Letters from World War I

Decatur County Journal
Thursday, November 1, l917

The following letter was written by HARLEY BULLARD to his mother, MRS. J.C. BULLARD, of this city: U.S.S. Wyoming; October 14, 1977.

Dear Mother:

I received your letter and sure glad to hear from you. How is everyone, all well I hope. I received the packages that both you and sister, PEARL, sent me. I sent all the girls and also CHARLEY a post card of the Wyoming and you a large picture of the ship. BUD PHILLIPS was transferred yesterday. He went somewhere in Philadelphia. He will probably go to France on a merchant ship. What do you all think of the Wyoming? You ought to see her plowing through the Atlantic. She sure is a beautiful ship. I have had a fine time today, the best time I have had since we left New York. Thirteen of us took a row boat and went ashore. We took our dinners with us and ate ashore. Then we went up a small river and tied the boat and took a walk. We never thought of the tide and when we came back the tide had gone out and left our boat high and dry. We had to wait all afternoon for the tide to come in. You ask me if I had been very far out at sea. I have been out several hundred miles and did not see any land for a week. Well I cannot think of any other news right now so I will close.


Decatur County Journal
Thursday, December 5, 1918

A Letter From Frank Castor:

Somewhere in France, November 6th1918.


Dear Aunt Mattie: Well, I received your letter yesterday and was mighty glad to hear from you all. I am o.k., having a fine time and hope this finds you all the same.

Well, I was surprised to hear of EDGAR enlisting and going to Ames but expect it will be all right for him. I never found those boys in Texas that you told me about. I sure would like to be at home for a while. Would like to see all the folks, especially the baby. She will be quite a girl when we get back. When you write to Aunt EVA, tell her I got the card but I haven't received the candy yet. Tell her I will write her before long. I would like to be at your house for grandma's birthday. We sure would have turkey.

Well, I like France pretty well; it is sure a nice country but it rains so much. I will tell you all about it when I get back. I don't care what you send me for Christmas, just suit yourselves. I got that cake you sent me while I was in Texas. It was the best I ever ate. I wish I had a big feed of those doughnuts like you make; they sure would go fine. Well, tell EDGAR to send me his address when he gets located so I can write to him. I will close. I can't write a letter long as my arm for lack of news. Write soon, as ever,

Co. F. 116 A.M.T.N., American Expeditionary
Forces, France.

Decatur County Journal
Thursday, January 16,1919

A Letter from WILLARD CHASTAIN; Somewhere in France, December 11, l9l8.

Home Folks: How is everybody? I am alright and have been seeing quite a lot of country. We have in the 1st two months traveled from near Metz to the Argone forests across the Muese River at Stenay, over part of Belgium, through Luxemburg and are at Kyllburg, Germany. We have been here a day or two but don't expect to stay long. We are with the Army of occupation and won't start home as soon as the rest, but it won't be long until we will. The people are as good to us as can be. We sleep in their houses on feather beds, something we haven't been in the habit of doing since we left home.

I got a letter from ROY today. I guess he will be home before I will as they didn't come into Germany with us. I will tell you about the cards some other time when I see you.

From WILLARD CHASTAIN, 314 Mobile Vet. Sect. American E. Forces, A.P.O. 761.

Decatur County Journal
Thursday, January 16, 1919

A Letter from WILLIAM R. CHASTAIN; Blois, France; December 13,1918.

Home Folks: I was sent down here from the hospital at Toul. I wrote a letter from there. I am in a hospital but will leave here in a few days to a classification camp and I might be sent back to my company from there or I may be put in some other company. I am feeling fine, I had my picture taken a few days ago and will send some home if I ever get them.

I have not seen any one that I knew since I left the company. I have not received any mail since I have been here but I expect they will send it to me as I have been away more than ten days. I wrote Grandpa a letter the other day, I hope he will get it. I suppose everybody is feeling all right at least I hope so. Has GEORGE got back yet?

You had better not write until you receive another letter from me. I think I will be in a place where I will stay a while, or have some address to give so you can write. I will close for this time. I will write every day or two, with love to all.


Base Hospital 43, Blois, France.

