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Letter from Ira Strom, Bird Island Union, 12-5-1918

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Ira T. Strom
January 9, 1891 – March 3, 1945

Somewhere in France, October 31st, 1918

Mr. H. C. Sherwood, Bird Island, Minn.

Dear Friend Herb,

In my other letter, which I wrote to you while on the transport on the way across, I stated that I would write again after I had spent some time in France and found something interesting to write about. I intended to write sooner but we have been very busy during the past two months, being on duty about fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, and until we arrived at this sector, have moved on an average of every ten days – so you can see my time is pretty well occupied; have practically no spare time and consequently my letter writing suffers.

For a long time, I have been patiently waiting for a copy of the Union but as yet none has reached me since my arrival over here. Several of the boys in my outfit tell me that they have not received their “home paper” either for three or four months; the reason must be that newspapers are held up in some post office, letters being given preference. When the Bugle does arrive, it will be greatly appreciated as I am anxious to learn what has taken place at Bird Island since I left.

When we first landed in France we were taken to a rest camp, where we spent a week to rest up after the long voyage across. It looked to me as though we must have struck the rainy season while we were at this rest camp, as it rained every day and every night (some night all night long). Of course this was quite a change for us, as it was quite cool and damp. We bunked on the ground in tents and things were not as pleasant as they had been in the states; but we didn’t mind that at all – we were glad to be in France at last after waiting anxiously so long to be called for overseas duty.

A few days after we arrived over here a detail from our Squadron was sent to the dock where we landed to do some work. I walked over to the other side of the dock where some Engineers were unloading some supplies from a boat and recognized among them Frank Dresow. It was quite a surprise for both of us but we were very glad to see each other, although didn’t have much time to talk. Since that time I never saw Frank any more.

From the rest camp we went by train to an aviation camp, where we had all the conveniences a soldier could ask for; good barracks and a good Y.M.C.A., the latter being in most of the places we have been stationed. Here we also had a very good baseball diamond and we tried our hand at the national game once more in our spare time. Occasionally we would place a couple of Frenchmen on each side to teach them the game. They were anxious to play but you can imagine how well they were instructed and how much they learned about the game when they couldn’t speak a word of English and we didn’t understand French. But we all enjoyed ourselves nevertheless.

After I had been at this camp for about two weeks, I was transferred to Headquarters, Air Service, First Army, of which outfit I have now been a member for three months. You have no doubt heard lost about the First Army back in the States, of its formation and then the different offensives which it has carried out; also the sector which it now occupies in the line. I like my work in this organization first rate but expect to rejoin my squadron in the field on the Air Service front later on.

I have traveled practically entirely over Central France and have had a good opportunity to see quite a bit of the country. Sometimes we have traveled by rail and sometimes by motor truck; at times while on the move we made out bunks in any empty house or barn we could find, many of the houses being deserted owing to the inhabitants moving out of shell fire; sometimes there were no houses so some of us slept in the trucks and some under them.

At present we are stationed on the edge of a very small village, practically out in the wilderness. The village consists of a church and a few houses and two or three stores, where hardly anything can be bought. The Y.M.C.A. has a hut here but they only have things to sell once in a while outside of smokes. But we get three good square meals a day here and certainly have some appetites, not being able to eat between meals here.

The front in this sector has been very active for some time. The heavy firing commences bright and early in the morning and continues until late at night. A great number of aeroplanes from this field can be seen flying over the front lines almost every day.

I had a letter from my brother, Clifford, about a month ago; he is in the 315th Aero Squadron, which is stationed in England. Warren Mitchell is in another Squadron near Clifford.

We have had quite a bit of rainy weather this fall, but this past week has been fine. It is rather cool here in the mornings just now and guess winter will soon be here. When it rains here for just a short time, the ground certainly becomes muddy, a white sticky mud that certainly beats any mud I ever experienced before.

I am getting along fine and am very much pleased with the treatment Uncle Sam gives us.

Trusting that this letter reaches you in the best of health, I remain,

Sincerely yours, Corp. Ira T. Strom, Hdqrs., Air Service, 1st Army, American E. F.