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Letter from Elmer Midby, Renville County Journal, 9-20-1918: A Delayed Letter From A Soldier

The letter which follows was received in this office for publication some time ago but on account of much other material clamoring for space it has, each time, been left out. We publish it with the feeling that it is interesting reading.

U. S. Naval Air Station, J. A. Jacobson, Restaurant.

Dear Friend Joe: Received your card a few days ago and the picture of the “boy” today and I surely thank you ever so much. I didn’t get to see him while I was there, he certainly has gotten to be some boy and it is a very good picture.

I was also glad to hear from you Joe, it sure is nice to hear from friends and I hope you’ll come again. I know you cannot find much time for social letters but even a few words are greatly appreciated by mah, so don’t fail to repeat some time when you have a few leisure moments and have the inclination to do so.

Can state that both Ole and myself are feeling first rate and I trust this will find yourself and family enjoying a good health.

Of course we are performing our various duties, with a few additional ones every day so there wouldn’t be anything new to tell you in that respect that is, if I have told you about them in my other letter, which I don’t remember – I write to so many and tell it so often that I think I have told everyone of our regular routine.

We drill with arms now days. My company is senior company at arms here now. We were in a funeral parade in Pensacola last Friday evening, two flying officers (ensigns) were killed last week when their machine fell out of the air and into the Gulf, only recovered one body and it was sent to his former home so we paraded to the R. R. station and back to the boat on which we came to town.

Next Sunday we are to have a large parade for the floating of the 3d Liberty Loan, a big number of Blue Jackets and soldiers from various forts here will partake in it. The parade will be in the neighborhood of three miles long, it is estimated. Naval and military bands and we boys are going to sing some songs while marching. They took us to the Y.M.C.A. and we practiced singing them at 4:00 p.m. today or right after school. Let me tell you these Liberty boys have good lungs and can sure sing some, We are going to sing “Over There,” “Goodbye Broadway, Hello France,” “Where Do We Go From Here?” “Star Spangled Banner,” “It’s a Long Trail Winding” and a few others. I believe it’s going to be a fine affair. Oh yes, and “The Gang’s All Here” is another one. I haven’t time to think what the others were.

We are still going to school but I think we will soon be through. Not very many days left. We are in the motor room now, dissembling, overhauling and erecting aviation engines and from this we go to what they call the test stand where they put these motors under the duration test etc., and then we are about through with this course. But I am elected for a higher training and up for a trip, unless something terrible happens.

I’ll tell you how it come about. They are selecting men of officer material to take a course at the Columbia University at New York City. They have the rating a person comes here with at the flying school office, education and experience, etc., and I guess they picked the men out from that to begin with, but anyhow, they called a bunch from each company as many as they thought would qualify and both Ole and I were called up with the others to go to a certain building and fill out a form covering everything from the age of six years when you first started school and all your employers and dates starting and leaving employment of each and descriptive detail of the work done, (machinists’ work), etc. This was Saturday forenoon we did this and yesterday we were called to report to the octagonal “Round building” again and a Dr. Lueke, professor from the university, gave us a talk on what the object of this was and what qualifications were necessary. He said for those that didn’t think they were qualified to drop out a he was going to give each applicant an individual examination. I figured I had no chance and intended to drop out but on second thought I decided to go to the finish which I did. So they took us to another building for the examination. There were five or six high ranking navy officers to look us over (I guess) to see if we had good bearing, appearances, etc. the making of officer material and the professor to judge us on education and experience. The sized me up so quick and asked me a few questions and said “that’s all: and I thought to myself they’re not wasting much time on me and the way he said it “that’s all,” made me feel like a boob. I wasn’t in the room with the board of examiners more than one minute. Ole was in just ahead of me. He wasn’t detained in there any longer either. I didn’t believe I had a chance to be chosen, but today at 3:00 p.m. a messenger came with a slip from the Flying School office telling me that “Dr. Lueke had accepted me as a candidate for course at Columbia University – departure not known,” so I can’t tell what day they will send me. I don’t know how many there could have been that filled out the form and went through the affair but a few hundred anyway and there was 62 of us accepted at this station out of a bunch, so I say I’m lucky to be one of the 62. I saw the list of names posted tonight. I’m the 11th on the list from the top, probably means I’ll be one of the first few to go. Not sending all at once. So many at a time from each station. I sure am glad I can go. I wanted to go the worst way too. Ole didn’t pan out as lucky as I did and I’m awfully sorry. We meant to stay together as long as possible and go “across” together, but this will separate us not I fear unless he gets in on this later. The object of this is to train these men for officers, ensign or commissioned officers, warrant officers and chief petty officers. Ensign is the highest you can rank on this. It’s going to be a stiff course and mean hard work but it’s worth it if you make good. I’m certainly lucky to be in on this. I hope I don’t have to leave here too soon. I would like to finish my school here and make any second class rating before I go.

