Finding Aid for the Elmer L. Huff First World War correspondence 2019.101.w.r

Andrew Harman
Center for American War Letters Archives
Leatherby Libraries
Chapman University
Orange, CA 92866

Contributing Institution: Center for American War Letters Archives
Title: Elmer L. Huff First World War correspondence
Creator: Freed , Clarence Ralph, Private, 1894-1980
Creator: Huff, Elmer L. , Corporal, 1893-1953
Identifier/Call Number: 2019.101.w.r
Physical Description: 0.01 Linear feet (1 folder)
Date (inclusive): 1918 February 9 - 1919 April 6
Abstract: This collection contains seven correspondence from Cpl. Elmer L. Huff, USA and one correspondence from Pvt. Clarence R. Freed, USA during the Second World War.
Language of Material: English .
Container: WWII 63
Container: 8
Container: 1

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Fred and Gloria Wells.


This collection is arranged chronologically.

Biographical / Historical

Corporal Elmer Lewis Huff, United States Army (4/20/1893 - 2/11/1953) was born in Abilene, Kansas to parents Frank and Expiercine "Exie" Huff. He enlisted on April 28, 1918, trained at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kansas, and served with an automatic rifle squad in Company I, 353rd Infantry, National Army 89th Division. He left Brooklyn, New York aboard the Pyrrhus on June 4, 1918 (passenger manifest, and wrote his first letter in this collection from Pronsfeld, Germany (dated February, 1918 by mistake). He was a private until his last letter he wrote as a corporal in April 1919. He served until his discharge on June 2, 1919 and after the war lived with his sister Grace and her husband Leslie Taylor and their new daughter Arlene. He later married a woman named Bessie D. from Illinois, and settled in Springfield where he worked as a dentist. Elmer passed away in Springfield in 1953 and is interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery.
Cpl. Huff wrote to his sister and her husband during the war, Annabel Freed neé Huff (1890?) and Ernest George "E.G." Freed (b. 9/4/1890) who lived in Abilene, Kansas.
Private Clarence Ralph Freed, United States Army (5/29/1894 - 2/19/1980) was born in Kansas to John D. and Mary J. Freed and was the brother of Ernest Freed. Pvt. Freed worked as a blacksmith with only one year of high school education before enlisting on April 26, 1918. He trained at Camp Funston and was transferred between units and the base hospital due to illness until returning to Company B, 353rd Infantry, National Army 89th Division (same battalion as Elmer Huff) for duty on July 28. The unit sailed on the Karmala June 4, 1918 out of Brooklyn (passenger manifest, and fell ill again in September. He returned to duty on January 11, 1919 and returned from Europe with his company on the USS Leviathan sailing out of Brest, France May 15, arriving May 22 in Hoboken, New Jersey.
After the war, Freed worked as a mechanic in a garage in Kansas and married his wife Hazel (an Emma and Hazel Coons were mentioned in a letter by Elmer, December 28, 1918). They had three sons; Virgil, Kenneth, and Delbert. Clarence Freed passed away in February 1980.

Custodial History

This collection belonged to Anna and Ernest Freeds. According to the donors, the Freeds were without children, and when they passed their possessions were bequeathed to Fred and Gloria Wells.

Preferred Citation

[Item title / description; Box "n" / Folder "n"], Elmer L. Huff First World War correspondence (2019.101.w.r), Center for American War Letters Archives, Chapman University, CA.
For the benefit of current and future researchers, please cite any additional information about sources consulted in this collection, including permanent URLs, item or folder descriptions, and box/folder locations.

Content Description

This collection contains seven correspondence from Cpl. Elmer L. Huff, USA and one correspondence from Pvt. Clarence R. Freed, USA during the Second World War. Most of Cpl. Huff's letters, including one postcard, were sent to Anna and Ernest George Freed, with two sent to his sister Grace and her husband Leslie G. Taylor. Pvt. Freed sent one letter to his parents, John D. and Mary J. Freed.
There is a postcard dated April 28, 1918 from Elmer to the Freeds telling them that he had arrived at home and was reporting the next day at Pleasanton, Kansas.
Huff's first letter was addressed to Les and Grace, dated February 9, 1918 by mistake (he did not enlist until April) and was written in Pronsfeld, Germany near the border of Belgium. He discussed their housing arrangements, billeted with German families, as well as the poverty of the families. He then mentions the winter weather, with snow, and a tribute his battalion, led by his company commander Colonel Reeves, to "the late Col. Roosevelt," which was apparently a tribute conducted across the division.
His letter continues by telling of his trip up the Rhine River. They stopped at once at Gerolstein and then took trains, which he describes as uncomfortable and "about a hundred years behind times the same as in France and England." They had a meal catered by Dutch waiters at the YMCA, stayed the night, and then started up the Rhine on a boat formerly belonging to the Germans. He then mentions the influenza epidemic; "Sure too bad about so much sickness and many deaths around home sure feel sorry for people who have been so unfortunate as to lose members of family. Sure hope none of you get it."
His second letter was written in Prum, Germany after the war, dated December 28, 1918. He mentions the snow again and spending Christmas at the Kaiserhof hotel to see a "picture show" given by the YMCA. The next day he sent a letter that contained photographs (not in collection).
The next letter was from Pvt. Freed to his parents dated January 12, 1919 from Fleringen, Germany. The letter was written two days after returning to duty from a field hospital for illness, though he says he left the hospital a week prior. He says the same thing as Huff; billeted with friendly Germans, the weather is cold and there was snow. He then says there are many new faces in the unit, "the one I miss the most is Ray E. They say he had both legs shot off and died on the way to the hospital." He closes by discussing the routines and customs of the German family in this small village.
The rest of the letters were from Cpl. Huff, the first to the Freeds and dated January 23, 1919 (misdated '1918'), also from Prum. He went to a Dutch dentist for a teeth cleaning and then discusses Grace and Anna's letter writing. He appreciates it and wishes he was married to someone like them because "we have had a few experiences over here but you know what Sherman said about war and he sure hit it too." (William T. Sherman, "War is Hell.")
He then discusses doing maneuvers to represent the Third Army for General Winn and "a motion picture man" taking pictures as they simiulated taking machine gun fire. His unit is getting new clothes soon, but he is unsure when they will be leaving. There is also another mention of the influenza, though it is getting better.
On March 15 Huff wrote from Neuerburg, what he says is a summer resort closer to Luxembourg, and has been in the infirmary with an illness. He and another soldier stay in a room together in the house of a German woman (used to be 5-6 together). She lost her husband at the beginning of the war in 1914 and is very nice to them. He once again wishes that those back home will not get the influenza, and that afternoon he is getting an inoculation for typhoid fever.
Huff's last letter was written after promotion to Corporal on April 6, 1919. Still in Prum, he tells everyone about the men in his company and how great they are, especially their captain about whom he says "I don't believe he could be any better liked or any better to his men he is always thinking about the men, and don't think there is a better man in the army than he is." He then says they heard news that the division was heading home around May 15 (which was the actual day they set sail). He closes mentioning a show at the Kaiserhof by the YMCA and some of the food, including all-you-can-eat pancakes.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this material except where previously copyrighted material is concerned. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain all permissions.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

World War (1914-1918) -- Germany
World War (1914-1918)
Correspondence -- World War, 1914-1918
Freed, Ernest George, b. 1890
Freed, Annabel, b. 1889 or 1890