"If I had stayed in the States for the duration of the war…. I couldn’t have felt as if I were doing all I could in the war effort and although I’m not one of these fellows who is a fanatic on the subject, I think that any body my age and with my health should be over here." Thus wrote Oliver Wolfe from the South Pacific in a letter, 25 August 1943, to his wife, Marie, at home in Columbia, S.C. Wolfe was an officer serving in the 25th Statistical Control Unit, which was attached to the Thirteenth Army Air Force, also known as "the Jungle Air Force" for it frequent relocations among the islands north of Australia and New Guinea.
Lieutenant Oliver Jordan Wolfe (1919-2002) married Marie Virginia Ulmer (b. 1921) on 7 Jan. 1943, forming a partnership that would last nearly sixty years. The demands of military service allowed the couple only a few months of wedded life together prior to Oliver’s deployment to the South Pacific for 25 months. Letters exchanged between Oliver, Marie, and a large network of family and friends preserve a daily record of life in the South Pacific and on the home front in Columbia, S.C., and elsewhere during the Second World War. Following his return to civilian life in 1945, Major Oliver Wolfe founded the Wolfe Company Realtors, a successful business that after more than fifty years continues to prosper in family hands.
This collection of 6.25 linear feet of letters and other papers, 1921-1953, and ca. 560 photographs, 1885-1950, chiefly documents the training and active duty experiences of this future civic and business leader as a young officer serving and that of his young bride. Letters discuss the daily challenges and uncertainty of life during wartime, the excitement of travel, the exploration of new regions, and reflect a number of social and technological changes experienced by soldiers and civilians alike during the 1940s.
Oliver’s letters discuss the nightly fireworks provided by Japanese bombing raids, sharing an island with giant lizards three feet long, regular requests for more film for his camera, and his longing to return and resume life at home with his wife. Letters from Marie Wolfe and others in the United States provide insight into the changes and developments of World War II on both the military and social fronts. Along with Oliver’s explanations of military life as detailed as censors would allow, the collection suggests how shortages, rationing, and security concerns impacted the daily life of the communities and the economy of South Carolina and of the United States.
Marie Ulmer Wolfe attended Mary Baldwin College for two years and graduated from University of South Carolina in 1941. Marie and her sister Judy (b.1924) were the children of Jack Melton Ulmer (1888-1967) and Bessie Brawley Ulmer (1895-1966). The Ulmers, who ran a successful real estate business, and later, a savings and loan, in Columbia, S.C., lived on Heyward Street in the Shandon neighborhood. Marie’s large circle of friends and relatives included several cousins, as her mother was one of thirteen siblings.
A son of Oliver William Wolfe (b.1890) and Lelia "Dot" Jordan Wolfe (b.1897), Oliver Wolfe completed Columbia High School in 1935, and graduated from USC in 1939, where he earned varsity letters in baseball and basketball. On 11 December 1941, four days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, twenty-two year old Oliver Wolfe enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Jackson.
Several weeks later, Oliver wrote to Marie to report his arrival at Sheppard Field (Wichita Falls, Texas) in a letter, 6 Jan. 1942, adding that "Giles," a former teacher from Columbia High School, had escorted Oliver and the other soldiers from Fort Jackson to Texas, where the men encountered single-digit temperatures and snow, as well as evidence of the magnitude of the rapid expansion of the armed forces as the country prepared for war. Writing in his characteristic style, both upbeat and specific, Oliver reported that although initial construction had begun less than seven months previous, Sheppard Field was said to be "the biggest air mechanics school in the world." Upon completion, the base would house and train an anticipated capacity of "26,000 men under normal conditions" and include "over 700 buildings covering 620 acres of ground and a total sum of $18,000,000 will have been spent…"
Like most of his fellow soldiers, Oliver was not raised in a military family, but the optimistic tone of his letters demonstrate his dedication to the soldier’s life and the esprit de corps shared by the troops at Sheppard Field. In a letter, 6 Jan. 1942, Oliver reports to Marie, "We get up at 5:30 A.M. every morning and only have about 30 minutes rest until around 5:30 every afternoon. We drilled about two hours this afternoon and, believe it or not, it seemed more like fun than work…. just about everybody here has the same attitude when it comes to drilling and working. There is very little griping and quibbling but most everybody wants to do his part because the greater majority of these fellows only want to stay in the army for the duration and therefore all want the duration to be as short as possible."
