FOR SOME REASON, most of Sheridan's younger fighting men - the seventeen, eighteen and nineteen year olds - went into the United States Navy. No so Harry Gebo. Just a few days after his eighteenth birthday, the Parkman resident enlisted in the Army, where he was assigned to the 189th Transportation Corps.
The son of Canadian immigrants, Gebo was born in Fromberg, Montana, in 1900. He attended school in Parkman and Sheridan. After the war, he returned to Sheridan County, working for the railroad and for the Kleenburn mine. He eventually moved to Oak Creek, Colorado, where he continued his life as a miner until shortly before his death in 1975.
On November 14, 1918, Harry wrote a lengthy to his father, George Gebo. The reason? It was "Dad's Day," a day on which all soldiers were asked to write home to their fathers. Gebo's letter was published in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise on January 10, 1919.
State Historic Site
(From In the World War)
Dear Dad: This is dad’s day over here, so am dropping you a line. I think I am allowed to explode myself now and tell you where I am. Well, take a map and look up the part of St. Nazaire. I landed in Brest after seven days’ riding on the pond. I stayed at Brest for eight days, and all that time we slept in dog tents. It rained seven days out of the eight.
Well, one morning about 3 o’clock we had to get up whether we wanted to or not, and of course you know I wanted to. Our packs we soon rolled, and pretty soon we were all leaving camp, three companies of us, about 750 men. We marched about three miles to the coast where we landed and took out what the French call a train, but it would make a fine watch fob, and then I doubt if it would be large enough. We stayed there for about three hours before we pulled out. They hooked a couple of little French engines on us and along came a French switchman and gave three blasts with a horn and away we went.
There were forty men in one car, including rifles, packs, and grub; so you see we had lots of room. I got over in the corner and sat down on my pack near a window. Our car was about 10 x 14 feet and had four wheels under it without any springs. I guess we got to going about 15 miles an hour and our car started to bump and rock. We traveled about three hours and stopped. We all got off and got water to drink and a rest from our cramped position, then we started again. A large U. S. engine had us this time and the way we sailed was not slow. We bounced so much that when we stopped again I still kept on bouncing for half an hour at least.
At supper time we opened tomatoes, corned beef, and had jam and bread to go with it. We were all hungry and ate like hogs. One thing we had plenty of bread and other grub. Soon it got dark and we were still rambling and bouncing along, about eight o’clock most of us got sea sick. [ILLEGIBLE] the car that there was hardly room to stand up. Some of the fellows were stretched out all over the floor and some were on their knees. I was all cramped up in the corner and I fell asleep about midnight and rolled off my pack on another fellow and he got up and fell over someone else and we almost had a battle royal for a little [ILLEGIBLE] stopped some place along the line about three in the morning and stayed there for about six hours. It was sure a relief to us to get the rest. We traveled from 9 a.m. until nearly 4 o’clock in the afternoon and we got off at St. Nazaire. We [ILLEGIBLE] to go about a hundred yards from the railroad track to tents and unload. It was one great relief to get washed up and get a bed made. I hit the hay and I like to never woke up the next morning.
I am at Camp Gron and it is not a bad camp. It’s small and there are about three thousand railroaders in it. We keep supplies moving to the front. Our company came over as railroad men, but I am one that is not a railroad man. I didn’t know what I was going to do but soon found out that I had a job. They sent me down here to the office and made an engine dispatcher out of me. Well, I have made good at it so far and now have the night shift which is not so much going on at night as in the day. I have been at the same camp ever since I came over. When we come across, we had rifles, bayonets, and we had gas training before we came across so I thought sure we were going to the front to relieve some outfit up there, as we are a casual outfit. When they took our guns away from us, I said to myself, says I, “Here’s hoping the Kaiser’s dome is knocked off before I get that rifle back,” and sure enough it has been. Now all that’s worrying me is how I can get home the quickest.
St. Nazaire is a pretty good sized place and is a clean town. It is on the coast. When I go up town, I always go down the coast and look out over the waters. Many a time I have seen boats go through the locks and wondering just how soon I would be starting back towards God’s country.
Now I will tell you about my trip across. We got onto the ship Great Northern about three days before she pulled out. We set sail about two o’clock in the afternoon, and it was a beautiful day. As we passed old Statue of Liberty, I says, “Say, old girl, I hope I see you again,” but, believe me, if I do and she wasn’t to see me again after I pass her, she is going to have to about face to do it because I’ve done my last water riding. For three days we had pretty bad weather, and our boat rocked fierce. The northern Pacific and the big German interned boat came with us. The first day out had one destroyer with us, and it turned back on the second day. We made the trip alone until we were about two days’ ride from Brest. Nine torpedo boat destroyers met us. We spent the rest of the time watching them run in and out between the boats. They sure can travel. In the afternoon just before we landed in Brest, one of the destroyers came up pretty close to the right side of our boat and dropped a depth bomb. Talk about water going up in the air. They almost raised the ocean. Three German caps, oil and several floating obstacles were seen on the water. So I leave it to you to imagine what was hit.