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Letters Home From WWI

 

Albert K. Walker

     U.S. Naval Training Station, Operating Base, Hampton Roads, Va.; I received your letter about half an hour ago and was certainly glad to get it. When you sent it to Frisco I guess you did not know that I was 3800 miles away from there. Yes, I landed here the tenth and will try now to tell you a little about our trip across the country.
     There was a car of us, 42 in all, and at about the first station we bought some chalk. It didn't take us long to get the car looking nice for we had roll call on both sides of us. You should have seen some of the cartoons some of the fellows put on. The country didn't look very good until we got into the hills, and there we found ripe fruit of all kinds. Gee, I felt like getting right off when I spied it, but there wasn't any chance. That evening we were well into the mountains and the scenery was beautiful.
     I thought the next morning we would be in about the middle of the Rockies, and it was the surprise of my life when I woke up and found we were in a desert. It certainly was a lonesome looking place. The sand sifted in on us until we were a laughable sight to look at. It was impossible to keep clean. The second noon we had reached Salt Lake and crossed one end of it, missing the city quite a little ways. The night of the third day we pulled into Chicago. As we got to the Union depot everybody was looking at the eclipse of the sun. We could see it just fine from there. Did it show plain from home?
     Well, while we were in Chicago we had our east, so we did not get to take in the town. We left at 8 in the evening and landed in Cincinati the next morning and staid four hours. Two of the boys and I hired a car and went out to the park which is on the bank of the Ohio river. From there we could get a good view of Cincinnati and three small towns in Kentucky.
     The fellow who took us out tried to make us believe Ohio was the best and prettiest state in the United States but he could not have made us believe it if he had talked a year. Oregon has it beat a hundred different ways and I told him so, too. We started on our way again. The people of Kentucky treated us fine for about every station they were there with something to eat. At one place a lady gave me a whole pie.
     I had an awful time, for the boys all took after me and would have taken it but I swung into the engine just as the train started and rode there until we reached the next station. The fifth day, a tired and hungry bunch landed at Norfolk, Va. The Base is sure some little station, and there are about 25,000 here in training. The next morning we shifted from blue suits into white ones.
     Say, those suits keep us fellows busy, for I wash one every day. We weren't here very long until we were sent to the rifle range. I shot two courses and am now a sharp-shooter. I didn't get a trial at the expert range but believe maybe I could have made it. The next morning while we were eating, an officer came in and told us to report to the office as soon as we had finished our breakfast.
     When we got there, the captain said he wanted some gunners to go on a submarine and I was one to step out for the sub. They examined me and told me to pack up and stand by to shove off at any minute. That was last Wednesday and I have just been sitting round ever since. I guess you know how it is to get ready to go some place and then have to wait. Well, it sure gets on my nerves. I think I will be sent up the coast a ways to the submarine base, but of course a fellow never can tell. Will send my address as soon as I am transferred.

