State Historic Site
SHERIDAN BUILDING AND Loan bookkeeper Henry Charles Krajicek, son of a Bohemian tailor, was twenty-seven years old when he entered the army in February 1918. A former real estate agent with clerical and secretarial experience, he was assigned to the position of field clerk in the general headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force "Somewhere in France." He remained on the headquarters staff until, suffering from a severe case of hyperthyroidism, he was shipped home from St. Nazaire in April 1919.
The following letter, written in July 1918 and published in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise on August 13, 1918, gives a relatively positive review of France and French culture - rare among the letters home.
By the way - the Elsie Janis to whom he refers was an American vaudevillian who became known as "The Sweetheart of the A. E. F." Born in Ohio in 1889, Elsie was one of the first entertainers to take her act to the front lines.
Probably should have written you before this time, but I find that most of my time is much occupied by the time I work eight or ten hours, and write to my relatives. Then again, I have to walk about a mile from where I live to my meals, and that makes up much more time than would be imagined. Have been on night duty all this week, working from 11 at night until 8 in the morning.
Elsie Janis paid a visit to us here at general headquarters, she having been at the various points in the A. E. F., and gave us an outdoor entertainment of one hour. She surely made a hit and will become very popular in the states, and doubly so when the boys return. They are all for her. ...
Uncle Sam is pretty good to the boys. ... Of course, many things we have to do without, but they are negligible when it is realized that "it is war," the French for which expression is, "C'est la guerre." And a very popular expression it has become, not only with the French but also with the Americans. Of course, the boys at the front are not faring so well as we in the matter of being able to buy cigars, etc., because it is quite difficult to get stuff up to them when they are in the trenches, but at that they seem to have little complaint to make. As a matter of fact, but seldom do they complain about what they must endure.
When a man first comes to France, he of course is not placed in a position to see the best of the French people, and our first opinion is that they do not amount to much, but after having been here for a while, and making some acquaintances as I and some of the others who were willing to make them have, we find the French very nice people indeed. They have some customs and peculiarities which are and seem strange to us, but when it is realized that they have had them for generations, it is readily understood how they could become a matter of course in our lives as well as theirs.
Of course, I have not had an opportunity of visiting Paris as yet, and am afraid at times that I may not get there, but it seemed at first that there were no good looking girls in France. However, I find that tucked away in the corners, and very closely watched over by their parents, there are some "queens," and of course they are inducive to studying French, which I am doing. Thus far I cannot say that I can speak the language, but I have sufficient knowledge at present to be able to go any place and take care of myself for the ordinary needs. ...
On the 4th of July, every French village celebrated for the Americans. The Americans did nothing but be entertained, and you may rest assured that the French gave them a welcome that is long to remain in the minds of every American "over there." Some of the Americans feel that they are saving France for the French, and the French give them that impression, but we all know that while we are helping them, we were in reality indebted to them to start with, and are in all probability doing for ourselves at this time what we might in the future have had to do without any assistance. In that event, I do not feel that we are doing a thing for France.
There is one thing that is a certainty, and that is that if you saw the part of France which I have had a chance to see, you would say that the French have "something" for which to fight. It is the most beautiful country you have ever laid eyes upon, not only in spots, but everywhere. Then they have some wonderful historically interesting spots and buildings, such as chateaus and cathedrals, which are a source of much pleasure to visit. The boys that do not get to come over will most assuredly miss something, and we fellows who do not get a chance to go to the front will miss something also. The fighting up there is beyond our understanding, but to hear some of the stories which come to us, which are not just myths, but the truth, it is incomparable.