Richard L. Holt, Sr. Papers

This digital collection includes more than 300 letters written by a U.S. serviceman, Richard L. Holt Sr., to his wife and family during World War II. Most of the collection originates from the period of time when he served in North Africa and Italy.

This digital collection includes more than 300 letters written by a U.S. serviceman, Richard L. Holt Sr., to his wife and family during World War II. Holt wrote some of the letter before he deployed overseas, stationed in New York City and North Carolina and other places stateside. Most of the collection originates from the period of time when he served in North Africa and Italy, and his wife, Minneford Francis Holt and children were back at home in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Richard and Minneford Holt

A first Sergeant during in field artillery when writing his letters home, Holt was a professional soldier in the U.S. Army before America entered World War II. The letters cover four years with the earliest dated as, September 1941, and the last letter dated as February 27, 1945. After the war, Holt remained a reservist and participated in military training activities and duties for years.

The letters donated by the Holt family include examples of various correspondence formats used by servicemen during World War II, such as miniature V-Mail letters. Other printed items in the collection are a newspaper clipping from a comic strip, an article magazine clipping, (War and its wreckage), and a WWII program (Polish Parade, 1944).

Holt rarely discussed his war experiences with his family. He and Minneford had seven children, including twins born in the middle of World War II in 1943. The children were Richard Lee Jr., Wiley Bruce "Joe," Evelyn Sue, Charles Wesley, Edgar Wayne, Melvin Ernest, and Mary Edna. Although some of his children and grandchildren knew of the letters, most were not aware that such an incredible record of his service and communications back home survived. Upon first reading the letters, Richard Holt’s grandson, Lee, who helped bring the letters to the Libraries, said that they helped see his grandfather "in a different light." A reserved, sometimes solemn man who worked a variety of jobs later in life, the letters show how deeply he thought about his role as a field artillery soldier fighting against Axis forces, as well as the professional expertise he brought to his service. The letters also show how, even as a young man fighting a war, he was deeply committed to his family and remained very "down to earth."

Unfortunately the letters coming from home, written to Mr. Holt from his wife and family did not survive his time overseas. However, the collection of letters from one family gives unique insight on the impact and experience of the war from a Northwest Arkansas perspective. The digitization of the letters offers the chance for students and scholars to investigate the entirety of primary source collection that contains the sort of correspondence and personal accounts that books or documentaries may have only selected a few items from.

The letters include endearing personal details to such as concern Holt signing some as, "Your Hubby, Goofus," while addressing many of the letters to his wife as "my dearest one," my "dearest sweetheart," or "Honey Girl." Mrs. Holt was caring for seven children, largely on her own with just the income from her husband’s service, and the letters include discussion of issues such as domestic finance and salary, that while mundane at the time, offer precious insight into the struggles and experiences of Americans on the "home front." The intimate portrait of a family during the war and during the war period in Arkansas has carried forward with the participation of ten family members in the transcription of the letters for the digitization project. Tragedy and sadness are also reflected in the correspondence, such as in letters from the period after Holt’s daughter, Evelyn Sue died just a few months before the twins were born, and Sergeant Holt could not take leave to aid or grieve with his family.

Holt includes details about battle conditions and the types of armaments used and how Army soldiers conducted their duties that are often glossed over in histories of war. The letters offer rich details that help complete a picture of the daily life of a soldier, in addition to the insight they provide about how the family and local issues impacted Americans serving during World War II. Aspects of the letters that reinforce that include Holt asking his wife to prepare and be ready to help him fit back into society after he returned because he suspected his long service and experiences had changed him so significantly.

Richard Lee Holt letter to his wife Minneford Holt, March 22, 1944

Richard Lee Holt letter to his wife Minneford Holt, November 28, 1943

Project and Technical Notes

The University Libraries project team was composed of Joshua Youngblood, Project Curator; Lori Birrell, Head of Special Collections; Deborah E. Kulczak, Head of Technical Services and Database Maintenance; Martha Parker, Digital Services Librarian; and Alyssa Willis, Cataloging Librarian.

Images were processed by the Digital Services Unit personnel, including the Digital Services Unit Coordinator, Lee A. Holt, Michael Davis, Dexter Fairweather, Ryan Goodwin, Cameron Henley, Wendy McLean, Cassidy McManus, Hannah Mills, Pablo Peña, Sydney Perry, Rachel Ross, Alejandra Rubio, Rosalin Sahu, Jayleen Serrano, and Alexa Shepard. Image optimization was performed using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Acrobat; CONTENTdm digital asset management software from OCLC was used to create metadata, using Dublin Core standards, Library of Congress Name Authorities, the Art and Architectural Thesaurus, and the University of Arkansas Libraries CONTENTdm Cookbook.

The project team thanks the Holt family for creating the initial transcripts which were composed of 870 single pages. After receiving the transcribed work from the Holt family, the Digital Services Unit personnel reviewed and encoded the work using Notepad++.

Dylan Hurd and Beth Juhl from Web Services contributed to the webpage design. The project was completed December 7, 2017.