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

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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