Decatur County Journal
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Thursday, November 01, 1917

M. F. Grimes received a most interesting letter this week from his son, Forest Grimes, who is one of the Leon boys who enlisted last spring in the Navy. Forest is on the Pennsylvania and says that he likes the Navy fine. He is a gunner and his crew is one of the most efficient on the big warship.

When he wrote the letter he stated that he had recently returned from a trip out into the ocean for target practice and that he was sea sick for a time as it was the first time they had been out far, but that he soon got over it. He is on the list for an eight day furlough which he expects to get in the near future. He will come to Leon then for a few days visit. In his letter he enclosed two copies of the Sunday News published on board the Pennsylvania. On the first page is printed the program for Sunday services. In one place in the News it stated that recreation parties will be landed at intervals and that the jackies may proceed in marching order to picnic grounds where they may enjoy an afternoon of recreation. They will either be allowed to take their lunch or arrangements will be made with the Red Cross or other organizations for their entertainment.

The News also speaks of the electric piano used for the amusement of men on the vessel. The announcement is also made that daily papers have been ordered for the boat's reading room. The list of papers to come regularly to the boat being The New York Times, New York American, Chicago Tribune, Boston Post, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Philadelphia Public Ledger, Pittsburg Dispatch and the Washington Post.

In another place we note the mess menu for Sunday dinner. It includes cream of asparagus soup, roast pork, apple sauce, mashed turnips, creamed mashed potatoes, ice cream and cake.

Grimes - Quiett Clothing Store Mgr. Laurence Clyde Quiett

Decatur County Journal
Thursday, December 26, 1918

American Expeditionary Force; Nov. 19th,1918.

My Dear Sister and Brother: I will try and drop you a few lines to let you know that I am O.K. at present and hope when these few lines reach you they will find you in the same good health. How is everybody back home getting along by this time? I haven't got any mail from my Company for over a month. I will have several letters to read when I get back to my Company. I think that I will be back with them before long. How does CLARENCE like his job? Has he left Camp Dodge yet? I have never heard from WILLIE yet but I may have a letter at my Company from him when I get my mail. If I hear from him I will write and let you know how he is. I haven't heard from JOHN yet. You can write and tell him that I am all right and I will write to him as soon as I get his address. Well, how is the weather back home? I suppose it is getting pretty cold there by this time. It is pretty cold here now and it froze ice one night this week. I suppose that ANNIE is flying around in her car and having a good time.

I will close for this time and hope to hear from you soon.



Decatur County Journal
Thursday, January 9, 1919

A Letter from DAVID MCHARNESS; Somewhere in France, November 26, 1918:

My Loved Ones at home: Being a very good opportunity to write I will take my pen in hand and let you know your loving son is well and getting along fine. I hope you are all well and can enjoy yourselves very much Thanksgiving. Today has been a very wet sloppy day for us and has been so, for almost a week now. It will soon be winter and I hope we do not freeze. It will be the happiest day and moment of my life when I can put my arms around and kiss you on my safe return to dear old home and mother's cooking. Gee how I miss you all. I get so blue. I keep wondering how things are at home and whether all are well or not. I hope mother is better and can be up and around. I received a letter and some pictures from GRACE and WALTER, my but they were lovely. Those kids are certainly very sweet. I also received a letter from Aunt FLETA and aunt GENIE. I certainly was glad to hear from them. By the way please send me OTTO's address as I haven't it. I hope CLARA has a large number of new pieces for the piano so I may get to hear her play again. I hope it can be soon. I do long for music. We do not get to hear any very often.

It was just two months ago today when my company and regiment went over the top to go on the big drive, which won the war. I can never forget the event. If you could have a picture of us going over after the Huns you would be proud of it. It was a picture no artist could paint and do it justice. It was very foggy the first morning and it was in our favor. Believe me there were a very large number of big guns, which put over a barage for us, also a number of tanks went just ahead of us. The tanks certainly did put the fear in the Boche. We certainly did cover a large piece of ground amid artillery fire and machine gun bullets. They certainly came thick and fast, but we were determined and as the Huns say, "We fool Americans were stubborn," and would not let up on them. We kept them going backwards. We went so fast we ran into our own artillery fire. Our batteries could not keep up with us.