Well, Joe, it’s after 10:00 p.m. now and “taps” have blown and the lights are out in the bungalow now and I’ll have to string my hammock in the dark. I am in one of the school rooms doing this. I rate liberty tonight so I don’t need to be at the bungalow.

Was going to shave tonight but will have to postpone it.

I didn’t think I’d get this much of a letter rattled off when I started, the worst part will be for you to read it. If there is anything you don’t understand ask me about it as soon as you can by mail. Ha! Ha! I’m slinging this violet fluid as fast as I ca. That accounts for part of the looks of it.

Say hello to all my friends for me and tell a few of them to write, not too many or I might get swamped with letters.

With best regards to yourself and family, hoping to hear from you again soon, I am,

Sincerely your friend, Elmer Midby, Co. 39. Bldg. 110., U.S.N Air Station

Letter from Alfred Sell, Buffalo Lake News, 9-20-1918:

A P. Sell Wounded Writes Cheerful Letter Home

The following is a letter received by R. E. Sell last Saturday from his son, Alfred, written August 16th, bringing them the news that he had been wounded and was then on his way from France to England.

Dear folks and all;

As I will be able to sit up today will try and write a few lines. I am in the hospital at present but am getting better, so don’t get excited when you read this. It is nothing serious at all, had one knee and hip dislocated and a shrapnel wound in the other knee, but I am getting along fine. Wanted to write sooner but could not move in bed so simply had to wait until I could sit up. I will be sent to England tomorrow. Use my same address when you write until you hear from me again.

Your loving son and Brother, Al.

Letter From Platt Nellermoe, Buffalo Lake News, 9-20-1918

Fort Totten, N.Y., Sept. 13th 1918

Dear Mr. Foster:

It has been my intention nearly all summer to write you but as you can imagine army life doesn’t afford one the leisure time that civilian life does. I surely wish to thank you for sending me the paper. I sure look forward to the “News” every week. I am at one of the best and nicest posts in the east, it is like Fort Snelling used to be, all green and nice. It is about a half an hours ride from New York City, and we sure do take advantage of going into the city. I only have a few days more to spend here at this post as we expect to sail for Sunny France within a very short time. So I wish to bid all the Buffalo Lake people good bye, hoping to see them again by next fall, if my battery ever gets started on the “bloody huns” the war will be over. We’ve got lots of fight and grit and pull together.

Goodbye and good luck, Yours, Sergt. P. M.Nellermoe

Questions To Be Answered On Registration Card, Renville Star Farmer, 9-5-1918

Who Must Register

All male persons must register who shall have attained their eighteenth birthday and shall not have attained their forty-sixth birthday on or before the day set by the President for registration. The only exceptions are:

