Ralph Everett Ellinwood enlisted in the American Field Service in June, 1917. Ralph served as a transport driver under the direction of the French Army. He continued to serve in the Allied cause, later with the U.S. Ambulance Corps over the war torn battlefields of France. On May 28, 1918, Ralph and his convoy were captured by German soldiers during the Third Battle of the Aisne. Ellinwood travelled hundreds of miles as a prisoner by both foot and railroad through France and Germany. His journey included extended stays in Mont Notre Dame and filthy prison camps. After the Armistice of November 11, 1918, Ellinwood spent his final weeks in Germany at Kassel and Frankfurt am Main before returning to French soil on January 1, 1919, seven months after he was captured.
After returning to the United States, Ralph began working on his autobiographical account of his experience and it was published in April of 1920 as Behind the German Lines. Ellinwood completed a degree in journalism at Columbia University. In Tucson in 1924 Ralph became editor and co-owner of the Arizona Daily Star. Tragedy struck the Ellinwoods on August 30, 1930 when the 37 year old Ralph, son, brother, husband, and father of three young children, died suddenly of a heart attack. His life ended suddenly but his extraordinary experiences live on in this collection of memoirs, letters, artifacts, and photographs.
This collection includes the correspondence of Ellinwood to and from his wife, parents, family members and friends as well as personal diaries during his deployment to Europe and subsequent internment as a prisoner of war. The handwritten journals from 1917-18 detail his attempt to cope with the war and the deteriorating conditions around him. Particularly poignant are the photographs and negatives of his friends and comrades in arms from early military days and his civilian life in the 1920s. His personal scrapbook contains newspaper clippings and artifacts that track the major events of the war. In addition to several short story manuscripts by the young war veteran turned author and editor, the collection includes the authors copy and original manuscript of the now rare book Behind the German Lines, printed in early 1920.