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William R. Jeremiah Second World War correspondence

 Collection — Box: WWII 146, Folder: 11, Folder: 1
Identifier: 2017-316-w-r

Content Description

This collection contains one original and two photocopied correspondence from Sgt. William R. Jeremiah, USA to his family during the Second World War. Biographical information and two photograph reproductions are also included.

The first letter is a photocopy dated May 14, 1944 in which Sgt. Jeremiah writes his family from England. He describes losing some weight and tells a couple of jokes. The second photocopied letter, dated May 5, 1945, was written in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. He discusses the living conditions, drinking cognac, wine and beer, the weather, and how he likes the German women.

The original letter, dated May 31, 1945, is an intentionally long narrative of his entire time overseas written from Igls, Austria. He landed in France July 11, 1944 carrying lots of money in boxes for his unit's duties and walked inland until finding a camp spot. He was awakened by a German plane strafing their position in a large field with hundreds of other infantry soldiers. They moved to Saint Saveur where he says "this is the first time in my life that I have smelled human dead." He then mentions that it would not be the last.

Sgt. Jeremiah's unit then moved to Beauchamps and was attacked by two German planes, scaring him while he was on guard duty without a fox hole. Next was Saint George, the first place he got drunk, or "tight," in France, shortly followed by Sainte Sabine, Pithiviers where he drank more, Courtisols and Rouveris [sic], two miles north of Verdun. The unit then moved to Nancy where they stayed in buildings with nice conditions and he eludes to having fun, possibly with women, from October through December 1944. Along the way to Nancy the conditions are described, including mud, rain, and cold while sleeping in the woods.

The letter then quickly describes the progression of the unit through French towns beginning at the new year, such as Marshroon [sic] (perhaps Melsheim, given their trajectory), which was described to them as being one mile from the front, Detwiller, Sarrebourg, where they stayed until March 8. Next was Saverne, back to Marshroon [sic] and then across the border to Landau, Germany. They then crossed the Rhine River to Mannheim, to Mosbach, Öhringen, Göppingen, Blaubeuren, Kaufbeuren, Steingaden, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and then into the Austrian Alps to Igls. He climbed the mountains and ends the letter with wondering where they will go now that the fighting has ended, even though earlier he sounded confident that he would be going to the Pacific.

In Michael Jeremiah's letter to Clifford, he explains the story of "uncle bill" as he had been told once reconnecting with William Jeremiah years after the wars. He includes a story about mortar shrapnel that was not written into the correspondence by William at the time, which was the cause of his drinking. Much of the letter describes the family strife and William's struggles with alcoholism.

The two photographs are photocopies of pictures of Sgt. Jeremiah. One is taken near a jeep and one while he is holding a Nazi flag.

Also included is one typed biographical sheet on Sgt. Jeremiah.


  • 1944 May 14 - 1945 May 31
  • 2018 June 18

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Chapman University owns all rights to the original letter in this collection. Use of the photocopied materials and photographs may require copyright permissions from the donor for use.

Biographical / Historical

Sergeant William Robert "Bill" Jeremiah, United States Army (2/25/1919 - 4/21/1970) was born in Illinois and grew up in the city of Dixon. He enlisted in the Army on January 14, 1943 and served overseas with the 11th Finance Distribution Section, 3rd Army until his unit moved to 6th Corps, 7th Army in December 1944. He served in France, Germany and Austria, usually close to the fighting, and was discharged from service on December 9, 1945.

He returned to Illinois and struggled with alcoholism. In Chester, Il, he was recruited to fight in Korea while drunk at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. According to his nephew Michael, he figured it best to leave Clifford after his alcoholism had caused rifts between him and the family, as well as losing his wife and grocery business he owned. He reenlisted on October 18, 1950 and was discharged again on September 4, 1951.

He continued to drink until he began working as a fuel tank driver and he decided to clean up. He met his new wife Ruth Atteberry while she was working as an RN at the facility he attended to get sober. They had one daughter together and she had two sons outside of their marriage.


.05 Linear Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



This collection contains one original and two photocopied correspondence from Sgt. William R. Jeremiah, USA to his brothers, Edgar and Clifford, and their families during the Second World War. Biographical information and two photograph reproductions are also included.


This collection is arranged by material type and chronology. The biographical information is separated from the correspondence from Sgt. William R. Jeremiah, USA.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of June and Andrew Lemery, and Clifford Jeremiah.

Legal Status

Chapman University has obtained a donor form for the original letter. No donor form has been received for the remaining materials (acc# 2018-128-wc).
Finding Aid for the William R. Jeremiah Second World War correspondence
Andrew Harman
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Center for American War Letters Archives Repository

Leatherby Libraries
Chapman University
Orange CA 92866 United States