  •  Persons who, prior to the day set for registration by the President, have registered either under the terms of the Act approved May 18, 1917, or under the terms of public resolution of Congress approved May 20, 1918, whether called for service of not.
  •  Officers and enlisted men of the Regular Army, officers appointed, and men of the forces drafted, under the provisions of the Act approved May 18, 1917, officers and enlisted men of the National Guard while in the service of the United States and the officers of the Officers’ Reserve Corps and enlisted Reserve Corps while in the service of the United States; and
  • Officers and enlisted men of the Navy and Marine Corps, and officers and enlisted and enrolled men of the Naval Reserve Force and Marine Corps Reserve while in the service of the United States.
  • Name – Must be given in full, thus: First name, middle name, last name.
  • Permanent home address – This means where you have your permanent home NOW, not, the place where you work nor the place where you were born, unless that is your permanent home.
  • Age in years – State your age in YEARS only. Disregard additional months or days.
  • Date of birth – If you do not remember the year, start to answer as you would if someone asked you your birthday, as “Oct. 12.” Then say “On my birthday this year I will be (or was) – years old.” The registrar will then fill in the year of birth.
  • White ?
  • Negro ?
  • Oriental ?
  • Citizen Indian ?
  • Noncitizen Indian ?
  • Native born United States citizen – If you were born in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, you are a native born citizen of the United States, irrespective of the citizenship of your parents. Any inhabitant of Porto Rico who was a Spanish subject on April, 11, 1899, and who resided in Porto Rico on that date, and continued to reside therein until April 11, 1900 is held to be a citizen of Porto Rico, except such inhabitants, natives of the Spanish peninsula who elected to preserve their allegiance to Spain on or before April 11, 1900 by making a declaration before a court of record of their decision to do so.  Any citizen of Porto Rico as above defined and any native of Porto Rico who was temporarily absent from the island on April 11, 1899, and has since returned and is not a citizen of any foreign country, is held to be a citizen of the United States, provided he did not elect to retain his political status by making declaration under oath of his decision to do so within six months after March 2, 1917. If you were born abroad you are still a citizen of the United States if your father was a citizen of the United States at the time you were born, unless you have expatriated yourself.
  • Naturalized citizens of the United States? You are a naturalized citizen if you have completed your naturalization; that is, if you have “taken out final papers.” But you are not a citizen if you have only declared your intention to become a citizen; that is, if you have only “taken out first papers”; in the latter case you are a declarant.
  • Citizen of the United States by father’s naturalization before the registrant’s majority. The children of parents who have been duly naturalized under the laws of the United States being under the age of 21 at the time of naturalization of their parents are, if dwelling in the United States before attaining their majority, considered as citizens thereof.
  • Missed in printing
  • Alien nondeclarant? You are a nondeclarant alien if you do not fall within one of the classes described by questions 10, 11, 12, and 13, and are not an Indian. In other words, you are a nondeclarant alien if you are a citizen or subject of some other country than the United States and have not declared before a naturalization court your intention to become a citizen of the United States, that is, have not “taken out first papers.”
  • If not a citizen of the United States, of what nation are you a citizen or subject? This need be answered only by declarant and nondeclarant aliens. If you are an alien of either class, state the name of your country, which the registrar will write in this space. For example, “Great Britain,” “France,” “Italy.” State also the name of the subdivision of your country in which you were originally resident before proceeding to the United States, which will be written in parenthesis after the name of the country, as “Great Britain (Scotland).” German or Austrian Poles, Austrians, Lorrainers, and persons of alike status, the registrant may answer “Czech-Slovak, claimed as subject of Austria-Hungary,” “Alsatian, claimed as subject of Germany,” etc., and such entry shall be made by the registrar.
  • Present occupation? This means your present occupation, trade or employment, which the registrar will enter in this space. Do not state what you once did, nor what you have done most of the time. Simply state what you job is right now.
  • Employers name? If you are working for a firm, corporation or association, state its name. If in business, trade, profession or employment for yourself, so state. If you are an officer of the state of federal government, say whether your office in under the United States, the state, county or municipality.
  • Place of employment or business? This means where you work.
  • Name of nearest relative? If you are married and your wife is living her name should be stated. If you are single or your wife is dead, you should state the name of your nearest blood relative. If you are not married and have no blood relatives, the name of a close friend should be stated.
  • Address of nearest relative? In stating the address give the number and name of street first, then the city or town, then the county and state; or R.F.D. number first, then post[N1]  office, then county and state.

