Set of three letters from same soldier, Glendower O’Brien, addressed to ‘Mother, Father & Sister’ in Bethlehem PA. Posted from Texas, New Jersey and France.
#1 El Paso Texas June 12th, 1917 (4 pages), in postmarked envelope from El Paso
On back "Priv Glen O'Brien 2nd Tele Battn El Paso Tex".
“…storm...blew down almost all of the lines between here & Columbus N.M…. happened on the night of the 25th of May and on the 26th a.m. we were ordered out both companies of us and it has been nothing work work from 4:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night ever since…none of us got any mail or sent any for we couldn’t as we were off from civilization not even a small railway town where there was a post office and we lived on ___ beef and hardtack and either slept on the ground under the trucks or in the trucks and believe were some dirty…came in on payday we thought we were going to be relieved but we had to go out right way and you never saw a sorer bunch of men officers and all in your life but we were finally relieved...by the First Battalion at a ranch in New Mexico by the name of Sweetwater it is 80 miles from here…and we hit here this morning about 4 o’clock tired but happy to know we were going to get a real cooked breakfast. I could only send 12 dollars as there are many things I had to buy but expect at least ten every month as we are getting $30 a month….Glendower"
#2 Little Silver NJ Camp Alfred Vail fall of 1917 (4 pages)
Letter written on ‘War Work Council Army and Navy Young Men’s Christian Association’ letterhead
"...I surely was not fooling when I asked for money but am awfully sorry to disappoint you but I won’t be able to get a pass before a week Saturday a week on account of muster…Everybody here has a cold here it was a quick change and the nights are cold and damp we are living in tents and the conscripts and reserves lives in cantonments.
The reserves are jealous of us of us we weren’t in camp before the people in Long Branch and Red Bank were told all about us. The reserves have been here all summer and have had things mostly their own way. They told the people here that we were a bunch of rough necks from the border and it made the fellows sore.
I was standing on the corner of Long Branch Saturday night and two of them came up to me and started to tell me and several fellows about the Rough necks from Texas that they would spoil things for them. We just let them go and when they for through we to(ld) them what we thought of them and almost caused a young riot they wanted to fight right away so we first told them to cool down and go back to camp and get some lessons on how a soldier should dress and act on the streets for they are the sloppiest bunch of men I ever run into why they don’t even dress as neat as the ___ and they don’t say much for them at that.
Last night I was on a bus and civilian asked me how we were getting along with the regulars and that he heard they were a bunch or pretty tough fellows I said “oh I don’t know I don’t think I look so bad or tough as all that do I?” He didn’t say anything more but when he got off the bus he gave me a cigar and hoped there were no hard feelings…Glendower..."
#3 France Oct 12 1918 (4 pages)
In postmarked envelope from France. On front: ‘G. O’Brien US Army Soldier’s Mail’, postmark ‘USA Army Jan 29, 1919’, and purple Censor stamp.
...I am writing this in a new home…I have been transfered to the 301st Laundry Unit…it is a mobile outfit it moves from where ever the Army & also does work for the hospital and salvage work…sure did hate to have to leave the 52nd it sure was leaving home after being with it 18 mths…raining…some one call it sunny France but he was never in the sections I was in. It will soon be 19 months I have been in this country…For me give me the old U.S…never mind the sweater I will try and get a regular requisition..Most of all I want a fountain pen…I lost my watch a while back one night when the Hun was giving us a shelling party. I made a run for a dugout and got there all right but has to list my watch with the missing articles. With oceans of love and kisses on every wave.
Signed LL by censor(?).
Envelopes with tears, France one wide open. Letters nice condition and legible. El Paso letter folded right side to fit envelope.
The US Army recognized at the beginning of World War I that the Signal Corps strength of less than 2,000 officers and enlisted men was not able to provide the necessary communications support should the United States enter the war.
In October 1916, the Office of the Chief Signal Officer asked executives of private sector communications companies to recruit from among their trained employees for a Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps. The response was greater than expected with 1,400 male employees of the Bell Company of Pennsylvania applying for enlistment.
The Signal Corps needed places to prepare these citizen soldiers for service in battle. Four camps were established: one in Little Silver, NJ. A training camp was established on a portion of the site of the former Monmouth Park Race Track. The first 32 Signal Soldiers arrived at the site in June 1917, first known as Camp Little Silver. By the end of the month, 451 enlisted men and 25 officers were stationed there.
The camp sent its first units to the Hoboken, NJ Port of Embarkation in August 1917. In September, the camp was renamed Camp Alfred Vail, for an individual prominent in the history of telegraphy who worked with Samuel FB Morse in developing the commercial telegraph.