State Historic Site
Dear Friend - Well, we are in France and feeling fine, but I was sure sick the first two days. We had a fine voyage, but the third and fourth days we encountered bad weather. The sea was sure rough, the waves coming over the head end of the ship. I can't tell you the name of the ship or the name of the town, but we are safe in France. We didn't meet any submarines; I think we are very lucky.
It is not very cold over here. The grass is still green. This sure is a funny country. We sure had some fun trying to read the signs they have. Some of the people can talk a little English, but most of them talk French. Some of the French wear wooden shoes. It sure looks funny.
Well, bye bye for this time. Will be back some day.
On October 3, 1918 - one year and a day after entering the service - Corporal Clyde Thomas was killed in action near Charpentry, France. In February 1919, his company commander, Captain George C. Cox, sent the following letter to Thomas' parents from his new headquarters in Montabaur, Germany:
My Dear Mr. and Mrs. Thomas: I had hoped to write you long before this in regard to Clyde, but owing to the many duties and continual movement and preparation for the operations of the divisions, I have been unable to write before now.
Corporal Thomas had been my motorcycle driver ever since along in July, and naturally, I got to know him quite well. Therefore, with your permission, I will call him Clyde.
Do I know him? Intimately? Yes. We have driven all over France together and through many intense artillery bombardments which neither of us ever expected to get through, but, by the Grace of God, we did until the Argonne battle. Therefore, I know him well. He was a man always ready to go wherever duty called him.
Many times we were ordered thru many places which seemed almost hell, to carry out and gain the necessary end.
In the Soissons attack of the First Division, he was constantly with me in the supervision and operation of the Signal Corps' telephone and wireless telegraph work of the First Brigade.
We worked between Mortfoutain, Courves and Candun through intense fire. We were pressing the "Boche" toward Soissons.
Later, we were in the St. Mihiel operations - and then moved up just west of Verdun and into position at Charpentry on the first of October. Between the 1st and the 10th, we had a very hard attack. On the morning of the 3rd, several of us had just completed some telephone work and were standing together when the Germans sent over several high explosive shells into our group.
Clyde was instantly killed by a piece of one shell through his neck. When we picked him up, he was still smiling, though dead. He had done his work well.
Clyde was buried just about 200 yards east of Charpentry, on the south side of the main road. All of his personal things I have had with me since and am sending a small package of the things he had with him.
You have my heartfelt sympathy in this great loss, but the picture that has been with me ever since - a victorious smile that showed his attitude. He was glad to make the great sacrifice, as in the spirit with all the other brave fellows who have fallen beside and around us for the ONE CAUSE.
(From In the World War)
ONE OF THIRTEEN children born to Sylvanus Cicero Thomas and his wife Rella Mae (Hand), Clyde Henry Thomas spent most of his early life in Marshalltown, Iowa.
When America entered the European war in 1917, the twenty-one year old Thomas was working as a teamster for the Security Bridge Company in Three Forks, Montana. After his work there was done, he drifted down to Sheridan, where he enlisted in the "new" national army on October 2, 1917. He was a member of Sheridan's third required quota of men.
Following training camp, Thomas was assigned to the 116th Field Artillery, where he worked with the Signal Corps.
This letter, dated December 10, 1917, was published in The Sheridan Enterprise on January 9, 1918. It provides one young man's initial images of a strange land called "France."