The Catholic University of America

Léon L. Dubois

An inventory of the Léon L. Dubois World War I Collection at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives


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Mailing Address: The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. 20064

Telephone: 202-319-5065

Email: archives@mail.lib.cua.edu

URL: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/

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Descriptive Summary

Repository: The American Catholic Research Center and University Archives
Creator: Léon L. Dubois
Title: Léon L. Dubois World War I Collection
Dates: 1909, 1916-1918
Extent: 5.5 linear feet; 1 box, 1 oversized box, 1 map drawer
Abstract: Assembled by the Rev. Léon L. Dubois, S.M., who appears to have been a French army chaplain during World War I, the memorabilia mainly consists of French army maps, 1916-1918, many depicting the Western Front during the Spring and Summer of 1918. Also present: photographs of allied tanks and observation balloons; aerial reconnaissance shots; French army intelligence reports; a spotter guide to allied and enemy aircraft; documents relating to war bonds; postcards, a German New Testament; a humorous notice of the "death" of Wilhelm II; and unused message papers for carrier pigeons. Items are in French, English, and German.
Collection Number: 233
Language: French, English, and German

Biographical Note

Father Léon L. Dubois was a French Catholic priest who traveled with French tank soldiers during World War I, apparently as a chaplain. He appears to have been in correspondence with then Catholic University of America museum curator Rev. Dr. Romain François Butin, but very little information could be found on Dubois himself. Still, Dubois's collection offers insight into the lives of Catholics in wartime France, particularly Catholic priests who served the French military both officially and unofficially.

Priests in World War I era France worked in a precarious situation. The French government was aggressively secular and particularly at odds with the Catholic Church. In addition, nationalistic allegiances put the French ideal at odds with the Church, which took its direction from across national borders in Rome. Because secularism and nationalism had such a strong hold, the French government regarded all faiths and their rites as second to national law, especially those that answered to a foreign authority. When it came to compulsory military service, a young man was a Frenchman first and a priest or rabbi second.

As a result, France was one of the few nations involved in the Great War that offered little to no official status or supervision for military chaplains in its armed forces. They were, however, welcomed by individual military units, but their capacity within the unit as well as within their own religious organization varied. Because France required military service of even its clergy, some were just soldiers in the ranks who also happened to be ordained as priests, ministers, or rabbis.

Among the Catholic priests involved with the French military at this time, there seem to have been multiple types: the "priest-soldier," who was a member of the unit due to his own military obligation; appointed chaplains, who were comparatively few in number; and volunteer chaplains, who simply picked up and went to war without direction or supervision from either the Church or the military.

Dubois's own status is not clear from what we know. However, in the letter accompanying a dagger that Father Dubois sent to Butin, Dubois mentions that the only action the knife ever saw was opening sardine cans. Therefore, one could assume that Dubois did not go in as a priest-soldier since it is doubtful he could have opted out of direct combat.

At the start of French involvement, there were very few French chaplains, and those were confined to central offices or medical stations. Their ability to minister to wounded and dying soldiers was very limited. This seems to have been done more by the soldiers who also happened to be priests, although they had no official sanction to do so. As time progressed, more and more volunteer chaplains joined military units, again, with no real sanction or management. The units were just happy to welcome them in.

The Catholic Church tried to better organize these efforts, and ultimately the Church in Rome named two priests as chiefs of the military chaplains. These priests had some symbolic function, but in the long run, their authority was largely ignored by the French government because, as some have speculated, of fears of the church and Italy meddling in the political and military affairs of France. The chiefs were, thus, largely ineffective, and French chaplains went on without any real regulation. Nationalism amongst European priests also continued to be an added complication given the nature of the "Great War" and its allegiances.

This collection is the result of a correspondence between Dubois and fellow Frenchman Butin. Dubois's familiarity with Butin and the Butin family in the letters accompanying items donated to Butin's collection indicate that the two knew each other fairly well. Until we learn more about Dubois's own background, however, it is impossible to know how they met or even what became of Dubois after the war. We know only that Dubois mentions living in Lyon when mailing the items in 1920.