I would love to tell you more but I can tell you better in person. So will now bring this to a close. I came out without being hurt. So bye bye for now, with love and kisses to all. Your loving son and brother,

DAVE MCHARNESS Cook Co. D., 140th U.S. Inf.

American E.F. 35th Division.


Decatur County Journal
Thursday, February 21,1919

A Letter from DAVE MCHARNESS; Pont Sur Muese; January 26, 1919:

My Dear Folks: Your very welcome letters received and I sure was so glad to get them. I am glad all are well at home. This letter leaves me quite well. I am holding up wonderfully under the circumstances. I am not cooking now, but am in the l40th Regimental Theatrical Troupe and Amusement Company. Gee, I sure do love to help the boys in that way. Just think of me as a black-faced comedian, with my face camouflaged. We will tour France and play every night when we get on the road. I am sure it will be nice for us. Don't you think so?

We had a theatrical troupe from the Iowa Division the 88th and I had the pleasure of meeting three boys from Des Moines. One of them was a cartoonist for the Des Moines Register and Tribune until he came into the army. I recognized him as one of the customers of mine when I worked at the Baltimore Dairy Lunch in Des Moines. Say maybe you think he and I didn't have a lovely visit together. He sure is a very fine fellow. I also met a Tommie from London, who went to America to enlist. He sure is a fine chap. So you see I am going to get to see Paris maybe. It will be grand to get to play in Paris. We will be ready to go by the first of February. The sooner the quicker.

I do hope I may be able to be home when CLARA graduates. I am hoping to be on U.S. soil soon. I am glad OTTO is home now and am hoping he will be there when I get home. Will you try and hold OTTO until I get there. I suppose he sure tells you some very interesting tales of doing duty in N.O. It sure was a glad surprise to me when I received his most welcome letter. I am so anxious to be at home that I don't know what to do. I have cold feet all day long. We are having real cold weather now.

Today is a blue day for me as it is Sunday, tomorrow I will be rehearsing for the show. You did not know that your son would be an actor, did you? I hope I get by with it, as I get a lot of pleasure out of it because I am able to please others. I feel highly honored to get to be an actor even if I am an amateur. We have showed twice and haven't received any bricks yet. Of course I cannot use bricks in my business.

Just think, Tuesday I will be 25 years old. I sure am getting old, am I not? It doesn't seem possible, does it? It will soon be 2 years since I was home. A very long time, too long in fact. I hope you will write often as I am always looking for a letter from home. Believe me I will be so glad when I get back to the U.S.A. so I may be able to talk to the people of whom I come in contact with. I am your loving son, DAVE.


Decatur County Journal
Thursday, January 2,1919

EARL RYAN, a Humeston boy, spent Christmas Day on the Atlantic Ocean. He sailed from New York on December 21 on the U.S.S. Comfort, a hospital ship, for a visit to England and France. In a brief letter to his parents, he said that he didn't know how long he would be away, but likely will return in February. EARL is a registered pharmacist and since his enlistment in the Navy at Great Lakes, has been doing hospital work.



Leon Reporter, Leon, Iowa
Thursday, March 13, 1924

The mystery attached to the failure of many mothers, wives and sweethearts to receive letters written to them by their soldier boys who took part in the World War has been cleared up by a discovery just made by the postoffice department. A few days ago Postmaster General New was notified by the postmaster at St. Louis that one of his patrons of the St. Louis office had placed a standard United States mail collection box on the porch of his residence and that in response to inquiry made by an inspector who was sent to ascertain how the owner of the house became possessed of such a box, the man replied that he had purchased it from a dealer in Army goods and that this dealer had on hand a number of other boxes of like character. Further investigation disclosed the fact that when the American troops were brought home and the camps abandoned, the mail boxes which had been erected and maintained by the Government to receive soldier mail had been turned over to the War Department and returned to this country with other surplus stock.

Evidently none of them was subjected to inspection before they were sold to the St. Louis dealer several years ago. The price of these boxes to the postoffice department is about $6 each, and inasmuch as the St. Louis dealer still had on hand 8l of them -- which he was willing to dispose of at 80 cents each -- the postoffice department bought them and ordered them put in shape for service. An inspection of their interior disclosed a large number of letters, post cards and other forms of mail that had been committed to them by soldiers and which had remained undiscovered from that day, now more than five years ago, until they came into possession of the postoffice department the other day. Needless to say each piece of mail was immediately forwarded to the party addressed, enclosed in a separate envelope and accompanied by a letter from Postmaster General New, explaining the circumstances.

