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Archives Branch: Personal Papers Collections

A guide to the papers of individual Marines held by the Archives Branch.

Raymond G. DavisRaymond G. Davis Collection (COLL/2079)

Physical Characteristics: 80 standard legal size document boxes; 1 slim legal size document box; 3 oversize folders; 35 linear feet

Span Dates: 1938-2003

Scope and Content: The papers of Raymond G. Davis consist of materials relating to his career with the Marine Corps and his post-Marine Corps activities as a public speaker and as a veterans issues advocate, as well as his involvement with the Korean War Memorial Advisory Board.  The dates of the collection range from 1938-2003. 

Those materials related to Davis’ Marine Corps career include official correspondence, publications, and speech and event files. During his tenure as the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Davis attended many events as a speaker, and the collection contains several files on speech topics, as well as notes and transcripts of his speeches.  Following his Marine Corps career, Davis remained active in veterans’ organizations.  After retirement he to continued to make public appearances and to deliver speeches.  He also served on the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board, and the collection contains extensive records on his activities in this capacity. 

The collection also contains photographs, both official and personal. Of note are photographs from Davis’ service in Vietnam as Commanding General of the 3d Marine Division. Other images include official visits, reunions, and family. 

This collection has been separated into two main groups of records, those from his service in the Marine Corps and those documenting his civilian activities. These records are further divided into several subseries. Where applicable, folder titles made by the creator were maintained. The creator retained records in labeled folders. That order has been maintained within the folders, but the rest of the collection order was imposed by the processing archivist.

Ralph W. Donnelly Collection (COLL/1529)

Physical characteristics: 26 standard legal size document boxes; 6 card boxes; approximately 15 linear feet

Span Dates: 1898-1986

Scope and Content: The Ralph W. Donnelly Collection is comprised of research materials, writings, articles, notes, correspondence, and photographs collected by Donnelly during his career as a historian in the Reference Section of the Marine Corps Historical Center. The first series, General Marine Corps History, is concerned with the history of the Marine Corps from its inception in 1775 to roughly the end of the Korean War. The remainder of the collection, consisting of ten series and approximately 13 linear feet, is concerned with Donnelly’s research in the history of the Confederate States Marine Corps during the Civil War.

In maintaining records of over 20 years of his research, Donnelly has created an exhaustive collection of genealogical and historical records of the Confederate States Marines. The collection is rife with photocopies (of varying quality) of period letters and official documents, the majority of which he transcribed. Donnelly’s painstaking maintenance of his materials and his obvious attention to thorough documentation of sources is an invaluable collection for the study of Marines in the Civil War, particularly for genealogical research.

Donnelly filed his papers by subject groupings. These groupings have been recreated as faithfully as possible, and every effort has been made to maintain the original order of the materials. Donnelly’s groupings have been identified and are indicated hereafter as individual series. The two exceptions are the photographs series and the note cards series, which are groupings based on media type to allow for ease of use and for storage considerations.

In many instances Donnelly organized his materials by subject, campaign, event, or individual. Under any given heading, Donnelly would file notes, clippings, articles, and his own writings and manuscripts. For example, the folder titled “North Carolina Navy, 1861,” located in box 14, includes Donnelly’s handwritten notes, three iterations of an article, and photocopies of materials from the National Archives. In other instances Donnelly would file an article or manuscript singularly. These have been placed in quotations, and have been attributed to the author (when available). The exception to this is the series Manuscripts and Drafts, which is relegated to Donnelly’s book-length writings. Of particular note in this series is Donnelly’s unpublished book, “They Crossed the Bridged Potomac; Or, The Participation of the District of Columbia Citizens in the Confederacy,” which concerns the history of Confederate sympathizers in the Washington, DC, during the Civil War.

The items in series 11, Photographs, Slides, and Negatives, were individually numbered and described during preliminary processing of the collection. These numbers have been preserved, and the photographs are arranged chronologically using these numbers.

Given his arrangement scheme, Donnelly’s materials are difficult to date. Within each series the collection is arranged in approximate chronological order, with the exception of the photographs, note cards, and biographical files. Series in this collection include research materials, photographs, note cards, manuscripts, and correspondence; official records; reports and working papers; ledgers; and photographs.

