Finding Aid for the Merrill H. Bolner Second World War correspondence collection 2021.195.w.r

Frank J. López-Huerta
Center for American War Letters Archives
Leatherby Libraries
Chapman University
Orange, CA 92866

Contributing Institution: Center for American War Letters Archives
Title: Merrill H. Bolner Second World War correspondence collection
source: Bolner, Michael
Creator: Bolner, Merrill Howard, Sergeant, b. 1924
Creator: Bolner, Thomas Edward, Agent, 1924-2005
Creator: Bolner, Donald Eugene, 1925-1995
Creator: Bolner, Merrill LeRoy, 1904-1993
Creator: Bolner, Merval Louise, b. 1935
Creator: Bolner, Gladys C., 1905-1989
Identifier/Call Number: 2021.195.w.r
Physical Description: 2.5 Linear Feet (22 folders)
Date (inclusive): 1942 May 24 - 1982 March 26
Date (bulk): 1942 May 24 - 1945 November 30
Abstract: This collection contains correspondence to and from the "Bolner Boys": Sgt. Merrill H. Bolner, USAAC; Agent Thomas E. Bolner, USACIS; and LtCol. Donald E. Bolner, USAAC written during the Second World War.
Language of Material: English .
Container: 167
Container: 1 - 5
Container: 168
Container: 6 - 8
Container: 169
Container: 9 - 12
Container: 170
Container: 13 - 17
Container: 171
Container: 18 - 22

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Michael Bolner.


This collection is arranged by author, and chronology.
  • Series 1, Merrill H. Bolner correspondence
  • Series 2, Thomas E. Bolner correspondence
  • Series 3, Donald E. Bolner correspondence
  • Series 4, Mr. Merrill L. and Mrs. Gladys C. Bolner correspondence
  • Series 5, correspondence from various authors

Statement of Potentially Harmful Content

This collection may contain materials that are difficult to view, are potentially harmful, or use outdated and culturally insensitive language. Chapman University preserves and makes these materials accessible to researchers to ensure long-term accuracy of these historical records. This repository aims to not promote or otherwise celebrate this content, but to use it for educational and research purposes.
Please see the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) "Statement on Potentially Harmful Content" for more information:

Preferred Citation

[Item title / description; Box "n" / Folder "n"], Merrill H. Bolner Second World War collection (2021.195.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 approximately 700 correspondence written to and from the "Bolner Boys", Sgt. Merrill H., Agent Thomas E., and Lt Col. Donald E. Bolner during the Second World War. Major contributors to this collection include the Bolner parents, Merrill L. and Gladys C. Bolner who wrote to the Bolner brothers throughout the Second World War.
Merrill L. Bolner consistently attached newspaper clippings throughout his correspondence and discuessed current US events, military activities in Europe and the Pacific, and home life wit the Bolner brothers. He occassionally expressed critical opinions of the US military and US politics.
Merrill H. Bolner, the eldest Bolner brother, often wrote his parents and friends in very vague or sanitized language. He seldom wrote explicitly about his military activities. Thomas E. Bolner, in a letterr written September 25, 1945 to his older brother offered words of comfort regarding Merrill H. Bolner's activities in the Philipines. This may indicate that Merrill H. Bolner's content varied greatly depending on who he was writing for unknown reasons.
Thomas E. Bolner, the middle Bolner brother, shared similar sentiments and beliefs as their father, Merrill L. Bolner. Towards the end of his service time, he also expressed critical views of the USA Military Police and the Criminal Investigation Section.
Donald E. Bolner, the youngest Bolner brother, wrote more consistently about his military activities when compated to his eldest brother, Merrill H. Bolner. However, he is not as well represented in this collection because approximately 30 letters are present in this collection.
Other authors include US service members and civilians who wrote predominantly to Sgt. Bolner.
This collection also contains over 40 newspaper clippings, 4 photographs, and over 20 postcards or celebratory cards.

