State Historic Site
LETTERS HOME FROM the front were written by hundreds of local soldiers and sailors, not just the eighty-plus featured in this series.
To give voice to just a few more, we are including below a selection of short excerpts from twenty-nine more letters. Complete transcriptions of all 200-plus letters published by The Sheridan Post and The Sheridan Enterprise newspapers between 1917 and 1919 are housed in the Trail End State Historic Site's local history archives.
Most of the photographs used to illustrate this series were located in the book In the World War, printed by The Mills Company in 1920. A subscription publication, the book only included photographs of those soldiers and sailors whose family paid the subscription.
We hope you have enjoyed this series of letters, and that you have learned more about the hardships of World War One, once called "The War to End All Wars."
Private Arden Waldo Godwin, Aviation Signal Corps - April 1917, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
This is the life! ... Don't believe anyone who says that the army service is worse than the navy or that the army is a hard place to serve. Knowing what I do, I'd never be a civilian a day if I had nothing in view. Why, this life is grand. I like it better every day.
Private Harry Litman, 309th Supply Company - March 1918, Camp Johnson, Florida
We certainly get to see lots of the country around here and it is wonderful. Last Sunday I was at Atlantic Beach and Pablo Beach. Both these places are on the Atlantic Ocean. It certainly was an astonishing sight to see thousands of people in swimming at this time of the year. I could hardly believe there was such a place in the world.
Unidentified Soldier - March 1918, "Somewhere In France"
Talk about seasick when I came over that [English] channel! You can tell Mama that she has never seen this boy of hers as sick as he was then. I believe I even lost the meals that I ate in New York over a month ago. I can't account for some things any other way. ... If you or any of the rest of them ever expect to see me again, I'm afraid you will have to come over here to do it. Before I cross the water again, I'll walk across Russia and Siberia and wait for the Behring Strait to freeze over!
1st Sergeant William Mills Norton, 148th Field Artillery - 11 March 1918, "Somewhere in France"
We have had a fight with Bosche and came out victorious. I played a very prominent part in it, as they got me hemmed in a dugout and I had to fight for my life or go to Germany, so I chose to fight and came out victorious. ... I have been decorated by the French Government with a cross of honor, the highest honor that can be given a man. It is a Croix de Guerre, with palm, and I am proud of it.
Private Thomas Jefferson Lahey, 624th Aero Squadron - March 1918, San Antonio, Texas
Naturally mother is afraid I will get killed or drowned going over, but I am not worrying about it. We have all got to face the great unknown sometime and the way we go does not make a whole lot of difference.
Cook 1st Class Carl Andrew Lennon, USS Philadelphia - 18 April 1918, Hoboken, New Jersey
We sighted two or three submarines on our way to France. Most of the way we are compelled to wear our clothes all the time and our life jackets and water jugs and one little three-day ration of grub. We are rushed out of bed several times each night and have to stand for hours at a time at our station for battle defense with the wind blowing 60 miles per hour.
Corporal Benjamin Comagys Emory, 805th Aero Squadron - June 1918, Louden, England
The fellow whose philosophy is such that there is nothing absolutely essential to his well-being except his conscience, his honor and his god is the one who is going to get all of the good of an army experience and none of the evil. He accommodates himself to what living conditions are available with the least amount of grumbling; keeps his honor unstained and holds a high sense of duty as the incentive for giving the best that is in him.
Private Sylvester Calvin Hitson, 146th Field Artillery - June 1918, "Somewhere in France"
I have not been paid since December. This is the fault of no one, but simply a little bad luck on my part. For four months I have had no mail and for seven months no pay. ... But with all the disappointments and petty annoyances, I have never been discouraged for a single moment. I did not expect to find my path over here strewn with roses, and the disappointments when they come are looked upon as part of the price a man must pay when he engaged in the game called war.
Sergeant Major George D. Johnson, 148th Field Artillery - 16 July 1918, "Somewhere in France"
I suppose you have heard of Grant [Barber's] death. Was killed yesterday morning about seven o'clock. He was just entering the observer's station to go on duty when a high explosive shell struck the station.
Lieutenant Arthur Crane Lewis, British Expeditionary Force - 17 June 1918, "Somewhere in France"
All of this silly twaddle that some people carry back home [in the States] about what a terrible life we have makes me sick. You usually get it from some one who was out here at a quiet time who made a few trench tours or was in about one quiet show. They try to convey this hero idea and have a fuss made over them. I do not want you to think I am pulling this modest hero tale, either, but really our life is not half bad. When we are actually in action, it is dangerous and every one on both sides is scared stiff, but it is very seldom that we have more than two weeks' line work without a rest. ... It has not been a half bad war, so discount a lot of these hardship stories and do not think of our life as pictured by the stories in The Saturday Evening Post. I take a great pleasure reading those stories. They are all so strange and unjust.
Corporal V. E. Wiley, 104th Infantry - 27 July 1918, "Somewhere in France"
We surely did send [the Germans] back once we started at them. Sometimes they would stop and fight, but we would walk right over them, and they would have to move, be killed or made prisoners, many times they preferred the latter. They are a bunch of cowards.
Private William Walling, 15th Field Artillery - July 1918, "Somewhere in France"
Can you imagine hearing "Robinson Caruso" on a phonograph punctuated now and then by the boom of the big guns? Well, I heard it the other night!
First Lieutenant Edward Sheeheen, 148th Field Artillery - August 1918, Camp Fremont, California
Forty Wyoming cowboys, garbed for the plains in boots, spurs, red shirts, bandanas and sombreros, with guns on hips and quirts swung from wrists, detrained at Camp Fremont yesterday morning as a part of the latest draft contingent. They paid no attention to anybody either. This was their last day as civilians, and almost walked over a wonderfully spic and span second lieutenant.
