State Historic Site
AFTER BASIC TRAINING, Sheridan's "blue-jackets" (U. S. Navy sailors) were (as The Sheridan Post noted) "scattered as by the four winds of heaven." Because the censor would not allow most locations to be identified, some residents didn't know if their sailor boys were guarding the coast of France, sailing the peaceful Pacific, or floating on the balmy waters off South America. Even if their letters did say where they were, it could take weeks for a sailor's letters to get from ship to Sheridan, by which time they might have relocated.
In January 1918, The Post printed a letter written the previous month by Sheridan-based railroad machinist George Frederick English, Jr. A machinist aboard the USS Brooklyn, the twenty year old was based at Cavite in The Philippines, where things were not "half as bad" as he had previously feared.
English spent two years serving in The Philippines and other Pacific locations. Prior to his discharge in December 1919, he contracted an unspecified tropical fever, possibly malaria or typhus transmitted by mosquitoes or lice.
This is sure a fine country. It is not so warm nor half as bad a place as we have been led to believe. I am well but am in quarantine as two of the fellows in our bunch were so unfortunate as to catch the mumps.
We are not supposed to drink water here unless it has been boiled and not to eat much fruit. Mangoes cause many boils and too many bananas or pineapples are unhealthy. I wish you could see the palms, cocoanuts and cocoanut palms; also the million different kinds of bugs and ants and the large assortment of mosquitoes.
Manila is just across the bay about eleven miles away and there are still volcanos that are not still or dead by a long ways. The biggest wireless [radio] station in the world is here, as are some of the finest government hospitals.
We left San Francisco over a month ago and were just thirty days en route. We had a fine trip and stopped only 24 hours in Honolulu and the same length of time in Guam.
The first three days out we had the most beautiful storm you could ever wish to see. We had to stand up to eat and hang on to a stanchion at the same time. At night we could hardly stay in the bunks, but the only thing that bothered me was that we had to hang on while we slept. The storm finally subsided and the remainder of the way the water was as smooth as glass.
The feed on the transport was punk and I was glad to get here and eat a good old navy square. And let me tell you a navy square does not mean beans and hardtack - it means fried eggs, boiled eggs, pancakes, apple butter, good bread and clean cooking. It is more like home than in any other branch of the service.
There is no need for you to worry about me if you do not hear frequently for in the navy it is a gamble as to where you are going and when you will start. However, I expect to get back sometime all O. K. and not come in a box with a hide full of salt water.
I am not especially stuck on the natives here and it is about as safe to be around them as it is to be around a snake. They love a sailor and are perfectly willing to shake hands with one with one hand and cut his throat with the other.
Will close now, hoping that we will be here when your answer arrives on the next transport. If you write at once your letter will come on the next boat.
(From "In the World War")