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

Correspondence -- World War, 1939-1945
World War (1939-1945)
World War (1939-1945) -- Pacific Area
World War (1939-1945) -- Europe
World War (1939-1945) -- Hawaii
Armed Forces -- Military police
United States. -- Army. -- Air Corps
Bolner, Michael


Series 1, Merrill H. Bolner correspondence 1943 July 4 - 1945 November 25

Physical Description: .8 Linear Feet(4 folders)

Biographical / Historical

Sergeant Merrill Howard "Bart" Bolner, United States Army Air Corps (b. 1924) was born in Kokomo, Indiana to Merrill L. and Gladys C. Bolner née Howard. Merrill H. Bolner was the eldest brother to: Thomas E. Bolner; Donald E. Bolner; and Merval L. Bolner.
Sgt. Bolner served with with the 11th Airborne Division, 187th Glider Infantry Regiment in the Pacific Theater of Operations during the Second World War.
He married Crystal Leona Bergdoll in Hartford City, Indiana and together raised Michael T. Bolner, who was born in 1948.

Processing Information

December 12, 1943 - Sgt. Bolner sent a letter containing four $1 US Silver Certificates so his parent could purchase a gift for his sister, Merval L. Bolner. The US Silver Certificates have the following serial numbers:
  • I59779900C
  • G00873026C
  • J22540612C
  • D92059687C

Scope and Contents

This series contains 96 correspondence written by Sgt. Merrill H. Bolner, USAAC to family during the Second World War.
He wrote from Camp Mackall, North Carolina throughout 1943 while training with the 11th Airborne Division, 187th Glider Infantry. He primarily wrote to family about his training, promotions, and current events abroad.
He was relocated to Camp Polk, Louisiana in December 30, 1943 and wrote from this location through the spring of 1944.
July 5, 1944 - Sgt.Bolner wrote from "someplace at sea" and described "life on board [a] ship is pretty much the same as it was in camp except everything is crowded."
August 7, 1944 - Bolner wrote to Leona C. Bergdoll about being squad leader of an 81 mm mortar squad. He also described the local wildlife and scenery.
September 17, 1944 - He wrote to his parents about news of the Allied Forces pushing into Germany and noted that "the Russian have [the Nazis] in Warsaw. Damn, the European War can't last much longer."
Two letters from September 9 and September 11, 1945 were written on Japanese stationary.
September 5, 1945 - Bolner wrote to his parents from Japan and updated them on his career plans after completing his military service. He wrote about the Japanese civilians and US replacement forces.
Of the latter, he stated that they were "screwing up the works by confiscating watches, pins, etc. off the civs." He further wrote, "the God damn fools laid on their rear ends in the states while we were fighting them, when it's all over they come over and try to set things off all over again. It's terrible how ignorant some of our clean[-]cut American boys can be."
October 30, 1945 - Bolner reacted to news that his maternal grandmother had passed away.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

United States. -- Army. -- Air Corps
United States -- Army -- Pacific Theater of Operations
World War (1939-1945) -- Pacific Area
World War (1939-1945) -- Japan
World War (1939-1945) -- Philippines.

Series 2, Thomas E. Bolner correspondence 1943 July 21 - 1945 July 12

Physical Description: .8 Linear Feet(3 folders)

Biographical / Historical

Agent Thomas Edward "Tom" Bolner, United States Army Criminal Investigation Section (1924 - 2005) was born in Kokomo, Indiana to Merrill L. and Gladys C. Bolner née Howard. His elder brother was Sgt. Merrill H. Bolner, and his younger siblings include: Lt Col. Donald Bolner; and Merval L. Bolner.
T.E. Bolner first served with the 11th Airborne Division, then served with the US Army Military Police before joining the US Army Criminal Investigation Section in Hawaii sometime during 1945.
According to a donor-provided document:
After graduating from the Spartan School of Aeronautical in 1952 with a degree in aeronautical engineering, [Thomas E.] Bolner completed his studies at the University of Missouri with a defree in mechanical engineering. . . . Mr. Bolner's career in the aerospace industry spanned over 40 years. . . . He was preceded in death by his first wife, Dr. Anne U. Bolner. . . . He is survived by his second wife, Dr. Jeannine Classen; children, Thomas 'Tommy' Bolner . . ., and Anne (Leslie) Bolner . . ., and stepdaughter, Stephanie Classen.