Corporal Leon Alderman, 362nd Infantry - 19 August 1918, "Somewhere in France"
We are working hard getting ready for the front. We don't know when we will get there, but I think we will be ready when the proper time comes. ... I hate to think of putting in a winter in the trenches, but I think I can stand as much as some of the other boys have, and some have put in three and four, and I think they must have been some men.
Corporal Lemuel Edward Martin, 148th Field Artillery - 13 September 1918, "Somewhere in France"
Well, we are at it again and have the Germans on the run, and they go so fast we are busy trying to keep in range, just to show them they are not forgotten. ... We have taken many prisoners, including very many officers, and they all seem happy.
Lieutenant Guy A. King, 349th Infantry - September 1918, "Somewhere in France"
This is one of those rainy days in France of which you have heard. It has not rained hard but a more consistent, persistent drizzle you could not well imagine, and it does not look like it would ever quit. They say they sometimes have weeks of this kind of weather here and I am certainly thankful that I have a good roof over my head, and a nice warm place in which to sleep. The boys who are out on the front are not as fortunate and it will sure be disagreeable for them.
Captain George Irvin Smith, 148th Field Artillery - 18 September 1918, "Somewhere in France"
In a very few hours we will be on the move again, going no one knows where. We have the proud distinction of being shock troops, and we always get switched around the line to places of attack, where we do our little bit and then move on.
Bugler George H. Miller, 148th Field Artillery - November 1918, "Somewhere in France"
I am now sitting in front of a big fireplace in a little French hut writing, enjoying the heat ... and so are my cooties ... because they are beginning to play hide and seek. I don't know what I would do without them.
Sergeant 1st Class Alansom Morris Halbert, 218th Aero Squadron - November 1918, "Somewhere in France"
I am anxious to get back to the old Wyoming homestead but want to wash my feet in the Rhine and thumb my nose at the Kaiser first.
Wagoner George Rodgers, 603rd Engineers - 23 November 1918, "Somewhere in France"
This is some awful looking country and our outfit can figure ourselves lucky that we didn't see any more of this front than we did. ... It certainly is a shame to see these towns without a single building left and lots of good-sized towns driven entirely into the ground. I don't suppose we've seen a piece of ground 30 feet square that did not have a shell hole on it.
First Lieutenant Harold McClung Brown, Medical Corps - 2 December 1918, "Somewhere in France"
The children on the streets, both in England and France, are first-class beggars. Our first march through the streets of the city where we landed was besieged by numerous requests for pennies. If you attempted to give a penny to a child, you could be surrounded by a dozen of them before you could get your hand out of your pocket.
Private John Alexander Barron, U.S. Marines - 14 December 1918, "Somewhere in France"
I am still here in the same place, and I guess it will be quite a while before I can walk on my left leg. We sure had a hot place to travel around when I got hurt. There were four of us together. We were stretcher bearers, and today I am the only one of the four alive.
Sergeant Edward Cecil Gwillim, 509th Engineers - December 1918, St. Nazaire, France
We all know what Sherman said about war, but in his day they didn't know what war was, when compared with what war means today with all its modern equipment, its gas, monster guns, airplanes and other engines of destruction.
Private David Vance Smith, Medical Department - December 1918, Bordeaux, France
The French people we have seen are mostly women of the lower classes. We seen women selling chocolates and English walnuts and souvenirs. ... There are women brakemen, motormen and street car conductors over here. ... Women do all kinds of men's work.
Sergeant Lucius Yates Conahey, 234th Engineers - 30 December 1918, Gievres, France
Verdun is a big walled city. Its cathedral was on the highest hill in the city. The high spires on it were demolished, a big section of the roof gone, and it was badly mutilated. ... From Verdun I went to Rheims. There I saw one of the greatest cathedrals in the world. The spires on it were demolished, as at Verdun. ... It's the general opinion that the Germans destroyed the spires because they were too valuable as points of observation for the French.
Captain Thomas Verner Moore, Medical Corps - 1 January 1919, "Somewhere in France"
We have been living in luxury here since the signing of the armistice. Barracks and stoves, electric lights (sometimes), running water from a hydrant across the street, a few cooties and lots of rats. ... Great dope compared with tents, mud, many rats, field mice and cooties.
Butcher G. C. Behm, 345th Butchery Company - 7 January 1919, "Somewhere in France"
We are not doing very much over here now, just laying around and waiting for Uncle Sam to drive over and take us home, and I don't believe that day will be long delayed. If the trip across the ocean going home is as long as it was coming over, it will take a long time to make it. Seems to me they ought to have a rest camp somewhere near the middle of the pond where a fellow could stop until his stomach settled.
Private Carl Donald Tart, U.S. Marines - 7 February 1919, Camp Rochambeau, France
We expect to be the last troops to leave France, but I don't care so much. The reason so many boys are kicking is because it is the first time they were ever away from home and they are just homesick. Although they have seen a lot of hardships while they were here, it is the best thing that could have happened to them, for after they get home you will see a bunch of men, and not a bunch of snobs that carry a powder puff in their pocket and a handkerchief up their sleeve.
Private Peter William Kegerreis, 9th Infantry - 14 April 1919, Berndorf, Germany
The boys of the 148th Field Artillery have their mess hall walls painted up nicely with all kinds of paint showing western things, like bucking steers and cows, cowboy and deer, with two wolves running beside it. It sure does look like home. They also have an Indian wigwam painted in, and written beside it are the words "Home Sweet Home."