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Articles & Local History > More WWI Letters

Submitted by Les Niemi

September 27, 1917

More letters from Lee W. DOW, Camp Fort Bliss, Texas

In a letter to his father, written some time ago, he wrote: I received your letter today and was glad to hear from you.

I told you that I took a fifty dollar Liberty bond. I was supposed to pay five dollars per month until it was paid for but the bank broke the contract. Now they want us to pay ten dollars a month. I had already paid five so they want fifteen this pay day to make it ten from the beginning. They gave me my choice of doing as they want or dropping it, and they will pay back my five dollars in November. I made up my mind that as I started it, I will ride it through, if they want twenty dollars a month. The more I pay each month, the less time it will take to pay it up.

Last pay dayI had German measles, and the pay roll was brought to the hospital for me to sign. I stood muster in pajamas, some class to me.

I started to machine gun school yesterday. The Company Commander chose about twenty from our company. We have to learn three different guns. Machine gun operators are a scare article here at this time. We have to learn the name of every piece in each gun and learn the guns so that we can take them apart and then put them together blind folded, naming all the parts as we put them together.

Then we will have to learn to measure distances with field glasses and that is quite a stunt.

Today we had to drill from six o'clock in the morning until about eleven forty-five, then we got dinner and started for the school at twelve thirty-five. We will start for the school tomorrow morning at six-thirty.

I am finishing this letter by candle light, so think I will close for this time. The tents are wired for lights.The government furnishes the electricity and we furnish the bulbs. I can get them down town for thirty-one cents. I bought one a few days ago and hadi it three days before some one took it.

I will write Mother soon.

My address is still Camp Fort Bliss.

In a letter three days later than the one quoted, he wrote to his mother:

Everything is going along very much the same as usual. As I said in my letter to Dad, I am going to machine gun school. The Company Commander called us up into the orderly room and asked us what education we had and how much we knew about machinery, and if we knew anything about horses and mules. Then he asked some of us if we wanted to be in a machine gun company.

I told him that I wanted to be in a machine gun company. I could have been transferred to almost any other branch of the service if I had not wanted to go after the machine guns.

I understand the Lewis gun and have qualified on it. I have yet to qualify on the range finder and two other machine guns. I understand the range finder and am waiting m turn to qualify on it. A range finder is a very expensive instrument. The firm which makes them will not open one up to make adjustments for less than four hundred dollars.

I received your pictures yesterday and I think they are fine. In a letter two days later, he wrote:

Dear Folks I thought I would write you a small letter to-night. I used a machine gun this afternoon for the first time. They took us out, and by putting broken and worn out parts in the gun, caused it to miss fire and jam up. Then we would have to find the trouble ourselves. They put in a feed paul that had been filed until it would not work when I went up to the gun. It fired one shot and stopped. I soon found the trouble, and he gave me a paul that was all right. I put it in and then it worked all right. I think I wrote you that I passed on the gun.

Well, I qualified on the range finder this afternoon.

I will close now for tonight as I have some "literature" to study on the Lewis m.g. Write soon. Ward.

December 27, 1917

Fred J. DOW, a relative of the DOWS of this place and a nephew of Mrs. Fred FRANCE, writes the following interesting letter to his cousin, Mrs. Margaret TEMPLE from somewhere in France. He is stationed at base hospital No. 12:

Nov. 28, 1917
Dear Cousin: I received your letter through Fern, she sends a lot of other letters with her mail so I received a letter from you and you didn't know it, Ah, Ha! Well by Heck, I thought so better write you right away and thank you for that box you are going to send, Ha, Ha.

Well tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it is reported that we are to have turkey, so you see we will not fare so badly. I am on night duty but that will be one day when I'll get up for dinner. I haven't slept any all day so feel a little drowsy now, don't know why, couldn't sleep so got up and am now in the mess hall with two others writing by the light of two candles, the hall is lit up by electric lights but they are too dim to write by.

Have been having quite an experience since I saw you in Chicago a few months ago. Gee, Margaret, I didn't think that would be the last time I would see you before I went to France but that's always the way, its a strange old world. Gee, I never forget that month in Chicago, it never would have been so enjoyable without you and Doc. Someday, darn it, we'll repeat the good old times and invent some new ones.