Official USMC Monographs by Ralph Donnelly

Earl H. EllisEarl H. "Pete" Ellis Collection (COLL/3246)

Physical Characteristics: 7 standard legal size document boxes; 1 oversize folder; 3 linear feet

Span Dates: 1862-1976

Scope and Content: The papers of Earl H. Ellis consist of materials related to his Marine Corps career and research materials produced by researchers investigating his death and intelligence gathering activities. The dates of the collection range from 1862-1976. Those materials related to Ellis’s Marine Corps career include personal and official correspondence, publications, financial records, and his personal journal covering his enlistment in the Marine Corps. Ellis’s death in 1923 left many questions and led to several conspiracy theories. Dr. Dirk Ballendorf conducted extensive research into Ellis’s life and death for a manuscript about the development of the advanced base force as well as a biographical account of Earl Ellis. The second series of this collection contains the research product of his work. Included is correspondence with family members, clippings, and articles. The collection also contains an extensive and well documented photograph collection. Of note are photographs from Ellis’s service in the Dominican Republic and the Philippines, and during World War I. An oversize folder contains a World War I Second Division Citation; maps of the Panama Canal Zone; and various newspapers. This collection has been separated into two main groups of records, Ellis’s personal papers and research material into Ellis’s life. These records are further divided into several subseries. Where applicable, folder titles made by the creators were maintained.

Graves B. Erskine Collection (COLL/3065)

Physical Characteristics: 41 standard legal size document boxes; 5 oversize boxes; 23 linear feet
Span Dates: 1915-1993 
Scope and Content: The papers of Graves B. Erskine consist of materials relating mainly to his career with the Marine Corps and his position as Administrator of the Retraining and Reemployment Administration. The dates of the collection range from 1915-1993. Included in this collection are addresses made by General Erskine after the end of World War II, official and personal correspondence ranging from 1925-1993, invitations and programs, notebooks including his 1918 Field Message Books, various publications, and travel documentation from journeys made to Southeast Asia. Of particular note is the series of Schools material. Erskine was a student and an instructor in several Marine Corps Schools and in this collection is course material and papers covering the 1920s and 1930s. At the end of the collection are several boxes of photographs. Erskine and his wife had a large collection of signed portraits as well as photographs taken during World War II. Also within this series is a scrapbook of photographs compiled while he was the Commanding Officer at Camp Pendleton. Two other scrapbooks are located in the oversize boxes. They consist mainly of documentation from the Retraining and Reemployment Administration. The collection is arranged alphabetically by subject headings and chronologically within each series. For all of the subject headings, some were assigned by Erskine and others were imposed by the processor. Series in this collection include addresses, correspondence, invitations and programs, publications, schools, travel and photographs.

Thomas Y. FieldThomas Yardley Field Collection (COLL/3279)

Physical Characteristics: 4 standard legal size document boxes; 1 oversize box, 1 oversize folder; 3 linear feet

Span Dates: 1840-1977 

Scope and Content: The papers of Thomas Yardley Field consist of materials relating to his lengthy military career with the Marine Corps and his position as Judge Advocate for numerous court martial proceedings.  The collection spans the years from his appointment as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1842 to his retirement in 1889. A very large portion of the correspondence is official in nature and is related to Field’s communication with colleagues and other military officials. Personal correspondence with family members is very limited. Two noteworthy events in Field’s military career are covered by correspondence: his role as a member of a select group of men who stormed the walls of the fortress at Chapultepec on 13 September 1847 and observed the raising of the national colors thereon; and his role as Marine Corps representative, selected by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, to the Guard of Honor escorting the body of President Lincoln on the funeral train to Springfield, Illinois. The storming of Chapultepec and the attendant flag raising became the subject of a great controversy, mainly on the point of who was responsible for the raising of the colors. Field became embroiled in the ensuing argument. Included in the papers is a copy of the original order signed by Secretary of the Navy Welles.  The collection is arranged chronologically within each series. For all of the subject headings, some were assigned by Field and others were imposed by the processor. Series in this collection include: Correspondence, Court Martial Records, Financial Records/Inventory Lists, Newspaper Articles, Photographs, Daguerreotypes, Personal Notes, Ephemera, USMC Orders and Appointments, Awards & Commendations, Personal Notes, Art, Letter Book, and Portfolio.  Artifacts not listed in this collection were donated to the National Museum of the Marine Corps and are now held within their holdings. These items include an oil painting of Colonel Field in uniform, a sword, Marine Corps cape, and American Civil War medals and rosettes worn during President Lincoln’s funeral. 

