Jun
2012

USS Cleveland, August 11, 1918

Somewhere on the Atlantic
USS Cleveland
August 11, 1918

My dear Maude,

Well, it is two weeks ago today since we left New York. We heaved anchor about 11 o’clock and stood out about eight or ten miles, then hove to and waited for the convoy. Then at two o’clock we started for good with 25 merchant ships. All that afternoon and till noon the next day there were 4 observation balloons, two aeroplanes and one dirigible with us. The aeroplanes or rather hydroplanes turned back in the nite sometime but the rest stayed till Mon. noon. At first it was warm and smooth but pretty quick it commenced to rain. It has rained every day since we left. It will clear up and get warm and then in a few minutes will be cloudy and raining and cold as the dickens.

I went off orderly watch when we left port and have been on gun watch. Four hours on  watch and eight hours off. For the first week I had 12-4 at nite and day and last week 8-12. And work when I am off watch. I sure do feel like I could sleep for a week. We had a pretty good trip all the way. We sighted a ship, which we thot was a raider and fired a shot across her bows but she was an English merchant ship. Ever since we have been gone, three guns have been manned all the time. We train them back and forth on the horizon searching back and forth thru the sights for subs. Also we have 20 lookouts all the time.

We turned back at 2 o’clock Friday morning and hope to reach port this week sometime. We had a pretty bad storm Fri and nearly everyone was seasick. I felt kind of dizzy but didn’t get sick. There is a bad swell today but the waves have gone down. We could hardly set the table today. We would be eating when all of a sudden tables, benches and all would slide for five or six feet. You can hardly walk around on the decks. Fri when the waves were the worst I nearly got washed overboard. I was standing watch and didn’t notice the waves. She stuck her nose straight into a big one and it came down the deck about four feet deep. It caught me and knocked me up against the gun so hard it knocked the breath out of me. It knocked one guy flat on the deck and a case of powder hit him on the leg so hard it nearly broke it. They had to carry him to the sick bay. It was soaked clear to my shoulders and there was a cold wind too. About every minute she would stick her nose into a wave and the water was coming over the side all the time. I sure wasn’t much stuck on the life of a sailor then. The first nite out I had to stand four hours on deck in a hard rain with no poncho. I caught cold from it and have a cold yet. We wore life preservers and canteens filled with water for five days when in the worst part of the war zone. We went to within 200 miles of England before we turned around. I wish we could gone clear across but I will next time, I hope.

The ship is leaking pretty bad and they are making pretty good speed so as to hurry up and get her into port.

Well dear I have thot about you a great deal while I have been gone. Many and many a nite while standing on watch I have made the time pass quicker by thinking of you. And today I was looking at your pictures and felt that I must write to you, even though it will be over a week before I can mail this. If I have time I will write some more but this is the first time I have had time to write. Usually I am so tired and sleepy when I have a few minutes off I lay down somewhere and sleep. I slept over an hour on a coil of wire cable yesterday. I can lay down on anything and sleep now. A nice level board or berth seems to me to be a pretty good bed now. We have had to sleep with all our clothes on every nite since we left, all we take off is our shoes.

Well, dear, I guess I will have to ring off for now. It is nearly three and at three I can get half a bucket of fresh water. Then I have to shave and scrub some clothes before four because I go on watch then. Will write more before we reach port if I can. Wish you could see me now sitting on my ditty box, alongside a five inch gun and writing on another one with my feet braced on each side to keep from sliding across the deck.

As ever, yours with love and hopes to soon get a letter from you,
Sylvan

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