State Historic Site
WHEN HE REGISTERED for the draft in June 1917, thirty-one year old Frank M. Calvin was working for himself as a farmer in Ulm, Wyoming (north of Clearmont). He was inducted into the Army in October 1917 and sent overseas to serve "somewhere in France."
Although he left the service as a Supply Sergeant for the 164th Infantry, Frank M. Calvin spent most of his time in France serving as a mail orderly for his company (3rd Co., Provisional Battalion). This gave him a unique insight on how mail - or the lack thereof - could affect the soldier morale.
Addressed to the People of Sheridan, the following letter was sent from France on July 27, 1918. It was published in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise on August 20th.
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Letters from home! Well, we fighters in France don't get one-tenth enough of them. As one general told some reporters, "Tell the folks back home to write more letters to our boys in France. A homesick, despondent soldier might as well be in the hospital."
I tell you, nothing keeps the Yanks in good spirits like letters from back home. If every boy could get two or three letters from back there a week, things would go along a thousand times better. In fact, the army discipline question would be half solved.
The mothers, wives and sisters of the U. S. do very well as a rule, but sometimes they are rather neglectful of their correspondence.
Most of the single men went away and left a sweetheart behind them. These girls should write to the boys over here, as it is of so much encouragement, the letters they receive from the girls they left behind. These girls think that because they do not receive letter for letter, that the boys are very careless and unthoughtful. A soldier is in the trenches for days at a time and when he comes off shift, he throws himself on the ground in some muddy dugout and sleeps - if the noise permits - although a person gets so used to the noise that he sleeps through it all. The folks back there should take this into consideration and remember what an immense amount of pleasure a boy gets from his letters from home.
A letter means to a boy over here just as much as a drink of water does to a man who is dying of thirst in the desert. This is the honest to God's truth about what a letter means to the boys.
Of course, you folks are busy over there, then if you happen to think of it, "we are damned busy" over here. I know lots of people say at night over there, "Oh, I'm so tired, I'll write tomorrow." But if they could see the boys using their canteens for writing desks, trying to scribble home a few lines, when the next minute they may be blown plumb to ____. If folks could only picture the difficulties that we go through to write home, they would write much more to the boys than they do. Some of the boys manage to scribble a few lines nearly every day back to those they care for.
After he finished "roasting" the Sheridan populace, Calvin wrote another letter, one that offered a bit more information about himself and his position:
I owe an apology to the people of Sheridan and Sheridan County for sending that "roast" back there. I most certainly did not man just the people of that vicinity. I am a mail orderly for our company and so am in a position to get the different opinions of the fellows. So what I set back there was not my opinions of everything, but of the bunch.
At times I am darn short of mail; at other times I am simply swamped, but have never failed to answer a single letter that I have received. In fact, I am way ahead of the bunch when it comes to writing letters. I always have figured that if I kept ahead that when the time came that I would not be able to write, people could not land on me so hard for failing to write them.
I read in the Enterprise where I had lost both of my arms. Sure must be a big mistake somewhere, for they both are still attached to my body. I sure would like to know where such stories originate anyway. So many of the different fellows are reading accounts of their death and loss of limbs all of the time. Peculiar that those kinds of stories are always bobbing up about some fellow when there is not a bit of truth in the dope at all. If anything serious happens to a person, the government will let the people know about. So if rumors start, all a person back there has to do is to hold their horses and deny it.
Weather is fine here now, but a short while ago a person cooked to death. Take we fellows who were used to a high dry climate, this country about cooks our goose. Say, I sure long for those pine-covered mountains, sage-covered hills and flats. A person misses the clear sparkling air that Wyoming is noted for; in fact, at times he feels a good deal like a full-grown grey wolf that has been trapped, put in a cage where he can look out through the bars at the hills that he used to roam. I don't know whether you folks who read this have ever felt this way, but this is my feeling in a crowded country or city nearly all the time. This may sound as though I was devilish homesick. But you all have another guess coming, for I don't want to come back until we get the last Krauthead's scalp that is on top of a live Hun's head. Sounds tough, but it is the only thing to do to get rid of this Prussian idea that they were made to rule the earth. They sure did take in too much territory when they tried to clean up on the entire world.