Postmasters have also been requested to use every possible effort to see that even at this late date they may be delivered to the addressee. Perhaps some of the writers of these letters are still "over there." Possibly many of the addressed have gone to their long home, but every effort will be made to see that these missives mailed more than five years ago shall at last reach their destination.

--National Republican.

Lineville Tribune
Lineville, Wayne County, Iowa
January 17, 1918

Is Appointed to Officers Training School

Ralph Rumley of Leon and M. L. Sedar of Lamoni, were among those who have been transferred to the officers training school at Camp Dodge. Both of the boys have been making splendid records at Camp Dodge, where they have been stationed for some time and their selection for training at the office training school is most gratifying to their many Decatur county friends.

- Leon Journal.

All of the above were contributed by Nancee (McMurtrey) Siefert
The Leon Reporter
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Thursday, April 03, 1919, Page 1

Another Decatur County Soldier Awarded
the Distinguished Service Cross.

Private William B. Spence, of Garden Grove, who when drafted was employed as linotype operator at the Journal office in Leon, has been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, for bravery in action, the highest honor which the United States can confer on a soldier. A short time ago Capt. Peterson, of Lamoni, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery in action, and now we have just a buck private, who has won this coveted honor. Will Spence is a quiet unassuming young man, but he was right there with the goods when called upon. The following letter received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Spence tells of what he is doing over there, and also a copy of the official order conferring the Distinguished Service Cross upon him:

France, March 1, 1919.

Dear Folks at Home: Will try and drop you a few lines this afternoon as I am off duty. So far we have not made any more moves any time now. We have been at this camp a ay over three weeks and a day has been set several times for our moving, but when the day comes orders are changed.

I saw by the Stars and Stripes last night that there would be six divisions go home in March. The 27th division will go before us and then we will go. According to that we will probably said between the 6th and the 12th of this month.

I am getting anxious to get home. Have been in the army now a few days over 12 months and over nine of the twelve, I have spent in France. Hope that this letter finds you all well. I am feeling fine myself. I had a bad cold the latter part of the week but have gotten over that. We have had some fine weather lately. Have had no cold weather to speak of and no snow at all.

I am going to send you a little paper that will prove to you that I have been doing "my bit" over here. I have not got my cross yet, but will get it in a few days. We had several in our company who got crosses. The whole 30th division is in camp here now. I was over to the 119th Inf. the other day and saw one of the Anderson boys from Lamoni. We were together at camp in one of the camps in the state quite a bit. His father lives on a farm northwest of Lamoni, you probably know them. He is a good fellow.

I was talking with a bunch of the boys from the 30th division artillery recently and they asked me where I was from and when I told them there was a boy in the bunch said he was from Chariton. We will go home in detachments, each camp goes home as a unit. All the Camp Dodge men will go together and all the others will go to the camps they first reported at. It is about time for mess so will close.

Yours, Bill.

~ ~ ~ ~

Headquarters, Co. M. 118 Inf.

Feb. 23rd, 1919.

From the commanding officer, to the commanding general, 30th division, through channels. Subject: Recommendation for award Spence, William B., No. 2162916, Co. M, 118 Infantry.

1. Private William B. Spence, No. 2162916, Co. M. 118 Infantry, in company with Private Robt. B. Bartley, No. 1312456 and Private William D. Leyland, No. 3168731, of the same organization were detailed as company runners near St. Martin Resere (?) when the company was advancing against the town on Oct. 17, 1918. There was a heavy fog which made the advance extremely difficult as well as dangerous. They delivered messages continually up and down the line enabling the company commander to co-ordinate the effort of his platoons and materially assisting the company in reaching its objective an capturing the town.

2. Emergency address: Mrs. Emma Spence, mother, Garden Grove, Iowa.

3. Eye witness: 1st Lieut. Howard E. Porter.

4. I recommend that this soldier be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Peyton H. Hoge,
Captain, 118th Infantry.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2015