What we do have, though, tells us slightly more about the life of the French priest during that era. A 1962 reflection on the 25th anniversary of Butin's death tells us that Butin hoped to be a missionary in Oceania and that he came to the United States circa 1889 so that Third Republic-mandated military service would not interrupt completion of his priestly studies. It seems that this was still a worry for Butin decades later. Dubois warns Butin in a January 1920 letter accompanying the museum items that Butin should attend to his military business before visiting Dubois in France lest he risk getting arrested. Thus some priests avoided the wartime conflict between the church and the state altogether by being out of the country when it occurred.

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Scope and Contents

The Léon L. Dubois collection is a gathering of materials that Father Dubois sent to Rev. Dr. Butin at the Catholic University of America. Some items were destined for museum exhibits while others appear to have been sent to Butin personally as correspondence. Materials in the collection appear to have been used in museum displays over the years, and any original order has long since been lost. Letters accompanying items in the CUA museum collection give some insight into the order in which and the purpose for which they were sent here. Materials have thus been organized by date and then alphabetically where possible. Due to storage limitations, however, maps have been organized by size.

The collection has been arranged into four series. The first series, "Correspondence and Other Papers," consists of various papers dated 1916-1918 including post cards and French army intelligence reports. It is contained in the first folder of box one.

The second series, "Memorabilia, Ephemera, and Realia," contains items dated 1909 and between 1916-1918. Most materials are contained in the second folder of the first box, but a small German New Testament is loose in the front of the same box. This series is comprised of mementos that Dubois collected during the war and possibly afterward. These were mailed to Butin for use in displays in the museum of the Catholic University of America.

The third series, "Maps," is made up of a selection of military maps, dated between 1916 and 1918, and is contained in one map drawer. These maps document military action and destruction in multiple departments of the Lorraine and Picardy regions of France.

The fourth and last series, "Photographs," consists of photos taken between 1916 and 1918. Most photos are contained in the third folder of box one, but several that were curled and damaged too badly to fit in preservation materials without causing further damage are stored loose in box two. The series is comprised of a sampling of Dubois's wartime photography as well as a selection of reconnaissance photos documenting trenches and terrain and which sometimes correspond with the maps in series two.

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Arrangement

The Léon L. Dubois World War I Collection consists of four series:





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Restrictions

None.

 

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Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

Much of the collection accompanied items that Father Léon L. Dubois mailed to the Rev. Dr. Romain François Butin, SM, at the Catholic University of America ca. 1920 for Butin to use in the University's museum. Butin was curator of the museum from 1917 to his death in 1937. Other items, including a few postcards, seem to have been mailed directly to Butin during wartime.

Processing Information

Processing completed in 2010 by Gena Chattin. EAD markup completed in 2010 by Gena Chattin.

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Related Material

Records of the National Catholic War Council

Robert Lincoln O'Connell Papers

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Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.


Persons:
Butin, Romain F. (Romain François), 1871-1937
Dubois, Léon L.

Organizations:
14th Army Corps (France) / XIVe Corps d'Armée
6th Army Corps (France) / 6e Corps d'Armée
Eighth Army (Francxe) / VIIIe Armée
Seventh Army (France) / VIIe Armée

Places:
Aisne (France)
Aube (France)
Champagne-Ardenne (France)
Lorraine (France)
Meurthe-et-Moselle (France)
Moselle (France)
Oise (France)
Picardy (France)
Somme (France)

Subjects:
Military chaplains--France
World War I


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Bibliography

Boniface, Xavier. 1997. "AU SERVICE DE LA NATION ET DE L'ARMEE: LES AUMONIERS MILITAIRES FRANÇAIS DE 1914 A 1962." Guerres Mondiales et Conflits Contemporains 47, no. 187: 103-113.

 

Boniface, Xavier. 1998. "L'AUMONERIE MILITAIRE CATHOLIQUE: LES INSPECTEURS ECCLESIASTIQUES (1917-1918)." Revue Historique des Armées no. 3: 19-26.

 

Fontana, Jacques. 1997. "LE PRETRE DANS LES TRANCHEES: 1914-1918." Guerres Mondiales et Conflits Contemporains 47, no. 187: 25-39.

 

Grispino, Joseph A. 1962. "Rev Romain François Butin, SM, d l937." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 24, no. 4: 383-393.

