ORLO EARL SMITH was born in Pennsylvania in 1896. By the age of four, he and his parents were living in the coal-mining community of Higby, located just north of Sheridan. Unlike most of the men, his father was not a miner: he was a plasterer who worked on building homes for the mine workers.
Smith enlisted prior to Registration Day (June 6, 1917); he signed up with the Wyoming National Guard in 1914. By the time he went overseas in early 1918, he was ready and rarin' to go. Which was good, because his battery was quickly position on the front lines.
This letter home, published by The Sheridan Daily Enterprise in August 1918, was written "Somewhere in France" on July nineteenth. In it, Smith provides details about the fate of several of his companions from the 148th Field Artillery.
We'll have more from Corporal Smith in the future.
Friday afternoon and am having a little rest; the first time we have had a chance to rest since the first day we landed here on the front. Our guns have been continuously roaring night and day for a week. We are very short on men so we drivers have had to help with ammunition. Each shell weighs 96 pounds, so you see it was very hard on me, but I try my best to hold out with the rest of the boys. I have been awfully tired and sleepy but keep right on going and would do so as long as our guns were doing some fine work. Our battery has done fine work; since we arrived we have been praised by a good many French officers for our good work, especially staying by our guns under very heavy firing.
During the night of July 14th and 15th, a French corporal said that it was the largest artillery duel he had ever witnessed since the beginning of the war. Boche shells landed all around us all night long and we could hear one coming over and the boys would watch to see where it would light, then they would load one in the gun and send it right back to them. We were just five miles back of the line when the Germans opened up, but now we have them out of reach of our guns so we are waiting for orders to advance. There will be no retreating for the American boys! ...
During the night of the big attack we had seven men gassed of which two were shell shocked and Sergeant [Grant] Barber of Sheridan was killed while observing for our guns. He was killed instantly, but was not with the battery at the time; he was about a mile back of the front line of trenches when a German shell bursted about two feet ahead of him. Corporal Purkey was with him at the time but was not killed. He is in the hospital now, but was torn up about the head pretty badly, but will pull through. They were both Sheridan boys. [Purkey later died of his wounds]
Last night we had an aeroplane drop a few bombs near us but didn't do very much damage. I mean this morning about 2:30 a.m. They also shot a few machine shells at us but they didn't take any effect. We were in bed most of us at the time but the noise of his machine soon woke us up but he didn't stay very long.
Jay Walker was gassed. He was the only one from Sheridan that you know, but he is alright now. Tell his mother not to worry.
We are all fine and dandy here, no one sick. I am feeling just as good as can be and am waiting our chance to go over the top which I hope is soon as the sooner this war is over the sooner we get home, so we are waiting our chance.
(From "In the World War")
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