Snively, James Watson (1924-1996) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Snively, James Watson (1924-1996)

Historical Note:

James Watson Snively (1924-1996) was born in Cottonwood, IIllinois, to John Rowe Snively (B.A., Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1921; J.D., College of Law, 1923) and Mabel Ruth (Holland) Snively (B.A., Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1924).  He attended the University of Illinois from 1942-1943, but did not graduate.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943, went through training in Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas, and was sent to Italy in mid-1944.  On October 11th of that year, he was captured by the Germans, and spent the next seven months in German POW camps.  After being freed in May 1945, he returned home to his family in Rockford, IL, where he saw for the first time the Silver Star that had been given to his family while he was imprisoned. 

After the war, he fulfilled a wartime vow, and traveled around the United States, before re-enrolling at the University of Illinois for the 1949-1950 academic year.  However, he did not graduate, and returned to Rockford, where he pursued business ventures (including a drive-in theater) and was a popular bus driver.  He also continued traveling, which a relative describes as "his great pleasure," visiting Europe, retracing his steps from World War II, and other places in the United States. 

However, though he was never formally diagnosed with it, it seems as if he suffered from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.  He remained in psychiatric institutions for the last two decades of his life.  He died in 1996.

His story, told so thoroughly through the James W. Snively papers, is an extraordinary glimpse into the life of a member of the Greatest Generation, one who never really came home from the war.

Sources: James W. Snively Papers; Biography written by sister-in-law.
Note Author: Spenser Bailey

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