 [N1]

Letter From Allen Wenz, Hector Mirror, 19 Sep 1918: Allen Wenz Says Uncle Sam Feeds the Boys Well, Praises Red Cross

Camp Grant, Ill., Sept. 8, 1918

My dear father,

Will take pleasure in answering your letter this morning, Sunday, as I am feeling somewhat better now from vaccination shot. My arm is somewhat swollen yet and it burns a little. I think I’ll stand it O.K. though. I’ll be glad to go through most anything in order to help lick Kaiser Bill, the beast of Berlin, or rather, the cruel beast of the world.

The boys here are playing baseball outside the barracks. They must be having a high old time the way it sounds.

Last night there was a Y.M.C.A. speaker out here by the barracks. He stood on the top of a box and gave the boys a little talk of clean soldier life. They all admitted what he said was all true.

We haven’t our uniforms yet, but they say the guys that came in the past week are receiving theirs right along. That can’t hardly be true but they say so. Well, I suppose they are going to organize a division here for us. If they do, I suppose we won’t get our suits until Oct. 1st. Then we’ll get our O.D’s for winter.

The boys all ran down stairs just now to get their Red Cross sweaters. Some of them had tags on, with the address of makers. Oh, say you know that tickles the boys. We also received raincoats one evening with double caped back. They sure are fine. Oh yes, Uncle Sam is pretty good to us lads all right. He feeds us good at the mess hall. We get fruit, spuds, beef, bacon, desserts, lemonade, cabbage and large loaves of bread, which reminds me of the good bread mother used to bake for me. We get several varieties of food, which I cannot mention all.

The boys are all playing cards up here in the barracks, for that’s the style of the army, you know. Well army life is pretty fair, but I suppose after we get our suits and guns once and get more drilling we’ll like it best of all. We will also get out as night guards then too.

I and another young man were fire guards in Latrine one night during hours between nine and twelve. Yesterday a.m. some of our Co. were out on drill fields and received a little training. It really was nothing but mere exercise, although it required quick thinking. We got about one and a half hours of that. In the afternoon I did my washing, for Saturday p.m. is laundry day in these barracks as a rule. Today, which is Sunday, I have to bring in my wash and iron. I have a false ironer, I use the palm of my hand. It works pretty good, but of course it isn’t a hot iron. This is camp life and we all make the best of it.

It certainly is a beautiful sunny day down here today. The days are generally fairly warm down here, but nights are somewhat cool, I don’t suppose they are as cool as they are up home now.

How is the corn coming, father? I hope it is getting nice and ripe without frost. I certainly would like to help pick it this fall if it gets good and ripe.

On the way down here we saw a few tobacco fields. They’ve started picking it already. We could see some lying in piles in fields and some hanging up against the barn wall. This is picked while grass green yet, the way it looked to me. I suppose they have to in order to keep the juice in it. Well that’s enough of that stuff because I don’t use it anyway.

We went around quite a trip coming down, which I didn’t expect. They took us through Winona, Minn., Milwaukee and Madison, Wis. Around Madison the corn was real short and nubby. Everything seemed to be dried up as the soil looked so dry. Down this way corn got to looking better, ears are long and stalks fairly large.

Think I’ll hurry along, as I must shave yet. We shave and bathe a few times a week, because the water system is so handy here.

Say father, if you have any of the nice large apples left yet, I wish you would send me some. I sure would feel fine on a feast of them. The other boys received fruit from home also.

I’m certainly glad you had the good luck of getting another cook for home, you can certainly feel thankful for the good luck, for it was God’s will.

Well the Dutch are getting it now. So I’m afraid they will turn the Kaiser with his family into the River Rhine before I have the chance to get there.

Don’t get homesick for me, father for I’ll be back when it is over “over there”. With love and best regards to you all, I remain

Your loving son, Allen Wenz