Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb


World War I News, 1917-1919

from the Denison Review

Letters to Home from Crawford County People Serving in WWI

November, 1918 - August, 1919

Carl Kepford, Arion (Denison Review 11-20-1918)

Carl Kepford, France - This letter was received by Mrs. Joseph Kepford, of Arion, from her son who is overseas, in the midst of the fight. Carl speaks of having seen Fred Heiden of this city and that they are together often.

Oct. 13, 1918
Dear Mother and All:
I have not been writing very often so I suppose you have been worrying. Have been up to the front for the last few weeks and over the top. Took part in a big drive and still o.k. We are back now for I do not know how long. Got a letter from Virgie, Pauline and Leon with the pictures. Have not written to anyone for a long time, but will try to do better now.

You ask if I see many from home; not many but Pett and Fred Heiden from Denison is in Co. A and we are together every opportunity. Think his father is foreman on the N. W. Am glad you got my papers. Sent home $40; let me know if you get it. Well the J. I. Cans make things interesting up on the front. That is all I can say in regard to the war. They say cooties are plentiful but I have only seen one and he was in a German dugout. One thing about him, he did run. Write often, I think I get all your letters.
As ever, your son, Carl Kepford, Co. C. 35th Inf. A. E. F.

Sgt. John Bahr, (Denison Review 11-20-1918)

Sgt. John Bahr, France - The following letter was sent us for publication by Peter Bahr of Osmond, Neb. who formerly was a resident of Dow City and was written by his son, John, who is in active service. Since receiving this letter we learn that word has been received stating the young man has been wounded in action. The degree of the wounds is not stated, but we trust they are not serious.

October 18, 1918
My Dear Folks:
I will drop you a few lines today to let you know that I am feeling fine. I got your letter the day before my birthday. I sure had a big time on my birthday, celebrating in the trenches. We just got back now from a hitch on the front line trenches got out two days after my birthday, and are now taking a rest, which we all appreciate. Did you ever see the moving pictures that I was in? I must tell you that I was promoted to rank of sergeant the 16th of this month. Well, it is bedtime now so will close. Hoping this finds you as well as it leaves me. I am your loving son and brother.
Sgt. John Bahr, Co. H. 350th Inf. A. P. O. 795, Amer. E. F.

Willis Dean, (Denison Review 11-20-1918 )

Willis Dean, France - Mrs. L. P. Dean has given us the following letter from her son, Willis, who has experienced life in the trenches recently. The letter was written before peace was declared but he writes as though the finish was near at hand.

St. Algan-Noyens,
Oct. 21, 1918
Dear Mother and Sister:
I must write you a few lines this morning to let you know that I am well. Getting along fine up to date. I have shamefully neglected to write to you of late. But I supposed it is better late than never in this case anyway. I have been on the move some and have been more or less upset in the last three weeks. But I find myself somewhat settled again with the 116th supply train and will try and catch up with my letter writing.

It is awfully wet and muddy here; just rains every day and night and is awfully chilly and damp and this cold here penetrates one more than in the states. But I have good clothes and manage to keep dry and warm and a good place to sleep and good grub. So what more can I ask, only for the end to come, which I think will be toot sweet. In other words, pretty quick. The boche are sure getting a good does of their own medicine these days and we are all feeling fine as a result of our last three months' work over here. I guess Bill see the mistake he made when he stepped on Uncle Sam's toes. Believe me, I've learned to love the old flag because I know what it stands for.

Well, I am driving truck here, hauling all kinds of supplies to different towns and camps where soldiers are stationed and to and from the big warehouses. Well, there isn't a great lot to write. I hope you can manage to keep well and keep things moving for yourselves. And I think there are better days ahead for all of us. I will close with love. Write often.
Pvt. Willis Dean - Co. B, 116th Supply Train. Amer. E. F.