Scope and Contents

This series contains 71 correspondence written by Agent Thomas E. "Tom" Bolner, USACIS to his family during the Second World War. He wrote from Camp Mackall, North Carolina throughout 1943 while training with the 11th Airborne Division.
March 31, 1944 - Thomas E. Bolner shared news with Sgt. Bolner that their youngest brother, Donald E. Bolner was interested in military service as well. He lamented at the possibility that both Merrill H. and Donald E. Bolner might serve abroad while he remained in the US due to his poor eyesight.
May 6, 1945 - Bolner wrote to his parents from Camp Beale, California to update them on his activities.
June 12, 1945 - He wrote to his parents from Oahu, Hawaii about being assigned to the Military Police and described his daily life.
August 17, 1945 - Bolner wrote to his sister, Merval L. Bolner. He reflected on news that the Bolner family dog, Jack, had been killed and shared the following anecdote:
Jack never hurt a living thing, he was, I remember, digging out in the field one day and Bart [Merrill H. Bolner] and I thought he might at last be on to the ways of . . . hunting dog but; when we got a close look he was only playing with a bunch of mice.
August 25, 1945 - he speculated about Sgt. Bolner's location with his parents and offered his thoughts about the deployment of the atomic bombs in Japan.
September 15, 1945 - Agent Bolner wrote to his parents from Wahiawa, Hawaii that "the Army is going to educate us so we [will] be ready for civilian life when we get out . . . We have our choice of several studys [sic] to take." He listed the following as his top choices: "bus. law; bus. ENG.; American Political and Social History; [as well as] pys. and life."
He also described seeing a Japanese suicide plane "at the Navy yard. It was one of those jet jobs that hangs from a larger plane and when they near the objective it's cut loose."
September 25, 1945 - PFC Bolner wrote to Sgt. Bolner in response to his "letter of the 10th [specific year unknown]." He reflected on the past "two years and eight months" and how much he changed since they were forced to serve separately. He admitted that when they first joined the Army, Agent Bolner relied too much on his eldest brother, Sgt. Bolner. He mentioned that at first "it was pretty hard to . . . not have anybody but it didn't take long" for him to adapt without his brother.
He also assured Sgt. Bolner that he would not share his experiences at the Battle of Luzon, Philippines with anyone until Sgt. Bolner was ready. Thomas E> Bolner consoled him and expressed his feeling that Sgt. Bolner had done nothing wrong. He added, "Jesus Christ look back with family (on both sides). Your life on Luzon would be the life of a Saint to most any of our uncles. . . . If you think you did something wrong, forget it."
November 18, 1945 - Agent Bolner wrote to his parents about being transferred to the Headquarters of Central Pacific Base Command's Criminal Investigation Section (CIS). He vented that the CIS "is a damn detective unit that covers up for the officers and convicts enlisted men on the statements they make."
Agent Bolner alleged that "the men that really get by with murder over here . . . is the 810 M.P.Co." He explained that "they have always had a name for rough and cruel treatment to E.M. [likley, enlisted men]."
This series also includes:
  • 2 postcards written by Sgt. M.H. Bolner and sent to the Bolner parents by Thomas E. Bolner in 2 separate correspondence
  • 1 postcard
  • 1 telegram
  • 1 photograph with inscription on verso. Originally contained within envelope potentially postmarked July 30, 1943 [uncertainty due to faded printing]
  • 1 "Application for Ration Currency"

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Armed Forces -- Military police
World War (1939-1945) -- Hawaii
United States. -- Army. -- Air Corps

Series 3, Donald E. Bolner correspondence 1944 March 29 - 1945 November 26

Physical Description: .4 Linear Feet(1 folder)