By late January 1942, Oliver’s letters originate from Brookley Field (Mobile, Alabama), following his assignment to the Repair Squadron of the 7th Air Depot Group. In spite of rigorous daily routine of 20-mile hikes, and hours of drill, the men still found energy for practical jokes. Oliver reported to Marie in a letter, 13 Apr. 1942, "I’ll probably have to look for my bed for 30 minutes or so before I can go to sleep. We have a game going on at the barracks, the object of the game being to see who can take a bed apart and hide it so that it will be hard to find and I’ve got a feeling that this is my night because I did a fair job on Hillery’s last night." In a later letter, 31 May 1942, Oliver included two aluminum coins crafted with a hole in the center, stamped with words, "sales tax token" along with the explanation, "I am enclosing another example of the rationing program. It seems as if the tax program is being changed in more ways than one, doesn’t it?"
In June 1942, Oliver enjoyed a ten day furlough at home in Columbia, S.C., prior to reporting for his next assignment, the Army Air Force Officer Candidate School in Miami Beach, Florida. On 27 June 1942, Oliver wrote to report his arrival, praising the look of the city, which he ranked "the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen," but reporting some difficulty adjusting to the more posh surroundings, which included beds, "we’re staying in the James Hotel which is rather small but it’s new and as nice as can be…. after sleeping in army cots for so long, it’s rather hard to learn how to sleep comfortably again" (27 June 1942). Although the hotel offered more shelter than the tents to which he had grown familiar, these accommodations were far from luxurious, partially due to blackout restrictions, as noted in letter, 1 July 1942, "we don’t have any lights at all nor any hot water."
While in Miami Beach, Oliver’s test scores and performance earned him a position as one of only 150 men from among the 4800-member class of 1942 selected to attend the Army Air Force Statistical School which was held at Harvard Business School. Upon successful completion of the six week program, Oliver would be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
In Boston, Oliver enjoyed more free time in his schedule. Descriptions of a trip to Nantucket appear in a letter dated 7 Aug. 1942, in which he recorded his impressions of Harvard University and Cambridge. By this time a veteran of months of intense military training, Oliver also reported differences noticeable among the Army and Navy men enrolled at Harvard, as the Navy recruits on campus at that time arrived directly from civilian life and knew little of military discipline or protocol.
Oliver thrived in this program, as might be expected of a soldier whose letters frequently included such specific details of facts and figures. Upon graduation, 11 Sept 1942, Oliver accepted a commission as Second Lieutenant serving in the 8th Statistical Control Unit, Knollwood Field, Southern Pines, N.C. (see letters, 18 and 25 Sept. 1942), where his duties required the compiling of all reports from the squadrons and districts and transmitting the data to the Director of Stat. Control in Washington. Although grateful to be stationed close to home, Oliver expressed surprise at the social life he encountered among his fellow officers at Knollwood Field. A letter, 27 Sept. 1942, includes an account of his first party at the officers’ club, "These people around here really believe in their whiskey…. Everybody and his brother and sister seem to love the stuff around here."
Oliver’s statistical work allowed access to an early computer of the sort in which programmers created, stored, and sorted data using punch cards. In a letter dated 30 Sept. 1942, he enclosed an artifact from this exotic new technology: a short stack of punch cards coded with the names and addresses of Marie and other Columbia residents, "We got in some new IBM equipment today and as all that equipment is in my section, I wanted to learn how to operate it. You can see from the enclosed card I made a little progress. The holes in the card spell out the printing at the top and the printing is done by merely inserting the card in the Interpreter machine and it prints what is punched in the cards in about 2 seconds."
Oliver Wolfe was not the only South Carolinian to attend training at the Harvard Business School. Both Marie and Oliver received letters from a number of friends remaining or arriving in Boston following Oliver’s departure, including Sol Blatt, Jr., and his wife Carolyn, and others. A letter from one such expatriate South Carolinian, dated [8 Oct. 1942], from John R. Brooks, Jr., included a comparison of his present and previous posts, "I like Boston much better than Ithaca [N.Y.] but I like Cornell University much better than Harvard. It seems that they know just what was best to make a good organization at Cornell – but here everything runs around crazy."
In Columbia, S.C., Oliver and Marie married, 7 Jan. 1943, and Marie joined her husband in Pinehurst, N.C., Following the wedding, the Ulmer family sent the flowers used in the service elsewhere in Columbia, S.C., where they could be enjoyed by others, as evidenced by several thank-you notes, including one from T.E. Cumings, Superintendent of the Confederate Home of S.C., written on letterhead stationery with Confederate flags, and another from the Rev. Clarence B. Antisdel (1864 -1943) and his wife Gertrude (see letters, 9 and 10 June 1943, respectively). Antisdel served as president (1921-1940) of Benedict College, an historically black institution in Columbia, S.C.
