Athenaeum Series Opens with Reflections on Korean War through Eyes of Major Charles L. Duncan


The Kent Library Athenaeum Series kicks off the 2017-2018 academic year at Southeast Missouri State University Aug. 30 with “Through the Eyes of a Marine: Revisiting the Korean War through the Letters and Images of Major Charles L. Duncan.”

The program is scheduled for noon on Wednesday, Aug. 30, in Sadie’s Place on the main level of Kent Library.

The Aug. 30 presentation will explore the life of Duncan, the important research value of the materials in this collection and Duncan’s indirect connection to author William Faulkner. The presentation will feature several impressive images taken by Duncan during his time serving in Korea and his travels in Japan.

Duncan was born in 1919 in Pennsylvania, relocating with his family to the Belleview Valley in Missouri, where he attended school in Caledonia. Duncan graduated from Flat River Junior College, an affiliate of Southeast, on May 22, 1942.

He was a young man of 22 when he joined the U.S. Marines Corps on Sept. 1, 1942, and became a pilot. Two years later, he married Anna Mary Ricketts in Belleview, Missouri, on Aug. 6, 1944, after relocating to Missouri with his family from Pennsylvania.

The late Major Charles L. Duncan

He spent the duration of World War II in Pensacola, Florida, as an aerobatics instructor. He remained in the Marine Corps Reserve following the war’s end and was called up for active duty during the Korean War. As a carrier pilot, he completed 54 combat missions before returning home at the conclusion of the war. He ended his career with the Marine Corps in 1960 as a major after 18 years of service.

Alongside his military career, Duncan and his brothers quarried limestone in the Piedmont area beginning in 1949. Later, they launched a ready-mixed concrete operation in several southeast Missouri towns, followed by development of shopping centers. In the early 1960s, Duncan also began a separate career in the life insurance business, retiring in May 1995.

“This collection will be a fantastic resource for Southeast students, faculty, staff and the community,” said Roxanne Dunn, Special Collections and Archives librarian in Southeast’s Kent Library. “It documents Major Duncan’s time serving in the Korean War as a Marine. Duncan wrote really interesting, detailed letters back home to his wife about his life in Korea and Japan, and also documented his time there by taking color photographs. The fact that we can find images within the collection of things Duncan describes in letters back home is a unique aspect of this collection.”

Special Collections & Archives has been very fortunate to work with the Duncans, who have been kind and caring to work with, Dunn said. Duncan and his wife Anna Mary, were the parents of four children, Sandy, Steve, Kim and Kay, some of whom currently live in the southeast Missouri area. Duncan died June 29, 1995.

“They took excellent care of their father’s materials and were very open to sharing this part of his life with a larger audience,” Dunn said. “That takes a certain level of trust to work with an archives that way and a level of bravery that is clearly evident here.”