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Archives Branch: Personal Papers Collections

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

Balcer - Butler

Julian BalcerJulian H. Balcer Collection (COLL/5044)

Physical Characteristics: 1 standard legal size document box; 0.5 linear feet

Span Dates: 1941-1969; bulk 1941-1946

Scope and Content: The materials in this collection relate to Julian Balcer’s Marine Corps career, including items from his time as a POW following his capture with the 4th Marines at Fort Mills on Corregidor in May 1942. The collection also includes materials related to Balcer’s prewar and postwar Marine Corps service in Shanghai and Korea, including service records, ephemera, and photographs. Though the collection contains very little information dealing with Balcer’s imprisonment in Manchuria, these few items offer a fascinating glimpse of the grim realities faced by POWs held by the Japanese. Of particular interest are letters written by Balcer to his aunt and his sister. Though these letters lack specific information about the circumstances of his incarceration, they attest to the desperation of his situation. Each brief letter (prisoners of war were limited to 150 words) is contained in a handmade envelope, sewn together with thread. Another interesting document contained in the collection is a reminiscence of one of Balcer’s fellow Marines which describes the harsh conditions endured by members of the 4th Marines while interned in Philippine prison camps. This document, written by Lieutenant James Shimel, parallels the experiences of his fellow POWs. A no-frills accounting of the duration of the confinement of the POWs captured at Corregidor, Shimel’s narrative outlines the starvation, disease, unsanitary conditions, and mistreatment the POWs suffered at the hands of their captors.

Robert O. BareRobert O. Bare Collection (COLL/150)

Physical Characteristics: 7 standard legal size document boxes; 1 oversize box, 1 oversized folder; 3.84 linear feet.

Span dates: 1898-1974

Scope and content: The papers of Robert Osborne Bare consist of materials related to his career with the United States Marine Corps beginning with his enrollment as a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy in 1920 through his retirement as a Lieutenant General in 1957.  Included in this collection are official and unofficial documents acquired by Lieutenant General Robert Osborne Bare over the course of his military career. Of particular note are Series 4 and Series 7. The diaries in Series 4 contain detailed notes and descriptions General Robert O. Bare, 1956 Papers of Robert Osborne Bare Page 5 about Bare’s experiences and actions while serving with the 1st Marine Division in the European Theatre of Operations, (D-Day) World War II and the Korean War. Series 7 contains 1,333 black/white and color photographs of Marines serving in Cuba, China, and the Philippines in the mid to late 1920’s. The second large set of photographs are of Marines engaged in combat during World War II and the Korean War. The collection is arranged by subject headings and chronologically within each series. Subject headings were imposed by the processor. Series in this collection include: Marine Corps Orders & Memoranda, Correspondence/Memorandums, Commendations, Personal Notes/Diaries, Newspaper Articles, Biographies, Ephemera, Photographs, and Slides.


George Barnett Collection (COLL/1635)

Physical Characteristics: 9 standard legal size document boxes; 3 oversize folders; 3.75 linear feet

Span Dates: 1800-1959

Scope and Content: The papers of George Barnett 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 1877 and through his retirement as a Major General in 1923. The dates of the collection range from 1800-1959. Included in this collection are official and unofficial documents acquired by Major General George Barnett over the course of his military career. Of particular note are Series 1 and Series 5. The correspondence in Series 1 relates to his activities as Commandant, particularly the inquiry of Marine Corps activities in Haiti and correspondence addressed to Barnett’s wife, Leila Montague Barnett for special requests and favors on the part of active-duty Marines. Series 5 contains memoirs for George Barnett and Leila Montague Barnett. Original copies of “Soldier and Sailor Too”, containing Barnett’s annotations and edits, are maintained separately for preservation purposes. Other items of interest in this series include photographs and newspaper articles regarding Barnett’s appointments as Commandant. 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, George Barnett’s Personal Notes, Honors & Awards, Ephemera, Memoirs, Newspaper Articles, and Photographs.

Harold BoortzHarrold S. Bortz, Sr. Collection (COLL/4933)

Physical Characteristics: 3 standard legal size document boxes; 1.5 linear feet

Span Dates: 1943-1963

Scope and Content: The Harrold Stanley Bortz Collection documents Bortz’s life from 1941 to 1969 (bulk 1943-1946) with an emphasis on his life as a Marine aerial photographer. The collection consists of personal papers, photographs, negatives, and ephemera. Among the materials included in the personal papers are mustering out payments, notices of service, clothing and equipment requisitions, and appointments. The majority of the collection is comprised of Boortz’s photographs, which document his time at Camp Elrod, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides while serving in Marine Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron 154 (VMD-154) during World War II, as well as tours in Korea, Japan, Puerto Rico, and North Carolina. The collection also includes negatives, the vast majority of which do not correspond with the photographs. Series in the collection include personal papers and photographs. 