Dow City, 12-4-1918

Mrs. Charles Smith, president of the local Red Cross chapter, is in receipt of a letter from the hospital at Ft. Des Moines, telling of the great appreciation for the comforters received recently from the Red Cross here. The letter has been handed to us for publication and reads as follows:

Headquarters United States General at Hospital No. 26, Fort Des Moines, Iowa
Nov. 26, 1918
Mrs. Chas. Smith - Dow City Red Cross - Dow City, Iowa
My Dear Mrs. Smith
This is to acknowledge receipt of your gift to the disabled soldiers in this hospital, consisting of nine splendid comforters. Please accept my thanks for this donation as well as that of the men confined here. It is certainly gratifying to note that the people still have in mind the welfare of the returned soldiers who have done so much to bring about a victorious peace.
Sincerely yours, Herbert H. Frothingham, Major Medical Corps. Commanding.

John J. McMahon, (Denison Review 12-11-1918)

John J. McMahon, France - Mrs. Mary McMahon has kindly handed us the first letter which she received from her son, John, who recently landed in France. John went overseas with a company from Camp Forest and landed just in time to take part in the peace celebration.

Nov. 12, 1918
Dear Mother:
I have not written since I landed but I suppose you got the card I mailed when we were getting on the ship. The weather here is real damp and the ground is wet, so there must have been a great deal of rain before we landed. I guess we must have landed in a very poor part of France. We don't see any young people, just children and old folks, but there are a lot of American soldiers in camp here so we feel more at home. It seems strange to see so many stone walls and it sure must have taken a lot of work to build them.

There is a Y.M.C.A. here where we can buy tobacco and cigars. I surely was glad when we landed as I was getting tired of seeing so much water. None of the boys in our company were very seasick and they all are feeling fine now. When we landed we took a little hike from the ship but I did not get nearly as tired as I did when we took the hike to the boat before we started. Everybody here seems to think the war is over and the French were celebrating yesterday. I saw some Germans working on the road here and a Negro was guarding them. There are quite a few negroes here from the states and lots of marines too in camp.

I would like to have a chance to go out and look around a little. Yesterday when I was eating dinner somebody came and hit me on the back and when I turned around it was Tommy Alberts. I sure was glad to see him. He said he was talking to Hugo Reimers the day before and he told him that Frank Johnson was in the same bunch, also that Alex Aebischer had come over with him but he had not seen him since then.....(missing rest of letter )

Louis Hansen, Buck Grove (Denison Review 12-25-1918 )

Mr. and Mrs. Claus are in receipt of two letters from their brother, Louis, which were written on November 13th and 24th. Louis has been overseas for six months and at present is acting as a messenger.

Nov. 13, 1918
Dear Folks:
I received your welcome letters some time ago but have had no time to answer them. I am feeling fine and most of my work is done now, so perhaps I will have more time to write home. I am sorry that I didn't get to write to you and let you know that I got all of your letters and I suppose that you were beginning to think I had forgotten you, but I never had to neglect my writing so much in all my army days as I have lately.

You will have to excuse me and I will tell you all about it when I get back, which will be between now and next Christmas. I have been here nearly six months and am good for six more if they need me. I don't believe that I have told you that I am a messenger now. We have had quite a bit of rain this fall, but today is a real sunshiny day, but we had an awful heavy frost last night and the leaves are about all gone from the trees. Must close now.
As ever your loving brother, Louis Hansen.

Dear Brother:
This is Sunday so I will try and write to you to pass the time away. All I have been doing for the last two weeks is writing letters, but that kept me busy as I had so many to write. Today is the day every soldier should write to his Dad, so I will write to you too. I just had to stop and deliver a message. It is raining here tonight and is quite dark and I suppose winter is setting in although it isn't very cold. It is much warmer than in the states this time of year.

