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Ralph W. Kerns Second World War photograph scrapbooks and correspondence

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2016-118-w-r

Content Description

This collection contains two scrapbooks filled with photographs and other materials, as well as correspondence written by T/5 Ralph W. Kerns, USA to his family during the Second World War. Other materials consist of loose papers and pamphlets not belonging to the scrapbooks or correspondence, loose materials that were pressed in the beginning or end of the scrapbooks out of any order, and a questionnaire provided by T/5 Kerns for Florida State University as a veteran.

The correspondence was written to his parents and sisters, as well as some friends that are addressed, and begins aboard a ship sailing to Iran on November 7, 1941 and ends in August 1945 shortly after returning to the United States. The letters discuss daily activities and answering questions of his loved ones, while being very careful not to divulge too much about where he is at any given time. He only mentions that he is in Iran months after beginning his correspondence. Kerns talks about the weather, some of the landscape and sights he has seen, the people he has met, and occasionally the war at large, though not often or in any detail. He also asks about the lives of his family and friends back home.

The scrapbooks were bound with large boards containing a sticker identifying Kerns as the owner, and the pages are made of brown paper to which the photographs and other materials have been afixed with corner sleeves. They have been designated scrapbook number one and scrapbook number two based on the number of photographs (approximately 360 in scrapbook number one, and 190 in scrapbook number two, which has the identifying sticker on the outside). Also included are clippings, event programs, leave passes, menus, travel orders, and more. The photographs show landscapes, buildings, natives, soldiers, Kerns, skiing, travel around Iran, entertainers and USO personnel, and important people such as the "Big Three" during the Tehran Conference (Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin) and the Shahinshah and his wife the empress of Iran (Shah Reza Pahlavi); including Roosevelt meeting soldiers at the hospital and Churchill reviewing Indian soldiers (maybe Sikh). One photo shows an All-Colored Revue of Black soldiers. There is also a Russian General Ivan Obraskov standing in front of a Russian star painted on a U.S. plane headed to supply Russia (a list of other soldiers and notable people can be found at the bottom of this description). Almost every photograph and other items are accompanied by a label or note written in pen on the paper pages to which they are afixed.

The loose materials (not found in the correspondence or a scrapbook) include:
  • 1 publication, The Quarterly Rectangle, publication of Sigma Tau Delta professional English Fraternity, Autumn 1944, with short narrative by Kerns on page 16
  • 1 clipping, "Welcomes Hange from Life of Hun Prison Camp
  • 1 informational page regarding the history of Mellaha, Tripolitania, Libya
  • 1 questionnaire, taken by Ralph Kerns for Florida State University Institute on World War II and the Human Experience

The loose materials found in scrapbook number one:
  • Holiday magazine, March 1962, "The Mohamedan World
  • 1 booklet, Persian Gulf Command picture book
  • Time, August 11, 1947 (one page clipping)
  • Time, February 4, 1946 (two pages)
  • Time, February 25, 1946 (one page clipping)
  • 1 photograph, large, b/w, mosque dome
  • 1 booklet, News Bulletin of the Irano-American Society, August-September 1949, Vol. 1, No. 5
  • (found in rear) Notes on TriPartite Conference, November 27-December 2, 1943
  • (found in rear) Declaration of Three Nations (Regulating Iran), December 1, 1943
  • (found in rear) The Song of the PGC, with music

The loose materials found in scrapbook number two:
  • 1 large poster, color, SS American
  • 1 program, PGC nativity
  • 3 marskman targets from Camp Lee, including holes
  • 1 War Savings Bond, Pvt. Ralph Kerns, Fort Lewis, Washington, September 30, 1942
  • 1 War Savings Bond, Mrs. Ethel Kerns, Station 512, Waynesburg, PA, April 10, 1943 (co-owner to T/5 Kerns)
  • 1 clipping, SS America to Iran 1942 (formerly the SS West Point)
  • 1 list of phrases in Farsi for use to get around while in country
  • (found in rear) Yank magazine (second copy), December 15, 1943, with article written by Kerns

Non-photographic materials of note include a typed record of the trip at sea en route to Iran, the Yank magazines which include the same photographs of the Big Three at the Tehran Conference and Roosevelt addressing troops at a hospital, church service programs, travel orders to Isfahan and Tehran, medical clearance for travel, one clipping about historians recording the PGC, materials from the Anglo-Iranian Dramatic Society, and five copies of the Dispatch, US Army, PGC with articles by Kerns (Sept. 1944 -Aug. 1945).

