New York, NY
August 21, 1918
My Dearest Maude,
Yours received and was sure glad to hear from you. I sail again tomorrow. Gee we just get in and have to go again. We coaled ship the last two days and I am all in tonight. I am just drop[ping] a line to you dear girl before I leave for you can’t tell I may get out to sea and run up again a sub and it is a long way to swim.
I suppose Hugh is still at home.I sure would like to get back for a week or so. We would have some time, take it from me.
I suppose Dick has gone to sea already. I bet he will feed the fish. I know I did the first trip. When he gets stationed give me his address and I will write to him, for I have not heard form him since he left Seattle.
Say, I will send you that ring the next trip dear. That is, if I get back and I think I will. I am getting sleepy so will close for this time.
From your loving Sailor,
USS South Dakota
℅ PM NY
New York, NY
August 15, 1918
My Dearest Maude,
Once more I will drop you a line or two but I don’t suppose it’s much use for you won’t have time to answer with Hugh and Jack’s hired man for there is so many places to go. You might go to Coney Island or somewhere else on the beach.
I wish you were here to make liberty with me. How about it? Would you go with me or I suppose you would go home with some other fellow. No I don’t believe you would know for I have changed a whole lot.
Say, where is Ellen now and what is she doing? Who is her best man now? I suppose she is thinking of getting married, is she not?
Gee, I get homesick when I go on liberty and get to bed at 3 o’clock and have to get up at six. I wish I could go to a dance with you. I went to Coney Island the other day and had a pretty good time. I am tired of traveling. I want to get back were the people are not so thick, but I will be back some day and then.
Say, I have not got a letter for a month from you. Now dear girl, you want to get busy.
I made one night’s liberty in Brest, France but did [not] have time to see the town I would like to s[pend] a week there.
I saw Sylvan and had a great old chat with him. I think I will close for this time. Now write me soon.
From your Sailor,
USS South Dakota
Oh, this intrigues me! Clark and Sylvan meet up in New York: Sylvan has already sent Maude a ring, and Clark keeps pestering her about it. Sylvan writes beautiful letters that are both informative and inquisitive about Maude; Clark’s letters are generally that he’s too busy to write. What did they talk about? Is the reason Sylvan’s letters drop off in frequency due to whatever it was he and Clark talked about, or were they lost/destroyed? I wish I knew!
Somewhere on the Atlantic
August 14, 1918
My dear Maude,
Well here it is Wed and 17 days since we have seen land. We sure had a storm Sun nite and Mon. We had the wind on our beam so we felt the roll worse than if we had been heading rite into it. Mon morning they set the tables for breakfast but we could hardly eat. The tables, benches and all would slide from one side of the deck to the other. One table turned over and quite a bit of mess gear was broken. By noon it was so bad that we couldn’t set the tables and had to take a plate in our hand and eat like at a picnic but believe me it was no picnic. You had to have hold of a stanchion or something with one hand, you couldn’t stand up alone. It was sure funny to watch people try to walk. I slid into the bulkhead first on one side, then on the other. I saw one fellow start to slide from one side of the deck with a plate of beans in his hand to the other. In trying to keep his balance he stuck one foot straight up and his plate of beans straight out and slid for about ten feet on one foot and the funny part was he only spilled three beans.
The worst thing was that they made us shift and scrub bags and hammocks. Imagine trying to scrub a hammock spread flat on the deck with a long handled scrubbing brush when you slid first one way and then the other. I know I banged up against the rail several times. A good many of the fellows accidentally sat down on them. Well soap is all rite for blue trousers but you hate to get it on in spots especially when you don’t want it.
This ship is only supposed to stand a 45 degree roll and we rolled 38 degrees so I guess we wouldn’t have wanted to roll very much more.
But yesterday and today were sure swell. There was still considerable roll yesterday but the sea is sure still and calm this evening.I sure saw a beautiful sunset last nite and the moonlite made the ocean look like silver. I sure wished you could have been standing by me watching it with me.
It is about 6:30 now. We can turn in at 7:30 and I will turn in as soon as I can because I am on watch from 12-4 tonight and I want to get as much asleep as I can. It is pretty warm again now. I am sitting on the topside so as to get the breeze. It is pretty hot down below. I have only slept below four nites since I have been on the ship. I got wet in my hammock every nite for a week from spray while I was sleeping on topside.
We are making about 14 or 15 knots today. Covered 276 miles since noon yesterday till noon today. I think we ought to reach Hampton Roads by Sun then one day to coal ship and two days for target practice and we’re off for New York.
I think Clark will be in City Park Barracks yet when I reach there. I sure hope so anyway. I guess we sill wear whites again starting tomorrow. We have been wearing blues on account of the cold weather. Yesterday and today are the first two days I haven’t been soaked for two weeks. You get so you kind of like to go around wet and cold after you get used to it. So they say, but I never got used to it myself.
Well my dear, I guess that I will have to ring off for tonite. Seems foolish to be writing you when we have 3 or 4 days yet without site of land but you can read it all some of these days.
I am as ever your affectionate sailor,
Somewhere on the Atlantic
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,
USS South Dakota
August 5, 1918
My dearest Maude:
I am out to sea and am lonesome so will write you a line or two. I get so lonesome I don’t know what to do with myself. I sure will be glad when the war is over, how about you? But if I never come back it will suityou, how about it?
Say, Maude dear, I don’t know if you are so different from other girls I have met.
I have changed a whole lot. You would not know me by my looks. I only weigh 128 pounds. Of course I act the same not so lively and full of fun and have quit playing cards only for fun. I don’t suppose you will believe half what I am telling you but it is the truth.
Say Maude, would [you] wear a ring if I sent one? Now tell me [the] truth.
Has Ben gone yet to war? I hope he doesn’t have to go. How is Bessie making out with Frankie gone?
I can’t think any more so will write again at New York.
So goodbye dear.
From your Clark.