Oliver and Marie counted themselves lucky to secure an apartment near the base in Pinehurst, N.C. Several letters dating to 1942 suggest the severity of the wartime housing situation for dependent families and civilians alike, particularly in regions near rapidly growing military installations. A friend of Marie’s named Eleanor described the situation near the Marine base in Jacksonville, N.C., in a letter dated 7 May 1942, "Butch is attached to the 3rd Battalion, First Marines at the New River, N.C., base – and if this isn’t an experience to tell the grandchildren we’ll never have one. The little town outside the base, Jacksonville, is suffering from an acute case of growing pains…. There are 6000 people where 900 were this time last year so you can imagine…. Being young and healthy and happily married, we’re all getting a kick out of it, but I wonder if the colonel’s wife thinks it’s funny."
Those who remained in civilian life also wrote to express concern with the housing situation and its implications for the economy in certain sectors. A letter to Oliver Wolfe dated 20 Nov. 1942, from R.B. Richardson, officer and director of First Federal Savings and Loan of Spartanburg, S.C., lamented the dire straits in which he found his company, "Wolfe, business has absolutely gone to the dickens, there just isn’t any being done. Unless the gov’t let’s folks start building & buying & renting like they please, before long, the Savings and Loan Association will be in the same boat as the Finance Companies. Well, we’re in it already…"
The challenges of setting up housekeeping in the face of wartime shortages are suggested in a series of letters exchanged during May 1943 between Marie in Pinehurst, N.C., and her mother in Columbia, S.C. A series of letters discuss efforts to locate a booklet of precious ration coupons apparently lost in the mail. When located among a bag of damaged mail, its eventual discovery raised eyebrows and questions among authorities at the Post Office (19 May 1943).
In June 1943, the Army assigned Oliver and the 25th Statistical Control Unit to the Thirteenth Air Force, triggering his deployment to the South Pacific. In early June 1943, Marie accompanied Oliver to Washington, D.C., en route to his deployment. This trip marked the last time the couple would see one another in person for more than two years. Letters from Oliver, 9-11 June 1943, discuss his trip across the United States and his brief stay in San Francisco prior to departure for an undisclosed location in the South Pacific.
During the next two years, Marie and Oliver resumed their daily correspondence. Oliver’s letters document the frequent island-hopping of his unit as the war progressed. From June to December, 1943, Oliver’s location is no more specific than "South Pacific" although his unit was known to be on the islands of Guadalcanal, Munda and Bougainville, based on a commendation received by his unit "for outstanding service in battle… [despite ] experiencing frequent enemy attack" filed among the papers.
During 1944-1945, however, his dateline revealed such locations as Guadalcanal, New Hebrides (Jan. 1944), Admiralty Islands (3 May 1944), New Guinea (19 Sept 1944); Dutch East Indies (late 1944); Sydney and elsewhere in Australia; Leyte, Manila, and elsewhere in the Philippines; and the Molucca Islands (mid-1945). Censors apparently relaxed somewhat as the fortunes of the Allies improved.
Oliver summarized his mileage in a letter written 2 Jan. 1944 from the New Hebrides to Jack and Bessie Ulmer, "A couple days ago I made up a list of all the places that I have been since I’ve been out here and I’ve been to 7 different places and have accumulated better than 45 hours in the air since Sept. 25th and traveled over 6800 miles. I’ve also made a trip by boat of about 1500 miles." In a similar vein, another letter suggests Oliver’s characteristic sense of adventure and an appreciation of the significance of his military experience, "we are getting an education out here that we couldn’t possibly buy and it will be something that we will never forget when we get back to the States. It sure will be fun to go almost anywhere in the States after the War and run into people that you know from out here." (4 July 1943).
One such acquaintance whom Oliver met while in the South Pacific later won election to the U.S. Congress, "We have a Marine Captain here, Joe McCarthy [1908-1957] from Wisconsin, who has been drafted to run for the U.S. Senatorship from that state and he is really a swell guy. A couple of the fellows have put up a big sign over their tent with ‘McCarthy for U.S. Senator’ and when we had a boiled egg for Easter, there was some sort of phrase on each of the eggs such as "McCarthy, the people’s choice" etc. on each one. Mc was a judge in civilian life and the scuttlebutt is that he will probably be elected" (15 April 1944).
