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Merrick County

Merrick County News

 

Scrapbook of Mrs. C. J. (Elizabeth) Dittmer

SOLDIERS' LETTERS

Assumption - that all these were published in the Clark's Enterprise ...
or the newspaper of Shelby, IOWA
None of the articles bear a publication date or name of newspaper.


Scrapbook, page 6

BENJAMIN R. MATTISON
WRITES FROM FRANCE

     Benjamin Mattison living on Route 2, has kindly granted us permission to publish the following letter from his son, Benjamin R. Mattison, who went overseas in April.
     July 14, 1918, Somewhere in France
Dear Folks:
     Am dropping you a few lines this morning, while I have a little time. I am feeling fine. Haven't been sick or even had a cold. Am able to eat three square meals a day and get a lot of sleep. We had a very nice trip over. The waves rolled pretty high at times. Saw a few whales. We had some awful cold days when our overcoats seemed good.
     Part of the way was stormy and very foggy. Then is when you would like to hear the whistle blow ever few minutes. Believe me, and looked good to us. It seemed strange to walk on land again after being on the steamer so long. Well France is just like the states. Some parts don't look very well and some of it is most beautiful. The climate is nice to live in. It doesn't get to 107 in the shade. They drive their horses differently here. They have on ahead of the other and not much of any harness. The women are great workers doing something all the time. They certainly have nice roads here, clean, trees trimmed, no weeds whatever. Almost the same in England, quite a few trees around too. Well I wish I could see you to talk to you. I could tell you more of what I am doing and about France and also England. I have a sketch of things that happened along the line. So it won't be hard to tell when I do see you.
     I am sending you a paper I take over here, the Stars and Strips, a nice paper.
     Old U. S. will look good to me, beside this country and when I do come home I will have my field glass out looking for the Statue of Liberty. N. Y. will sure look good to Willie. I can't think of any more to write, so will close for this time. Write soon.

Your Son and Brother,
Pvt. BENJAMIN R. MATTISON
341 M. G. Baty Co. B.
A. E. F.

American P. O. No. 761

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Howard's Last Letter
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April 22, 1918

Dear Mother:
     This is Monday eve and cloudy and has been raining off and on every since Sunday eve. I am well and not working hard of late. I received lost of mail yesterday including two letters and two cards from you, letter from Homer, card from Maie, letter from Mrs. Vance, cartoons from Ella and Shelby News and Harlan paper from you. Concerning card Tuesday March 26th you mentioned about the present I purchased for you. I bought if for you some months ago and have been carrying it in my pack ever since, not being able to get it sent to you. To my taste it is very beautiful and I will try again and again to send it to you and if I don't get it sent before long I will dispose of it and buy you another one in its place later on but would like very much for you to have this one. I have received the five boxes you said you sent. In regard to card sent Sunday March 17, you spoke to Mr. Savage's sedan, Ella's ponies and her girl. You know you told me when I left to read the mail and destroy it. I do as you told me. You mention ever so often if I get papers. Now I receive a good many papers but it could be possible I don't get all but think I do. I got Shelby News and Harlan Republican yesterday. Elden Kohl, Harry Patterson, Lowell Howland get them for we know what is happening at home. Now just a line or two about Harold. He was in the hospital for quite awhile but at present is out and drilling. One of the boys who was sent to hospital from one of our latter camps saw Harold and had talked with him. He will probably be with us again soon. All of us are hoping so.
     Maie didn't have anything to say; Homer wrote a short letter stating that he had thought before of writing but judged you would write all the time and he would write again. You can tell him I received his letter. There are two magicians here at the & tonight entertaining the Soldiers and I guess they are good the way the boys are laughing I am upstairs in the & and therefore cannot see them perform. I would rather write to you anyway than take that in. How is you health anyway these days of troubles?
     I will try and drop you a few lines quite often to let you know how I am even though you receive no news for you understand things are much different here than in the U. S. A.
     Well I will close with best regards to all. I am yours, with love,

Howard Mowery

Camp Fremont, Calif.
May 7th, 1918.

