Oregon Boys In The War

Letters from Oregon Boys in France
Compiled by Mrs. Frank Wilmot 1918

Thomas Emerson Duncan

Thomas Emerson Duncan, of Company E, 4th Engineers, A.E.F., in a letter to his mother, Mrs. Bess T. Duncan, 288 14th St., shows just what kind of boys our American soldiers are; men of the finest quality, loyal to home and right and to the principles of democracy. Mrs. Duncan's son, who fell on August 16th, was only 19 years of age, but he played the manly part in the great world crisis. As a monument to the memory of Thomas Emerson Duncan, first member of the First Presbyterian Church to give his life for his country, a gold star was placed on the service flag, signifying sacrifice for the betterment of humanity - unselfish devotion to the highest ideals of mankind. His mother may well be proud of a son that did his part and did it well.

Dearest Mother:

We received a lot of mail today, I got ten letters. Pretty good! But yours were welcome beyond expression. I had three letters from you the other day. Looked pretty good to me, I'll tell the world they did.

I'll do my best to tell you some of my escapades or adventures. I call the company office my place of business, as I think I've already told you. It's not the same office however, my trench mirror now suffices. I still belong to the Liaison Squad and rush frantically over the winding roads of France on my khaki-clad steel steed. Some times when things are slack in the afternoons, the office staff go swimming in the river Marne. It's about the size of Yellow Creek, but you can have it as deep as you want it.

I received a copy of Dr. Boyd's sermons, the other day, and last Sabbath, I went off by myself and read them. When I got through, I could almost hear the organ playing "Nunc Dimitis." In the evening, I went to hear the chaplain, as usual.

The French people seem to fairly worship the Americans. I can speak enough French to get a good square meal. It's funny to see the fellows trying to make themselves understood. Some times we run across people who look awfully hard up, but when you become better acquainted you discover they are refugees, formerly well-to-do, cultured and refined people. But they don't seem to mind. I guess it is that spirit that has carried France through.

Oh, say, I got the snap shots. They are the best and greatest feast my eyes have had for days. Send me some more of you, will you please, mother dear? They were sure great. When your letters came, I was about to hit for the tall timbers with some dispatches, so I stuck them in my pocket and when I reached the top of the hill, I read them over and over. I shall always remember that sunny afternoon; me by the side of the road, reading those letters from home. It's been a long time since I felt so at peace with the world.

Last night I had a delightful time. Curiosity led me to investigate a beautiful Chauteau, deserted. [Everything is abandoned around here.] I went cautiously inside. There was a big room empty, except over in the corner stood - a piano, and oh! say, I didn't do a thing to it, after I had played awhile, a couple of French soldiers wandered in. One of them played "The Marseillaise" and then I played "The Star Spangled Banner."

The thing I have been impressed with most, in this country, is the lack of waste. They sure take good care of things.

I will write you soon about New York, and tell you of the royal treatment I received at the hands of Mr. Geissman.

It's almost dinner time. With love, affection, regards, and best wishes as the case may be to everyone. Your loving son,


P.S. - Hope you haven't regretted my enlistment, mother. I would have been in college this fall any way. Anything I fail to tell you is on account of the censorship and of military value.