Despite universal stories of the ease with which soldiers mailed coconuts and other exotica home to the United States during World War II, this collection suggests that outbound mail to servicemen proved more problematic. Marie apologized for the delay and expressed her surprise to discover that The State newspaper would not mail Oliver’s subscription to the South Pacific without a written request in hand signed by the soldier himself (30 July 1943). A letter from Bessie Ulmer to her son-in-law acknowledges this rule, "Wish we could send you other things you could enjoy. The Post Office is so funny. If there is anything we can send you that you want, be sure and write a request for it so the Post Office will let us mail it." (16 Feb. 1944). All complied with the rules, given the value placed upon those letters and packages from home, as Oliver wrote to from the New Hebrides, "The mail out here is certainly on a peculiar schedule…. Every now and then a plane drops in the drink and loses some [mail] too, which is about the worst thing that can happen as far as we are concerned. …. Nobody ever worries about the crew who is lost when a plane goes down, but the first thing they always ask is –how much mail was on it" (2 Jan. 1944).
Back in the United States, Marie stayed busy. Reports of her activities during the summer of 1943 fill letters with news of mutual friends and travel, as well as examples of the humor and popular culture of the day. Marie headed to New York City in June to attend commencement ceremonies for her sister, Judy, who would graduate from Briarcliff Junior College in Westchester County, N.Y. Marie, her friend Gladys, and later Judy enjoyed several days of touring and recreation, which continued when the Ulmers arrived several days later. Letters from this family visit in Manhattan, 16-20 June 1943, include accounts of Marie’s dining at the Yale Club and using the "ladies’ entrance," as well as visits to the Stork Club and other celebrated nightspots where they encountered famed New Yorkers such as John Jacob Astor, Frank Sinatra and others. After attending the new musical, Oklahoma!, followed by a late night at the Copacabana, Marie wrote to Oliver, "Mother and Daddy wore us out. We shopped with Mother all yesterday and Daddy kept us out until five o’clock this morning. Did have fun though." (19 June 1943).
Marie expressed surprise following a visit to a live performance of the Lucky Strike Hit Parade at the appearance of a crooner who had recently joined the program: "The Lucky Strike broadcast was very good. I didn’t realize until it started that Frank Sinatra was on it…. We went to Riobamba [Room]… Frank Sinatra was at a table next to us. The ‘Riobamba’ is supposed to be one of the places that started him on the road to popularity." (20 June 1943).
Both Marie and Judy returned to live at their parents’ home in Columbia, S.C., in mid-summer 1943. Marie, who had formerly worked in her parent’s real estate office, took a new job in an office at University of South Carolina. A number of letters in the collection discuss women joining the workforce. In a letter dated 13 Apr. 1942, Oliver comments on Marie’s enjoyment of her office work, "Marie, I knew you would like working once you started at it. Now you can probably see why I talked so much about my work when we were out together. It just seems to get in the blood, doesn’t it?" More than one year later, Marie spoke favorably of her new position at USC, "I’m really enjoying working. I’m on my own just about, and I like that" (12 Aug. 1943). Even mothers with small children managed to complete classes in various topics to assist in the war effort. A letter from Gwendolyn Wolfe who was Oliver’s sister-in-law and mother of a small child, reported completion of a class in mechanics and her plans to take additional instruction, "I finish my airplane engine course next week and if I pass I can get a rating (civil service) as a junior engine inspector." (28 Sept. 1942). A friend of Marie’s, "Mary," wrote a letter while "on the clock" in which she included a joke parodying the aid program that provided socks, scarves, and other cold weather garments for soldiers in the United Kingdom, "Have you heard any ‘Knitting for Britain’ jokes? …: ’I went out riding in a car. I will admit I went too far. Now what I did, I ain’t admitting – but what I’m knitting ain’t for Britain!’ …Hope you don’t let anyone read these notes I send you (on government paper – and time)" (14 Mar. 1942, Norfolk, Va.)
Even during her work week, Marie and her family frequently spent summer evenings at a rustic country house owned by the Ulmers on a tract located south of Fort Jackson. Although lacking electricity, the property with its several small lakes for swimming offered a welcome retreat from the heat of downtown Columbia. This property came to be known to several generations of Ulmer and Wolfe family members as "Lazy Acres" and was later developed as the suburban neighborhood called Reflections, located south of Leesburg Road. During the summer of 1943, however, this site came to be known as a popular destination for the officers and enlisted men of Fort Jackson.
