September 9, 1918 – Letter from Robert to his sister Ruth:
From what little news I get from home I guess that Helen is away at school this fall and you and Jane are the only ones at home. It must be lonesome for you. I suppose you are at the Ag. again.
I got a letter from Gilbert a while ago at Camp Glen Burns and he said that you are all well and it seems very busy. Were you at the lake this summer?
I had the pleasure of over a month of French life and could not even get wounded. It was on a very quiet sector. More for training than anything else. I do not know when I will go back into action again.
At present we are in a rest camp, with not very much to do. We get newspapers here sometimes and the war news is very encouraging. We all hope that the war will not last all winter and would rather get into action + have it over and get home as soon as possible.
We are billeted in a town and live in empty houses, barns, as anywhere that is dry. There are two little boys about 10 that live with their grandparents in the same house with me. I have adopted one. His name is John. He always comes around at meal time and helps me eat my slum and hard tack. I should hate to leave the poor little fellow when we go to the front.
I went to the dentist this morning and had a tooth filled.
Well Ruth write soon. I hope Mother + Jane + the baby are well.
Love to all, your brother
Pvt. Robt. D. West
Co. B., 140 Inf. Amer. E.F.
Robert’s story about “adopting” the little boy named John is adorable. And stories of American soldiers befriending French children are very common, as noted in this article about the thousands of children who were orphaned by the war:
French orphans like the children shown in this newsreel clip were unlikely mascots for American soldiers at the Front. However, toward the end of the war, numerous editions of the American Stars and Stripes American Expeditionary Forces’ official newspaper discuss The Red Cross’s orphan relief campaigns and suggests ways that individual soldiers could help orphaned children. The presence of cared for children in occupied areas was mutually beneficial, Stars and Stripes stated; soldiers were reminded of their children at home and orphans received food and candy from the Allied troops. Army regiments and companies went so far as to adopt children as official mascots and ensure their long-term care.
I wish Robert had received more mail from home. Gilbert was his brother-in-law, the husband of Robert’s sister Jane. I can’t figure out where “Camp Glen Burns” was – Gilbert was serving in the 138th Infantry, which was also part of the 35th Division, so the two men couldn’t have been too far apart.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.