Dear Mother and all:
     At last we have landed at Camp Fremont, California, 30 miles from San Francisco; it is a dandy place. I guess it is about the best in the country. We sure are lucky, they picked us over and we are in the ammunition train; it is not had work and we can study different things. There is a school here we can go to where we can study, that is where we are at present. Of course we may get something else. There were about 600 of us on the train, 14 coaches and two engines, a special train. We saw the scenery from Colorado to California -- Salt Lake, the Grand Cannon and the mountains and of course everything is beautiful in California. We had a dandy trip from Ft. Logan on as we had a special train and sleepers. They gave us only two meals a day on train but we got stuff along the road. The train stopped only at a few places. There was only a few of us got in the ammunition train. We just got here and don't know much now we are in tents but they are as nice as a house. We get good stuff to eat. Who would have thought we were going that far away? We have traveled 2000 miles already.
     I don't suppose I will be able to come home now as it would cost too much. I don't suppose we could get a furlough long enough to travel a round trip of 4000 miles. We can go to town as much as we want to.
     The days are warm and the nights cool. Only one of the boys has been sick since we left. I know I will get fat and feel better. I want one of the World Heralds with my picture and poor Howard's and the news about it; we sure will be glad to get mail, tell all to write. I can't write to everybody at once, you can let them read this. If you have heard any more about Howard let me know what you have heard.
     Well it is getting dark and the circuit is not on in our line of tents tonight as they did not have time to fix it. You will hear from me right along. Goodbye, with love to all,

Homer Mowery,
Ammunition train. Co. D, 8th Div.
Camp Fremont, Calif.

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Scrapbook, page 7

Fort Worden, Wash.
April 17, 1918

Dear Brother and Sister:
     I received your letter and was glad to hear from you. I got the Shelby NEWS yesterday and get if every week too.
     Today is what they call Field Day here. They will have foot races, rifle drill and all sorts of stuff. Eight of the best rifle men were picked out of this Company who will represent the Company. There will be about six or eight companies represented. The Company having the best drilled men will receive a medal. They will have a tent pitching game too, but I don't know how many men will represent this Company in that. Well it is dinner time so I will go and eat and write more after dinner.
     We had a good dinner of roast beef, potatoes, gravy, corn, peach pie, bread and coffee.
     I don't know where we will go from here. We may go to some other place and drill with the Huns.
     With best regards, I will close.

Your brother Emiel Hein,
Fort Worden, Wash.,

63 Reg. Hdqr Co., C.A.C,

C. A. C. means Coast Artillery Corps (On account o Censors, we omit part of the letter.)

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From Milford Cole
The author of this letter once lived in Clarks but is now a citizen of Canada.

Sept. 11th, 1918

     I have had my first experiences in the firing lines. It would hardly be fair to say that I was fighting Huns because they didn't fight. There was no fight left in them after our artillery peppered them with all kinds of shells. They were so D --- scared they didn't know which way to go. The came running towards us singally in pairs and in groups of from 10 to 50, all of them with their hands high above their heads, calling "mercy kamrad." Of course we didn't have the heart to shoot the dirty beggars then, we just had to take them prisoners, and we go an awful bunch of them. Our battalion got far more prisoners than were in our battalion. It was simply a walk over for us. The Huns were scared out of their wits and they sure had good reasons to be too, when

our guns started their barrage. They sure made things fly in Hunland, and to hear them popping and roaring was the grandest 1st or 4th of July celebration I ever heard. We went over the top early Monday morning and Fritz hardly fired a shot until we reached our objective; then he sent over a few of those infernal things called whiz bangs. He began to make it pretty hot for us in the trench our officer took us back quite a ways to another trench until he got tired of it, then we went a little farther ahead than we were before. He sent over a few gas shells which made us sneeze but otherwise did no harm that I know of. I put my mask on two or three times, but soon took it off again because I was trying to dig a hole in the bank for shelter. We think chalk makes a very good trench or dugout. Fritz sure had some great old caves in -- wood which we captured; they were deep down and very deep down and very long; we used some of them for dressing stations and the wounded were quite safe in them.
     September 14th -- Here goes for a few more lines. Was glad to get your letters from home, of which I received two last night. We have been getting lots of rain this week and it looks like we will get more soon. Yesterday and today we were practising for a ceremonial parade which we will have tomorrow and some of the boys will be presented with medals which they won when we went over the top after the Huns last week. When I was up in the lines I got a pretty good pair of Fritzes field glasses, a Jack knife and a purse with German and Belgian money in it. I have given all the paper money except one note, which I am enclosing in this letter. It's a five mark note. Paper money is used mostly here. If we keep on driving the Huns like we did last time and like the French have lately I think they will soon have to give in. I think they will soon have to give in. I saw Orville McKay several weeks ago. He is with the Royal Highlanders of Canada but we are both in the 4th division.
     When we got on the train at ---- to come here we were given some hard tack and bully beef and when I started to eat hard jack I broke off that front tooth I had filed in Redcliff awhile back. I am getting to look like an old man now with my hair clipped off and a tooth out. There was some talk of us going farther back behind the lines for a week but of course we don't know.
     Wishing you the best of luck and happiness,

