Series of photographs and handwritten letters from Private First Class Henry B. Ferguson, an African American solider serving in the 742nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion in the South Pacific during World War II, to Miss Elizabeth Webb of Bradenton, Florida.
Twenty-four letters ranging from September 1944 to April 1946. Handwritten on various forms of stationery, including thin blue paper and the War & Navy Department’s V-Mail Service. All envelopes torn along one edge, faint wear to corners. Twenty-one photographs of various African American servicemen in multiple locations throughout the Pacific, some with photo album page remnants remaining on verso. Faint wear to corners, a few with handwritten inscriptions.
Ferguson’s letters primarily center around his loving and longing for Miss Webb, which are only heightened by the intensity of the weather and his work. He often writes of either the “rainy season” the battalion is stuck in, or how impactful the heat is. On February 10th, 1945 he writes “Everybody in the States seems to be suffering from the cold weather, and im sitting down with my shirt off getting a back massage from the heat rash.” In July 1945, he wrote “It really looks like i’ll be here another year dear. I expect to be in the Philippines in the next month.” It is unclear exactly when Ferguson departs the Philippines and returns to the United States, but the final letter from early 1946 shows his return address in Brooklyn, New York.
Private First Class Henry B. Ferguson (1922-2001) served in the 742nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) Gun Battalion in World War II. Throughout Ferguson’s enlistment, which began December 5, 1942, the Battalion traveled to New Hebrides (Oct. 1943-May 1944), Cape Gloucester (May 1944-Nov. 1944), Finschhafen (Nov. 1944-Aug. 1945), and Luzon (Aug. 1945 – discharge).
The 742nd AAA Gun Battalion participated in the major battles of the South Pacific, including the Guadalcanal campaign, the Battle of Cape Gloucester within Operation Cartwheel, and the Battle of Luzon at the end of the Philippines campaign. In 1947, PFC Ferguson married the recipient of these letters, Miss Elizabeth Webb, and had one daughter.