(From "In the World War")

Letters Home - Clyde E Kelsey, Part One

 State Historic Site

Trail End

BORN IN WYOMING in June of 1898, Clyde E. Kelsey went into the army straight from high school. He enlisted with the Wyoming National Guard (148th Field Artillery) in June 1916. 


In January 1918, Kelsey transferred to the 146th Field Artillery, Battery C. Just like the 148th, Battery C found itself on the front lines in most of the war's biggest American battles: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. 


In between fights, Kelsey performed with the 146th Field Artillery Players - a group of musicians that entertained nearby troops. They even got to perform in "Gay Paree" one night while traveling to the front lines. In Kelsey's words, he "got by fine, too."


In October 1918, Private Kelsey was doing a little sightseeing "Somewhere in France," when he ran into a car filled with soldiers. He ... well, we'll let him tell the story:





A few nights ago, Battery E, 148th, pulled up and camped within a couple of miles of us. I was out sightseeing in a little town below us when a car went by full of soldiers. I heard some say, "Hello, Clyde!" I turned around, of course, to see who it was and the car turned around and came back. Talk about surprises. I was sure the one when old "Fat" Adams and four or five boys came up and shook hands. It was the first time I had seen any of them since I left them in January last. Nothing would do, but I must get in and take a ride, and the car was loaded clear down then. That was about 3 o'clock p.m. We rode around until supper time, when they took me over to their camp for supper. Talk about eat - you should have seen me. Their mess sergeant gets out and "rustles" once in awhile so they can have nice things to eat, while ours sits around all day with a big pipe in his mouth and reads - and we are out of luck. 


Of course, I had to stay there that night, and believe me, we sure had some time. Got the old quartette together and "sang up a bit" until nearly 11 p.m., when a Hun bomber flew over our heads and started "laying eggs," as we call them, all around us, and we had to douse the lights and run for dugouts . That was about eighteen kilometers behind the lines, too. (I forgot to tell you that we are away back resting up and drawing new clothes, etc., preparatory for a long trip into a new sector.)


The bombing only lasted half an hour, and when it was over, we crawled back out of the dugouts, and the captain called the roll to see if anyone was killed or hurt, which there were none, and then we went to bed. Pretty soon we heard the rattle of machine guns and saw the flashes of bombs and searchlights in the air, and we knew they were after the Hun plane that did the bombing. Pretty soon one of the big French searchlights found him, and we saw four Allied airplanes make a dive for him, and then everything went pitch dark, and all the motors of the aircraft were cut off. We knew then that something would happen in a few minutes. Sure enough, there came the rattle of machine guns and a big burst of flame, and an airplane fell like a rocket to the ground. It must have been the Hun aviator, because the fighting stopped and we heard the humming of the French "spads" [biplane fighters] going in the direction of their airdrome. 


[The next morning] we got up, dressed and went up to the kitchen, where the guard had a good fire, and some coffee, and stayed there until breakfast. For breakfast we had ham and eggs, hot cakes, doughnuts, coffee, biscuits and some good candy which Captain Nelson bought for the battery with his own money. 


After breakfast the captain came around and said that my regiment had pulled out at midnight and that I'd have to go with him. I asked how he knew, and he said a dispatcher told him. Well, the regiment did leave at midnight all right, all but C Battery, so that I had to tell the boys "Au revoir" and go back to beans and bread. I don't know when I'll ever see them again, but here's hoping it will be soon.


We'll have more from Clyde Kelsey later on in our series.