Important people noted by Kerns in photographs include T/Sgt. Wallace P. Rusterholtz of Erie, PA (friend and former Harvard professor), Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, Reza Shah and his wife, Major General Donald H. Connolly (commanding officer, PGC), Brigadier General Donal P. Booth, Brigadier General Frank S. Besson, General Scott (chief of staff), Andre Kostelanetz, and entertainers John Henry Phillips, Martha Madison, Frances Cassard (famous New York opera singer), James Arrigona, Lily Pons, Wini Shan (Jack Benny's Show), Madge Monypenny, and Amparo Iturbi.

Other people (soldiers) in photographs noted by Kerns include General Obraskov (Russian), Lt. John Greene, Mr. Weins of the ARC, Capt. Doudon, David Hicks, Frances, Gladman, Frank Whitbourn (former RAF; Anglo-Iranian Institute teacher), "Broadway" Harold Shapiro, "Soper", Harold F. Johnson, Ian E.O. "Eric Olaf" Campbell, Lt. Mahoney, Kester, T/3 George B. Zeigler, Maj. Alfred E. Hudson, Denzel Harding, Ernest Shelton Forest, T/Cpl. Jack Lichtsinh, T/Sgt. Will Bienvenu, Paul Shore of the USAAC in Poltava, Russia, Manny Feingold, Moshé Levinson, Shelly Friedman, "Pen" Penrose, Lt. W.W. Ramsey, Dave Fox, Pete Dudish, Leon Arkus, Harry Hornback, SgtMaj. Logan Taylor, Earl Ramsey, Lt. Francis Lewis, Victor Pentlarge, Jacques Sammes, Charles Stout, Cpl. Abe Seravitz, Haymer Flieg, Lester Lande, T/3 Albert Weller, Sgt. Joe Golden, Frank Palumbo, GySgt. Tom Weaver, Cpl. William Maun, Jr., Sgt. Thomas C. Weaver, Pvt. Justin Gray (Italy story in the Yank), Enrique Espinoza, as well as several photographs of Iranian, British, Indian friends and a man he met from Mauritius.


  • 1942 November 7 - 1949 September

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

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.

Biographical / Historical

Technician Fifth Grade Ralph William Kerns, United States Army (12/4/1919 - 7/24/2011) was born in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania to Charles William and Ethel Kerns and had sisters Ruth, Joan, and Byllie. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Waynesburg College in 1941 and worked as a high school teacher until he was inducted into the Army on June 27, 1942 in Pittsburgh. He trained at Camp Lee, Virginia for basic training and for a month of specialty school at Camp Murray at Fort Lewis, Washington.

T/5 Kerns left the United States on October 31, 1942 and served with 186th Quartermaster Depot Company, and with a detachment, as a clerk in Iran with the Persian Gulf Command (PGC) until he returned in August 1945. In Iran he was stationed in Tehran, Isfahan, Camp Amirabad and Khorramshahr ("KRM"). When transferred to Tehran, Kerns was responsible for keeping a photographic record of the PGC, affording him opportunities to meet people from all over the world, go to homes of locals in the city, the British Embassy and various events including symphonies, plays, and lectures, as well as see very important people such as the president and the Shah of Iran. His service in this capacity was in the assistance of a Mr. Gilmore of the Office of War Information (OWI). In Isfahan, Kerns worked for two summers as a tour guide through the ancient capital.

After the war, Kerns earned a master's degree in theatre at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1948. He later became cruise director for the German-Atlantic Line and traveled to many places. Ralph Kerns passed away on July 24, 2011 in North Carolina. He said in a letter with his donation that his days in Tehran were the best of his life.


1 Linear Feet (1 document-box, 2 scrapbooks)

Language of Materials



This collection contains two scrapbooks filled with photographs and other materials, as well as correspondence written by T/5 Ralph W. Kerns, USA to his family during the Second World War.


This collection is arranged by material type. The scrapbooks are kept intact in their original order, which is not always chronological, with some loose materials in separate folders placed in the front of each scrapbook (where they were originally located). The correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ralph W. Kerns, 1919-2011.

Materials Specific Details

Scrapbook number 2 has been unbound due to the condition of the binding string and rivets. The materials have been kept together in order.

Finding Aid for the Ralph W. Kerns Second World War photograph scrapbooks and correspondence
Andrew Harman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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