Fern left Chicago a couple of days before we left Chicago. Left the 18th of Sept, landed at Gen. Hospital No. 1 in New York, spent two weeks there being equipped and uniformed during that time, we saw considerable of old N.Y., took Ferry on the Hudson in the up-town district and steamed down the old river for 1 1/2 hours past Grant's Monument, the old Soldiers Monument, the old Soldiers Monument, was very interesting ride. Finally boarded our boat at the pier and within 15 minutes our boat pulled out, we had to stay below deck until out of sight of land but I saw old N.Y. and Liberty disappear lying on my bunk thru my port hole. We were fourteen days on the water most of that journey I'll have to tell you when I see you. Had very little rough weather and was not sea sick.

We crossed the British Isles in one day, the Channel the next and came to Camp the next.

And having been here since working hard. Put in a week putting up tents (Morgues) and repairing them. Then went on day ward duty scrubbing floors, waiting on patients, and about 999 odd jobs. The first of the month went on night duty have been on it since the Extension. Have thirteen wards to attend night.

We have had a little excitement since I came. One real lively air raid, shortly after me came, several important ones since. Several times sighted silver colored scout planes away up in the clouds, lastly sailing around with the anti-air craft guns constantly firing at them but too high to be reached. A couple of weeks ago a British Plane came crippled and done some very exciting maneuvering and flip flops, fell the Pilot was seriously hurt and died on the way to the Hospital. Another came down two days before. Well Margaret will have to close and go on duty. Answer soon.

Your Cousin, Fred. 

 August 8, 1918
Many friends have been asking of the whereabouts and welfare of Corp. Lee W. DOW. Late in May he had been in training and guard duty on the border for a whole year at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. At that time he wrote that he had been just missing everything. In just brushing up in rifle practice he just missed being sharp shooter, by two points an din pistol practice about the same. He said in his joking way that if he missed going to France much longer, he guessed he would go over the mountains behind the came and let the army miss him. He next wrote they were preparing to move, but he did not know where. His next letter was from Camp McArthur, Waco, Texas, where as an expert machine gunner he was teaching new recruits and studying the mechanism of the sixth make of machine gun. His lonely parents thought as he was so much nearer home and had been in camp a year, he ought to be home before he went farther but the war situation was too strenuous, and his last letter was written on his way to the coast. James DARNBY was also at El Paso and Waco. Ward said he could not write much, as no good soldier would disobey orders. So after sharing the anxiety of friends for their boys, we know the full measure of the battle to keep hopes in the foreground and fears smothered while all our boys are fighting to make the world safe for Civilization. Leonie WEST

November 14, 1918 SOLDIER'S LETTER
The following letter has been received by Ralph FOY from his cousin, Arthur McKENZIE [Ralph is the son of Charles Wesley and Mary G. nee JONES FOY. Arther is the son of Frank Mortimer and Jenny Viola nee FOY McKENZIE. Frank is the son of John Marcus and Emeline nee DOW McKENZIE. Jenny is the daughter of Daniel and Mathilda nee WILLIAMS FOY. Jenny's brother was Charles Wesley FOY.]

November 3, 1918.
Dear Cousin: Well we got out of Texas and we're at a point of embarkation now but the way the papers are "talking" we may not get to embark at all. But we're "crazy" to get over there and get a little action. We left Camp John Wise the 20th of Sept., went out into the bushes and cactus, took our blankets and "pup" tents and camped out for six days. We took a balloon along and maneuvered it around each day. We also broke camp every morning and made a new camp every night. Then we came back to Camp Wise and had rifle and gas mask drill (and we went through real gas too.)

Oct. 2 we were out on the drill ground drilling when a little after eleven o'clock word came down to us that at 12:00 noon Camp Wise was to be quarantined and we would have to hurry if we got out before that time. (We were an out going company and expected to leave any day.) So we hurried to the barracks, got every thing packed and marched out of the camp just five minutes before twelve. (And escaped the quarantine.) We went out about a mile and made us a little camp of our own. There were just 125 men in our Co. then. We stayed there until the 27th when orders came for us to move. We left our camp at 2:5 [sic] p.m. marched to the train one and a half miles, was inspected by the Colonel the Post Commander, entrained and pulled out at 2:40 (everything done on the double-quick. We went through Austin, Tex., then to Texarkana (on the line between Texas and Ark.) where we marched around town and the Red Cross treated. We got into Texarkana at 10:45 a.m. the 28th and left at 12:00 noon. Then to Little Rock, Ark., that evening. The next morning (the 29th) we got into Memphis, Tenn. 5:45, left at 9:30 then to Corinth, Miss., to Sheffiled, Ala., crossed the corner of Georgia and arrived in Chattanooga, Tenn., at 5:30 the morning of the 30th, then to Knoxville where we took another "hike" aournd town and the Red Cross ladies met us at the station with lots of good things to eat. We passed over into Virginia at Bristol at 2:15 a.m., the 31st. Then to Roanoke, Petersburg to Richmond at 5:20 that evening thne on to Morrison at 11:30 that night (Halloween night) but stayed on the train the rest of the night and unloaded the next morning.

