Total Pageviews

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Letter 55 ~ October 13, 1918

After being in camp for six weeks, I write Minnie about being picked for the ‘model company’ of the Regiment.

Addressed to Miss Minnie G. Frey, Manhattan, Kansas

Camp Republican
October 13, 1918

Dear Little Girl,

Well Kid, I am glad to say that I can still write, “I am well.” In fact, I am not a bit afraid of the “flu” now although a man in the next tent who had been feeling well all the time was sent out just this afternoon. One of the boys from Kansas State Agricultural College by the name of Norman was taken out last evening & died during the night sometime. It sure shocked me because apparently he had been well before. But don’t worry anymore because the “flu” is nearly thru up here. I am hoping the quarantine will be lifted by next Sunday & that you folks can come up & get me, if I can get a pass.

I tried to get a call thru to you last night but didn’t have any luck. If you lived in town as Alice Bobeck does, I could talk to you occasionally.

I sent out a card last night saying something about extra drill. Now I will explain how it is.
Friday night the company commander called the noncoms & some of the acting noncoms (I was one of the latter) down to the orderly room & picked out about 18 or 20 of the best, or perhaps I should say 18 or 20 from among the best. These men will be formed into a company along with other picked men from each company in the regiment. This company of picked men will be trained as the ‘model’ company of the regiment.

We go down to
Smoky Hill Flats tomorrow morning & will receive very intensive training along such lines as bayonet fighting, hand grenade throwing, bomb throwing, gas attacks, trench fighting, automatic drill, etc. then we will be brought back to act as instructors – that is, those of us that can teach. Some can learn the work fine & all but can’t teach it. I am afraid that will be my trouble. I am not afraid but what I can stand the work & keep up with the others even if some of them are old men & old noncoms, but I never did teach anybody anything. I sure think I am lucky to get to go because it is quite an honor even if we did have to drill on Saturday & Sunday when the others were laying off. We only drilled till noon today, however.

We will only take our bare necessities – blankets, toilet articles, a change of socks & underwear, mess kit & cup, raincoats & maybe our sweaters -- those who have them, and of course our rifles. We who are going were issued the new Enfield rifle this afternoon. It has a bayonet about 18 inches long. As I heard one man say, he thot the army life was alright until he got to working with that bayonet & then he said it was nothing to laugh at after he got that old knife out there on the end of his rifle. It didn’t look funny anymore.

I won’t get a chance to send or to receive any mail so don’t worry if you don’t get any mail for a week. Sunday evening. Gee whiz, somebody yelled “Ward Griffing’ so I stopped writing & went out & Sergeant Conrow said there was something down at his tent for me. I went down & he had just come from the road where his folks left your box of candy & a box of cake & a bag of apples from Mama. Believe me, we had a feed. I called in [James] Sparks, Johnny Clarke, Walter Creviston, & Roy Drown. Oh my, but it seemed like Christmas. We had to eat everything tonight because I can’t take anything like that with me & I am going at 7 in the morning.

Well, I must hurry & get packed before taps & it is late now so goodbye & take care of yourself. With lots of love Minnie, -- Ward


  1. Although the regimental commander will have no time to put his plan into practice, he probably hopes to get his model company up and running, then cadre out the graduates to the rest of the regiment as trainers. That was the Army way. In those days a regiment had ten or twelve companies.

    It would appear that Minnie does not have a telephone. I guess Ward calls someone in town and they somehow summon Minnie to the phone.

  2. I believe the Frey family had a "party line" phone at their farm, but connections were often difficult to put through from central switchboard because of the traffic on the lines? -- wg

  3. At first I found it curious that Ward was being issued an Enfield rifle. But I checked with Wikipedia and sure enough, the Army adopted U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1917 which was the Enfield design.

    While the U.S. was still technically a neutral, the British contracted with Remington and Winchester to produce rifles using the .303 caliber. When the U.S. entered the war it needed rifles and rather than retool the plants, they just modified the Enfield chamber to accept the 30.06 cartridge. Hence the M1917.

    U.S. Enfield production exceeded Springfield with more Enfields serving the AEF than Springfields. Sergeant Alvin York used an Enfield (but Gary Cooper used a Springfield). The things you learn on the Internet.

  4. I'll go with the Springfield. I own a Springfield '03 which I inherited from my maternal grandfather, who was a national rifle champion and Captain of the U.S. Navy Rifle Team for several years in the late 1930's. As a lad of 12 years old I learned to shoot large bore rifle on the Springfield. I also shot the Enfield and M-1, but much prefer the feel and accuracy of the Springfield.

  5. This is Joe Clarke, I wanted to see if there was still any communication going on with this blog site.

  6. Hello Joe. Do you have a question or comment?

  7. Ward, thanks for responding. I am Joe Clarke, son of Johnny Clarke (probably), mentioned in your blog. My Dad graduated from Kansas State in 1918 and went directly into the army along with brothers Charles and Tom. He served only about 6 months as the war ended. His parents lived in Manhattan ,Ks. I don't blog but would like you to contact me at . Joe Clarke

  8. Hello Joe. This is Bill Griffing, the blog owner. I created this blog a while ago and published it in the first person. Ward (1897-1970) was my grandfather. Bill (1922-2011) was my father. Ward attended KSAC in 1918-20 when he wasn't in the army but did not finish his degree. My dad was a KSU grad ('44 Veterinary, '63 PhD). I graduated at KSU in '75. I would enjoy chatting with you by e-mail or phone but you did not provide me with a valid e-mail address. My e-mail is or my cell # is 630-857-8997 if you want to call me. Looking forward to hearing from you.