 

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Detailed Description of the Collection

                       
Series 1: Correspondence and Other Papers, 1916-1918 (1 folder)
Includes minimal correspondence from Dubois to Rev. Dr. Butin (mostly postcards) and Bulletins de Renseignement (military intelligence bulletins) that detail a day's actions and reconnaissance.
Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence and Other Papers, 1916-1918
   
    01. Postcard featuring a "poilu" (horse-tail helmeted soldier) written in French to Rev. Dr. Butin, postmarked Jan. 17, 1916
   
    02. Postcard featuring the apse of the Cathedral of Orléans written in English to Rev. Dr. Butin, postmarked May 15, 1916
   
    03. Envelopes, badly marked up from wartime mailing process, postmarked February, March, and June 1917
        One addressed to Dubois with partial letter written on the outside. Note was clipped to these saying "Envelopes showing the care with which the French soldiers' mail was handled during the World War.
   
    04. Bulletin de Renseignements, 31e Corps d'Armée, No. 11234/2, May 18-19, 1918 (20:00) 2 pages
   
    05. Bulletin de Renseignements, 1re Armée, No. 52, May 19-20, 1918 8 pages
   
    06. German-language form postcard filled out in English to Rev. Dr. Butin Sept. 4, 1918
   
    07. Bulletin de Renseignements, 31e Corps d'Armée, No. 11.263/2 May 20-21, 1918
        Originally paperclipped to maps numbered 1 and 2. Currently filed with photocopies of both.
                       
Series 2: Memorabilia, Ephemera, and Realia, ca. 1909, 1916-1918 (1 folder, Bible loose in box)
Mementos collected by Dubois in France during the war and possibly shortly afterward and sent to Rev. Dr. Butin for use in an exhibit in the museum at the Catholic University of America. Several accompanied items currently in the museum colection and are mentioned in the letters accompanying those items.
Box Folder
1 2 Memorabilia, Ephemera, and Realia, ca. 1909, 1916-1918
   
    01. Carnet de Pécule, April 1, 1917 - March 31, 1918
        Savings pamphlet with stamps labeled "Pécule Guerre" marking the deposits (not the same stamps seen elsewhere in the collection).
   
    02. Carte d'Économies (French savings card), 1918
        When covered with 5 francs worth of stamps, the card could be exchanged for a Bon de la Défense Nationale (National Defense Coupon) worth 5 francs with 5 p. % interest.
   
    03. "Silhouettes d'Avion" aircraft identification booklet, May 1918
   
    04. American Red Cross supply shipping notice, Feb. 26, 1918
        Attatched to note "1927, Gift of Rev. Mere M. Ephrem (Butin) Shipping list of supplies sent to the hospital at Bastia, Corsica, France, by the American Red Cross.
   
    05. Satirical obituary and last will and testament of Wilhelm II, Dec. 9, 1918
        Inscription: On sale in Strasbourg on the "grand jour de l'entrée - le 9 décembre 1918"
   
    06. German money order envelope, postmarked July 26, 1920
   
    07. "Coupons," stamps/tokens, 3 cut out, dated by month in French, n.d.
        Possibly accompanying the Carte d'Économies above"
   
    08. French propaganda tract encouraging women to use, reuse, and save even the stubs of candles, n.d.
   
    09. French propaganda tract encouraging men to mend and reuse clothing, n.d.
   
    10. German coordinates folder cover, empty, n.d.
   
    11. Knights of Columbus War Activities Confession in French/Confession en Français cards (3 copies), n.d.
   
    12. Menu in German for Berlin train station restaurant, n.d.
   
    13. Passenger pigeon message forms, blank, n.d.
   
    14. Regular Third Order of Mary tract in English featuring New Caledonia, n.d.
   
    15. German New Testament, found by Dubois in a trench, found Oct. 23, 1917
        Two inscriptions. The first is in German. The second, in French, is a declaration by French artillerie giving possession of the bible to Dubois who found it in a trench.
                       