Our troop train consisted of 16 coaches, three baggage cars and one caboose and about 400 men, three Cos., the 55th, 56 and 57th. Haven't been away from the barracks yet so don't know much about the camp only that it is a small camp and very few soldiers here at present. Our three Cos. and three Detachments that were all ready here are all thats here.

Our Co. (the 55th) consists of 121 men now and every man a specialist of some kind but there will be 79 men transferred into it here and they will be unskilled which will be pulling down the ropes on the ballon. I've got my Government rating as a chauffeur and alos a balloon rigger. This being Sunday I am going to wright eight letters. Played indoor baseball and football all afternoon then right after mess (dinner) I washed some clothes and hung them out to dry but will spend the rest of the afternoon writing. I haven't received a letter from anyone for over six weeks and haven't heard from Ill. since you wrote away last summer sometime, I've forgot just when it was. We are close to the ocean and close to the Cheapeake Bay, close enough so as to get the ocean breezes which are somewhat different than the breezes that we received off the cactus plains of Texas. Its really chilly here now, chilly enough so that a fire would feel mighty good "but" we are minus the fire. I suppose you are just about starting in on husking your corn now. I guess I won't get to make my $7.00 a day shucking corn this fall like I did last fall. Here's hoping the next letter you get from me will be from France. As ever, Arthur B. McKENZIE 55th Balloon Co., Camp Morrison, Virginia. 

March 6, 1919
LETTER FROM ORVILLE [sic] MEREDITH Mrs. E.W. MEREDITH has received the following letter from her son Orville [sic] who is with the 123rd Field Art. in Germany. Biaschette, Lux.,

Feb. 4, '19
Dear Mother: Well here I am again back in the little burg of Biaschette. We arrived here yesterday afternoon and was too tired last night to write so put it off until this eve. I had a good time on my trip, but would have been better if it had not been cold. There was twelve of us that left here to go after the trucks. Took the train out of Ligten a week ago last Sunday and went to Strassburg, from there we went to Paris, where we had a chance to spend a day. At that time we American soldiers was only allowed one day there, but now we can stay there three. While I was there I took in the Notre Dame Cathedral which was built in 1150. Also got to see the Eiffel Tower. At nine o'clock we all boarded the train for Marsailles and arrived there at four o'clock the next afternoon. Spent two days in that place sight seeing. There were soldiers from every country except Germany parading up and down the street. You can imagine what it is like, there is a large port there. They have street cars, but are much narrower than ours in the States on account of such narrow streets and instead of ringing a bell they use a horn for a signal.

On the edge of the city is the U.S. Motor park and it sure is filled up with beaucoup cars of all kinds. In this park they have over one hundred fifty thousand vehicles.

We left Marseilles Friday afternoon with five trucks and had very good luck until we got to Lyon when we had one truck smashed up by a train, one man was killed and other two very badly wounded. We came on from there and stopped in Dejon for a couple days. While I was in this place I ran across Dean SIPPEL, sure was glad to see him, he looks fine. The U.S. also has a very large motor park here. Dean told me that there were ninety six hundred vehicles there. We stopped over in this place to do a little repair work. I did not take in the city any as they all look alike to me. About all a fellow can see is Cathedrals and statues of all descriptions.

We left this place and we went to LaSalles where Capt. E.W. WAHL was stations for a while. Inquired about him, but no one seemed to know where he had moved to. After spending a night there we went on up to Toul and from there to Metz and Luxemburg and home again. Some of the boys have just returned from a promenading trip over the country, they were all covered with snow. Think we will have to make some sleds and slide down some of these hills.

Well mother have written youall the news so must close.

With love, Orval. 

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