“Sailor Boy” to Miss Mary
U.S.S. _ _ _ _ _
Somewhere in France,
Oct. 21, 1918.
Miss Mary - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -U.S.A.
Having nothing else to do, i will now sit down an write you a few lines, it has been quite [quiet] of late, but every once in a while we pick up a few survivors of ships that have been U-boated and you no we have sent a couple of U-boats to Davy Jones Locker we have just come in from a trip convoying another bunch of our boys through the war zone. We nearly had a catastrafee but luck was with us and we got them safely in. one of the destroyers seen a U-boat just as he was going to torpedo a transport. The U-boat was about a quarter of a mile away. She went for him but he dove under and passed underneath the hole convoy and got away. the destroyer dropped a lot of ash-cans (depth bombs – “it is what they look like) on him but they couldn’t see him and didn’t get him an he got away. he didn’t try to torpedo a transport again and we were lucky to of seen him when we did. you ought to of seen us. we hit it up to 30 knots and turned around and went down between the transports with all the soldiers cheering and would of sunk the hun only we couldn’t fine him. you know when you sink a hun submarine you get a star painted on your stack. we should of gotten a star only they said we had no proof we sunk it as we got no prisoners. Now i ask you how can a man take prisoners with a submarine at the bottom of the ocean. the officers an men of three transports seen the bow of the U-boat came up out of water after our 6th or 7th can an then seen the next one explode within ten feet of it an then they seen the bow sink and disappear so we must of sunk it an the reason we didn’t get no prisoners is it sunk so damned fast they didn’t have time to get out, did they? Well we didn’t no when it happened that so many people had seen it. we thot only 2 but now it seems 10 or fifteen seen it only we didn’t no it at 1st so the captain is taking it up again with the admiral an we may get out star after all. Wen you sink a sub you ought to get credit for it. it is a funny place over here every thing is old and they have narrow streets an side walks like Boston an funny little street cars that hole only twelve people an little trains like the narrow gage to revere beach only they are smaller an are the biggest they have. they is an old castle here an it is very interesting an you can go inside. We seen one cell where they would put a prisoner in an then block up the door with bricks and cement. they was no window an they would lower food down to him from a hole in the ceiling till he died. they was another where they would put a prisoner in an the tied would rise and come in the window and drown him. they was also a lot of instruments of torture where they wood break a man bones and pinch his fingers and everything.
the french people is not bad like everyone thinks they is. Of course a lot of them are bad but most of them is just like us. last month i bought a French book an now i can talk it pretty well. every time i hit the beach i talk with the people an in about 2 more weeks i think i can talk it fine. you no what you said about me before i came over about getting drunk and cutting up. well you need have no worry about me. you see all the cafes is closed when we first come ashore an are only open from 6:30 to half past nine. you can’t get whiskey or anything strong and the beer is no good. all you can get is wine, an you can’t drink enough wine in three hours to get you drunk. they is a lot of things i would like to tell you of our life over here an what we do only we are not allowed to you no all our mail is censored, an that is why i can’t write very often or say all the things i want to say to you. just wate till i get back to God’s country and then just you give me1/2 a little chance. remember dear that your letters are not censored an so you can rite as often as you want an say anything you want to say. by the way Bill Jones wants me to ask you to look up his wife sometime an see if that big marine is still hanging around and eating up his allotment. the life we destroyer men lead is awful. you roll so much you can’t sleep an if you did go to sleep you would roll out. We are awfully crowded as we have extra men to train them an there is no room for nothing. only vigorous and strong healthy men like me can stand it. an they work us to death. they ain’t nothing on the beach to go ashore for but you like to stretch your legs once in a while. Do we get a chance? no – we do not. it is just, “ IN AGAIN --- OUT AGAIN --- OUT AGAIN” Finnegan. (ha – ha!). but i am lucky at that, i might have been put on one of the coal burners. i ain’t heard from my brother for a long time an believe he is gone to siberia to fight the bull-sheviki he has my sympathies. now this is a damned fine place to have a war. just the same i will not be sorry to see it end and get back where bath-tubs and plumbing are not looked on as luxuries for millionaires. these people is so far behind times in some ways that you can’t believe it till you’ve seen it. the girls are not as good looking as you here tell of an I much prefer the American kind. they nearly all wear black an some are poor an wear wooden shoes with rags round their feet. they do their washing out of doors an every one washes in a pool built of stone an they all use the same water an never change it so it gets awfully dirty but soap is scarce. the boys in the trenches is doing fine work an will soon have the “sauer kraut king” where they want him. it looks like the war is almost over an that the Army’s “Heaven – Hell – or Home by Christmas” will come true. the captain told us today that counting this trip we (this ship) has escorted safely into port over 300,000 soldiers. i guess the work or fight law will get quite a few and the 18 to 41 will drag in a bunch of other slobs i could name.
i seen where that older brother of yours got drafted. why didn’t he come in the navy like i tried to get him. he thot he was wise and would slip by an i am glad they got him. in the navy he could of got rated as a boiler maker or blacksmith. in the army he will dig ditches an have nigger officers to salute an serve him rite. you say that your blackstone has been hanging around lately. well i suppose with all us men off to war anything looks good to the girls, but i did think you were a bit more particular. don’t worry about hurting my feelings though. i know two charming french girls ashore here an i am having a perfectly good time myself so i can’t crab you do the same only you ought to be a little careful who you associate with. please rite soon as the mail is about the only pleasure we get over here. well i must bring this letter to a close as i have to take a bath.
Source Note: TL, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 24.