I expect to get home before many more months and I am sure glad that the awful roaring of those guns is over. It sure affected a fellow's nerves. I am sitting beside an old fashioned fireplace now, enjoying life once more and writing that Fritz left behind. He left many valuable things that he hadn't time to take with him. I have acted as interpreter quite a few times and I can talk high "German pretty good now and if I had been near them much longer I would have been a real one. It was hard at first, but not as hard as French. I don't believe I ever will learn that. Well, it is getting late so I will close.
With love to all, from Louis (Hansen).

Pearl Gary, Denison (Denison Review 1-1-1919)

Miss Pearl Gary Tells of Her Work - Miss Pearl Gary has written to her father, A. J. Gary, of this city, under date of November 26th and has taken advantage of the censorship being lifted and tells of her trip over and her experiences while serving as a nurse in mobile hospital No. 1, which followed the boys who were fighting in the first line trenches. Miss Gary has recently been promoted by being selected with ten other nurses from this hospital and transferred to the evacuation hospital than at St. Mihiel. She is now stationed at Brieg and expects to follow the boys as they go into Germany. Her letter is full of interest and we are pleased to thus give our readers the opportunity of reading it.

November 26, 1918
Dear Father:
This letter was supposed to have been written a couple of days ago but we have been moving again and things were so unsettled I couldn't write. Now that the war is over I can tell you of my travels. We left New York January 15th and arrived at Halifax two days later. We were there a day and a half and then sailed on to Glasgow, where we arrived on January 30th. No submarines were even sighted. The trip up the Clyde river was simply wonderful, both banks are thick with shipyards. We saw ships, submarines and tanks in all stages of construction.

On the evening of January 31st the nurses disembarked after watching the troops leave the ship during the day. About 10 p.m. we boarded a train for London. Their trains here have no sleepers. We were on a car similar to our parlor cars only not so large. Slept the best we could and reached our destination about 8 a.m., tired, stiff and cold and the fog was awful. A. U. S. officer and an American nurse met us and took us to the American nurses club where we had a nice breakfast. After that we all piled into two large automobiles and went to the Portland hotel where we stayed almost a week. The people in London were very pessimistic about the war. We could not buy enough to eat or get fuel enough to keep us warm while there.

We left London early one morning and crossed the English channel from Folkstone to Boulogne. There we stayed overnight and went to Paris the next day. The Y. W. C. A. hostess house was our stopping place for two days and nights and there surely was a lineup the first night for the bath tub as we had not had a real bath since leaving New York. The first day we rested and the second day we saw a few sights and places of interest, such as Notre Dame and the latin quarter, also the bastile. Again we took the train in the morning and this time we went to Augers, where we joined base hospital No. 27.

Six of us stayed there only a few days and on the 9th of February we went to Tours to organize camp hospital 27. A month later the rest of the unit, men, officers and nurses followed us. There we stayed until June when we were sent to Paris to become mobile No. 1. New officers and men joined us and we proceeded to Coulomiers. The officers, man and equipment preceded the horses by two days and when we arrived the tents were up and 35 patients were in the hospital. It was about 10 p.m. and they had been operating since 2 p.m. Perhaps you think the nurses didn't have some cleaning up but they did after the doctors had unpacked and started things. This is where we had the hardest service.

Thirty-six hours was the longest stretch I ever worked but that was plenty long enough. Needless to say I dozed many times, when I was giving ether. The marines from Belleau woods were our patients mostly, although we had some of the 42nd division, Ed Flahive among them. Some of the worst wounds in the history of the war were in the hospital at that time. When I think of them now it makes me shudder. We remained in this location about six weeks and then the entire organization was moved to Chateau Thierry. It was a terrible ride, the sun blistering hot and the trucks bumped over the roads until we thought we would not be able to walk.