Edward H. Forney Collection (COLL/1680)

Physical characteristics: 2 standard legal size document boxes; 2 oversize flat files

Span Dates: 1918-1962

Scope and Content: The Edward H. Forney Collection consists of material documenting the career of Brigadier General Edward Forney, primarily covering his service during World War II and the Korean War. Prior to World War II, Forney was stationed in Haiti. Materials related to this are memoranda, correspondence, and reports on testing an anti-aircraft sight in Haiti, rear sights for machine guns and rifles, photographs of the sight, and correspondence from Graves Erskine on the testing.

Related to World War II are shot charts from D Battery, Three Inch Antiaircraft Group; memoranda, reports, and correspondence related to the 3d and 9th Defense Battalion; and general newspaper clippings.

During the Korean War, Forney was on detached temporary duty with X Corps. Related to his service during this time is a copy of the brief at Headquarters X Corps titled "Some Aspects of Tactical Air Support of Ground Troops"; memorandum of the evacuation from Hungnam; X Corps Directory; X Corps Officers List and Special Orders; a letter in regards to General Douglas MacArthur's appearance at the return of Seoul to President Rhee; a memorandum on the Inchon Operation; a Korea lecture at the NATO Defense College; a press release from the 1st Marine Air Wing in Hamhung about Edward Stamford and his experiences at Inchon; and letters from the Marine Corps Historical Branch in regards to the publication of U.S. Marine Operations in Korea. Forney wrote a memoir titled "My Remembrances of the Inchon-Seoul Operation", 1958.

Forney was also a collector of militaria and the collection contains World War I photographs and a paper; a speech on Senator McCarthy; drawings of ships and uniforms of the Revolutionary and Civil War.

The collection contains two oversize folder contain maps of Korea; Pacific War maps; City Plan, Nagasaki; a General Map of Gettysburg, 1925; and a blueprint for Flexible Rear Sight, .30 Caliber Browning Machine Gun, 1932.

Ben Hebard Fuller Collection (COLL/713)

Physical Characteristics: 6 standard legal size document boxes; 1 slide box; 1 oversize folder; 2.91 linear feet

Span Dates: 1845-1963

Scope and Content: The papers of Ben Hebard Fuller consist of materials related to his career with the United States Marine Corps beginning with his appointment as a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy in 1885 and through his retirement as a Major General Commandant in 1934. The dates of the collection range from 1845-1963. Included in this collection are official and unofficial documents acquired by General Ben Hebard Fuller over the course of his military career. Of particular note are Series 1 and Series 5. The correspondence in Series 1 relates to the personal family activities of the Fuller and Offley families, particularly the relationships he maintained with his wife, children, and father. The two largest portions of this series contain condolence letters and letters written by Katherine H. Fuller to Ben H. Fuller. Series 5 contains official Marine Corps Orders, Reports, & Memos, and documents relating to Edward C. Fuller’s service and death at the Battle of Belleau Wood in France at World War I. Other items of interest in this series include photographs and correspondence. The collection is arranged by subject headings and chronologically within each series. Subject headings were imposed by the processor. Series in this collection include: Correspondence, United States Marine Corps Orders, Reports, & Memorandums, Awards & Commendations, Personal Notes/Diaries, Edward C. Fuller, Journals/Notebooks, Publications, Newspaper Articles, Ephemera, and Photographs. T

GeigerRoy S. Geiger Collection (COLL/2349)

Physical Characteristics: 11 standard legal size document boxes; 2 oversize folders; 5.5 linear feet

Span Dates: 1905 -1965

Scope and Content: This collection contains the official and personal correspondence, in excess of 1,000 items, that spans the military career of General Roy Stanley Geiger, with the greatest concentration during the years 1931 to his death in 1947. There is a large segment of materials covering his duty in Haiti and Quantico, VA in the years 1920-1929 that details the early development of Marine Corps aviation and training of the first Marine Corps aviators.

The World War II-era materials comprise of semi-official correspondence from civilians and official correspondence.  Notable in the official correspondence are the regular letters exchanged between Geiger and Commandant Alexander A. Vandegrift discussing such issues as the situation in North China, postwar demobilization of the Marine Corps, and personnel issues. The World War II era materials also contain numerous letters of congratulations and requests for autographs, requests for furloughs and discharges for family members, back channel discussions in regards to promotions of aviators and senior Marine officers, Marine Corps aviation development, the activities of III Amphibious Corp, Guadalcanal, and Okinawa. Primary correspondents include Roy S. Geiger (aka "Jiggs"), Francis Evans (aka "Cocky"), Roy Owsley, and Alexander A. Vandegrift.

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