Letters Home - George Nicholas Ostrom

GEORGE NICHOLAS OSTROM was born in Spencer, Iowa, in 1888. We're not exactly sure when he moved to Sheridan, but he enlisted in the Wyoming National Guard in April 1914.

After war was declared, Ostrom reenlisted in the guard, which was nationalized into the 148th Field Artillery. He served as a Sergeant First Class with the 148th  and saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war. He fought at Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne (where he was gassed twice). 

After the war, Ostrom returned to Sheridan County, living in the rural communities of Springwillow and Clearmont. He died in Sheridan in 1982.

A prolific artist, Ostrom is perhaps best known for the Bucking Bronc logo he designed for the 148th Field Artillery, and which now stands for everything "Wyoming." You see it today on everything from Wyoming license plates to University of Wyoming football helmets.  

(From "In the World War")

 State Historic Site

Trail End

16 July 1918; published in The Sheridan Post, 18 October 1918

We have been battling every day and night to keep the Huns back and it takes a lot of work. Last night it rained the night through, thunder roared, lightning flashed and the cannon boomed. This morning the country is a sea of mud. During the night we had a part of our position heavily shelled - big ones. I was on observation and near where I was stationed on an area of about ten acres there were fully fifty big shell holes, so you can imagine George did something else besides dream.

The guns are popping and roaring while I write. ... Slim McGovern's face is highlighted by the flash of the guns. When he pulls the trigger he leans away over and the wrinkles and whiskers on his face make a fine picture. He calls it shooting caps. This morning after he came off his relief of snapping them he came down the trail all plastered with mud, hat on the back of his head, singing "Cheer Up Lizzie." Then with his ears full of cotton so he could sleep he was ready for his blankets under a convenient gooseberry bush. ... 

Yes, I knew Spuds [Roy H. Eaton] had been killed. Just another wooden cross in the wheat field of France. It sounds brave and it is. Everybody has been on this roundup. Last night we buried poor Sergeant Barber. Like the rest of the boys he was facing the Huns when the big drive broke.

I got a little tear gas last night and my eyes are still watering as a write. We have been busy driving "death beans" at Fritz. Such endurance as the boys show here would not be possible in civil life. ...

Girls? We saw one this morning. Also had an air raid, but the girl got the most attention. 

You say the best of Sheridan is here. You ought to see them in overalls beside these big tubes of steel, slinging devils towards the Boches. Wesley Dale stayed with his gun when the exploding German shells threw dirt 300 feet in the air all around him. As a matter of fact we all stayed. 

July 26; published in The Sheridan Post, 18 October 1918

We are on the field of action again. While I am writing there is an air battle going on and it is some sight to see an air plane fall and the sky full of bombs.

I am now the owner of a machine gun that is all my own. When I found it there were two dead soldiers with it. Later when I got the gun I "found" four more. You people do not know what war really is. ...

It is getting late and I have to rustle a place to sleep a little if things are favorable. I can stand a thousand cannon reports but  a shell coming makes a noise that is apt to make one nervous. It sounds just like a siren fire whistle and then explodes. It beats business how hell keeps up.

Undated; published in The Sheridan Post, 20 September 1918

Things are the most peaceful tonight that it has been for a month. But day before yesterday it was shells. We carried poor Slim McGovern out with a shattered leg. ... We move up very often and it's lots of work; these shells are so heavy. ... "No Man's Land Today Is Our Position Tomorrow" - that's our motto. Just so they won't stop us Americans.

Tell everyone to be proud they are Americans. When these A. E. F.'s come back they had better be. I was on the road yesterday talking to a tall, lank Alabamian, when an aeroplane come over and started to bomb some ambulances carrying wounded. He took off his hat, scratched his long shaggy hair and said, "Thar's two beings in the world I want; one is one of them men that flies and the other is one of them men that holds up his hands and hollers 'kamerad' and works a machine gun with his foot. I'd sure work both feet and hands on them."

Undated; published in The Sheridan Post, 20 September 1918

Writing is good tonight so here goes. I've a real table to write on, a candle, etc. There is not much news only war - war - war - and it's the worst word ever made of three letters. ... I have been a little off the last few days, everything is so foul around here. A million for some Wyoming water and air. You folks don't realize we are pushing the Boche to hell now and are where the big stuff is coming off. ... Every time I write a couple lines a gun goes off and about wrecks the delicate things on the table. 

15 October 1918; published in The Sheridan Enterprise, 9 November 1918

I'm still trying to do my bit although very much worn out and not much left. The weather is also bad. It rains every day; cold and foggy all the time. French mud is the worst in the world.

Things that were exciting are not noticieable now; we never have been relieved from the front.

The country here was very well timbered, but it's barren now - just stumps and a few piles of rock where village have been. They can't work the fields unless they level them off. It's all shell holes, mines and barb wire. People that never seen it don't know what war is - they can't be told. France knows, and I hope they don't stop till Germany proper is mashed up a little.

7 November 1918; published in The Sheridan Post, 3 December 1918

It is cold here and rains nearly all the time. It reminds me of when we have those fall rains at home and when it clears up, the mountains have their first coating of snow. I am in an A. R. C. [Red Cross camp] beside a stove toasting my shins. I am drowsing, half asleep and too comfortable to take a real nap. Of course, my mind goes back to those days when I could go riding down the divide with the good old Wyoming air fluttering my open shirt and see the world's hump of lavender [the Bighorn Mountains] capped with a brassy white frosting.

We have had lots of experience since the gang of us in civilian clothes marched down Main Street and proclaimed ourselves "Sheridan's Own." ... On that day long ago we were mighty brave, but since that we have passed through three stages - brave, scared and don't care, the last being the most successful. During the brave stage we were often led to take unnecessary chances when somebody was looking; being scared showed good sense and induced us to keep our heads down when there was no occasion for looking out; but now the boys are hardened and don't care, and this is the feeling that comes naturally to the gambler whether the stakes are money or your own life.

The boys gave an A. E. F. cheer last night when they heard the good news from the front and learned the way the war lords are dropping out. They are saying, Hell, Heaven, or Hoboken by Christmas. For my part, all I ask is to get my feet under mother's table with plenty of turkey and cranberries in front of me. That will be about all the heaven I will ask for.

You will get this about Christmas, so I am wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.