At Coulomiers I heard the first guns of war. We were about 18 miles back of the line and the sound of the guns seemed very loud and Fritz visited us every clear night, bombed us once, but the closest was a 100 feet from the hospital. I was giving anesthetics, the lights were extinguished and when the bomb fell and exploded the concussion blew my skirts. Everything was calm in the O. R. One surgeon was working on an abdomen .. while we could still hear the awful whirr of the boche planes someone turned a flashlight on the field of operation and the surgeon worked calmly on. At Chateau Thierry we were about 12 miles from the front line and the guns were louder than before and Fritz came more often, if that could be possible.

One night a bomb fell about 20 felt from the nurses tent. It was a small one but we surely felt just a little shaky. The "peppering" of the machine guns (for our machines were up sometimes trying to get the boche) with the constant barrage of the auto aircraft guns and the explosion of the bombs was surely exciting. We stopped here only two weeks and then moved by train (one of our own, just like a circus) to Neufchateau. Here we pitched enough tents for the personnel to live in and stayed about a week waiting orders. When orders came we were moved by ambulances and trucks to Ancemont to be ready for the next big drive.

We were located in the neck of a horseshoe and unless our men were successful we would be German prisoners for a certainty, but they deserved our confidence as they went forward with such haste we were soon over 20 miles from the line and at the beginning it was only ten. (Here is where the first shells fell near us from the long-range guns). From Ancemont we moved in trucks and ambulances again to Biercourt which was practically on the other side of the horseshoe and nearer Verdun. It was 7 miles to the line and when the drive started the noise was something terrible. It was at night and the sky seemed to be full of fire. It was horribly beautiful.

At this place our heavy artillery was back of us and we heard the awful whistle of our own shells as well as those of the Fritzies when they came over. The patients received here were most of them in very pool condition as the roads were bad from much firing and the exposure was too much from the time they were wounded until the ambulances reached them. From Biercourt we moved to Fromerville to be nearer the line. The stay here was short and one of our nurses succumbed to the dreaded Spanish influenza. This dampened the spirits of us all and we did not like to leave her there alone.

Esues was the next move. The casualty list was not heavy as usual but was surely heavy enough. On the 8th of November the order came to mobile No. 1 for ten nurses to leave for evacuation hospital No. 18 and that afternoon nine other nurses and myself were taken by ambulance to St. Mihiel for duty. Here we were given a royal welcome and found we had arrived just in time to receive a few of the last wounded in this awful war. The news of the armistice came on the 11th and we surely were relieved. Our patients were evacuated as soon as possible and while we were waiting for orders we had the opportunity of exploring German caves, trenches and dugouts, also the French territory.

Yesterday we came to Brieg and we are now in a hospital built by the French just before the war and which was in German hands the greater part of the war. It is a lovely place but it is rumored that we will stay here only a short time and then go on to the Rhine. I am anxious to get home but think I am equally anxious to follow the Germans as far as possible.

As long as I live I will never forget how wonderful the American men are and what a good morale and spirit they have. When I think of the many cripples who will go home I still wish I could have the opportunity of fighting the boche myself. As you know this is an exceptionally long letter for me to write, but I just hope I have not bored you. Let any of my friends read this who care to. I surely wish you all a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.
Love to all, Pearl.

C. H. Kunze, (Denison Review 1-15-1919 )

C. H. Kunze, France - James D. Fleming of Boyer has sent us the following letter which he recently received from C. H. Kunze, who is with the 110th Infantry in France. Mr. Kunze has many friends in the county who will no doubt be pleased to read his letter.

November 30 '18
Jas. D. Fleming and Family:
As we have the afternoon off, I will take advantage of the opportunity and write you that I am safe and well. I did not see any action at the front, however, our battalion was one the way to the front when the armistice was signed. We started toward the lines on Sunday morning the 10th of November, went up within about 3 or 4 kilometers of the lines and rested the remainder of the day. When evening came we advanced further towards the front. We went into woods and made our beds, went to sleep about one kilometer from the lines at about 12 o'clock.

