Oregon Boys In The War

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

Private Henry A. Ladd,

Mrs. W.M. Ladd, of Riverside Drive, received from her son, Private Henry A. Ladd, with Base Hospital Corps No. 46, some of the details and word sketches of every day life while on duty in France.

August 25, 1918

Dear Mother:

A more glorious summer afternoon one could not wish for. We have just come through a spell of hot weather and nearly every one has felt it in one way or another. We have been lucky with it, though, for work has been slack for several days, as recent evacuations have cleared us of most of our patients. We look at it though as just a pause and expect things to start again almost any day, now. But it has been quite pleasant to have the let-down as it gives one a chance to do the many things which he has put off during a rush period. So this afternoon I have decided to sit at the table here in the clinic and get a little caught up on letters; and a little later I shall have a good bath; and this evening wander off somewhere away from camp for a walk, or a look at the trees and fields.

Well, there is little news that I can tell, that would be of much interest. In almost every one of dad's notes he says to write the details of every day life, etc; and many of those details are just what I cannot write, for they would often involve remarks about things prohibited by the censor; though I suppose I do ramble pretty much of things that interest you. I should, of course, like to tell you of the number of wounded we've had, and the kind; and where they are from and how they come in, all of that, but you see I must not do that. Of course much of our chat is war just as it is at home, and one could make a mighty alluring letter out of rumors that come and go; for the Army regularly breathes on rumors and new orders, etc. A couple of our surgical teams have returned from periods of service at the front; and of course we still are egar to listen to tales of their experiences. Just here I was interrupted by Lieutenant Bouby coming in with a Lieutenant Clark who is in the YMCA service, and happens to be from LaGrande, Oregon, where Lieutenant Bouby hails from. The former knew of me through dad's Y.M. activities and said his church stood on a piece of ground which grandfather gave to them in LaGrande.

Well, the week has gone quickly, and we have been kept busy doing odd things here and making many little improvements in what I might now call [the establishment]. Little by little we figure out a new idea for a shelf or table that's handier, and get a piece of equipment or make one. The work this week as I said, has been light, though the Lieutenant has done a couple of interesting operations, which have pleased me considerably. The Unit has a baseball team and though time for practice hardly comes at all, never the less, they have played a couple of good games with other Unit teams in the vicinity; on two evenings this week. On Friday night, I think it was, we had quite a party [by "we" I mean the enlisted personnel]. The chaplain has been able to secure a small room in one of the buildings for a sort of club room for the men and it will be like a YMCA. That night they opened it with a peppy gathering and impromptu stunts, songs, speeches and laughter, and after which, or amid which, we had refreshments of lemonade and some cakes that the dietitian had made for the affair. They were real stuff, too. It was a good affair for it brought the personnel together like a big family. The Colonel came in at the beginning and made a speech, and later Major Yenny came over and talked.


Sept. 1, 1918

Dear Mother:

I can hardly realize that summer has just about joined its fellows of the past and that we have started in earnest on the fall season. In the last two weeks the trees have taken on the crimson hues of autumn, whose brilliant beauty is also visited upon you at home. Fall is always a depressing season to me, for no special reason that I can analyze, except in the aging process, I seem to glimpse the perspective of life. I dream more serious dreams - I live less in the vivid present. And now that period I feel lowering slowly on us, though with no feeling of apprehension or fear, rather one of colorless apathy. This afternoon being Sunday, there is as little work as possible being done and indeed the whole week has not been what one would term strenuous.

This morning was a warm sunny one, but this afternoon, clouds have come up with a steady wind from the south and it looks like rain. So, instead of journeying off away from camp to some wild spot, I lay down on my bunk and had a good nap. Then feeling restless I wended my way to the bath house and spent a good half hour well employed. Now I am back at my table in the clinic for a spell of correspondence till mess time. Things are especially quiet this afternoon and the hum of a straying bee [of which there are many] and the distant hum of a great air bird are about all the sounds that come to me. Just as I write this hardy, rugged voice of one of our cooks sweeps in on me from the nearby mess hall. He is an Italian; and he rips off opera by the yard when the "slum gum" boils to suit his excellent taste.

This morning's paper gives the news of the daily gain of the British and French at the front; Conebles and Bailleul have been taken. I say the morning paper, but it is really a night edition containing the news of the previous day; but such news is a God-send as it inspires us to greater effort each day.