Oregon Boys In The War

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

Sergeant Elvin W. Smith

From a Sellwood boy who has been in France since June, 1917, Sergeant Elvin W. Smith, Co. B., 116th Engineers, A.E.F. To his mother, Mrs. S.F. Smith, Park Place, Oregon.

Somewhere in France
March 12, 1918.

My Dear Mother:

Will now try to answer your most welcome letter. At present we are having the nicest spring weather, just the kind we have in Oregon in March. It makes a fellow want to take the spade and make garden, but the nearest I've come to that is to dig trenches for practice. We also study bomb-throwing, pontoon bridges, and go to the target range between times.

The first part of our trip over was very stormy but the last four or five days the ocean was as calm as a lake. We did not run any races with the German submarines. We landed in a French town and the Company was marched to a rest camp. I was left on the dock in charge of a squad, loading auto trucks with engine supplies. That detail only lasted a week, then one morning early, we loaded on a French troop train.

We spent about 40 hours on that trip and all the world was white with snow. We stopped for a month in a large permanent French camp of stone barracks. We were right in the mountains and it got pretty cold at times with so much snow.

We went from there into one of the garden spots of France. There was an old freight canal running through that part of the country which passed through the town. They were freighting wine in great quantities up that canal. It was lined on either side with very old trees, and there was an old well-worn tow-path where the little burrows walk and drag the canal boats along.

Every inch of the ground in France seems to be cultivated, and a grape vine will grow most anywhere. A four-wheeled vehicle is a scarce article. All French wagons having only two wheels. They have to put the load on so it will balance, as there is only one horse to the cart.

Our barracks is built in a square so we have a large drill ground in the center. We still have our regimental band and have a parade every evening at retreat. One of our American Generals said "This is the best band in France and worth a million dollars to the U.S. Army." So now we call it our "Million Dollar Band."

Some day I will send you a photo of my little French girl. She has succeeded in learning enough English, and I, French, so we can understand each other. I hardly know whether to try to get mustered out and stay here, or take her to America when the war is over.

It is near time for "Taps," so will close, hoping all are well and that I get another letter soon.

Lovingly your Soldier Boy,