Biographical / Historical

Lieutenant Colonel Donald Eugene "Don" Bolner, US Army Air Corps (1925 - 1995) was born in Kokomo, Indiana to Merrill L. and Gladys C. Bolner née Howard. His older brothers include: Merrill H. and Thomas E. Bolner; and his youngest sibling was Merval L. Bolner.
Donald E. Bolner served with the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the European Theater of Operations during the Second World War. After the Second World War, he "was awarded the Bronze Star Medal - with Valor Device for heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force on 20 September 1964, in the Republic of Vietnam." He retired from military service in 1973 with the rank of Lt. Col [unable to verify donor-provided information about this specific rank].
He married Vera Maxine Rhodes and together raised: Patrick, Dennis, and Douglas Bolner.

Scope and Contents

This series contains 34 correspondence written by Lt Col. Donald E. Bolner, USAAC to family during the Second World War. Donald E. Bolner wrote the majority of this material while first holding the rank of Private First Class. He was later promoted to the rank of Sergeant during the Fall of 1945.
March 29, 1944 - Bolner wrote to his brother Sgt. Merrill H. Bolner about his training and daily life at Camp Walker, Texas.
December 6, 1944 - Bolner wrote to Sgt. Bolner from France. He shared an interaction he had with a captured German Officer who proclaimed that "we are going to drive you back to New York" in fluent English.
May 13, 1945 - Bolner wrote to his parents about his experiences in Southern and Northern France. He stated that "we spent Christmas [1944] on a hillside just south of [unintelligible] and we got the hell kick [sic] out of us at Trois Points. Our own Air corps bombed us at Malmedy [Belgium]."
May 24, 1945 - Bolner wrote to his parents about how "we were suppose [sic] to make five different combat jumps within a month but each time Patton over ran our drop zone." He also shared that "one of my best buddies got killed and he knew he was going to die, the boy next to me held him in his arms and (C.B. Jones was his name) C.B. said his prayers and it didn't help him out any."
July 8, 1945 - Bolner shared news that he was going on a seven day furlough in England but expressed suspicion about the political motivations for sending him away. He explained that his furlough coincided with the arrival of a new first sergeant from the US to ensure the least amount of tension between them. Bolner elaborated that as the most experienced member of the Company, he felt he was supposed to be promoted to Sergeant but lamented that this would not happen unless he got into the new 1st Sgt.'s good side.
October 17, 1945 - Bolner wrote to his parents and sister from Fort Bragg, North Carolina about daily life. He also speculated about being able to return home on furlough because he was close to earning 60 points.
November 8, 1945 - Bolner wrote to his parents and sister about the possibility of being promoted to Sergeant before leaving the Army. He explained that if promoted, he could return to military service as a Sergeant.
November 26, 1945 - Donald E. Bolner announced to his family that he was promoted to sergeant [previously held the rank of private first class]. He also responded to news that his brother, Thomas E. Bolner had become an "agent for Uncle Sam" and asked if he earned more money than when he was a private first class in the USAMP.
This series also contains:
  • 1 newspaper clipping with title "U.S. Paratroops Join in Attack on Luzon Japs" originally attached to correspondence from June 26, 1945
  • 2 newspaper clipplings from an unknown periodical [potentially "Yank"] originally attached to correspondence from July 8, 1945. Contains content written about Sergeant Bill Mauldin, including 4 illustrations. One page contains a Martha Vickers "Yank Pin-up girl" poster.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Battle of the Ardennes (1944-1945)
World War (1939-1945) -- France
United States. -- Army. -- Air Corps
World War (1939-1945) -- Belgium
World War (1939-1945) -- Germany

Series 4, Mr. Merrill L. and Mrs. Gladys C. Bolner correspondence

Physical Description: 1.5 Linear Feet(9 folders)

