field Director’s office, on the Post, observing what actually goes on and “getting the hang” of the business. It is certainly fascinating work. The biggest job, or at least the most common case, is work on emergency furloughs. There are several of them every day. Last night we rushed a fellow to the train. His house is in N.Y. State and about 4:30 we had a wire from the Chapter in his home town that his mother was critically ill and was dying. This information is immediately turned over to the Military who decide whether a furlough should be granted. If a furlough is o.ked, and the soldier hasn’t enough money to get home & back we loan it to him, then help him to get home the quickest possible way. Some of the cases are pathetic. One chap left yesterday in a hurry. His wife had a baby @ 1:00 A.M. that died after three hours. He had to rush home to take care of the funeral etc. as his wife was alone and all broken up. Another’s father had been killed in an auto accident. Another was trying to get home somehow to marry the girl before the 9 months were gone. Some walk in and want to know what to do – They were married here last week and have a wife & family back home. One really runs the gamut of human relations here all right.

Where we go from here is still a mystery. It won’t be Florida though since we are in the mid-western area, and Fla. is in Eastern. It will probably be Texas, Okla., or some such southern state since there aren’t many Camps up north comparatively.

Here we go again with class. Please give my regards to Shirley & I hope she has a good time.


Camp Grant, Illinois, September 2, 1943
Darling honey-bun:

By now, how is the sore-throat? Mine is all gone, and has been for a couple of days. Gosh, this ribbon is sure dark isn’t it. It is so darn dark I can hardly see it. I’m punching this machine about as hard as I can too. As yet we have had no word as to when we go where we go. I hope it comes by tomorrow, although we thought sure we would hear today. So it goes in this game I guess – it is as Paul says “You shouldn’t allow yourself to be surprised by anything in the Red Cross—they are apt to wire you Monday and say ‘You left Saturday for so-and-so Texas’”

Everything goes well – tonight Chick, & I, being on O.D., and being too late getting done with things this afternoon, didn’t go into town for supper, but stayed out here at Camp and ate at the Officers Mess – the first time we tried it for an evening meal. We had soup (that always precedes lunch and supper to everyone even before you order) then roast prime ribs of beef with lyonnaise (fried to me) potatoes, salad, fresh asparagus, cake and iced tea. There was no choice of menu for supper, but there is at noon and at breakfast I guess.

Oh gosh, tomorrow is Friday, and we get three shots. One typhus, one typhoid, and one small pox. I’ll be glad when they are all over, but I guess it will take about three months or so, since there are three of each except small-pox, and they are spaced three weeks apart. We have only had one typhus so far. It will be just my luck to have the darned shots take good effect tomorrow, and then have to lug that heavy suitcase all around Saturday en route to I don’t know where yet.

Don’t you think my winter uniforms look swell? By the way, here is another little “house-wifey” job you can do if you want to. I need, or will need, some arm shields in the coat so I won’t ruin it the first month. If you can get some and put them in it would be fine. I sure think the little “JKs” are swell – and it was an easy matter to send my uniform to be washed yesterday with all the other guys, because I knew I would know mine right away.

Well Chick-a-dee, it is getting later, and I’m fast running out of chatter. Now that you have been down here there’s not so much to write about so far as my surroundings are concerned. I think about how you left here in such a hurry Tuesday afternoon, and sometimes I’m glad it was a hurry and sometimes I’m sorry. In a way it was fine to have you leave in a “whish” of laughs and excitement – but in another it was too darned fast – I hardly got a chance to say good-bye, much less tell you to give my love to everyone home, to say hello to John and Marian, etc. etc. etc. Nite for now darling –

All my love,

Tomah, Wisconsin, September, 7 1943
Dearest Chickadee –

Well, I’m in Tomah finally. At the moment it is about 15 minutes to eight and I’m sitting in the Red Cross office. I don’t know whether I’m supposed to be here or not, cause I just walked in and no one is here after 5:00 o’clock in the evening. The Red Cross office is located in the Station Hospital at the moment. It is in the process of being moved to new quarters (probably by Thursday) in a chapel on the Post. The Camp is quite small, and I am the only Assistant – there is Sauerman, the head-man, one stenographer, and Chickadum.

The job itself sounds awfully big now, darling. Mr. Sauerman has been handling it all alone, and the Post here has grown considerably, as well as the other three stations he handles, so it is more than one guy can do. That’s why it has been so hard for him to be here – etc. etc. I think what will happen, is that he will turn over the work here to me and he will travel to the other camps regularly. That means that probably before the month is out I will be handling this camp practically alone. Gosh, I sure feel like a Rookie – and know that I have an awful lot to learning to do for the next two weeks. For that reason, I’m not going to mind living here on the Post for a while at least.

