Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Holcome III Papers, 1942-1946

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, May 2012

Summary Information
Title: John Holcombe III papers
Creator: Holcombe family
Inclusive dates: 1942-1946
Bulk dates: 1942-1945
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
Abstract:
This collection is comprised of 104 items related to Private First Class John Marshal Holcombe III's service in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. Holcombe sent about 90 letters and other items to his parents and siblings in Farmington, Connecticut, while in training in Florida, South Dakota, and Utah in 1942 and 1943, and while serving in Africa between 1943 and 1945. He commented on various aspects of his training, the war, his health, and military life. The collection also contains 4 documents, 2 newspaper clippings, and 6 loose photographs related to Holcombe's military service.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2001. M-4120.3.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

John Holcombe III papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Documents
  • Series III: Newspaper Clippings
  • Series IV: Photographs

Each series is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


Biography

John Marshall Holcombe III was born in Connecticut around 1923, the son of John Marshall Holcombe, Jr., an army veteran, and his wife Marguerite. He lived in Farmington, Connecticut, with his parents and six siblings: Allan, Robert, Herbert, Emily, Ada (1924-2009), and Gloria. John Holcombe III joined the United States Army Air Forces before June 1942, and trained at the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command Replacement Training Center in Miami Beach, Florida, and at a training center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, until January 1943, when he was transferred to North Africa. Holcombe served in North Africa, West Africa, and Eritrea during the war.


Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection is comprised of 104 items related to Private First Class John Marshal Holcombe III's service in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. Holcombe sent about 90 letters and other items to his parents and siblings in Farmington, Connecticut, while in training in Florida, South Dakota, and Utah in 1942 and 1943, and while serving in Africa between 1943 and 1945. He commented on various aspects of his training, the war, his health, and military life. The collection also contains 4 documents, 2 newspaper clippings, and 6 loose photographs related to Holcombe's military service.

The Correspondence series consists primarily of letters that John Holcombe III wrote to his parents, John Holcombe, Jr., and Marguerite Holcombe, and to his siblings, especially his sisters Ada ("Adie") and Gloria. Of the collection's 72 dated letters and other items, Holcombe composed 7 letters from the training center at Miami Beach, Florida, (June 1942-July 1942); 20 letters from the training center at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, (July 1942-December 1942); 4 letters from Kearns, Utah (December 1942-January 1943); and 35 letters from North and Central Africa between (February 1943-May 1945). Other items are a telegram, 3 letters from other soldiers to the Holcombe family, a blank record sheet for "Bombing Practise" [sic], and a speech that Holcombe composed in honor of his parents' 25th anniversary. Of the 20 undated items, 19 are letters from John Holcombe III to his family; the final item is a typed copy of his poem "Tropic Fever."

Holcombe's letters relate to many aspects of his life as a soldier, both in training and on active duty. An asthmatic, he frequently commented on his health; for example, his letters from late 1943 mention his stay in a hospital after he contracted malaria. Other letters describe the scenery in the United States and in Africa, as well as African cultures. Holcombe frequently referred to his experiences in training, which included drilling and attending technical classes, and he sometimes reported news of the war, such as Italy's surrender. He requested news from Connecticut and often wrote personal asides for his sister Ada. His later letters often concern his relationship with other soldiers, and increasingly provide more detailed information about his duties.

Several letters contain enclosures or visual material:

  • July 6, 1942: Hand-drawn diagram of Holcombe's quarters, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • August 20, 1942: Printed chart for weather reports, filled out in pencil
  • September 14, 1942: Photograph of an unidentified soldier sitting on a bunk
  • October 14, 1942: Photographs of a soldier punting a football and a soldier next to technical equipment and a chalkboard
  • January 12, 1943: Printed cartoon of a soldier washing dishes
  • March 19, 1943: 8 photographs of Africans
  • June 14, 1943: Poem dedicated to Ada Holcombe on her 19th birthday
  • April 7, 1944: Unidentified plant leaf
  • July 17, 1944: Enclosed poem dated July 11, 1944
  • January 25, 1945: Small drawing of a stickwoman
  • Undated: Printed cartoon of a soldier writing

Additionally, several letters dated after October 1944 have a wax seal, often labeled "The Seal of the Clan & Huck Finn."

The Documents series contains 4 items:

  • United States Army Air Forces Technical School diploma for John Holcombe III's completion of a radio mechanics course (November 27, 1942)
  • Travel orders for John Holcombe III and other soldiers, United States Army Headquarters, West African Service Command (March 20, 1945)
  • "Salvati Africa" ticket stub (undated)
  • Humorous certificate for John Holcombe III's membership in the Marching and Mayhem Club, illustrated with cartoons depicting Japanese and German soldiers being wounded (undated)

The two Newspaper Clippings are a copy of The Spectator Daily (March 22, 1945), and a copy of a John D. Rockefeller, Jr., radio broadcast entitled "I Believe" (undated).

Six black-and-white Photographs illustrate scenes from Asmara, Eritrea, such as a market, a horse-drawn carriage, and buildings.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Africa--Description and travel.
    • Eritrea--Description and travel.
    • Families of military personnel--United States.
    • Farmington (Conn.)
    • Kearns (Utah)
    • Miami Beach (Fla.)--Description and travel.
    • Sioux Falls Army Air Base (S.D.)
    • Soldiers--United States.
    • United States. Army Air Forces. Air Depot Group, 8th.
    • United States. Army Air Forces. Technical Training Command.
    • United States. Army--Military life.
    • World War, 1939-1945--Africa, North.
    • World War, 1939-1945--Poetry.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Africans.
    • Asmara (Eritrea)
    • Floor plans.
    • Soldiers--United States.
    Contributors:
    • Holcombe, John Marshall, III, b. 1923.
    Genre Terms:
    • Certificates.
    • Diplomas.
    • Leaf (plant material)
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Photographs.
    • Poems.
    • Speeches.
    • Ticket stubs.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
     
    Correspondence [series]:
    Box   1 Folders   1-10
     June 20, 1942-April 29, 1946, and  undated
     
    Documents [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   11
     November 27, 1942;  March 20, 1945; and  undated
     
    Newspaper clippings [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   12
     March 22, 1945, and  undated
     
    Photographs [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   13
     [1940s]