In several letters, Marie reports to Oliver on the use of the grounds and lakes by soldiers and their families, "The army is having maneuvers all around here. Two soldiers took us riding all through the woods in a jeep. We had them and two others for supper. They seemed to enjoy it a lot. In fact, they are still here…. After having about 200 come to the door for water last week, they got the commanding officer to put the house off limits, but they still come. The main trouble is that they don’t know when to leave once you have them in or do something for them…. places around Columbia to go swimming are few and soldiers on maneuvers discovered this place so Sunday there were two cars full of soldiers with their wives, babies and a picnic lunch." (24 July 1943)
Several days later, an officer informally requisitioned use of the lake for his troops, "We really had to wait our turn to go swimming today. A colonel came by about 8:30 and said a few of his boys hadn’t been able to bathe for two days so could he please bring them to the lake. Of course, we said yes. He brought the first group of about 200 about 11:30. They stayed until 3:00 then another group of about 200 came and stayed until 4:00. Then about 30 came and stayed until five." (27 July 1943)
Other interactions between civilians and military personnel noted in this collection surpass those reported by the Ulmer family both for brevity and the resulting level of alarm generated among the civilians. Robert "Bob" B. Richardson reported in a letter to Oliver how his brother contacted the family in Spartanburg, S.C., when passing through the area, "Lee… got his commission & got married on the same day & is flying a Bomber at the Greenville [S.C.]… base now. Has been at Myrtle Beach bombing practice for ten days. He gets over pretty often to see us. Flew over Sunday at 12 o’clock on the way to Myrtle Beach & tried to take the roof off the house. I’m ashamed to tell the neighbors who it was. They thought the Japs had come" (18 Mar. 1943).
However, not all such apparent "attacks" on the home front were false alarms. Another letter, written while Marie was a guest at a beach house on the Atlantic, reports an explosion beyond the horizon, "There was a big boom out in the ocean today that made the houses on the beach vibrate. Then… a lot of black smoke. Everyone is still wondering what it was!" (9 Aug. 1944). On that same day, Oliver also wrote to describe an explosion in a letter describing the first of many nightly Japanese bombing raids, a letter which includes use of the slang term, "Charley" to describe an Asian enemy, a epithet presumably based on the "Charlie Chan" character created by author Earl Derr Biggers, "We have had quite a bit of excitement since I wrote you last night. Up until now we have had a very peaceful and quiet life but in the early hours this morning it changed very suddenly. Sometime early in the morning we heard the alarm go off for the red alert but none of us in the tent thought much of it as we didn’t think that it would be anything. However, we finally decided to get up and just about the time that we got out of bed we heard a plant. I thought that it was one of ours taking off and I had just said that to Charley Kelsey who is the same tent as I when I heard a whssssh, whsssh and then I knew that it wasn’t ours. I told Charley so and started running towards the nearest foxhole. I knew that it was a bomb and rather than try to make the hole, I hit the ground about the same time that a terrific explosion went off about 110 yards from us. . . . I think that I was about as scared last night as any time since I have been over here because I knew that if ‘Charlie’ dropped a string of bombs that the next one would hit in just about our vicinity. When nothing happened in a few seconds thought I got up . . . I think that all of us were a little shaky as we could see where the bomb had hit and was burning itself out." (9 October 1944)
After almost two months of these nightly visits by enemy aircraft, particularly during the full moon, Oliver wrote of the toll taken on everyone’s rest, "We are still getting very little sleep and with the moon as bright as it is now, there isn’t much hope of catching up any for another ten days or so. We used to think that the moon was beautiful out here but are getting to the point now that we don’t even like to see it come up." (27 Nov. 1944).
Another weapon employed by the Japanese, the radio, proved less successful in its efforts to demoralize the troops. Oliver reported on the unlikely popularity among the men of the English language broadcasts intended to undermine morale of Allied troops. Music formed the appeal of these broadcasts, "Almost forgot to tell you that we have heard Radio Tokyo the last couple of nights since we have had Johnny’s radio. Last night they started to play a piece and the announcer said… ‘why don’t you fellows go on back home and have a good time instead of sweating around in the jungles while your wife is playing around back home…’ all their records are old, but the programs are really good. They try and antagonize our personnel by cracks such as the above and some that get even better, but we all sit around and enjoy it no end. As one of the fellows said the other night it’s the only program on the air that doesn’t take up most of the time with advertisements and then the rest of the time asking you to buy war bonds." (21 January 1944)
Promoted to the rank of Major in December 1944, Oliver’s schedule continued to include extensive travels. By May of 1945, Oliver wrote from Manila and Leyte, and elsewhere in the Philippines, reporting his amazement at the destructive capacity of modern warfare in an urban environment. Describing the aftermath of the Allies’ return to the Philippines, he mentions unconditional surrender by the Germans, and comments on local conditions, "This is really some place. It’s so good to see civilization again. Honey, this is the first time that I’ve seen what could happen to a big city and it’s really awful. I’ve seen Manila and it’s completely gutted. There are some shells of buildings left standing in some places but that’s about as much as I can say for them. Beautiful homes have been completely devastated." (7 May 1945).
