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Monday, February 9, 2009

Letter 43 ~ October 8, 1918

I write Minnie about the influenza cases, about receiving my pay, and the possibility of my getting transferred and possibly sent overseas.

Addressed to Miss Minnie G. Frey, Stockdale, Kansas
Camp Republican
Tuesday Evening, [October 8, 1918]

My Dear Little Girl –

Well another day has past and the influenza hasn’t caught me. It has finally gotten into my squad. There are only four of us left. I believe half the company has left for the hospital. Some are beginning to come back now. It lasts about a week. It is very similar to lagrippe if no complications set in. I expect everyone in the company will get it before it stops but it is nothing serious. The worst part of it is tho I heard tonight that measles had broken out in camp so there is no chance of the quarantine being lifted. I am glad I have had the measles.

It sure rained last night & the way it blew I thot we wouldn’t have any tent left. When the rain started, we had the walls of the tent rolled up so we got out & let them down. We moved around as best we could to avoid the leaks & then tried to sleep again. I had gotten to sleep when the sergeant came down & made us roll up the walls again [as] the rain had stopped. It was a good thing tho because the tent was stuffy after being used to sleeping with it open. My bedding got a little damp but the sun today dried it out.

We didn’t drill this afternoon. The men were sure glad because we drilled hard this morning & hardly anyone feels real good. Not drilling gave me time to put out a wash. I am getting to be an expert along laundry lines now.

We were paid this evening for time up to October 1. From September 5 to 30 inclusive was 26 days but they take out $6.50 for insurance and a dollar for laundry (the dollar for laundry is a steal because we can’t get any laundry done) so I received $18.50. Not very much for the work I have done, is it? And then they want us to buy Liberty Bonds with that.

I hear that quite a bunch of men are to be transferred out of here tomorrow. I sure hope I am lucky enough to be one of them. With all this talk of peace, etc., the men sort of quit working hard and today the Major gave us a talking to. He said that there wasn’t a man among us but what would go across [to Europe] & probably before snow flies. The war isn’t over yet. Our Lieutenant said ---

I just now had to stop for mess. It is away after dark. Supper was late tonight because it took so long to finish the pay line. Our Lieutenant said that if the war should stop tomorrow, we would [still] go across because there will be so much reconstruction work to be done. “Policing up” he called it.

Minnie, when I left Manhattan for the army, I thot I would surely get a chance to go back in a short time. I wanted to get you something before I left for good but thot I would do it when I got a pass. Now I may not get to a town for some time & may be transferred most anywhere so it may be sometime before I can get [you] anything. There are some things in the way of souvenirs to be bought here but they are cheap.

A man just brought in the mail for my squad. I got your letter written Sunday night. You expect to see me next Sunday but I am afraid you will be disappointed the same as I.

Kid, as I look into the candle flickering there in the breeze trying to think of something interesting to write, I keep seeing you as I have often seen you just as you were that night over three years ago. Kid, when I can hold you in my arms once more after this war is over, it will be with the same feeling of joy that I experienced on that night in April. Well, dear, good night. Write often & don’t worry about me. With lots of love & dreams of better days, -- Ward

  • Another soldier named Charles L. Johnston who worked as a medic in the Camp Funston hospital during the worst of the influenza epidemic wrote home to his sweetheart on October 8, 1918. He described the conditions they were working under by saying, “The roof of our hospital has been leaking in several places and we have been having some time keeping the poor devils dry. The lightening burned our lights all out at once, and we had a hell of a time. It was a real hard electric storm for a while. They are keeping our beds all filled with new patients as fast as we send the old ones "home well" or to the hospital, half dead. There haven't been so many cases the last 48 hours. I sure hope that they all get well soon, for I am sure getting tired of the job. Don't like to stay up every night the best in the world. We put 6 more of our boys in bed today. We are getting real short handed.”

The hospital at Camp Funston during the height of the Spanish Influenza Epidemic

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