Series 3: Maps, ca. 1916-1918 (1 drawer)
Military maps of trenches, troop movements, destruction assessments and more in multiple departments of Picardy and Lorraine. Some maps correspond with the Bulletins de Renseignement in Series 1 and aerial reconnaissance photos in Series 4.
Oversize  
MC 3   Maps, ca. 1916-1918
   
    01. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Hangard, May 21, 1918
   
    02. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Hangard, May 21, 1918
   
    03. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Gentelles, May 17, 1918
   
    04. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Gentelles, May 18, 1918
   
    05. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Villers-Bretonneux, May 16, 1918
   
    06. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Villers-Bretonneux, May 15, 1918
   
    07. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Villers-Bretonneux, May 12, 1918
   
    08. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Villers-Bretonneux, May 20, 1918
   
    09. Map of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Lorraine, environs of Baccarat, September, 1917
   
    10. Map of Aisne, Picardy, environs of Pinon, October 11, 1917
   
    11. Map of Aube, Champagne-Ardenne, environs of Vailly, October 21, 1917
   
    12. Map of Aisne, Picardy, environs of Allemant, October 21, 1917
   
    13. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Villers-Bretonneux, May 17, 1918
   
    14. Map of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Lorraine, environs of Flavigny, April 1918
   
    15. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Gratibus, June 14, 1918
   
    16. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Gratibus, June 14, 1918
   
    17. Map of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Lorraine, sectors of Dombasle, Luneville, St. Clement, and Baccarat, October 6, 1918
   
    18. Map of the Somme, Picardy, June 23, 1918
   
    19. Map of Lorraine, environs of Metz, August 14, 1918
   
    20. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Senones, March 3, 1916
   
    21. Map of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Lorraine, environs of Baccarat, September 29, 1918
   
    22. Map of Aisne, Picardy, environs of Villers-Cotterets, June 22, 1918
   
    22a. Map of Aisne, Picardy, environs of La Malmaison, October 23 (no year)
        Note - numbering error, two maps numbered 22 by accident. The "a" is not pencilled on this map.
   
    23. Map of Aisne, Picardy, environs of Villers-Cotterets, June 22, 1918
   
    24. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Moreuil, May 29, 1918
   
    25. Map of Lorraine, environs of the La Seille river, October 8, 1918
   
    26. Map of Oise, Picardy, environs of Moulin-sous-Touvent, October 8, 1918
   
    27. Map of Aisne, Picardy, environs of Allemant and Laffaux, August 23, 1917
   
    28. Map of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Lorraine, environs of La Vezouze, October 19, 1918
   
    29. Map of Aisne, Picardy, environs of Soissons, September 25, 1917
   
    30. Map of Southern Lorraine, September 25, 1918
   
    31. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Grivesnes, May 27, 1918
   
    32. Map of the Somme, Picardy, environs of Ayencourt, May 24, 1918
   
    33. Map of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Lorraine, environs of Luneville, March 1, 1918
   
    34. Map of Moselle, Lorraine, environs of Dieuze, n.d.
                       
Series 4: Photographs, ca. 1916-1918
Some photos in this series are copies of World War I photos taken by Dubois of tanks, troops, prisoners, Dubois himself, and what appears to be an airship. Others are aerial reconnaissance photos of French battlefields, some of which are reflected in the Bulletins de Renseignement in Series 1 and maps in Series 3.
Box Folder
1 3 Photos (B/W) - Tanks, "tankeurs," and wartime France, ca. 1916-1918
   
    01. Troops lying, crouching, and kneeling on ground with weapons, n.d.
        (No Number, corner broken off)
   
    02. Tank pushing over a tree (postcard), n.d.
        2211-1
   
    03. Appears to be Dubois standing next to a tank, n.d.
        2211-4
        Inscription: "Under the 75 gun."
   
    04. Troop crouched on the ground, n.d.
        2211-7
   
    05. Tank, n.d.
        2211-8
   
    06. Appears to be some sort of large cannon on a railcar, n.d.
        2211-9
   
    07. Men in dark coats surrounding and on top of a smoking tank, n.d.
        2211-10
   
    08. Men posing around and on top of a tank, n.d.
        2211-11
   
    09. Troops, interior of tank, n.d.
        2211-12
        Inscription: "Inside a tank under fire"
   
    10. Appears to be Dubois posing in front of a tank wearing a dark jacket (duplicate of 2211-20), n.d.
        2211-13
   
    11. Tank climbing an incline, n.d.
        2211-14
   
    12. Appears to be an airship dropping some kind of packages, n.d.
        2211-15
   
    13. Appears to be an airship dropping some kind of package, n.d.
        2211-16
   
    14. Appears to be Dubois standing in front of a German tank, n.d.
        2211-18
        Inscription: "German tank as background"
   
