J.D. Salinger’s youth and war experiences influenced his
writings. J.D. went through four different schools for
education. He then went to World War II. After the war, he
had a lot to say, so he wrote down his thoughts. And, he
sure had some things to say.
Jerome David Salinger came into this world on January 1,
1919. J.D. was short for Jerome David. Jerome David went
by J.D. when he was young and he never let go of the name
as he got older. J.D. was born in New York City, New
York (Ryan 2581).
J.D. Salinger’s parents were Sol and Miriam Salinger (Ryan
2581). His father, Sol Salinger, was born in Cleveland,
Ohio, and is said to have been the son of a rabbi. However,
Sol drifted far from orthodox Judaism to become an
importer of hams.
Sol married a Scotch-Irish lady (French 21). The lady’s
name was Marie Jillich. She changed her name to Miriam to
fit into her husband’s family (French 21).
Jerome David had a roller coaster marriage record. He was
allegedly married to a French physician in 1945 and
divorced her in 1947 (Ryan 2581). But other sources say
that Salinger has never admitted this marriage and the
records of the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics fail to
indicate that a divorce was granted in that state in 1947 to
Jerome David Salinger (French 26).
He then married Claire Douglas on February 17, 1955.
Claire Douglas was a Radcliff graduate born in England. In
1955, the two of them settled down in Cornish, New
Hampshire, where they raised two children (Unger 552).
J.D. divorced Claire Douglas in October 1967 in Newport,
New Hampshire (Ryan 2581).
In 1932, the time J.D. should have begun high school, he
was transferred to a private institution, Manhattan’s
McBurney School. There, J.D. told the interviewer that he
was interested in dramatics; but J.D. reportedly flunked out
within a year (French 22).
In September 1934, his father enrolled him at Valley Forge
Military Academy in Pennsylvania (French 22). In 1935,
while attending Valley Forge, J.D. was the literary editor of
Crossed Sabers, the Academy Yearbook. Salinger’s grades
at Valley Forge were satisfactory. His marks in English
varied from 75 to 92. His final grades were: English 88,
French 88, German 76, History 79, and Dramatics 88. As
recorded in J.D.’s Valley Forge file, his I.Q. was 115. While
such scores as J.D.’s must be treated with caution, this one
and another one of 111 that he made when tested in New
York are strong evidence that he was slightly above the
average in intelligence, but far from the “genius” category. At
Valley Forge, Salinger belonged to the Glee Club, the
Aviation Club, the French Club, the Non-Commissioned
Officer’s Club, and Mask and Spur (a dramatic
organization) (French 22). While at Valley Forge, Salinger
began writing short stories, working by flashlight under his
blankets after official “lights out” (French 23). In June of
1936, J.D. graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy
(French #2 15).
In 1937, Salinger attended the summer session at New
York University. He attended the Washington Square
College campus of New York University. There is little
documented about J.D.’s attendance at New York
University. Shirley Blaney, a high school student, and the
only person in the world to ever interview J.D. Salinger, said
that it appears unlikely that Salinger attended New York
University for two years (French 23).
In 1939, Salinger returned to New York after traveling to
Vienna and Poland for a year, to enroll in Whit Burnett’s
famous course in short-story writing at Columbia University.
According to Ernest Havemann, “Burnett was not at first
impressed with the quiet boy, who made no comments and
was interested primarily in play writing; but Salinger’s first
story, “The Young Folks,” which he turned in near the end of
the semester, was finished enough to use in Story, edited by
Burnett” (French 23).
When the war began, Salinger wrote to Colonel Miltion B.
Baker, at Valley Forge Military Academy, that he wished to
enter the service, but had been classified 1-B due to a slight
cardiac condition. J.D. asked what kind of defense work he
might do; but it was not long before Selective Services
standards were lowered enough, so that he was drafted in
1942 (French 24).
In September of 1942, there was a letter announcing that
Jerome David was attending the Officers, first Sergeants,
and Instructors School of the Signal Corps. So in
September of 1942, Salinger was in the war (French #2
During the first part of his military service, Salinger corrected
papers in a ground school for aviation cadets, probably in
Tennessee. While in Tennessee, J.D. was classified with the
rank of Staff Sergeant. J.D. was in Tennessee until June 2,
1943 (French 24).
At the end of 1943, Salinger was transferred to the
Counter-Intelligence Corps. While at the
Counter-Intelligence Corps, J.D. was also corresponding
with Eugene O’Neill’s daughter Oona, who after J.D. left
her, became Mrs. Charlie Chaplin in Hollywood. In 1944,
J.D. had additional Counter Intelligence training at Tiverton,
Devonshire, England (French 25).
J.D. entered the war when he joined the American Army’s
Fourth Division that had landed on Utah Beach on D-Day,
June 6, 1944 (French #2 15).
Also in 1944, Salinger participated in five campaigns in
Europe as special agent responsible for the security of the
Twelfth Infantry Regiment. While at the Twelfth Infantry
Regiment it is noted that Salinger met Ernest Hemmingway
when the author-correspondent visited Salinger’s regiment. It
was then that Salinger became disgusted when Hemmingway
shot the head off a chicken to demonstrate the merits of a
German Luger (French #2 16).
The Catcher in the Rye is a deceptively simple, enormously
rich book whose sources of appeal run deep and complexly
varied veins (Unger 553). As of 1966, Catcher in the Rye
had sold over 1.5 million copies in the United States
As of 1966, Franny and Zooey shot to second place on the
best -seller list (Vertical/Biography 7). This book was two
stories. “Franny” was first published in the New Yorker,
January 25, 1955. “Zooey” was first published also in the
New Yorker, on May 4, 1957 (Ryan 2581).
The book Hapsworth 16, 1924 was published under the
circumstances in which Salinger had agreed to publish, “at all
bespeak a secretiveness verging on misanthropy”
(Vertical/Literature 51). The company that published the
story was an entirely obscure company, Orchises Press in
Alexandria, Virginia. In this novella, “Salinger reintroduces
us to the illustrious, eccentric, and Andst-ridden Glass
family” (Vertical/Literature 51), with its parents and seven
children, once famous as radio whiz kids (Vertical/Literature
51). The family’s first appearance was in “A Perfect Day for
BananaFish.” In this book, the main character’s brother
Buddy, who is younger by two years and was with him at
the camp, purports to have just received the letter, 41 years
after it was written, in a package from their parents
J.D. Salinger’s youth and war experiences influenced his
writings. Those two items alone were enough to say that
Jerome David Salinger led an interesting life. And the third
item, his writings, was something that he had many of. But
because of his war experience, maybe he was left scared,
causing him to become a loner. Only one person has ever