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.
- 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."
- 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.