By the way, my Field Jacket keeps me plenty warm, so there need be no worry on that score. I’m trying to rattle off so fast that I’m sure getting plenty of mistakes. I want to write to Tom & Nat, Milly, and Chick yet tonight though, if I can, and I know I can’t stay here hammering too long, cause it will keep the patients awake.

So, bye now, honey-darling. You’re awfully sweet – did you know that? Thank you, and give my thanks again to everyone else for the fine birthday. Let me know how Janie-Ann likes Humboldt. Good-luck to Mom and the Flower-show.


After completing his assistant field director probation, Jim Klingel was transferred to Romulus, Michigan, where his wife Henny joined him. He later was promoted to A.R.C. Field Director and assigned to posts in Kansas and Oklahoma. Jim served with the Red Cross until late 1945 when he resigned and returned to Minnesota where he could be close to his family and mother, who was ill. Recently, Jim’s children gave his Army Regulation uniform and the letters he wrote during his service to the Red Cross. Today, Service to the Armed Forces continues to be essential Red Cross work around the world.

Edited story and composed photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region

Red Cross Hope

The Red Cross in the Twin Cities is among the first in the country to open Stores of Hope this holiday season. In the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area, we have two locations opening Friday, November 26: Eden Prairie Center and Ridgedale Center.

Caring Enough To Send A Card

The American Red Cross expects to receive and distribute more than one million holiday cards to military veterans and those serving in the armed forces.

Cari McCollor is one of our heroes!

Here in the Twin Cities we’re helping to make this happen with the assistance of Cari McCollor. A veteran who served in the U.S. Army and the National Guard, McCollor understands the importance of sending holiday wishes.

“It’s hard to remember family and friends when you’re sitting somewhere in a field far away from home,” says McCollor. “Getting a card lets the service member know that someone cares enough to write and send a card.”

McCollor expects to distribute holiday mail to approximately 20 sites, ranging from veterans homes and adult day centers to army reserve and national guard units, throughout the greater Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area.

Cards must be postmarked by December 10. Click here to learn more.

Flashlight, Food, and Water

Our first winter storm of the season is approaching. The grocery stores are bustling (good for our economy, yes?) and people are pulling out their sweaters and comforters, getting ready for a long weekend at home.

To help, the Red Cross has a winter storm safety check list.  

Upon review we noticed that the check list does not specifically mention some of our favorite winter preparedness items, such as footie pajamas, apple cider, dark and/or milk chocolate, and lightsaber.

Our emergency services director Jill, who grew up in the country, remembers having to stay inside for days during snow storms. She suggests having movies and popcorn on hand, but if you do not have power then a camping lantern and deck of “Old Maid” playing cards should help pass the time.

Otherwise, you can do like Jill’s dad did: move all furniture and stuff to the center of the basement and ride a bicycle around in circles.

Any Heroes Out There? Red Cross Wants To Know

We know that every day people perform extraordinary acts of courage. We want to know who they are, especially if they live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

Why? Because it’s time to nominate people for our annual Red Cross Heroes Awards.

No Red Cross affiliation is needed. The only requirement is that the nominee behaved in way that demonstrates our mission of providing relief to victims of disaster or helping others to prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.

Pretty easy, right? Nominate someone now.

Red Cross Shelter Even Better The Second Night

By Lynette Nyman, Red Cross Staff, Twin Cities Area Chapter, October 22, 2010

Sharon Madigan, 62, and her grandson

Everyone would rather be comfortable, cozy and warm in their own beds at night, but when there’s a fire people have to get out and sometimes stay out for days.

When a fire disaster hit the Whittier Co-op apartment building in Minneapolis on October 20, fire responders went across the street to see if a church could provide a safe place for displaced residents.

Walking out the Calvary Church door on Blaisdell Avenue was Matt Gresham, 45, who had just finished choir practice.

Normally he maintains the church building built more than 100 years ago.

“If this wasn’t here, I don’t know where these folks would go,” says Gresham.

Church doors are now shelter doors

Gresham and other church members invited people inside, giving them blankets and hot beverages. The church opened its doors to the Red Cross as well.

Around 20 people have stayed at the shelter since the blaze. Among them is Sharon Madigan, 62.

“I thought this fire was another false alarm,” says Madigan. “My brother, who lives one floor down from me, called and told me to get out. Outside, I looked up and saw the roof on fire.”

The church people, Madigan, says came to them and told everyone to come inside for hot coffee and to wait for the Red Cross, which was on its way.

Madigan, who has lived in the Whittier Co-op building for more than 30 years, says that she was able to return home and gather a few personal belongings. She says that her second night sleeping on a cot will be better than the first.