Biographical / Historical

Merrill LeRoy Bolner (1904 - 1993) was born in Millgrove, Indiana to Samuel H. Bolner, and Marietta C. Bolner. He married Gladys C. Howard and together raised Merrill H., Thomas E., Donald E, and Merval L. Bolner.
Gladys Catharine bolner née Howard (1905 - 1989) was born in Alexandria, Indiana to Ernest Atwood Howard, and Bertha L. Howard. She married Merrill L. Bolner and together raised Merrill H. Bolner, Thomas E. Bolner, Donald E. Bolner, and Merval L. Bolner. Mrs. Bolner worked at Hartford Novelty Co. in Hartford City, Indiana and was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Muncie and the Get Together Club in Hartford City, Indiana.
Merval Louise Sills née Bolner (1934 - ) was born in Hartford City, Indiana to Merrill L. Bolner and Gladys C. Bolner. Her older siblings include: Merrill H., Thomas E., and Donald E. Bolner. She married Sherman N. Sills and together raised Eric Sills, Lorri Sills, and Nancy Sills.

Scope and Contents

This series contains approximately 308 correspondence written by Merrill L., Gladys C., and Merval L. Bolner to "the Bolner Boys": Merrill H. Bolner, Thomas E. Bolner, and Donald E. Bolner during the Second World War. Although the Bolner brothers are consistently addressed in letters, most of these correspondence were sent directly to Sgt. Merrill H. Bolner.
May 13, 1943 - Merrill L. Bolner wrote to Sgt. Merrill H. "June" Bolner, USAAC and advised that he "do whatever is the best to insure [sic] your being able to come home to us after the war." He further stated "to hell with the stripes and bars. I want you and Tom when this dam [sic] [war] is over and you dont [sic] want to make a career of military as your future."
July 26, 1943 - Gladys C. Bolner sent four drawings made by Merval L. Bolner:
  • Drawing #1 - depicts a man walking with an inscription under his feet reading "Strong."
  • Drawing #2 - features a tank firing its guns with an inscription that reads "What a tank can do."
  • Drawing #3 - depicts a battle-ship firing its canons with an inscription that reads "What a boat can do."
  • Drawing #4 - features a flying fortress bomber surrounded by flak with an inscription that reads "What one airplane can do."
November 23, 1943 - Merrill L. Bolner wrote to Sgt. Bolner in response to a question about their opinions regarding Gen. Patton. Mr. Bolner shared that "its [sic] too bad the old S.B. is so high up that it would be hard for one of the men to give him what they did some of the lower officers in World War I." He also shared that he wished he could join the military to accompany his youngest son, Donald E. Bolner.
January 4, 1944 - Merrill L. Bolner wrote to Sgt. Bolner to inform him that they received the letters he saved over his time in the military. Mr. Bolner expressed surprise that his son had saved so many of his letters and offered to organize them for him.
May 21, 1944 - Merrill L. Bolner wrote to Sgt. Bolner and speculated about his whereabout. He guessed he was in New Guinea, while a family friend suggested Sgt. Bolner was somewhere in China.
Gladys C. Bolner also wrote to Sgt. Bolner and assured him that he should request whatever supplies he needed and expressed great confidence in his military training. She closed by saying that "I sure hope Don [Donald E. Bolner] isn't ready for combat by the middle of July."
November 24, 1944 - Merrill L. Bolner updated his youngest son, Maj. Donald E. Bolner about his older brother Thomas E. Bolner. Mr. Bolner also shared that "it's pretty hard to write and say very much when we don't get mail, but don't you think anything about it for we know that you and June [SGT. Bolner] boy will write when you can."
December 3, 1944 - Merrill L. Bolner updated Sgt. Bolner that his brother Thomas E. Bolner had been assigned to the US Army Military Police.
Correspondence written throughout December 1944 show persistent signs of water damage but are still legible. Damage may have been inflicted while SGT. Bolner was serving at the Battle of the Bulge [Ardennes Offensive].
January 6, 1945 - Merrill L. Bolner wrote to Sgt. Bolner to state that he had mis-dated letters from January 1 - 5, 1945 as December 1 - 5, 1945.
May 1, 1945 - Merril L. Bolner wrote to Sgt. Bolner to reflect on the deaths of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler. He stated of that "we lost the one man, responsible for the defeat of fascism and fascism lost the man that gave it birth. We hear tonite [sic] that Hitler died (somehow) in Berlin [Germany]."
July 12, 1944 - Merrill L. Bolner wrote to Sgt. Bolner and wondered why he signed his latest telegram "Bart Bolner".
Correspondence written after July 13, 1945 are predominantly typed.
September 4, 1945 - Merrill L. Bolner wrote to Sgt. Bolner and shared an account by a man named Jim, a friend of MAJ. Bolner who expressed remorse about the way he killed a German soldier using a "phosphorous grenade" because Jim knew it "made the Nazi suffer terribly." According to Mr. Bolner, he was confident of this because "they had a Lt. [Lieutenant] . . . get hit with one of them and that it burned him to a crisp." Mr. Bolner further relayed Jim's regret of not collecting his friend's personal belongings after being killed in action to send back home to his friend's family.
October 20, 1945 - Merrill L. Bolner informed Sgt. Bolner that he had received the propaganda leaflets he sent and looked forward to receiving a rifle and mortar as well. Mr. Bolner also mentioned that SGT. Bolner planned to bring home a "samurai sword" and that SGT. Bolner's albums of Second World War materials numbered at least three in total.
November 7, 1945 - Merrill L. Bolner wrote to the Bolner brothers and updated each on their activities. He stated:
As for June: well I expect he is on his way home and his [sic] not writing is excusable. I'm thinking Tom is being moved or has moved . . . . As for Don, . . . . [he] is too damn mad to write, on account of some bastard holding five points from him.
The last letter in series was written by Merrill L. Bolner on November 30, 1945 and was addressed to SGT. Bolner.
This series also contains:
  • 2 - identical documents entitled "Marking of Equipment", one is inscribed "Bolner" and the second "Gass."
  • 1 - USA military insignia patch attached to the "Bolner" inscribed "Marking of Equipment" document.
  • 40 - newspaper clippings. Majority of these materials were inscribed with publication date and publication name. They include the Indianapolis Times, the Chicago Sun, and the Muncie Star.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

