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Harmon C. Rorison Private Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-017

Scope and Contents

These papers consist largely of letters, articles, and documents concerning the war record and civic activities of Harmon Chadbourn Rorison of Wilmington, NC. Rorison served in both world wars and the Russo-Polish War immediately following WWI. These papers reflect Rorison’s war experiences in letters home; copies of military general orders (U.S. and Polish); a November 11, 1918, Wilmington Dispatch declaring the end of World War I and picturing several of Wilmington’s servicemen; a newspaper photograph of Rorison receiving the Virtuti Militari at Poland’s Legation in Washington, D.C., in 1921; a March 4, 1945, copy of a military newspaper, Stars and Stripes; and two articles about experiences in different wars.

One, written by Rorison, is a light description of his purchase of a copper urn in Italy, after which he had to return to his base in a few hours with no means of transportation. The other article, written by his brother-in-law, Max W. Lippitt, Sr., is entitled “An Unchronicled American Battle Front: Wings Over Poland.” It relates the part played by the Kosciuszko Aerial Squadron in the Russo-Polish War. Gen. Budenny led the Cossack Army. Lippitt spelled his name Budienny as did Merian C. Cooper, another Kosciusko Squadron member, who wrote Rorison after escaping from a Russian Prison, A reading of Lippitt’s Article will facilitate comprehension of the rest of the papers concerning the war.

Rorison’s war memorabilia are in the Air Force Museum at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. This group includes correspondence concerning Rorison’s donation to, and a brochure on, the museum. Photographs in this group are of Rorison and/or war related pictures.

At home, in civilian life, Rorison was a banker and an active civic member of the community of Wilmington, NC. Certificates of appointment and appreciation for service rendered document his activities, as do anniversary and birthday letters from Rorison to his wife, Margaret Lippitt Rorison, that attest their close relationship.


  • 1903-1976


Conditions Governing Access

This colllection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical Note

Harmon Chadbourn Rorison was born April 15, 1893, in Bakersville, NC, the son of Elizabeth Chadbourn Rorison and Richard Baskett Rorison. After his mother’s death, he and his brother, John Lee Rorison, moved to Wilmington, NC, to live with their aunt, Serena Chadbourn, and grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. James Harmon Chadbourn. Rorison was educated in Wilmington public schools, Jefferson School for boys of Charlottesville, VA, the University of Virginia, and the University of Georgia, where he was awarded the Bachelor of Law degree in 1916. Rorison’s war record covers two world wars and the Russo-Polish War immediately following World War I. In the first world war, Rorison volunteered for the army, serving in the aviation section of the Signal Corps as an officer and pilot. He flew in Europe and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Then the Russo Polish War broke out over the border between the newly independent Poland and Bolshevist Russia. Rorison joined Poland’s 7th Squadron, made up of the American aviators and called the Kosciuszko Aerial Squadron in honor of Thaddeus Kosciuszko, Polish patriot who entered the American continental army as a volunteer in 1776.[1] The Kosciuszko Squadron was commanded by Cedric E. Fauntleroy and second in command was Merian C. Cooper. Rorison had several close calls and returned home before the end of the war because of wounds. On March 14, 1921, Rorison was invited to the Legation of Poland in Washington, D.C., where he was awarded the Virtuti Militari, Medal of Valor.

Cooper was shot down in July of 1920 and captured by the Russians. The Bolshevists’ policy was to shoot the officers and imprison the common men, so Cooper pretended to be a corporal rather than a lieutenant colonel. As such, he survived for a year in a Russian prison camp near Moscow, until he learned friends were seeking his release. Fearing his identity would be revealed, he escaped prison on April 12, 1921, returning to Poland on April 27.[2] The Treaty of Riga was signed in 1921, returning to Poland almost all of its eastern frontier of 1793.[3] On May 10, 1921, Cooper and other Kosciuszko Squadron members were honored by President Pilsudski in Warsaw, Poland, at ceremonies marking the demobilization of their squadron.[4] At some time after Cooper’s escape, he wrote to Rorison, who was at home in Wilmington, NC. Cooper became a writer, motion picture producer and director. He created, co-produced, and co-directed the original King Kong movie as well as several other motion pictures.[5]

In Wilmington, NC, Rorison Worked for the Citizen’s Bank, the Murchison Bank, and the North Carolina Bank and Trust Company. When the Security National Bank opened in August of 1933, Rorison was elected vice-president and manager of the Wilmington branch. He held that position until his retirement in 1958, with the exception of two years for military leave of absence during World War II. In that war, Harmon Rorison served the British Eighth Army and First French Army as a volunteer ambulance driver.

Rorison was a board member of the Community Chest/United Fund, YMCA, L’ Arioso German Club, Security National Bank, Wilmington Public Library, Surf Club, and the Local (Wilmington Draft) Board No. 66, North Carolina. He was also appointed to the Morehead Scholarship Committee, Third District. Harmon Rorison belonged to several Wilmington clubs, worked for many years with Boy Scouts, and was a member of the St. James Episcopal Church.

Rorison married Margaret Devereux of Wilmington on January 31, 1924. Their two daughters are Margaret L. Rorison and Mary Ann Rorison Caws. Harmon C. Rorison died on February 27, 1976.

[1]Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. Chicago, IL: William Benton, 1972. Vol. 13, p. 477.

[2]New York Times. April 27, 1921, p.3, col. 5.

[3]The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1973. Vol. 15, p. 540.

[4]New York Times. May 12, 1921, p.2, col. 7.

[5]Who’s Who in America. Chicago, IL: A.N. Marquis Company, 1972-73. Vol. 1, 37th edition, p. 650.


2.17 Linear Feet (Contains 1 document box and 1 oversize box)



Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Margaret Lippitt Rorison in 1976.

Other Descriptive Information

Rorison's war memorabilia are part of the collection at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum, Dayton, Ohio.

Processing Information

In 2014, this collection was re-foldered and re-housed with current archival standard materials by Rebecca Baugnon.
Harmon C. Rorison Private Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository