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Elsie Comfort Correspondence

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS 00115

Content Description

The correspondence includes handwritten postcards, letters, and V-Mail as well as three photographs addressed to Elsie Jean Comfort (referred to as Elsie, Jean and Jeannie) from United States servicemen in the Army, Navy and Air Force during World War II and the Korean War. Several of the letter writers are from Comfort’s hometown of Elmira, New York. Comfort receives letters from F.W. (Franklin Woodward or “Barney”) Harlan; Charles R. Haner; James Ewing, Jr.; Donald Fickers; Richard T. Butts; Dick Murray; Raymond Haven; Roger Comfort; and Willie van der Linden, Comfort’s post-World War II pen pal from Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Comfort also receives one letter from her older sister, Jeanette Comfort.

Elsie is stateside during both conflicts but receives correspondence from Texas, Georgia, Alaska, Virginia, California, as well as posts in Europe, Africa and Australia. Several letters mention gifts sent to Comfort: Italian and French currency; Australian postage; and a small souvenir from Italy. The letters primarily show how correspondence provided a morale boost for military members. There is also a focus on contemporary entertainment and music, particularly in letters from Harlan, who is in a Navy band, and Fickers, a fan of popular music. Correspondents mention Irving Berlin and Bob Hope performances for the troops. Al Joslon is also discussed at length.

Ewing’s 1952 death in a plane crash is also briefly described by Fickers.

Comfort’s correspondence with van der Linden includes exchange of daily activities, school, and the weather. The pen pals also exchange small trinkets. There is a description of the American Cemetery at Margraten, and van der Linden describes World War II American soldiers as “liberators.”

The three photographs depict the Alps (accompanied May 20, 1945 letter from Charles Haner); a school photograph of Willie van der Linden (accompanied March 27, 1949 letter from van der Linden); and Don Fickers playing poker (accompanied August 12, 1951 letter from Fickers).


  • Other: 1943-1952

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from the Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical / Historical

Elsie Jean Comfort lived in Elmira, New York, with her mother Alice Mae, her father Merrell, and her sisters Laura Jean and Mary Ellen. Comfort wrote letters to men from Elmira serving overseas with the Army, Navy, and Air Force, but none of her letters are contained here. She was also a musician who performed on the radio.


.25 Linear Feet



Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Gary Alonzo Barranger



Guide to the Elsie Comfort Correspondence
Mariaelena DiBenigno, SCRC Staff.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository