Ralph L. McElderry papers, 1942-1945 (majority within 1944-1945)
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- McElderry, Ralph Lee, 1906-1977
- The Ralph L. McElderry papers are made up largely of the outgoing correspondence of Sgt. McElderry during his World War II service in the 3226th Ordnance Depot Company and 421st Ordnance Evacuation Company. His stateside training, work as a stock clerk and typist, and service as a Supply Noncommissioned Officer in Europe are reflected in his letters as well as supporting documents.
- 0.5 linear feet
- Collection processed and finding aid created by Cheney J. Schopieray, February 2021
- Scope and Content:
The Ralph L. McElderry papers are made up 224 outgoing letters of Sgt. McElderry during his World War II service in the 3226th Ordnance Depot Company and 421st Ordnance Evacuation Company, plus three drawings by Maria McElderry for her father while he was away, 11 documents, and four war ration books.
Ralph L. McElderry's Correspondence is about his everyday life during his stateside training, work as a stock clerk and typist, and service as a Supply Noncommissioned Officer in Europe.
Ralph L. McElderry wrote from the following locations:
- Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma, between March 9 and 17, 1944 (2 letters)
- Camp Maxey, Paris, Texas, March 22-June 28, 1944 (17 letters)
- Camp Van Doren, Centreville, Mississippi, July 6 or 7-October 4, 1944 (25 letters)
- Camp Polk, Leesville, Louisiana, October 6, 1944-February 13, 1945 (42 letters)
- Camp Kilmer, New Jersey—Point of Embarkation, February 25, 1945 (1 letter)
- At Sea, March 3-6, 1945 (4 letters)
- France, March 13, 1945-April 10, 1945 (19 letters)
- Belgium, April 12, 1945 (1 letter)
- Germany, April 13, 1945-June 12, 1945 (43 letters)
- France, Camp Brooklyn, June 15, 1945-July 18, 1945 (9 letters)
- France, San Francisco, July 18, 1945-August 2, 1945 (8 letters)
- France, Delta Base near Marseilles, August 8, 1945-October 19, 1945 (42 letters)
The Marcia McElderry Drawings include three illustrations she drew and colored for her father while he was away in the service. One depicts a house beside four trees and a truck driving on a road; one is labeled by an adult as being a sergeant marching in his uniform beside mud and grass; and the third is a duck with a helmet on.
The Documents series includes the order for him to report for induction (September 20, 1943); his identity, education, and immunization verification, a commissary card, and papers related to his discharge in November 1945.
The four War Ration Books belonged to Iola, Andrea, and Marcia McElderry. Each of them contains remaining stamps.
- Biographical / Historical:
Andrea McElderry, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Louisville, contributed the following biographical sketch of her father, Ralph McElderry.
"Ralph Lee McElderry (June 15, 1906 – March 29, 1977) was born in Purcell, Oklahoma, to Edward Lee and Della Stinson McElderry. Ralph's sister Hazel had been born in 1902. Della died in 1909. Edward remarried to Ruth Royalty (referred to as "Mrs. Mc" in Ralph McElderry's letters). She and Edward had four children John, Clark, and twins Helen and Harriet. . . . After Ralph graduated from Purcell High School in 1923, he moved to Oklahoma City. He attended Hill's Business University where he learned to type. This skill explains the typed letters and why he was often typing reports while in the army. Before and after his army service, he sold men's clothing." . . . His first marriage was to Margaret Opal Higdon in Ada, Oklahoma. They had two children, Gloria (b. Oct. 10, 1927) and JoAnn (b. May 15, 1929). Ralph and Margaret divorced. Margaret eventually ended up in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Gloria and JoAnn lived when Ralph was in the army. They came to meet him at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, when he was embarking for Europe (see February 25, 1945). They are "the girls" whom Ralph refers to in some of his letters.
On August 10, 1935, Ralph married Esther Iola Anderson (March 17, 1910 – December 1979) who, as evident in the letters, went by Iola. Her family was from Greenhill, Alabama, near Florence. Her father, Calvin P. (Andy) and mother Vernon Mitchell Anderson moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma, where Iola was born. Both Vernon and Iola's sister Marguerite died when Iola was young. Her father moved the family to Oklahoma City where he married Bessie Paden Abbot. They had one child Betty Jean (b. July 21, 1923). Betty never married and lived with her mother. Bessie is referred to as "mother" in the letters.
Ralph and Iola had three children, Marcia Sue (b. Aug. 5, 1938), Andrea (Andy) Lee (b. September 21, 1941), and Bryan Dale (B.D.) (b. June 27, 1944). Iola was pregnant with Bryan when Ralph was drafted. He was 37 years old. As is evident in the letters, it was a financial hardship for the family. Eventually Iola had to sell their house and move with the three children to a garage apartment on her stepmother Bessie's property.
The fact that Ralph had four daughters explains why he was so thrilled that his fifth child was a son. Iola's wire had asked "What are we going to name it?" They had not picked out a boy's name. The boy was named after two of his uncles who helped Iola immensely while Ralph was in the army; Bryan after Ralph's sister Hazel's husband, and Dale after Iola's sister Elba's husband Frank Dale."
World War II Service
Ralph McElderry registered for the draft at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on October 16, 1940, at the age of 34. He received an order to report for induction on October 1, 1943, and enlisted into active service on March 9, 1944, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. McElderry received three months of Basic Ordnance Training with the 3226th Ordnance Depot Company, served as a Tec 5 Corporal stock clerk and typist for seven months as part of the 421st Ordnance Evacuation Company stateside, and as a Sergeant working as a Supply Noncommissioned Officer for six months in France, Germany, and Belgium. In this position, he was in charge of a company supply room supporting 170 men. He issued clothing and equipment, prepared requisitions, kept track of incoming clothing and equipment, and maintained knowledge of the quantity, quality, and physical condition of supplies. McElderry spent the final four months of his service as a finance clerk in France. He received his discharge November 16, 1945.
- Acquisition Information:
- 2020. M-7238 .
The collection is arranged into the following series
- Marcia McElderry Drawings
- War Ration Books
- Rules or Conventions:
- Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Soldiers--Family relationships--United States.
Soldiers--United States--History--20th century--Correspondence.
Soldiers--United States--Social life and customs--20th century.
World War, 1939-1945--France.
World War, 1939-1945--Germany.
World War, 1939-1945--United States--Equipment and supplies.
Documents (object genre)
Drawings (visual works)
Stamps (exchange media)
United States. Army--Ordnance and ordnance stores.
United States. Army. Ordnance Company, 3226th.
United States. Army. Ordnance Company, 421st.
Camp Kilmer (N.J.)
Camp Maxey (Tex.)
Camp Polk (La.)
Camp Van Dorn (Miss.)
Fort Sill (Okla.)
Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright status is unknown
- PREFERRED CITATION:
Ralph L. McElderry Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan