November 25, 1918 – Letter to Robert’s father:
Two letters came from you. One yesterday and one today. I also got one from Helen. I had just decided not to write home any more. It was just about three weeks since I had heard a word from you or anyone else in the family. Soldiering has been harder for me perhaps than any one other man in France. I came over here leaving my young wife alone and in the condition I did. Also I am in a division known as “shock troops” or “checker board division” which means that we must be constantly on the move for surprise attacks. They play checkers with us and most of the time it was “our move.”
There is a lot more about hard ships but I shall not write about such stuff. The war is won, the joy of it all over shadows all else. As long as some of you write I will be all right. Of course Elinore writes two or three times a week but I like to get letters from you and Mother and my sisters. All we hear over here is that we are almost the one thought of the people at home and yet they are too busy to write, but I am not begging for letters. You and you alone are the only one who has been faithful about writing. Your letters are awfully welcome and I hope you will keep it up.
I was real surprised to hear that you had quit the road. The M.I.R. Co. appreciates what you have done for them. Remember how you used to wish that we could sell something together on commission. You always raised big hopes in me when you used to talk that way. It might be worked out yet.
It does not look as tho I would be able to go to Scotland. They are going to muster us out in the U.S. I hear, but I will surely go if I can.
I had a nice letter from Frank Tuttle last week.
When we go home I hear that we will have nice new uniforms, so far I have not been able to fulfill the expectations of these issue clothes. I am built wrong I guess.
This morning we were very surprised. We had corn meal mush. It sure was a treat. Now that the war is over we can get Y.M.C.A. stuff. Before this we moved so much that they could never catch up to us. Of course they never are able to sell the nice things that you read about us getting. They say that the Salvation Army is over here somewhere. I have not seen them tho.
I do not know what I am to be used for yet. There are lots of rumors of course, about going into Germany and about going home, but no one knows a thing about it I guess.
Before the war was over we knew that we were here till it was over. Now it is over and we are dissatisfied because we are not being sent home. We all hated to go into action and yet there is that feeling that you want to get at them and have it over with. I guess that is why we are so dissatisfied now.
I am in a little blowed to – pieces town about eight kilometers from St. Mihiel. I took part in the drive that started here with Metz as our objective, but the hardest fighting was in the Argonne Forest near Verdun. I have been in action nine times but will tell you about that when I get back if you wish.
Elinore bought baby a new carriage she says. And has a lot of clothes + stuff for him. Enough to outlast a dozen kids, I guess, but there will be no more.
We had a big field inspection today. Usually we drill 9 hours a day. This was a big relief. We have a lot of new boys to train.
Well Dad this is an off day for me. It rained and has been cold so I do not feel very cheerful so please excuse this letter if it is not a very happy one. I’ll write another when I feel a little happier.
Give my love to all
P.S. Have my suit pressed, I’ll need it soon.
I added a paragraph break but in reality the first two paragraphs above are written in one long stream, covering two pages of YMCA stationery. Robert may say he is not begging for letters, but he’s begging for letters.
Robert’s father, John P. West, worked for years as a salesman for the Malleable Iron Range Company, headquartered in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. In 1918 John would have been 56; I can imagine he was ready to stop traveling for work.
Lastly, I’m relieved to report that Robert did end up having more kids after Robert Jr. was born in 1918. My aunt Jean was born in 1923, my father was born in 1926, and Robert had two more daughters and a son with his second and third wives after Elinore died in 1941.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.