Although the collection includes only scattered letters written from the European Theatre, letters written by Oliver and Marie typically relay news and rumor of events in Europe, including a false report of German surrender received by Oliver, 19 Sept 1944, in New Guinea via the teletype machine which significantly predated the actual Victory in Europe day of 8 May 1945. However, the Allies broadcast news of D-Day with no delay, and both Oliver and Marie wrote to describe its coverage from their respective vantage points on 6 June 1944. In Columbia, S.C., Marie reported, "I just don’t know where to begin after all the invasion news today. I am wondering what will have happened by the time you receive this letter. Everyone has been very thoughtful all day, and the churches have been packed." Oliver received the news in the evening, "We heard the good news while waiting for the movie to start last night. It was at 7:05 and the band was playing before the show started when the announcer broke in and asked for everybody’s attention. I had a feeling that it was going to be the announcement of the invasion and when he did announce it, you should have heard the noise. All of us have been trying to determine what 11,000 planes would be like. Maybe things will go well and this mess will be over in another year or so. We stayed up most of the night getting short wave broadcasts from nearly every place and that’s all that people have been talking about this morning."
Two correspondents serving in Europe provide interesting descriptions of conditions in Italy and Germany. A friend identified only as "Barrett" wrote to Oliver from southern Italy with his thoughts on Italian buildings, towns, and lifestyle, particularly the large families, "Every family seems to have about a half dozen bambinos, and every third woman you see is on the way to having another one. Musso[lini] used to offer bonuses to women who produced big families, and we formerly had a waitress in our mess who was only about 25 and had already had 10 children. Her reward for that effort was a lifetime pass on the tramways and railroads. As far as we could make out she was so busy with the bambinos that she never had time to go anywhere on her pass so she kind of got the short end of the stick on that deal." (2 July 1944).
George Kinnsley wrote from London, lamenting the death of Ernie Pyle [18 Apr. 1945], and commenting on German cities and soldiers observed first-hand, "Not so long ago I was in Germany with our 17th Airborne Division and got to see a lot of the country and what we are doing to it. The cities are really taking a pasting and some of the soldiers I saw couldn’t fight in the South Carolina home guard. Actually some of them had artificial limbs but even those guys are dangerous behind a machine gun." (18 Apr. 1945).
Another genre of letters represented in this collection demonstrates a common practice of the day: namely an exchange of one or more letters between correspondents who had never met but who shared information about a friend or relative in service. Similar to the phone call offering news of a loved one that soldiers on leave often promised to deliver while home in the U.S., these letters show a striking level of honesty and frankness to be sent to a virtual stranger.
Marie received one such letter, 16 Mar. , from Capt. W.C. Stevenson, who was visiting Lexington, Ky. He opted to write a letter conveying news of Oliver rather than the phone call he had promised, "When I left the Philippines last month, Ollie sent word… to be sure and call you. So naturally I intended doing so but it seems long distance calls are over so quickly and usually both parties think of things to say after the receiver has been put down. So I thought I would drop you a note instead but if this doesn’t suffice…write for any more information."
Oliver exchanged a number of letters with Mrs. B.H. [Lessie] Gardner of Bethune, S.C., the mother of Barrett H. Gardner, Jr., a friend Oliver met at Sheppard Field in Texas. A letter dated 26 Nov. 1942 expressed hopes for peace along with concern for safety of all her sons, "I’m thankful of the progress we have made the last three weeks, but I don’t think the war is near over yet, and each and every day is costing so much in blood shed. There is never any gain in war, all a loss, loss that can never be restored, loss that money cannot buy. We must have failed in some way or we would not be confronted with this terrible problem. War. I know those countries that have been so badly beaten and torn up such as Greece and the other small countries, and larger ones too, have asked so many times, ‘How long Lord. How much longer do we have to suffer like this.’ Still he must say not yet. We must have drifted further than we thought from the shore."