Your brother,
Milford Cole

From Burdette Knowles

Camp Eustis, Va., 8-25-18

Dear Folks:
      Well how is everybody back there. I am O.K. only I have a little cold which I caught on the trip here. Believe me it sure is hot here, about 110 today. I am assigned to the 48th Reg. Bat. B. for the present but I think I will get transfered to Battery A. of the 48th as Bat. B is full of buglers. If you write me address it to: Burdette Knowles care of Y. M. C. A., Camp Eustis, VA. I will give you my address later but I will get all mail in care of the Y. M. C. A.
      We are getting a little bit better feed then we did at first. Everything is new here. There are about 20,000 soldiers here now and a lot coming this week. I see all the boys every day those from Clarks, Starrett, Smith and Kokjer.
     The water here is awfully poor, they have to put some dope in it to kill the germs before you can drink it. There is a river about a quarter of a mile from here and we all take a bath every day. We also have some showers but they are always full.
     We are about 60 miles from Richmond Va., a place of about 150,000 and Newport News about 17 miles from here, with about 50,000 population. We are only 18 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, but we sure don't' get any breeze off of it. There are 400 or 500 men here working -- building barracks, roads, etc. When the camp is done it will be 24 miles long.
     Went to church here this evening. They held Catholic, Protestant and Methodist services. A priest was here from Richmond and preached the Catholic services. There going to have confessions and Communion next Sunday. There are eight or ten Catholics in my Battery and we are all going to go.
     Well guess I will close for now. Do not worry as I will be O.K. Write me in care of Y. M. C. A.

With Love,
Burdette

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     A letter from Tom Kokjer to his parents informs them that he is getting along fine, and that he has received his commission as a lieutenant in the army. He is a flyer.

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     John Jandrall has been commissioned a second lieutenant at the officers training school at Camp Dodge, Des Moines, Iowa. We understand John will have charge of a platoon of colored soldiers.



Scrapbook, page 8

Interesting Letter   
    From Dr. Little
-----------

     We are indebted to Mrs. Little for this interesting letter from Dr. Little who is across the ware.
     Dear Folks: Well it has been nearly a week since I have written and it has probably been the busiest week I ever have known. I am feeling fine however, and have been through a part of the worst battles the world has ever known. We did not get attacked until Thursday. We were in an aid post in the old Bouche dug out well under the ground, had been expecting trouble. About 3 A. M. the noise started, it certainly sounded and felt like the world was coming to an end, and the ground shook all over. Shells were bursting on top of the dugout, putting the lights out as fast as we could light them. Then the gas commenced and we had to wear our gas masks four hours straight. The gas then stopped and it was daylight, but the shelling was as heavy as ever. We had to see what was going on, so got out and you could see Bosche by thousands in front of us, 50,000 to 75,000 on our front and guns and everything ready. Of course our guns were busy and the shells getting among them good and plenty. Then they cam on. Whole armies in long rows at a time. The first row gradually thinned and was gone, the the second row the same and when it came to the third row some were left and got into trenches, but were nearly all finished. The fourth row had forced our men back a short distance and then the fifth wave cam on and forced us back some more, but we gradually held and they hadn't any more waves so after a couple of days settling down to trench and bomb fighting it has gradually settled down.
     The shells got to hitting the aid post to hard and we had to get out and bet back where we could work and really you haven't any idea how fast you can run until you have the ground turning upside down all around you. About 2 P.M. got all the cases behind cleaned up and went back to the aid post again and were the only air post with a mile of us. The rest had all had to clear out. We got all the wounded cleared out by 10 P.M., and went to Battalion headquarters, got to bed 3:20 A.M. for an hour and then we were busy again all day, and got another Medical Officer up that evening and since then we have been keeping the wounded moving out.
     The Brigadier General said we did wonderful work and tried to get me to go back behind the lines with him the night of the fist day, but I begged off as I did not want to leave the job. However another Medical Officer was willing to go with him so he did not give me orders.
      I don't see now how any one ever came out of it alive, but our losses are small considering the