World War (1939-1945)
Newspaper clippings
World War (1939-1945) -- Newspapers

Series 5, Correspondence from various Authors 1942 May 24 - 1982 November 19 1943 July 9 - 1944 February 1944

Physical Description: .6 Linear Feet(5 folders)

Scope and Contents

This series contains 192 correrspondence from various authors to Sgt. Bolner written during and after the Second World War. These correspondence span from Merrill H. Bolner's time training at Camp Mackall, N.C. and Camp Polk, La. through his time in the Pacific Theater of War. Correspondence written by US service members discussed their training camp experiences, and life updates. Among the authors are the following service members:
  • Pvt. Ivan J. Brandt, US Army Air Corps
  • Cpl. Pat Dundria [Military branch unknown]
  • Pvt. C.R. Howard, US Army
  • Pvt. Harry E. [last name unintelligible], US Marine Corps
Civilian authors includes:
  • Leona C. Bergdoll
  • Bill "W.M." Fischer
  • E.W. Johnson
  • Patricia "Patty" Lambert
  • Mary Mahoving
  • Connie McClure
  • Nancy McGrew
  • Marcelline Michael
  • Margaret "Marge" Reed
  • Helen Sellers
  • Herschel Smith
  • Alphonse Wagner
  • James "Whiskey Jim" Wilhems
  • Dorothy Wright
This series also includes:
  • 18 postcards or celebratory cards
  • 1 issue of the Chicago Sun newspaper from February 5, 1945. This issue was originally contained within a medium size envelope sent by Mary Mahoving postmarked 1943
  • 1 photograph originally contained within an envelope sent by M. Mahoving postmarked 1943
  • 2 photographs sent by Connie McClure in a letter written September 9, 1945