The Germans commenced to send shells in our direction, some lighting within a hundred yards from where we were lying. About this time we were told to roll our packs and get ready to move. We left the woods and marched eastward until about 4 or 5 a.m., went into another wood and again went to bed. We were told that we got out of the first woods just in time as the Germans shelled it very heavily after we left. At about 9:30 the company commander called the company together and told us the good news that Germany had signed the armistice terms and the firing would cease at 11 o'clock. We certainly did some cheering then. We marched back to our billets that evening and have been here since.

It is now five weeks that we are camped here, our billets are located in a large wood. They were built by the Germans and some of their troops were billeted here when they occupied this part of France. We are all anxious to get out of here as it is quite muddy. We drill some every day, except when we are called out on salvage detail. We all hope to be home soon but do not know when we may get there. There is a possibility that our division might be sent to the German border.

I am standing army life pretty good. Have not been sick at all but I did have a pretty severe cold and am not quite over it yet. I think we will be back home by next spring even if we do go to Germany. They can't send us home too soon to suit me. France is certainly a great country - to sail home from. Well, I have written all I can think of so will close. Best regards to you and all the neighbors, I remain,
Your friend, C. H. Kunze.

Fred Suhr, (Denison Review 2-5-1919)

Following is a copy of a letter from Fred Suhr to his mother:

Mrs. Mary Suhr, Arion, Iowa
Dear Mother:
I am writing a few lines to let you know that I am having the best of times and, if you knew where I was you would sure sleep good. I, with two friends, are on a Sunday leave. Got here last night about 5 o'clock, had to stay one night in Marseilles and left at five in the morning through a country where roses are in bloom in January, also flowers of all kinds and oranges hanging on the trees. Mother, I wish you could be with me and see this country. I am going to tell brother Julius and if he should stay until next month and be able to take a trip here, he would sure like it. It is the garden of France.

The big towns around here are nice, there are about 120,000 people in one. To stay a day or so and then go to another is fine for Uncle Sam paid for all of it and we are allowed exactly for the time to get here and back. We took a walk this morning over into Italy. It is about half a mile along the sea and the Alps on the other side. We stayed in a hotel about 800 feet up in the mountains. You can walk up or there is a car that is pulled up by cable. Everything is so nice that it seems as if I am in a dream.

The Y.M.C.A. have as nice a hut as I have seen in France. They had a nice show last night and then a dance. As I cannot dance I did not stay. There aren't a lot of American girls here. They have a nice reading and writing room and they take a bunch of the boys and show them around. I just had a letter from Julius before I left Miramaw. He is feeling fine. Hoping this reaches you. As always I will close with a kiss.
Your son, Private Fred J. Suhr, Co. A., 118 Eng. A. E. F. A.P.O. 752

Jens Lass , (Denison Review 2-5-1919)

Jens Lass in Germany - Writes Letter on Christmas Day to His Father and Mother Telling of His War Experience -

Jens Lass, Crov, Germany,
Dec. 25, 1918
Dear Father and Mother:
Today is Christmas day and not much to do so I will write you a few lines. I am feeling fine and hope that these few lines will find all of you the same. The weather is pretty nice today. It is a little cold but before it has always rained or snowed. Suppose you also have pretty cold weather now. We are in Germany now and it sure is a strange country. The houses and building are all made of stone and they have thick walls. The houses and barns are all built together and they can go from the inside of the house right into the barn. They keep their stock in the barns most of the time. Most every family has a cow or two of their own. The roads are all made of stone and there are lots of trees along the roads. It would be very pretty in summer I am sure.

We have sure been doing some hiking since the war is over. We hiked from France to Germany and are now at Crov and they tell us that these are our winter quarters. The boys all have beds to sleep in and it is fine. It is the first bed that I have been in since I have been in France and it surely has shell holes and trenches beaten. We also have a warm room to stay in. Last Christmas day I came home but nothing doing this year. If I get your box of candy that you have sent I will make the best of it. I haven't seen Frank or any of the Denison boys and sure would like to see some of them. I suppose you will have a goose for dinner today and you had better eat a piece for me. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, I am,
Your son, Jens Lass, P.S. Just received the Christmas box and it sure was good.