numbers against them. The enemy however lost thousands.
     The Bouche certainly do not have the fighting qualities in them the English has, by considerable. They were very brave until they saw it was not a walk away, then they were cowards and "scared to death."
     One comical thing happened, a little Tommy about five feet high, and weighing perhaps 110 pounds coming down proud as a Bantam rooster with a 6-foot 2-inch Hun in front of him. He yells out to us, "Blime lads look at the bloody -----?"
     One officer I liked very much fought to the last with Huns all around him, and finally went down. Another shot eight with his revolver and bombed them back 60 yards, and the next day he went over all alone and captured a machine gun. He has just been made Captain and is only twenty years old.
     Another captured three machine guns alone. Our Division and Battalion especially, did the best work of any and have special congratulations from the King.
     It seems very strange to hear the birds sing and the grouse are cackling through it all. The heavy shelling only lasted 8 1/2 hours the first day.
     We are back in a little valley in a large concrete dug out. I am feeling fine and really enjoyed it all, if one can really enjoy such a thing. I did not seem to realize danger of fear, surprised to say but my "bump" of caution seemed to tell me what to do and when to do it. I think this Division will have a rest now.

Wednesday April 3,

     Well just a short letter today, I am in the same place, and there has really nothing worth while happened. The Bosche have not tried any thing more at this point. Guess they got more than they looked for the other day. You get more news there, than we do about what is doing in the other places. We never see a paper less than two days old. I heard the Huns had lost over 300,000 in this rush, if so, we are rapidly getting them trimmed down. Their papers said they got very little ground, but thousands of prisoners at this place. Don't know where he got them as we did not lose them. I think Fritzy is doing a lot of stalling to cover up his losses. Well the harder he keeps at it, the sooner he will wear himself out and finish it.
     I haven't an idea where I will land when this quiets down. The orderlies assasssssasisnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnn are Tey from headquarters. Have slept with my clothes on for two weeks and I don't know were they sent my things back to or when I will get them. Water is scarce except for drinking. I will write again as I find it possible.

DR. LITTLE
Somewhere in France.

Dearest Folks at Home:
     Well as I have plenty of time now, I will now try and let you know how trench life is. I have been in the front line trenches for four days and nights. It sure was fun dodging shells. I didn't get hurt but got a lot of dirt from the shells that the Huns threw over.
     I never saw a Hun while I was there so you see there is not much danger as long as a fellow keeps his head down so the sniper doesn't get him.
     We didn't lose a man while we were there but had a couple wounded by schrapnel (sic) and they were not bad. We are on our way to the rest? camp now so we will not be in any danger for awhile.
     I don't think this war will last much longer because I think the Huns are about ready to give up. I didn't get any gas while I was in the trenches but when I got back to town they sent over some, but it did not hurt anyone because we had on our gas masks. I would like to see the Boche as the French calls them, come over but I guess they are afraid.
     Companies M and F went over the top a few times but could not find any Huns at home. I guess they all disappeared some way.
     We have plenty to eat and good places to sleep so you see that we are well cared for. I don't know how I am going to write to all my friends as I can't get time to answer them so you may have Charles Wayne print this and then they all can write whether I do or not.
     I guess we will have to go over and get the Huns Artillery away from them some day because they are awful reckless with it and might hurt some one. They are just like a little boy with a pop-gun they don't care where it goes just so it shoots.
     Well as I cant think of anything more to write now I will close hoping to hear from you all soon,
     I am as ever your loving son,

Frank R. Delph
Co. K, U. S. Inf., A. E. F.
France

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