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William C. Erler collection

 Collection — Box: 98.0745
Identifier: 98.0745

Scope and Contents

This collection relates to United States Marine Corps Private First Class William C. Erler who served as a Paramarine, and later with the 26th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division during World War II.  William C. Erler was killed in action at Iwo Jima on March 2, 1945.  The collection consists of photographs and several personal letters and papers, as well as artifacts, a parachute, gas mask, pins, marksmanship badges, and medals, including his posthumously awarded Purple Heart.


  • Created: 1941-1945
  • Other: Date acquired: 10/02/1998


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to all researchers

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

PFC William C "Chuck" Erler was born on December 16, 1923, in Columbus, Ohio.  In 1941, Erler enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and en route to basic became close friends with two brothers also from Columbus, Luther and Harold Crabtree. Photographs of the three together are included in the collection. What is remarkable about Erler's service is not just that he was a Marine on Iwo Jima (his first and last battle), but that he trained as a Marine parachutist and earned his wings. Erler apparently proved himself in training at Camp Kearny, where he earned several marksmanship badges and qualification as Expert Rifleman.

He was a member of the 4th battalion of the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, an experimental group aimed at mirroring the roles filled by the Army parachute regiments. Though the regiment was ultimately dissolved as impractical for the Pacific theatre (the Marines did not have the numbers of transport planes required, compounded by the much larger distances in the Pacific and the lack of reliable airfields), Erler and his friends Luther and William were transferred to the 26th Marine Regiment, 5th US Marine Division. This Division was created solely for the upcoming landing at Iwo Jima. Newspaper clippings seem to suggest that he was a flamethrower operator during the battle, but these articles are the only information of his we have for the battle itself, and cannot be corroborated.

An astounding episode involving Erler is also recorded in these clippings: He and his friends Luther and Harold Crabtree were serving in the same company when Harold was killed by Japanese machine-gun fire on February 28, 1945. His brother Luther and Erler both ran under fire to retrieve his body. Erler sent a short letter to his parents during the battle on February 27.  He died in combat of unknown (at least unrecorded) causes on Iwo Jima on March 2, 1945. His remains were returned to the United States in 1948, and Erler is buried in Eastlawn Cemetery in his hometown of Columbus.


1.00 boxes

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.

Source of Acquisition

Theodore Fuss

Method of Acquisition


William C. Erler collection
Daniel Arenas
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US