“I’ll be used to it,” says Madigan. “I have a roof over my head and I feel secure. I’m thankful for everything. It feels as if the Red Cross is doing everything for us.”

Matt Gresham, 45, was homeless before he found his church

The Red Cross does a lot, but not everything. It depends on local communities to help during disasters, such as this building fire affecting more than 90 people.

Gresham, the man who opened the church doors after all, says that they’ll stay open as long as the displaced families need a place to be warm and safe.

Early Morning at a Red Cross Shelter

By Mark Smith, Disaster Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter, October 21, 2010

Mozell, 8, and Zyiomna, 2

The Blaisdell Avenue fire in Minneapolis displaced more than 90 people, forcing several dozen to stay overnight in a Red Cross shelter.

Two of them were Mozell, 8, and his sister Zyiomna, 2.

Mozell started his day out by keeping an eye on his little sister, letting mom get a little extra sleep after a long night.


Being the watchful brother, he helped his sister get a plate of food for breakfast and sat with her as she ate her breakfast.

After I took his picture, Mozell asked to use the camera and, with my help, he was able to take pictures of his sister.

Of course little sister, seeing what big brother was doing, wanted to review the picture and was excited to see herself and her brother on the camera.


Zyiomna  insisted in taking his picture as he had taken hers.

With a little help, she was able to snap the shot of her brother and push the buttons to take a look at her efforts.

The Red Cross shelter was a safe and warm place for families to stay.

The Red Cross will continue providing immediate recovery assistance, such as shelter, food, clothing, and emotional support, to the families affected by this disaster.

Red Cross Disaster Dispatcher: Sopheak Srun

Red Cross Dispatchers Help Get Disaster Response Off the Ground

by Jason Viana, Red Cross Staff, Twin Cities Area Chapter

Sopheak Srun is a volunteer disaster response dispatcher for the American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter. Photo provided by Sopheak Srun.

You won’t see them in pictures, they don’t grab headlines, and most of those they help don’t even know they exist.  Yet without Disaster Action Team (DAT) dispatchers, the Red Cross disaster response would have a hard time getting off the ground.  While they may never set foot on the scene, the decisions they make and the moves they orchestrate are key to almost every Red Cross disaster response.

Twenty six-year-old Sopheak Srun recently joined the group of unsung DAT heroes as he chose to become a DAT dispatcher in the fall.  Srun spends the majority of his days working as a microbiologist and engineer at his family’s medical device assembly and packaging company in Bloomington and says he really enjoys his work as a Red Cross volunteer.  The Red Cross first crossed Srun’s radar while completing his graduate work in St. Louis and once he returned to the Twin Cities he completed training and became a DAT volunteer.

Having responded to numerous local disasters over the last two years as a DAT member, Srun already had a good understanding of the importance of dispatchers in disaster response.  However, after having become a dispatcher himself, he quickly gained a deeper appreciation of the role he now plays in coordinating Red Cross efforts.

As Srun coordinated the disaster response efforts in response to a recent house fire in St. Paul, Srun not only consoled a family who had just lost a child, but also connected them with all of the help and resources that the Red Cross had to offer.  The full-time microbiologist quickly and compassionately prepared each of the DAT members for what they were about to face and ensured that all of the proper team members were selected to respond.

“It was really sad, “Srun recalled.  “They had just lost their child and they were pretty incoherent.  I just tried to stay calm and get them all the help I could.”

Srun has learned since taking on the role of dispatcher that the key to the position is about more than calling other volunteers and passing along information, it’s really about judgment and leadership.  “We are the voice of the Red Cross to these people…we are pivotal in the response because we coordinate nearly everything,” said Srun as he looked back on his first six months as a dispatcher.  “After hours it’s just us.”

The thought of serving as a DAT dispatcher had crossed Srun’s mind on several occasions, but an email appeal from local disaster coordinator Ruth Talford convinced him to take the next step.  “It seemed like a logical extension to the work I was already doing, “Srun said.  “With my experience as a DAT first-responder I felt like I was ready for a leadership role.”

Srun has embraced his new role and found that he really enjoys coordinating the disaster response efforts of the DAT volunteers.  While the role of dispatcher has proven demanding, Srun said it also comes with its perks.  “It’s nice, I don’t really have to get up and leave in the middle of the night to actually help someone…I can do it from home.”  The smile was obvious in Srun’s voice as he described the convenience of being able to do a great deal of dispatching right from the palm of his hand…with his IPhone.

Srun says that all you really need is an internet connection, a telephone, access to the DAT list and the willingness to help people during exceptionally difficult times.  “The situations are all pretty heavy.  These people have usually lost their homes and most of their possessions.”   Srun stated matter of factly.  “But that’s the nature of our work.  I am just glad we are there to help.”

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