Eric Standridge is a historian and author who focuses on Oklahoma's history, with an emphasis on LeFlore County and Poteau.
February 20, 1919: Commander Willie L. Davis 38th Infantry AP0740 American Expeditionary Forces, France, to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Ballard of Cameron.
Koblenz, known as Coblenz prior to the end of World War I, is approximately fifty miles northwest of Frankfurt, Germany.
The American Expeditionary Forces, or AEF, were the United States Armed Forces sent to Europe in World War I. During the United States campaigns in World War I the AEF fought in France alongside British and French allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial German forces. The AEF helped the French Army on the Western Front during the Aisne Offensive (at Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood) in June 1918, and fought its major actions in the Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives in late 1918.
Dear Father and Mother:
I take pleasure in answering your letter received tonight while I was in line for supper. Sure was glad to hear from home and to hear that you are all well. These few lines leave me well, and getting along fine. I received a letter from Oscar yesterday. Papa, I don't want you to send me any money over here, for I don't need it; the captain said tonight that we would get our pay tomorrow morning at 9:30 and I have got nearly $5 of my money I brought over with me, Papa, and will send home some of it. There is no use of spending so much money over here; I will keep $25 and I think that will be enough until I get back to the good old U.S.A. All the boys who came over with me are broke, but I was saving back a little for hard times.
Well, I know you have heard about Roosevelt's death before we did; we didn't have no retreat that evening; we stood five minutes parade rest at 3 o'clock that was when he was buried. Well, Papa, I could have gone to Coblenz today if I had wanted to. Some of the boys went 40 of Co. M; it is about 20 miles over there; the trucks took them over; it is a good size place, population of about 70,000. I came through there when I was hiking.
Papa, I can see why the Kaiser wanted more territory for he has got nothing but hills and bluffs; I sure got tired climbing those hills. The soil is pretty good here however. Mamma, the people here are good to us, and I have a good place to stay; think we will stay here a month and then be sent to some seaport and beat it for the U.S.A. and sure would like to be there today. Mamma, I will let you know when I start home, and I want you to have me a fried chicken and hot biscuits and a big cake; I will show you how I can eat. The Dutch women brought us up an apple pie; it was fine for a soldier, but not like home; nothing skins home pies. Papa, I think I will be back in time to help you make a crop. I never have received that Xmas box of candy and cakes you sent me. Papa, did Walter Taylor ever cross over? If so, send me his address and I will write him. What is Andrew and Dorothy doing? I guess they have forgotten me by this time. I sure would like to see them. Papa, how are your hogs - fine I know, for they were when I left home. Have you still got your mules? Mamma, how is my cow and calf? Tell the kinfolks hello for me and that I hope to be back home on my birthday March 1st. I have got a long ride before me before I get there; I am right in the heart of Germany. I will close for now, hoping to hear from home soon.
Willie L. Davis.
These old letters provide an interesting glimpse into a moment in time. Through them, we can see the hardships and pleasures of life. In many ways, reflections of the past still echo through to today. While modern technology has created a fast-paced world, we still value the love of country, family, and community that we always have in the past.
Lewis died on May 4, 1966 and lies in rest at the Slatonville Cemetery, on the Arkansas side.
Thank you to Barbara Lewis for providing further information and for locating the photo.
© 2012 Eric Standridge