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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Letter 123 ~ January 4, 1919

The Great Atlantic Fleet anchored in the Hudson River in January 1919
(The USS Utah is on the far left)

I write Minnie from the Herald Square Hotel in New York City. I describe visiting the USS Utah anchored in the Hudson River.

Addressed to: Miss Minnie G. Frey, Stockdale, KS

Letterhead: Herald Square Hotel, 114-120 West 34th Street, Just West of Broadway, New York


Dearest Kid,

Well I am in Manhattan tonight....the borough of Manhattan, however. How I wish that tomorrow night I might be in another Manhattan – one I love lots better than this, although I like it fine here. For in the other Manhattan there is a dear little girl waiting for me, but here – although there are many, many girls, there is not one like her.

I am very anxious to know how you are, Minnie. You know I have not heard from you for nearly three weeks & you know that is not good for a fellow in my fix. I visited Charles & [your sister] Bertha on New Year’s Day. Bertha said you were able to be home for Xmas. I am so glad for you that you could as I suppose it would be rather dull where you are staying [in Sherman Township].

Kid, I have been having a wonderful time. I came up here Thursday night or rather Friday morning, & have been seeing things I have always wanted to see & of course I have seen some things I haven’t wanted to see, over on the East side for instance.

As you know, our fleet has returned from Europe & is now anchored in the Hudson [River]. Well yesterday P.M. I got on a boat & was taken out to one of the battle cruisers, the [USS] Utah. I stayed there quite awhile & hobnobbed with the sailors. They showed me around & told me tales of the other side of the pond. They are mighty fine fellows I tell you.

I have been off duty so long now that I hate to get back except that when I get back I will get some word from you for which I am very anxious. Minnie, by being here in this great city one can see & feel how hypocritical & false society is. The only place to live is away from it all, far from the crowds & roaring streets & out where one is his own master, free to love & work & be happy. How glad I am that I have such a home as I have to go back to even if it is devoid of luxuries. Several men I have talked with here say they envy me in being on a farm. Gee! I wish I was there now.

I have been very much surprised the way New York treats us soldiers & sailors. I don’t believe there is a more hospitable city in the U.S. I have found that my uniform gets me anywhere & Kid, I am beginning to feel more proud of it each day. Down at Washington D. C., no one notices a soldier while here we are treated with simple kindness & much freedom.

I am going to see Alice Brady at the Playhouse [Theater] tonight & it is time to be going so good night dear. With lots of love, -- Pvt. Ward [Griffing] U.S.A.

  • The battleship USS Utah was completed in 1911 but saw its first real duty during WWI when it escorted troop and munitions transport ships to Europe. After the armistice was signed, the USS Utah returned to New York City and remained anchored in the North (Hudson) River until 30 January 1919, during which time the crew hosted many visitors. In her latter years, the USS Utah was turned into a gunnery training ship and she was moored at Pearl Harbor on the fateful day of the Japanese attack that vaulted the U.S. into WWII. The USS Utah was one of several battleships destroyed that day.
  • Alice Brady was a very popular silent screen actress in 1919.

The USS Utah in 1919.

A view of NYC taken by Ward's Cousin, Lew Griffing, in 1918 when he shipped out to Europe.

Alice Brady


  1. On Dec. 7, 1941, the U.S.S. Utah was a target ship cleared of most of its superstructure. Japanese pilots mistook it for an aircraft carrier and pummeled it with bombs. She sank with several dozen of her crew. The hulk is still there.

  2. I visited Pearl Harbor with Ward's twin brother, Willis, in 1966. If Willis knew that Ward had once visited the USS Utah, he didn't mention anything to me about it when we coasted by the rusting remains of that sunken battleship. Perhaps he had forgotten by that time. -- wg

  3. I have a friend, Hal, who was on the USS Idaho at Pearl Harbor in 1940 and 1941. Prior to the Japanese attack the ship was redeployed to the Atlantic Coast to patrol for Nazi subs. After the attack they were sent back to the Pacific where they served with distinction. Hal is now approaching 90 years of age. He is as sharp as a tack, arises at 3 AM every morning as he has done for 50 plus years, walks his dog 2 or more miles, drives his car, is president of his church and is active working with alcoholics and drug addicts on LA's skid row. He's quite a guy.