Enterprise Record Chieftain
Thursday, July 11, 1918


Harry Warden

In France, March 28, 1918

     Dear ones at Home: - I have one of your most welcome letters or I should say two of them here in front of me, one of the 3rd and one of Feb 25th. I received a lot of welcome letters this week. You bet there is rejoicing here when we get a bushel of mail from the states. The letters are read and reread many times at least mine always are. It makes everyone feel good to hear from home. Sometimes letters are lost as I am sure some of mine are missing but the postal service is improving now. I have a chance to know for I am detailed on post office work at present.
     Well, father, today marks the date of my first anniversary in the army for I enlisted a year ago today. The year has passed very quickly it seems to me. Believe me I feel that it has been a year well spent and never to be regretted by me. We have seen some hardships never to be forgotten and have seen lots of good times. We are pretty well off where we are now. We live in stone buildings with stone floors and plenty of stoves and fuel to keep us warm. Almost everything over here is built of stone. The buildings are made of stone and cement and the roads are all built up high and paved with stone and cement. They are made to last forever. Some of them were made by the Romans over a thousand years ago and are as hard and good as ever. The houses are surrounded by high stone from ten to fifteen feet high with a lot of broken glass and spikes set in the tops of them to stop prowlers from crawling over. They don't need any police here at night to protect their property for the walls are so high and are everywhere so that you can hardley get off from the highway.
     Everything is hauled with horses hitched to two wheeled carts and if two or more are hitched on they put them one ahead of the other and walk and lead them. I would like to show some of them how to hitch up a bunch of horses and drive them. They surely have fine horses over here. I have never seen better.
     I have seen lots of good country since leaving Wallowa county but let me get my feet over west of the Rockies once more and I'll be satisfied to keep them here. I will be glad to get the papers and box you are sending me but don't make any more heavy winter goods. Helmets and sweaters won't be needed much more this winter. Yes we know you are all behind us over there and we appreciate the things you are doing for us, especially the things made by the ladies clubs for we know it means lots of work and lots of sacrificing on their part. Those gifts we get from home are priceless when we get them over here. Everything is very high here. Some of us thought we could come over here and just about buy the country for $100 but I find that a dollar bill will go about half as far here as in the States. Tobacco is higher and scarcer than anything else.
     When writing use a pencil and one side of the paper so the censor won't cut my letters as anything that won't pass can be erased. Well I must call this good for this time and tapps will sound and the lights must be out by ten o'clock.
     Yours in love from over the sea. Harry Warden.

Wallowa County Reporter
May 1, 1918

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Harry E. Warden

      Somewhere in France, May 16 - We are having beautiful weather here now, I walked way out in the country this morning before going to work. Whenever I get time I beat it out into the country. Everything is so green and pretty out there. This is a beautiful country this time of year, and I think the French must have been the most happy and carefree people in the world in time of peace, and tho one can see everywhere the effects the war had on them, they are always cheerful and just as hopeful and determined to win the war now as they were in the start. Yes, this is a fine country but give me the land of the good old U.S.A.
      I like the paper you sent me fine and I hope you enjoy the Stars and Stripes equally as well. You can believe anything published in it, for it puts out the real dope.
     I am in the city of Tours. We are allowed to tell that now. It is a fine town of about 185,000 inhabitants, one of the model and oldest cities.
     I guess I told you in one of my letters that I had been transferred into a headquarters company. There is no more Co. I. They have split all the companies up and some of the men put into one thing and some another. There are about 70 of the old company in this company I am now in and we don't know where the rest of the boys went.
     It is getting pretty warm here now except when it is raining and that's every day or so. It's about like Willamette valley here. I hope this finds you all as well as I am. I am feeling fine and hitting the ball every day.

Enterprise Record Chieftain
Thursday June 20, 1918

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Harry R. Warden

     Tours, France: I will try and write a few lines this morning while I have a little bit of spare time. I am well and am getting along fine. I hope this finds you the same. I can't see why you folks do not get my letters. As you wrote, the last one you received from me was written in December. I have written you at least three or four times a month ever since I came over here and supposed you were getting all my letters.
     We are having beautiful weather here now. I went out last Sunday and visited some of the old caves where the cave dwellers used to live, and they still do in a good many places. They are wonderful beyond imagination: some of them run away back in the hills and look as tho thousands of people might have lived in them.
     There are great hallways and alleys and runways in them and rooms of all sizes and shapes, and stairways, all just dug by hand in the dirt and rock. Some are three or four stories deep, I have a vest pocket kodiak and took a number of pictures out there. I hope they turn out good. I sent a book of scenes from around here a few days ago. We are allowed to send such things now and tell where we are. I am going to get a lot of pictures from here so I can show them some day and tell you something about them.
     This is a beautiful old city and there is always some interesting place to go whenever one has any time off but I am at work every day except Sunday afternoons. I am glad to be busy for the time passes much faster. It looks as tho I am due to stay here all the time I am to be over here. I sure didn't count on this kind of a job when I came over. But all of us fellows who were on this kind of duty here were transferred into a H.Q. company, so you can tell about what I am doing.
     I help handle all the mail that goes thru here. I guess the people over there are beginning to realize there is something doing over here now and feel it at home. In a good many ways, I hope there will be a few chickens and eggs and things like that left over there when I get back. I have almost forgotten when a good home made meal looks like. But I would like to take a chance at one again, some time.
     Well, in six more days I will be wearing my first service stripe, for six months duty in France. I hope I do not stay here long enough to get more than a dozen or so. I went to the U.M.C.A. last night and heard an old man tell the history of Tours up to the year 1000. It was very interesting. We had Ella Wheeler Wilcox here at the Y.M.C.A. one night last week and there are a good many interesting persons coming here at times to entertain us. The Y.M.C.A. is doing lots of good over here. We are building a new hut for them. They keep tobacco and matches and candy and chocolate and such things for us and always have plenty of writing paper and they encourage the boys to write home.