Dow City, 4-23-1919

Two letters have been handed us for publication, received from the mother and sister of a little French child whom the Priscilla club is supporting. The letters were received by Mrs. E. R. Fagan, secretary of the club. The following is the letter from the sister:

Feb. 22, 1919
My Dear Benefactress:
I wish to thank you many times for all you have done for our little girl who never again will complain. If she knew you she would thank you with her whole heart and even with her service would she repay the gifted Americans who have given themselves freely, some who never will return. With our most sincere gratitude to you, we call you our benefactress.
Marguerite Feau.

The letter from the mother reads as follows:

Ocr. 6, 1919,
Mrs. Fagan:
I received some days ago with the greatest of pleasure, the gift which you sent my little girl, Lucy. I am pleased as well as the little one at this delicate attention on your part. Do not doubt that you have made a little orphan very happy. I write with her in thanking you very sincerely. Accept my thanks, Mrs. Fagan, with my respects and the affectionate sentiments of a little girl.
Madame Terry, for my little girl, Lucy.

Harold Norman, (Denison Review 8-13-1919)

Norman Writes from Brest -
Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Norman Received Letter from their Son, Harold, written at Brest -
Tells of his Visit to Paris -
Says Paris is the Most Beautiful City in the World -
New York does not Compare with it.-

Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Norman received the following letter from their son, Harold, who is in the United States navy, in which he describes a recent visit to Paris and other points of interest.

Brest, France
Dear Ones at Home:
I wrote you a very short letter from Paris and undoubtedly, you have received it long before this. I did not have so much time then and I wished only to make it a short note. I had a very interesting time in Paris. We were there only four days but no moments were idle and in that short time I did not have the time to see the many interesting places I should like to have visited. I did get to see the most interesting places and was able to get some Kodak pictures of them, which will be very interesting to you.

Paris is the most beautiful and artistically arranged city in the world. New York is nothing compared to it. The beautiful old historical buildings of the different periods are magnificent in construction and very pleasing to the eye. People have the artistic sense and they think as much of the exterior beauty as of the interior. The Notre Dame is wonderful; its delicate buttresses, lofty nave and choir, rare windows, and its quaint carvings around the great portals, make it a thing of exquisite beauty.

One must know and hear of the wonderful history, connected with the church to really appreciate its hold and influence upon the people. The beautiful boulevards as the "Champ Elysies" and others are more beautiful than any that we have in America. The garden of Tullieres and Luxemborg are too artistically arranged, too fine in statuary and fountains not to give them precedence over our American gardens. The "Louvre", this immense building with all its historical riches makes it the most complete and beautiful museum in the world. Here are old masters, sculpturing of the old school of the early Greeks, Egyptians and Romans; the old period furniture - delicate because of its rich tapestries and wood carvings, that at the present day is a lost art.

All the beautiful artistic work done by the early French people and of the other artificers of the world is to be seen here. The Trocadera, with its beautiful garden and its cascade, makes it one of the most beautiful spots in Paris. An old Spanish fort captured in 1823, but now is a museum of sculpture and ethnology. The Eiffel tower is right across the Seine from the Trocadus. The Hotel de Invalides, built by Henry XIV, 1670 for wounded soldiers, is now a museum of artillery and here are found many of the fine war pictures. The tomb of Napoleon is here and is a very beautiful tomb. The opera house is the most beautiful in the world and its foyer is very beautiful. I saw two operas and they were very beautiful. The color scheme was very beautiful.

Well, I shall have to reserve the rest until I get home. Please ask Carl Sibbert, if he is home, when he will be in New York and if he is gone, please ask Mrs. Sibbert about his address and send it to me. Send mail to Navy club at New York.
With love to all, Harold.

Transcribed by Melba McDowell