MS-031: Letters from Chan Coulter to his wife and child, World War II
Processed by Jaclyn Campbell, August 2001
Donated by Chan L. Coulter (1928-1999), retired professor of Gettysburg College
Chan Frank Coulter was born in Johnson County, Iowa, to Elmer and Ida Hunter Coulter on September 24, 1901. Ida Coulter died about eleven years later and her sister, Etta Hunter, helped to raise Coulter. The family moved to Iowa City when Coulter and his younger brother entered high school. Coulter went on to the State University of Iowa, where he majored in physical education and received a Reserve Officer Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) Commission. Upon graduation, he acquired a job selling life insurance in Pittsburgh.
He married Mae C. Becker in 1926 and had a son, Chan Lowell Coulter, in 1928. The Coulters lived in Pittsburgh for one year before they moved to Lakewood, Ohio, where Chan Lowell was born. While in Lakewood, Coulter sold life insurance, coached track at Western Reserve University, taught physical education, and served in the Ohio National Guard under the 37th Division. His division was called to active duty in 1940 by President Franklin Roosevelt. Coulter was commander of the division's Headquarters Company at the time.
After being called to active duty, he spent a year and a half at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, training, until he was sent to the South Pacific in 1942. During this time, his family moved to Mississippi to be closer to him. Once sent overseas, though, they moved to Iowa City. During the training at Camp Shelby, Coulter served as Aide-de-Camp to General Bietler and commanded the M.P. company.
After he was discharged in 1945 for health reasons, he returned to his family in Iowa City and continued to sell life insurance and participate in the military by serving in the Army Reserves as Commanding Officer of the 410th Infantry Regiment. He retired as a full Colonel in 1965. Coulter purchased a farm and worked on it during the 1950s and 60s.
Coulter worked closely with the Iowa City Chapter of Phi Gamma Delta and received the Coulter Cup, named for him, for his exceptional service to the chapter. He was very active in his community after the war, serving as the mayor of University Heights, working for the Republican Party, volunteering at the Johnson County Historical Society, serving on the local school board, volunteering at the First Methodist Church, and volunteering at the Veterans Hospital in Iowa City.
Coulter died in August of 1991.
Scope and Content Notes:
This collection consists primarily of correspondence from Coulter to his family and is broken up into four series: I. Correspondence by regular mail, II. Correspondence by V-Mail, III. 1985 Reunion of the 37th Division, and IV. Collection Information.
Series I consists of a series of letters, written by Coulter, to his wife, Mae, and son, Chan Lowell, during his overseas service in the South Pacific from 1942 until his discharge in 1945. The correspondence includes fatherly advice to his son and talk of normal family business matters to his wife, as well as day-to-day happenings of military life during war. Some letters have been censored and cut in places.
Series II consists of a series of V-Mails, written by Coulter, to his wife and son during his overseas service from 1942 until 1945. The content of this correspondence is very similar to the correspondence of Series I.
Series III consists of papers acquired by Coulter regarding the 40th Anniversary of the 37th Division's Liberation of Manila. This series includes news clippings, itineraries, and programs of the 37th Division and its 40th reunion in 1985.
Series IV consists of collection information regarding the gift of Chan Lowell Coulter of the series of letters from his father. Also included is a photograph, most likely of Coulter during World War II.
For additional information on Coulter and his family, see Chan L. Coulter's Oral History, located in the Reading Room of Special Collections and in the Birkner/Hedrick Oral History Collection located in the Archives.