Enterprise Record Chieftain
Thursday, July 4, 1918

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Harry E. Warden

     Like all the other American soldiers, Harry E. Warden has by no means forgotten his home land across the sea. He writes to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Warden, from Tours, France, saying among other things:
     I was glad to get the pictures. They are fine. The picture of that old lake and the mountains is great. It just makes me homesick to look at it. I am sure coming to see you as soon as I get across the pond again and have a look at that part of the country.
     There is lots of beautiful scenery over here, but it has nothing on the good old U.S.A. at that. We celebrated the Fourth here with the French. The streets are still decorated with French and U.S. flags. We had a very good time, with races of all kinds, ball game and swimming and diving contests. French and American both taking part and in the evening a bunch of aeroplanes came and did a lot of stunts over us. There are sure some dare devils in that game over here.

Enterprise Record Chieftain
Thursday, August 15, 1918

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Harry Warden

     Corporal Harry Warden, Co. 2, Hdq. Btn. A.P.O. 717, A.E.F. in a letter received by his parents Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Warden, dated August 7, and received on the 26th, writes:
     Yesterday was payday, and I drew a roll of francs big enough to choke a mule, but it's only about enough real money to buy a mosquito a bathing suit. We have been having lots of rain lately. Webfoot hasn't much on this country when it comes to rain.
     Say, if you tell me any more about the milk and cream and all the nice things you have to eat over there, I'll be starting to walk over pretty soon. All I ask is that you don't have any rice or corn meal mash or salt bacon when I come to see you.
     I am glad Stanley has gone into the navy. I am sure he will make good there. It is the very best part of the service and there is always a chance for a man to work up there.
     This is a beautiful valley. I wish you could see it and this country for yourself. Of course I can tell you more about the country and the ways of the people when I get home, but then I am a very poor hand to tell about such things. The pictures I took of the caves didn't turn out well, but I am going to take some more soon and I am going to have you send me some films. I have a vest pocket camera and I want to get out and get a lot of pictures. The films we get hare are no good and they cost too much. I am entitled to a seven days' leave of absence whenever I get around to take it and that's when I mean to get my pictures and see some of the country while I am doing it.
     I haven't learned very much French. The fact is I don't care very much for it. I am kept pretty busy at my work and I won't need it after this thing is over, for I am coming back where people talk United States just as soon as I can and believe me, I will stay there, for there is no land like it.
     No, I haven't found that French girl yet that looks good to me and I don't think I will. Some of them may be all to the good, but too many of them are not, and I can't understand them hardly enough to pick out the wheat from the chaff.
     Well, I am a corporal now, so you see I am getting on a little.

Enterprise Record Chieftain
Thursday, August 29, 1918

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Harry A. Warden

     Harry Warden, son of Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Warden, is now a corporal and is at Tours, France. He is in the military postal express service, at A.P.O., 717, A.E.F. He wrote:
We have been having some very hot weather here lately but it's cold nights. We are sleeping in tents now and believe me a fellow can sure sleep, out in an open tent, this kind of weather.
     The airplanes are buzzing around over head, sounds like a swarm of bees going by every little bit. I am going on my leave the last of this week. We are supposed to get a leave of absence every four months, of seven days, not counting the time going and coming. I am going to St. Malo; wish I was where I could get home for those seven days, but from the looks of things we won't be here always. Old Bill is surely getting what is coming to him now.

