Letters Home - Melvin Erastus Mooney

WHILE MOST OF Sheridan's young men joined the army (or were drafted into it), not every doughboy from here served in France. Private First Class Melvin Erastus Mooney, for example, was stationed in the Philippines for the duration of his service (March 1918 through July 1919).

Mooney served with both the Coast Artillery Corps and the Quartermaster Corps on Corregidor Island near Manila. By the time of his last letter, he was working as a motorman on the Fort Mills electric rail system on Corregidor. 

Born in Nebraska in 1890, Mooney was living in Clearmont and working as a "liveryman" when he registered for the draft in June 1917. He had previously worked as a locomotive fireman - a job he returned to after the war.  

The following are excerpts from letters written by Mooney from Honolulu, Manila and Corregidor.  

 (From "In the World War")

 State Historic Site

Trail End

Honolulu, Hawaii - April 1918

We landed safe in Honolulu at 11 o'clock today. We were eight days and nights on the water, and it will take us about twenty-two days more to reach the Philippines. Believe me, there was a bunch of sick boys the first three days out. The sea was rough, and everyone was sick. We had it pretty tough this far, for we were so crowded, but about half of them were landed here and the rest of us will have more room the rest of the way.

This is sure a beautiful city. I am sending you some views of it and the island. I have seen sights since I left Sheridan that I wouldn't have missed seeing for anything. I wish you could have been with me and seen some of the things I have seen.

Manila, Philippine Islands - May 1918

We are sleeping in bamboo shacks now, which are full of holes, and we will sure get a drenching if it rains. We drill about eight hours a day and it is very hot, but the perspiration sure comes out on a fellow. At that I guess it isn't as warm as firing on the railroad. I don't mind it as bad as I did firing.

​We haven't very good water to drink. They have to boil it before using. It is not like Wyoming water. The country don't look very good to me. Of course, you know there is no place like home. No place I have seen on this trip looks as good to me as Wyoming. It isn't as warm here as I expected - it doesn't get over a hundred degrees in the shade.

We had sweet potatoes, green peas, boiled beef, bread, pumpkin pie and water for our Sunday dinner.

There is no farm ground here. I don't believe there are three acres of level land here. Our drill ground is graded down.

Corregidor, Philippine Islands - June 1918
I am feeling fine, but the company is still under quarantine. There is a case of mumps breaking out every few days, and that means ten days for the rest of us. We are getting along fine in our drilling, but it sure does seem foolish to just march back and forth across a small place. It is comical the stunts some of us do when we get mixed up and don't understand the orders. Then the unlucky one gets a bawling out. It isn't all learned in a day. I get pretty tired sometimes, but am getting more used to it.

It isn't any warmer over here, and they say the rainy season begins pretty soon. I hope we get through this drilling before it begins.

I saw one of the big guns we will use today. It sure is a wicked looking thing. There is a lot of machinery to one. They shoot two shots a minute. The cartridges weigh ten hundred and forty pounds. They will be our next lesson in drilling.

Corregidor, Philippine Islands - July 1918

We stand inspection every Saturday morning. We drill five days a week and have Saturday afternoon and Sunday off to do as we like. They only allow us certain hours to wash our clothes as the water is pretty scarce, and we can't use much, so we have a hard time keeping clean. We have to wash when we are bathing, and our clothesline is the ground.

We don't hardly know what a table looks like, but we have pretty good chow (that is what they call the grub) and plenty of it, so we don't go hungry here. It is chow time now and I will have to get in the line or lose out. (Later.) We had roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, rice, bread and water for dinner.

Fort Mills, Philippine Islands - September 1918

This is a very nice island; it is rather small, but there is some real nice scenery on it. We have an electric line that runs from the beach to the top of the island. The fare is free; you get off and on as you please. We drill only on the forenoons and in the afternoon we sometimes work a little but not much. We have pretty good chow and all we want of it. The most of our food is shipped from USA. The Philippine Islands are nice, but Wyoming is nicer.

Fort Mills, Philippine Islands - December 1918

We had a big storm, a typhoon, they call it here. It rained and blowed four days and nights. It was sure unpleasant to be out in, but we have to keep the cars running no matter how bad it storms. Sometimes we could not see ten yards ahead of the car. I am first-class motorman now.

I don't know if they raise any melons here or not, and if they do, I don't think they would be very good. Some of the native fruit is pretty good, such as pypia
[papaya]. It is something like a musk melon. Mangels [mangoes], they look like a pear, bananas and cocoanuts.

We have had the fever here, but I have been lucky enough not to get it. I guess you know what it is: what you call the "flu." I have been lucky as I haven't been sick since I have been over here, but I may get it yet. 

There is malt gin and whiskey over here. It was wide open for a while, but they are trying to close it up now. Certainly we have coffee to drink, and we have all the sugar we want, such as it is; it is brown sugar and sometimes is not very good.

For Sunday dinner we have fried chicken, dressing, potatoes, other kinds of vegetables, ice cream and cake. Through the week we have meat, potatoes, gravy and rice pudding, and most always pie or cake for supper. I have no complaint of the food we get here.

I read in the paper they had started to discharge the soldiers. I suppose the ones here will be the last to be discharged. I will be glad when I get back across the pond. I sure don't enjoy crossing the ocean. A month is a long time to be on the water. â€‹