WWI

Fred S. Ferguson's Letter Home

from Lorraine, France

~ Transcribed and submitted by Montgomery county's Wonderful "Anonymous" Supporter ~

Letter a sent by Fred S. Ferguson and printed in the "The Sun", Red Oak, Iowa in 26 April 1918

Continued from (Letter 1)

Oliver Reiley Letter Home

 

Continued from (Letter 2)

Charley Sank's Letter Home

 

 

 

By Fred S. Ferguson………………..

    A correspondent of the United Press was present when Iowa boys went over the top in a trench raid on March 9. He has written a story for his association and it has been printed in daily papers all over the country. The story refers to Capt. Lloyd D. Ross and Capt. Chas. J. Casey, and their men, and says they are heroes of the first class. The Sun first received the story from the New York Mail, sent by Roy T. Pryor, a former Red Oak man, but it has since been printed in dailies closer to home. It is as follows:

 

    “WITH THE AMERICAN ARMY NEAR LUNEVILLE,” ……………

 

March 12 (By Mail). —If out of the toil, the sacrifices and the confusion of this war, you have not got a thrill; have not been stirred by the thought that the spirit of the men of Lexington, and of those who opened the West and fought the civil war still lives—then you should see American boys go over the top.

    You should talk to them upon their return. Your respect for what is in the heart and soul of the man, who left the desk next to your block to come over here, will become greater, and you’ll realize that in the farmer boy you are passing, a hero.

    Passing a hero who has only to be put to the test to show the qualities first displayed by his grandfather or great-grandfather who helped to build the nation.

    It was after the big raid against the German lines of March 9. The United Press automobile was hidden away behind a building. It was waiting for an Iowa farmer.

    He was sitting at a rough wood table writing out a report of what had happened the night before for his superior officer. His lieutenant colonel called him “Charlie” and patted him affectionately on the shoulder.

    The Iowa farmer was Capt. Charles Casey. His home is in Villisca. His massive shoulders were bent far over the table as he wrote a plain, colorless statement to the effect that he and his men left their trenches at 5:05 the afternoon before; that all objectives were reached, and that they had returned to their own lines on scheduled time.

    It was what would be called a “minor operation” in a military sense—merely a raid. But this is a super war and during the brief time the operation lasted it was probably as violent as Americans have ever seen.

    How the men vaulted over the parapets, how they passed through a hell of fire, found the woods, trenches and dugout of the Germans demolished by artillery, human flesh splattered against the side of trees and hanging from ragged limbs; how an airplane swooped down on them until the grinning face of the aviator plying his machine gun could be seen—all this has been told.

    The boys who went through this are simple farmers boys again, through in uniform and in a soldier’s billet. The men who led them are simply Americans, such as live all about you.

    Capt. Casey finished his report. The United Press machine was waiting to take him to a little shattered town farther back of the lines where he has a bar room, the plaster knocked from its walls in spots, the exterior nicked and torn. For a time it is home—a place to rest.

    “All right, let’s go,” and Casey handed his report to the colonel, saluted and started for the door.

    “The boys were great, weren’t they?” the Iowa farmer said, as the car headed for the open road.

    “It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life—that blowing the whistle that sent them over. I know they wanted to go, every one of them. They were spoiling for it. But to look out there, to know what they were going into—by George, it was hard.”

    “We’re all from the same county, you know, and there wasn’t a yellow one in the bunch. Two boys left behind to see that every one went over had nothing to do, and ran as hard as they could from one dugout to another on their inspection so they……….

 

Have you seen the old man?

 

    The “old man” is Capt. Ross, also from Red Oak. He is beyond forty. His thinning hair is streaked with gray, and his face lined by work and study. He led another raiding party that entered the German lines, not far from where Casey and his men went in.

    Ross had not been seen, but the machine turned off at the next road, winding and twisting through a forest and down a steep hill until it came into another village.

    “I just want to shake the old man’s hand,” mused Casey. “He didn’t have to come over here, of course, but he’s a wonder.”

    Up a flight of rickety stairs and into a big bare room and there was Capt. Ross. His gray eyes were tired. He was sitting at an open window. The warm rays of the afternoon sun poured in. On the window sill was a map spread out before him.

    “I was just looking over last night’s party as it appears on paper.” Ross explained as he arose, “I guess I’ll keep this as a sort of souvenir.”

    He was told that Capt. Casey was downstairs. His eyes lighted up.

    Then, standing in the middle of the street, their clothes torn and tattered by German barbed wire, their hands and faces still soiled, an Iowa merchant and an Iowa farmer clasped hands. All about them were other Americans. There was joking and laughter as group after group of these boys passed by.

 

HONOR THE BOYS TODAY.

 

Men For the National Army to be Escorted

To Station This Noon—Patriots Should Turn Out.

 

    Today (Friday) 26 men leave Montgomery county to take up military training at Camp Dodge, they being the men who will represent this county, in the present draft. And they are to be given a fitting send-off by Red Oak and Montgomery county.

    The local Elks lodge assumed the responsibility of seeing that Patriotic Day was properly celebrated. They obtained from Red Oak business houses an agreement to close at 11 o’clock today, remaining closed the remainder of the day, and the people will turn out to escort the new soldiers to the station. There will be music by the Elks’ drum corps, and the Stanton band will be here.

    Those who go today to serve in the army are as follows: Charlie Martin, Grant L. Curry, Amos Julian, Wm. F. Query, Grover Edenfield, Clem Hite, Fred Sausman, Wm. L. Turner, John P. Westerford, Ray C. Dugger, Ernest T. Hjort, Goran W. Carlson, Ray A. Givan, H. F. A. Swanson, Axel A. Nelson, Luther E. Erickson, Jos. C. Lake, Adolph Swanson, W. H. Miller, R. E. Embree, E. F. Dally, A. J. C. Anderson, Henry A. Nelson, Paul H. Sandholm, Robert M. Shepard, and Clarence E. Nelson.

 

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All Wounded Doing Nicely.

 

    Mrs. Lloyd D. Ross received a letter yesterday dated March 20, in which Capt. Ross said he was writing in a dugout 20 feet deep within 300 yards of the German front line trenches. The times are trying for the boys, he says, but their spirit is fine. All of Co. M’s wounded are doing fine and the regiment has been highly praised by the division officers and even by Gen. Pershing.

 

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Now a Corporal.

 

    Leroy L. Goodrich, former Sun office employee who is now in a government school for gas engine men at Kansas City, has been promoted to the rank of corporal.

 

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Farmers May Get Furloughs.

 

    Blanks have been received by the local board, which may be filled out by farmers who wish to obtain furloughs of a month or two for men now serving in the army. The purpose of the plan is to release men from the army who are experienced in farming until the rush work on the farm is over.

 

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