Shirley Kelsey of Indiana corresponded with both Marie in South Carolina and Oliver Wolfe in the South Pacific. Mrs. Kelsey’s husband, Charles, worked closely with Oliver and shared his tent in the Army. As she explained to Marie in a letter, 11 Mar. 1945, since her husband frequently mentioned both Oliver and Marie in his letters, she thought they should get acquainted. In her friendly letter of introduction, written with clever jokes, Shirley discusses her interests, hobbies, sense of humor, and physical appearance, "people never say I’m pretty, if they want to be kind and stretch a point they say I’m ‘attractive’ (which can cover a multitude of sins!)"
Shirley’s letter to Oliver, [23 May 1945], took a more serious tone as she sought his advice in confidence, asking if her letters caused her husband undue worry. Shirley’s recently widowed grandmother had suffered a nervous breakdown, which caused great concern and formed a frequent topic in her correspondence. This letter also references the U.S. government’s strong suggestion that citizens should write only optimistic letters to loved ones serving in the military to maintain morale, "this is just between you and me… you know I write Charley a lot of things when I’m blue and down in the mouth… that aren’t listed among the things that are cricket to write soldiers. Ollie, I want to know whether he worries about me or not…You see, I don’t want him to, and he says he doesn’t, but I’m still afraid maybe he does…."
Other persons represented in the collection include a number of politically active families whose names and correspondence appear in the collection, including Gov. Olin D. Johnston (1896-1965) and Sol Blatt, Jr. (b.1921) and his wife Carolyn. The Ulmer family enjoyed the hospitality of Gov. Johnston at Crescent Beach north of Myrtle Beach (3-17 July 1943); the Ulmers included Gov. and Mrs. Johnston among fourteen guests at Lazy Acres (28 June 1943); Jack Ulmer sold a duplex rental property to Gov. Johnston (30 June 1943); Marie wrote of assisting with Johnston’s campaign for the U.S. Congress, "Carolyn [Blatt] and I addressed 500 envelopes tonight for Governor Johnston's campaign letters. That really isn't an easy job. It's tedious and tiresome but we got them done in record time." (5 July 1944); and reported his election to the U.S. Senate, "Governor Johnston is our next senator. I haven’t seen the papers this morning but the last report last night was that he was 16,000 votes ahead of the votes of his opponents put together…. Think he beat "Cotton Ed" [long-time incumbent Ellison DuRant Smith (1866-1944)] by about 40,000 votes. Had a good time last night. Went up to the mansion and the headquarters at the hotel - -very exciting. Didn’t leave the Mansion until 12:30. The Governor had come in then. He and Gladys were too tired I think to be very excited. They were very happy about the whole thing though. We sure do hate to see them leave Columbia… but it is grand for the Johnstons." (26 July 1944)
The annual Clemson-Carolina football game was a topic of perennial interest to many expatriate South Carolinians whose letters often included mention of college sports among the news of war. Barr Gardner and "Jim" commented on the football programs at USC, Clemson, and Duke, but added, "Anyway, I am more interested in how this game is coming out: Allies vs. Axis. Think the Allies are about a field goal ahead right now but that fast running back for the Axis always has something up his sleeve." (24 Nov. 1942). After two years in the South Pacific, Oliver wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Ulmer from the Molucca Islands, quoting a familiar lament when noting that he would not be home to join his wife on her next trip, "Sure wish that I were going to be able to be in New York with Marie on her vacation but I guess that I’ll have to be satisfied with the same phrase which we nearly always use after the [football game with] Clemson… - - maybe next year." (30 May 1945)
In late June 1945, Major Wolfe left the South Pacific to enjoy a long awaited furlough from his tropical island paradise. With the surrender of Japan in August 1945, the Army did not mandate his return to duty. Wolfe’s close friend Charles P. Kelsey conspicuously used the civilian honorific when he wrote to congratulate "Mr. O.J. Wolfe," on his civilian status and his plans to work in real estate upon his return to South Carolina in a letter, 17 Sept. 1945, from Leyte in the Philippines, "We were all pleased and happy for you when we learned that the army had decided to dispense with your services. And with two city blocks of property, bud, you should have the city in the palm of your hand…. Well, fella, after you left…word came to pack up and make ready for a move to Okinawa. We were going to fight the war again! Then peace came, and spoiled all the plans…" Only a few items post-date the end of war in the Pacific. After his return to Columbia, he founded The Wolfe Co., Realtors in 1945, and soon after, Oliver and Marie Wolfe began a baby boom of their own, as their family grew to include seven children.