    15. Appears to be Dubois driving some kind of vehicle, n.d.
        2211-19
        Inscription: "Out for a spin"
   
    16. Appears to be Dubois posing in front of a tank wearing a dark jacket (duplicate of 2211-13), n.d.
        2211-20
   
    17. Troops lying, crouching, or kneeling on ground with weapons, n.d.
        2211-21
   
    18. Tank with man on top, n.d.
        2211-22
   
    19. Men in coats and uniforms standing amid ragged trees, n.d.
        2211-23
        Inscription: "General de Maistre saw me taking photo at Vermandovillers. "Tiens, mon vieux poteau(?), prends ton general de division: ça te fera un souenir!""
   
    20. Row of tanks in front of trees with men standing in between some, n.d.
        2211-24
   
    21. Tank, n.d.
        2211-25
   
    22. Three tanks, n.d.
        2211-26
   
    23. Man lying on the ground in front of a damaged tank, n.d.
        2211-27
        Inscription: "The only member of the crew who came back alive."
   
    24. Multiple tanks, photo taken from between two tanks, n.d.
        2211-28
   
    25. Tanks lined up , n.d.
        2211-29
   
    26. Two men sitting next to a tank's wreckage; Dubois is seated to the left, n.d.
        2211-30
        Inscription: "Little left of this tank. Myself in the corner.Little left of this tank. Myself in the corner."
   
    27. Tanks lined up, n.d.
        2211-31
   
    28. Men standing around a German tank that appears to be disguised with moss, n.d.
        2211-32
   
    29. Men posing around and on top of a tank, n.d.
        2211-39
   
    30. Tank rolling across terrain, n.d.
        2211-40
        Inscription: "All these tanks are the "St Chamond" type. The larger-size French tank. 7 men one 75 gun - and 4 machine guns."
   
    31. Dubois posing standing in the driver's cage of a tank, n.d.
        2211-41
        Inscription: "Myself in driver's cage."
   
    32. Interior of a badly damaged tank, n.d.
        2211-42
        Inscription: "Inside of an exploded tank. All crew killed."
   
    33. Multiple tanks, the closest with "Quand Même" (All the same/Anyhow) painted on the side, n.d.
        2211-43
   
    34. Tank showing damage, n.d.
        2211-44
        Inscription: "Badly battered up."
   
    35. Tank rolling over terrain, n.d.
        2211-45
   
    36. Tank showing damage, n.d.
        2211-46
        Inscription: "Effects of shells aimed at the driver's cage."
   
    37. Tank rolling up an incline, n.d.
        2211-47
Box  
2   Photos (B/W) - stored loosely in box due to curling and damage, ca. 1916-1918
   
    01. Reconnaissance Photo: "C.B-4094 - 23-6-17 - 1000m - 18h - O. Moulin s. Touvent," June 23, 1917
   
    02. Reconnaissance Photo: "VI C.A. A. 262 Tr. De la QUILLE - Vue Panoramique - 15-9-17 10h - 1500m" Sept. 15, 1917
   
    03. Reconnaissance Photo: "XIV C.A. A.208 Tranchée Pinaud - 15-9-17 17h Vue Panoramique" Sept. 15, 1917
   
    04. Reconnaissance Photo: "XIV C.A. A. 215 - Tranchée des SINGES - 15-9-17 17h - Vue panoramique" Sept. 15, 1917
   
    05. German prisoners, n.d.
   
    06. Reconnaissance Photo: "C.B-4261 N. PUISALEINE" n.d.
   
    07. Reconnaissance Photo: "C.B-4547 N.O. Moulin sous Touvent" n.d.
   
    08. Reconnaissance Photo: "C.B-4548 Tranchée de la Verra - O.H.O. Moulin-sous-Touvent" n.d.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Administrative Information

Related Material

Index Terms

Bibliography

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence and Other Papers, 1916-1918

Series 2: Memorabilia, Ephemera, and Realia, ca. 1909, 1916-1918

Series 3: Maps, ca. 1916-1918

Series 4: Photographs, ca. 1916-1918

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