The Museum receives many wonderful donations every week. In May 2012, however, we received some particularly exciting material.
How did Mrs. Josie Leggett, the wife of a retired minister and a mother of eight in her 60s from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, end up profiled in newspapers across the country, Colliers Magazine, and featured on radio shows in the United States and Canada?
In 1944, Leggett dreamed up a project she would work on for years to come. Her youngest son, Wesley S. Leggett, was serving in the Seventh Air Force in the Marshall Islands when he wrote a letter to his mother in which he expressed how badly he wanted to feel Mississippi soil under his feet again. Leggett packaged a scoop of dirt from the family Victory Garden and sent it overseas to her son. Other servicemen in her son’s unit also began requesting soil. Leggett then sent some soil to Admiral Nimitz requesting that some be placed on the foundation of the new government building on Kwajalein.
Because of the wide reach of the soil project, and a desire to have input from states other than her home state of Mississippi, Leggett reached out to the governors of all of the states requesting soil from the state capitol grounds. Her tenacity and the correspondence regarding this project is remarkable.
The project quickly expanded to other commanders, including Lt. General Mark Clark and General Douglas MacArthur, and then moved to US chaplains around the globe, who then sprinkled the soil on graves of Americans killed overseas.
She called her soil bundles “For This We Fight” bags.
Josie Leggett’s collection includes the material with which she made her bundles, all of the correspondence related to the project and many news clippings about her and her work. Her story is one of many fascinating stories of people on the Home Front lending their time and support to those fighting abroad.
Kimberly Guise holds a BA in German and Judaic Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She also studied at the Universität Freiburg in Germany and holds a masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS) from Louisiana State University. Kim is fluent in German, reads Yiddish, and specializes in the American prisoner-of-war experience in World War II.