Visual materials (circa 560 photographs, 1885-1950) include photographs, postcards, and a small selection of original artwork and late 19th-century cabinet photographs. Oliver Wolfe photographed the majority of images in the 1940s during his basic training and while stationed in the South Pacific. Snapshots frequently illustrate an anecdote or event described in a letter. A "scrapbook" of text and photographs produced for officers bears a title including an intentional pun: South Sees : It Couldn’t Last Forever: 25th Statistical Control Unit, Headquarters Thirteen Air Force in the Admiralty Islands, 1944. Documenting aspects of life experienced by many men stationed in the South Pacific, the volume includes interesting anthropological photographs depicting construction of a traditional thatched hut in the island style. This volume, spanning the period 1944-1945, reflects the relocation of the 25th from Guadalcanal to the Admiralty Islands and documents (via detailed text and photographs) the construction of bures, the native thatched buildings which were much cooler and more suited to the climate than the men’s previous abode: regulation Army Quonset huts. Other photographs include group shots of Oliver and fellow officers at Guadalcanal [1943?] and on the Admiralty Islands, July 1944.
The collection includes several postcards of hotels in Florida and nightclubs in New York; letterhead stationery (many illustrated with military aircraft), and several regimental Christmas cards, including an example featuring the logo of the 44th Bomber Group, known as the "Flying Eight Balls." The card features a color illustration of Santa Claus dressed in a brown flight suit riding a winged eight-ball attached to a bomb, originating "From somewhere in England."
Photographs of a young Oliver Wolfe during the 1930s, consist of 8 x 10 prints that suggest his athletic prowess and include images of church league, high school, and varsity college teams in Columbia, S.C. Several of these images include identifications of his team mates and detailed information such as position played, and scores for each game, such as the image titled, "Tabernacle Baptist Basketball Ball Team – Champions of Sunday School League – 5 Dec. 1933 – 24 Feb. 1934," showing Oliver Wolfe at age 15, and team mates, schedule, and record.
Earlier images, 1885-1920s, chiefly consisting of Ulmer and Brawley family prints. A family photograph album, 1910s-1920s holds images of Jack Ulmer and Bessie Brawley Ulmer during courtship, including one labeled "single blessedness," images of young Jack Ulmer in the uniform of the U.S. Army during World War I, and later images with young daughters Marie and Judy when the Ulmer family lived in Lakeland, Florida, during the 1920s before returning to Columbia, S.C.
Other visual materials include illustrated letterhead stationery from the Columbia, S.C., businesses of both the Ulmer and Wolfe families consists of several 1937 letters of the Ulmer family real estate business, Jack Ulmer, Inc., which featured an illustration the ornate Palmetto Building on Columbia’s Main Street behind a bungalow-style home in the foreground. A letter dated 28 Sept. 1942, promotes the contracting business of Oliver’s brother: "W.C. Wolfe: contracting in painting, paper hanging and caulking"
A small amount of original art work documents talented soldiers who made extra money illustrating cards and letters using ink or water color. The collection includes several sketches and cartoons on envelopes and paper, several Easter greeting cards, and a card dated, 7 Feb. 1945, illustrated with a watercolor image of a thatched jungle hut titled, "Ollie’s home, Mulucca [Island]." Another letter dated, 12 Oct. 1944, from Oliver Wolfe was sent in a hand-painted, full-color illustrated envelope depicting a watercolor image of girl in a grass skirt chasing a soldier. Wolfe wrote the associated letter on a sheet of large-format, captured Japanese stationery, printed with several Kanji characters.
Ephemera and printed items include a clipping announcing Marie Ulmer as the winner in the "Popular Baby Contest" (9 Apr. 1922, sponsored by the newspaper, Columbia Record); Oliver Wolfe’s University of South Carolina student photo identification card for "first semester, 1938-1939… For admission to all home athletic games"; a ticket from the Clemson – Carolina game, 23 Oct. 1941; two printed regimental booklets celebrating Victory in Japan: Club 13 Jungle Air Force  (featuring images of the men in the Molucca Islands and elsewhere); and Jungle Air Force Celebrates V-J (1945), published by the Public Relations Office; and tickets, a program, and passes for Bessie Ulmer to attend the 1949 inauguration of President Harry Truman.