Enterprise Record Chieftain
Thursday, October 24, 1918

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Harry Warden

     Corporal Harry Warden, M.P.E., S.S., A.P.O. 717 A.E.F., writes to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Warden, from Tours, France, Oct. 10:
     Thins are looking better all the time. I think old K.B. is about to come to the conclusion that he has bit off more than he can chew. They are squealing now. I hate their style of fighting. They are rarin' to go as long as they have the upper hand and as soon as they get up against the real thing they want to holler kamarad.
      While I was away on my leave to the Brittannia coast I saw many wonderful sights and got a lot of pictures. I have a little souvenir spoon for Alma that I bought on the Island of St. Michel. That island is said to be one of the seven wonders of the world, and while there I got a lot of pictures and took some with my kodak. Haven't had them finished yet. All the pictures, postcards, etc., are supposed to go by way of base censor now so I think I'll hold on to mine for awhile. The censor might hold some of them. I can show them to you when I get home and tell you all about it.
     While I was at St. Malo on leave, I went out and visited a baronness, had dinner there and had all the milk I could drink. I drank about a bucket full of nice fresh buttermilk, to say nothing of all the other good things we had, and after dinner we had music and dancing. Some class for a doughboy, eh? Well, there is lots of things to see and interesting places to go if one could get away to go. But the place I long to go now is the good old U.S.A. It has them all bested.

Enterprise Record Chieftain
Thursday, November 14, 1918

Elmer C. Waugh

     Writing to his wife from the station of the U.S. Naval Aviation Forces at Pauilliac, Giroude, France, Elmer Waugh said:
     Probably by this time you are wondering what has become of me. Well, all that I can say is that I have arrived safely in France after a trip which I hope I shall never again experience. We passed thru many hardships. There were days at a time in which we never removed our clothes and nights spent sitting up with not a place to lie down.
     One day in mid-ocean we were weathering a heavy sea when one of the sailors was swept overboard. A sailor close by him saw him and jumped in to save him. That was the last that was seen of them. We turned around and searched for three hours but never found a trace.
     We came thru the war zone without being torpedoed but did not miss it far for five submarines were sighted, one of which was destroyed by a bomb which blew part of it clear out of the water. This was our first touch of excitement and strange to say not one of us thought about the danger for we were too excited to think of it. I really think we would have been disappointed had not such an incident occurred.
     Have met lots of the old crowd over here and wherever I go I see people I know.
     My knowledge of French is a very great help to me now and I am able to make myself understood wherever I go. Some of the boys have an awful time trying to ask for what they want and it makes many laughable situations
     I realize now for the first time that his is really war. It is hard to believe in the states but over here with the wounded coming and going, the German prisoners and a general feeling in the air which one does not experience at home.
     Am feeling fine, never better, and intend to keep that way. We get good American feed and plenty of it. The Y.M.C.A. here is the same as it is at home, in fact sitting here with so many of my friends around me and the piano playing some good American tunes it is hard to believe the old U.S.A. is so far away.
     Last evening here at the U.M.C.A. there were four grand opera singers from Paris came over and sang for us. It was very fine and after it was over the ladies shook hands with all of us.
     The climate here is very nice-not too hot and practically no snow in winter they say. It is a beautiful country and I have seen quite a bit of it. They are away behind here as to modern improvements, however, most people living as they lived several centuries ago. The railroads are fierce, dirty, and slower than the slow trains thru Arkansas. The people here are very friendly with us and are beginning to realize that America is their hope.
     We use only French money here and it takes several days to get used to counting in francs and centimes instead of dollars and cents.

Enterprise Record Chieftain
September 26, 1918

 

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