Ral Collins was born on March 12, 1914 in Morristown, NJ, the older of two children. His father was a telephone inspector, and later a construction engineer.
He graduated from Morristown High School in 1931. His father died the following year, just after Ral turned 18. By 1940, he and his mother and sister were living with his grandfather, and Ral was working as a photographer in a National Park Service museum in Morristown, possibly Washington's Headquarters Museum.
He registered for the draft on October 16, 1940. That year he also married German-born Hedwig Kriese. Ral was working as an electrical engineer in upstate New York when he enlisted, on March 3, 1944, and was assigned to the 3132 Signal Service Company. In that role, he worked on the recording crew that recorded sounds for deceptions. This included a "Recording for the Crossing of the Rhine with an Assault Engineering Company, October 11-21, 1944." A photo caption indicates that this recording happened at the Robertville Dam, about two miles east of Malmedy in Belgium. This river crossing practice may have been in preparation for the eventual Rhine crossing.
Ral was discharged from the Army on October 25, 1945 with the rank of T/SGT and returned to Morristown and Hedwig. After the war he went to work as an electrical engineer at Jersey Central Power & Light and also as an engineering consultant for radio station WMTR. Hedwig worked as a bookkeeper.
Some of Arthur's letters to his wife discussed a particular artwork he was creating, and gave us some insight into where he was, and what he was experiencing and thinking about in the moment. Here are a few of them.
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