James C. BreckinridgeJames C. Breckinridge Collection (COLL/3057)

Physical Characteristics: 16 standard legal size document boxes, 1 half document box, 1 scrapbook box, 1 oversize box, and one 1 oversize folder

Span Dates: 1885-1981, bulk 1900-1942

Scope and Content: This nineteen (19) box and one (1) oversize folder collection is composed of correspondence, photographs, articles, reports, lectures, poetry, and ephemera relating to the career, life and legacy of General James Carson Breckinridge.

The majority of materials within the collection consist of personal and military correspondence to and from James Carson Breckinridge. The bulk of this series is comprised of personal correspondence to various family members while James C. Breckinridge was serving in the Marine Corps. Note that two (2) document boxes (1 LF) of personal correspondence contain edited typescripts of certain original letters. These copies were retained for potential information they may contain from the original edits.

The writings within the collection include original poetry, college reports, both published and unpublished articles, and lectures by James Carson Breckinridge during his years at the Naval College and post career. The series also includes reference articles, called Grey Literature, written by others and collected by James Carson Breckinridge as well as newspaper clippings about the Breckinridge Family; and a draft biography of James Carson Breckinridge. Ephemera in the collection is composed of passports and identity cards, Diplomatic Corps mementos, the Breckinridge Family Bible, and Thomason Drawings of military uniforms.

Some material relates to the death and legacy of James Carson Breckinridge and his family such as death notices and memorial articles; the USS General J.C. Breckinridge Commissioning Program and related press; and the 1983 essay on "The Legacy of J.C. Breckinridge". The collection includes a small amount of material indirectly related to James C. Breckinridge such as the death notices for his son John Cabell Breckinridge who was killed in action in Korea.

The photographs within the collection are of the locations that General Breckinridge served during his career with the Marine Corps including Peiping, China; Dominican Republic; and Cuba; as well as photographs of family and friends.

John L. Broome Collection (COLL/3080)

Physical Characteristics: 1 standard legal size document box; 0.5 linear feet

Span Dates: 1848-1888

Scope and Content: The John L. Broome Collection documents the duties of shipboard Marine detachments during the period of the American Civil War, as well as documenting the life of a mid-19th century military officer. Broome's career spanned the period from the Mexican War, 1848, through 1888 and he saw duty in the Mexican War, the American Civil War and in the New York Whiskey riots of 1868. The collection is composed primarily of Broome's official correspondence, including his orders to various duty stations, his reports of assignments, and letters of commendation. Of particular interest is a letter to Admiral Walke written in 1878, concerning the details of Broome's conversation with General Ulysses S. Grant about the siege of Vicksburg. Also notable are the letters of commendation for Broome's assistance in the New York illicit distillery suppression of 1868. Although Broome discloses very little about the subject, the commendations provide insight into the incident. The collection is arranged chronologically by date. 

Wilburt S. "Bigfoot" Brown Collection (COLL/702)

Physical Characteristics: 7 standard legal size document boxes; 3.5 linear feet

Span Dates: 1918-1967

Scope and Content: The collection covers Wilburt S. Brown's career in the Marine Corps, beginning with his enlistment as a private in World War I to his retirement in 1952. The bulk of the collection concerns the Nicaraguan campaigns from 1927 through 1929, particularly to efforts at Nueva Segovia to apprehend the bandit Augusto Sandino. Other topics include supply problems, intelligence gathering, and the fledging study of guerilla warfare and small wars doctrine by the Marine Corps. Materials from this time period were reexamined by Brown in 1964, at which time he made notations on numerous documents to elucidate their significance. Wilburt S. Brown Collection Page 5 There are materials related to Brown's decade of service following his departure from Nicaragua in 1929, which included tours of duty at sea, on Guam, and as a student in the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. His early participation in World War II was shortened by an illness contracted in the Pacific. Brown was subsequently detached to the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The collection reflects his training and skills acquired through this course of study and its future ramifications for the Corps in the form of training lectures prepared for his duty as artillery and naval gunfire instructor for the Troop Training Unit of the Amphibious Training Base at San Diego, California. Again ordered to the Pacific in 1944, Brown's collection is sparse for the period when he was placed in command of the 11th Marines, the artillery regiment of the 1st Marine Division, which he led through the Okinawa campaign and the occupation of North China after the end of the war. A sizable portion of the collection deals with Brown's tour of duty as the Marine Corps representative at the Air University at Maxwell Field, Alabama, both as a student and as an instructor in the Naval Division, where he taught amphibious warfare doctrine, close air support, and fire support coordination. Miscellaneous printed materials, clippings, photographs, speeches, lectures, and lesson plans round out the collection. The collection is arranged chronologically within each series. Series in this collection include official records and correspondence; speeches and lectures; personal papers; photographs; and exercises and curricula.

