SEVENTEEN-YEAR OLD Claude Elmer Elliott enlisted in the United States Navy in March 1918. After training camp, he was assigned to the USS Nanshan - a transport ship traveling the south seas - where he gained enough experience as a fireman to gain his first class rating in only a few months.
A true native son, Claude was born in Dietz, Wyoming, in May 1900. He moved to Ranchester when still a boy, and returned there after the war to ranch. In the mid-1930s he and his family moved to southern California, and by 1940, he worked as a gold miner in Plumas County California (in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains). While he lived with his mother in California, his wife and children were living in Sheridan. Claude died in Stillwater County, Montana, in 1949; he is buried in the Sheridan Municipal Cemetery.
The following undated letter was printed in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise on November 4, 1918. He wrote it while sailing "Somewhere at Sea."
Dear Mother and All: I suppose you are worried about me, not hearing from me for so long. I wrote you two letters and mailed them on passing mail boats. I hope you got them all right. I bought a parrot as a souvenir. It can't talk yet, but if you will have it, I will send it home. We sure had a fine trip. I expect to get back to the States soon. They sure will look good to me, and I will get to go to a good show once in awhile.
Well, mother, they asked for volunteers for firemen, and I went down and worked a couple of shifts and I liked it, so I transferred. We work four hours and then we are off twelve. We are our own boss while we are off. That is what I like about it. The executive officers gave me and another fellow who transferred with me second class. It made the other fireman sore, but I should worry. They told us they would make us first-class when we got to dry dock at Mare Island, and I don't think it will be but a short time until we get there. I might get a furlough, but you know how it is for me to save money.
Some of the fellows on board have got the seven-year itch, you remember in Dietz. It is started on me, but not so bad. It is the warm climate we have been in. I am tanned as black as old Sam that used to be at Ranchester. I think the itch will leave us when we hit the north and it gets a little cooler. I haven't had a pair of shoes on since I left San Diego, only when I am working. I sure am getting some hoofs. Cactus won't start to faze me.
I will give you a list of wild animals we have got on board: About twenty parrots, a little buck deer, four monkeys, six or seven anteaters, some Mexican rats, and talk about bananas - everyone on board bought two or three big bunches. We bought them for 25 cents per bunch. I eat pineapples, bananas, cocoanuts, mangoes, grapes and watermelon till I am pot-gutted. You can imagine how many I can eat, I think.
I am pretty sure of a furlough. Don't think I have forgotten you. I couldn't write for there was no place to mail it at.
(From "In the World War")
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