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339th Ambulance Company collection

Identifier: Collection 108

Scope and Contents

The collection was originally arranged by name of the individual gathering the material. This arrangement has been retained as much as possible. These people are Leonard "Deac" Ellis, (11 February 1892 - 25 May 1979); James Ten Broek (8 September 1892 - ?); Gerald LaBelle (10 October 1899 - 30 July 1979) and Vernie Zahm (2 November 1891 - 23 August 1982). The collection contains diaries, memorabilia, newsletters, news clippings, correspondence and taped interviews. The collection also contains photographs, 1918-66, which present a variety of images from World War I at Camp Custer and in France and the annual reunions. Some of the negatives have been matched to photos within the collection, others are arranged by description. Also in the collection is a series of postcards, ca.1917-19, n.d., with images of France and the U.S. during WWI. The scrapbook series contains news clippings of WWI and reunion memorabilia.


  • 1917-1988, n.d.


Biographical / Historical

Red Cross Ambulance Unit Number 15 was formed June 29, 1917, by Dr. Thomas D. Gordon and was made up of mainly Grand Rapids men. The unit assembled in Grand Rapids every Monday and Wednesday for drills, and remained in Grand Rapids until October 2, 1917, when the group transferred to Camp Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan. The 339th Ambulance Company remained at Camp Custer for several months before moving on to the war in France. The 339th spent several months in France, moving from place to place, but did not see any of the front line duty. They were 30 miles from the front when the armistice was signed November 11, 1918. The unit initially set out to return to Grand Rapids in January 1919, but an order sent them back towards general headquarters at Chaumont. The company remained at the village of Marac on the Suize River for a approximately a month before receiving orders to return home, traveling on S.S. Zeppelin arriving in New York April 1919.


5.7 Linear Feet (Seven boxes)

Language of Materials



The 339th Ambulance Co. served in France during World War I. The collection documents the history of the company during World War I, from their formation in Grand Rapids as Red Cross Ambulance Unit No. 15, through Camp Custer as 339th Ambulance Co., and to France for active duty, 1917-19. In 1938 the group held a formal reunion and decided to continue meeting on a yearly basis thereafter. The collection contains scrapbooks, reunion announcements, correspondence, photographs and postcards. Of special interest are two taped interviews, with Vernie Zahm, 1980, and Elmo "Red" Nobles, 1988. The interviews contain recollections of their military service and the diaries recount the day to day experience during the war. A volume, "Sir the Company is Formed," gives brief biographies of the men in the company.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

339th Ambulance Company Reunion Organization, no accession number

Finding Aid for the 339th Ambulance Company collection
Martha J. Bloem
January 1990
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History Center Repository

Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids Michigan 49503 USA