Smedley D. Butler with Jiggs, circa 1926Smedley D. Butler Collection (COLL/3124)

Physical Characteristics: 100 standard legal size document boxes; 24 oversized boxes; 12 oversized map case folders; 60 linear feet

Span Dates: 1898-1940

Scope and Content: The collection includes correspondence, clippings, ephemera, photographs, drawings, maps, negatives, and official records related to the life and work of Smedley Butler between the years 1898 and 1940 (bulk 1912 – 1939). The majority of the collection is comprised of Butler’s vast personal and professional correspondence. The first series in the collection, correspondence has been further subdivided into 3 subseries: personal correspondence, official correspondence, and post retirement correspondence. Those letters in the subseries personal correspondence are characterized by the correspondent, i.e., letters exchanged between Butler and his immediate family. This subseries is dominated by correspondence between Butler and his wife, Ethel Butler; his mother, Maud Butler; and his father, Thomas Butler. Other correspondents include his brother, Samuel Butler, his aunt, Isabelle Darlington Butler, and his son Thomas “Tom Dick” Butler. The letters in this series, particularly those from Butler’s early years as a Marine, are particularly voluminous, as he would frequently write on a daily basis while deployed around the world. The second subseries, official correspondence, contains those letters written or received by Butler in the commission of his duties during his long career in the Marine Corps. This subseries also contains letters from fans and supporters and correspondence related to Butler’s personal business dealings. It should be noted that, given Butler’s obvious dedication to his career as a Marine, he discusses aspects of his official responsibilities in his correspondence with his friends and family members; likewise, he discusses personal matters in correspondence dominated by his official duties. A thorough scholar would be advised to examine both subseries in examining the different stages in Butler’s life. The distinction has been made in order to compartmentalize the materials in this large collection to make them easier to examine. Butler’s short tenure as Director of Public Safety for the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is documented here, though it is indirectly related to his Marine career. This series terminates in October 1931, after Butler’s retirement from service. The third subseries, post retirement correspondence, is comprised of correspondence to and from Butler after his retirement from the Marine Corps and his entrance into civilian life. By far the largest of the three correspondence groupings, this subseries consists primarily of Butler’s communications with the public at large, as the majority of the letters in this subseries could be characterized as “fan” letters. This subseries also contains correspondence related to Butler’s post – Marine Corps career as a lecturer, public speaker, author, and would – be Senator. Whenever possible, enclosures have been kept with their accompanying letters, as have original envelopes. As such, materials that would fall into other series, such as clippings, have not been relocated for the sake of continuity. Correspondence is arranged chronologically by year, there under by date. The second series in the collection is official records. These are materials characterized by their origination by and for the Marine Corps chain of command, including memoranda, orders, and letters of instruction issued to Butler and by Butler. The third series, personal papers, includes Butler’s fiduciary and medical records, insurance information, and those materials related to Butler’s personal business and welfare. This series also includes ephemeral items and souvenirs. The fourth series, writings, include manuscripts authored by Butler, the majority of which are autobiographical in nature. This series includes articles written by Butler for national publications on such subjects as American anti – imperialism, veteran’s rights, and Prohibition. The fifth series, speeches and lectures, include the text of speeches and lectures, as well as itineraries, promotional materials, and notes. The sixth series, radio addresses, are comprised of radio scripts used by Butler in delivering addresses during a weekly radio program. The seventh series, publications, articles, extracts, and clippings, include materials kept or maintained by Butler as research materials, as well as media in which he is mentioned. Butler received extensive media attention from an early age, and continued to find himself a constant subject of newspaper reports both as a Marine and as a public speaker. The eighth series in the collection, photographs, negatives, drawings, and postcards, is comprised of visual materials collected by Butler. While there is a small component of photographs of a personal nature, the majority of the photographs in this series are related to Butler’s career and life as a public figure. The ninth series, maps and charts, is also the smallest in the collection, comprised by Butler’s modest collection of maps.  The tenth series includes Butler family papers. These are materials kept by the Butler family after the death of Smedley Butler, primarily those materials kept by his wife Ethel concerning photographs of memorial events and tributes to Butler, condolence letters received after Butler’s death, and correspondence from scholars about Butler’s career. The eleventh series contains oversized materials. The collection contains considerable material concerning Butler's tour in Haiti, with many letters detailing the day-to-day conditions and problems peculiar to the Marines' role in the occupation of the country. Butler's position in the establishment of the Gendarmerie d'Haiti is developed through many letters from various leading political figures and members of the military, both American and Haitian. The collection also includes significant material on Butler's repeated attempts to be relieved of his duties in Haiti in order to be dispatched to Europe at the outset of America's entry into World War I, and the constant denials from Assistant Secretary of Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt. The segment of the collection that covers Butler's tour of China in 1927 – 1929 as Commanding General of the 3d Brigade, U.S. Marines is particularly important. Included are position papers describing the role that the 3d Brigade was to assume "to protect the lives and property of our nationals in Tientsin, to offer a temporary refuge in Tientsin for our nationals’ evacuation from the interior and to make safe that evacuation to the sea.” Butler wrote very detailed reports of his command during the late 1920s in China. The collection documents Butler's role in establishing the vocational and education programs of the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia in 1920; the controversy over Butler's alleged disparaging remarks on the conditions of the USS Gulfport in 1921; the general program of the East Coast Expeditionary Force maneuvers in 1921; Butler’s activities as Director of Public Safety for Philadelphia from 1923 to 1924. Butler’s post Marine Corps career as an author and lecturer is also well documented. 

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