Posted in Artifacts, Military

Letter from Franklin Ivan Pomeroy to his brother Karl Pomeroy, 13 Jul 1918

Franklin Ivan Pomeroy (26 Jan 1894 – 13 Feb 1982) was my grandfather.  He joined the Arizona National Guard in 1915.  In April of 1917  his regiment was moved to Camp Kearney in California and became a member of the 40th NG.   After a winter of training recruits he applied for and was accepted in Officers Training School where he earned a commission as 2nd Lieutenant Inf. U.S. Army.  At the end of World War I he was discharged 18 Dec 1918.

Here is a  letter he wrote to his younger brother Karl 13 Jul 1918—advice from a big brother as Karl entered the Army.  The letter gives us a glimpse into Ivan’s character, and also an idea of some of the things he had faced in the Army.  The letter was found folded and tucked into a scrapbook which was compiled by his mother, Dora Morris Pomeroy and given to Ivan as an adult.  I will post more about Ivan’s military career in a few days.

Camp Perry, Ohio, July 13th 1918

Dear Karl,

Allow me to congratulate you on your, at last, getting into this great game.  I am proud to be your brother, and am indeed more than glad of your enlistment.

Now as I know, how the average man-young men-looks at advice and how few of them take any of it even if they do listen to it.  I am not going to give you a long bunch of talk, but I do want to put you wise to a few little things which will help you a lot.  So don’t consider this as advice, but rather as some things that I have run up against in my hitch in the army.

To begin with, always OBEY, OBEY, OBEY, whatever anyone in authority tells you to do.  And don’t ‘beef’ about it either.  Do it willingly and cheerfuully.  I know there will be times, when you will be nearly all in, and some non-com will come along and tell you to do something, and you will feel like telling him to go far, far away, but don’t do it. Get up promptly and do as he tells you.  You will probably think some of them have swelled heads, and more than like  they will have, but the point for you to remember is, that it is your business to obey, and not to make suggestions.  If you do this it won’t be so very long until all of the non-coms will know you for a willing man who will be recommended for it. Now being obedient doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a slave. Far from it. You can be obedient and [?] sacrifice none of your personal rights, of manliness.  There must be somebody in command.  So rule One is settle for.

Secondly, be careful what kind of friends you select.  I don’t mean by this that you have to go around with a sneer on your face for the slouch and sinner.  But if you find men who try to ditch duty, and drill, why don’t make chums of them.  A man is always known by the company he keeps.  You will find out things about men, that you never before imagined could exist.  You will find men so low that you can’t comprehend why such men are let live.  But you don’t have to make friends of them.  Let them alone.  Now I have been through a lot of army life, and I know about the attitude, morally.  He hasn’t any. His idea of a good time, is to get drunk, mingle with bad women, and then come back and brag of it, until next pay day, when he is off on another so-called celebration.  But I have been able to steer clear of most of those things.  you will have all kinds of arguments put up to you.  ‘Life being short’ and all of that stuff.  And there may be times, when you don’t care what happens to you, and during which it is awfully easy to drift along in a downward direction–but those moods always pass away.  And if you ever succumb to any of them you will suffer more afterwards than you will during these spells.

I hope you will find out, as I did, that I was a little different in some respects from other boys.  I had that peculiar prompting which kept me clean.  Now I am not boasting, and neither am I exagerating conditions a bit.  But I am simply telling you what I found in the army.

When you first get away from home you will feel that you are free and able to do anything y0u want to, and to ‘hell’ with the consequences.  But don’t let this feeling fool you.  You are no freer than you ever were, and anything you do will have an effect on you and your folks just as much as before.

And while you are making new friends, beware of the women friends you make.  There is a class of women, who follow soldiers around. Who smile at them on the street.  Who han[g] around cheap dance halls, looking for soldiers and sailors.  But they only want your money.  You and I have been brought up to consider any woman or girl as something sacred and good.  But you will find that women sink just as low as men.  And when you do you will be so disgusted and horrified that for a time you may lose faith in all women, as I did almost.  But by and bye, you will get a proper perspective back again and realize that some women are angels, and some are devils, and the great bulk is somewhere between.  But you will also learn to appreciate virtue in women in a way you never have before.  And you will also realize that some day you want one of those kind for your own.  And then how sorry you will feel if you are not as good as she.

Now I have preached quite a little sermon.  And I didn’t intend to at all.  But as I said before I experienced all of this over and over again, and I have always been thankful that I have acted as I have done.  You will be called a fool, and a ‘nut’ and laughed at by a great many men, but don’t let that bother you, for the opinion of such men don’t amount to very much.  Be what you yourself approve of.  That is all I ask, for I know you about as well as one brother can know another, and I am going to be proud of you.  So much for that.

Now one more little speel and I am done.  In the service nothing is so dispised as a man who continually makes excuses or alibis for everything.  Now remember this.  NEVER make an excuse.  Nothing in the world makes an officer or no-c0m, so mad as a continuous excuse.  If you do something wrong, don’t be ashamed to admit it, and if need be take punishment for doing it, but for heaven sake don[t try to excuse yourself.  Don’t be a ‘snitch’.  If you are discovered giving information, on any of your friends or comrad[e]s, voluntarily, you will be universally hated.  Both by your comrad[e]s and the men you gave the information to.  And it is a good plan never to borrow money.  And also be careful to whom you lend.  For you will find all types of men in the service, who have no sense of honor.  I suppose it is rather needless to tell you all of this, for each man must find out for himself. But I only want you to get along well.

Again I say I am proud of you as a brother and also as a fellow citizen.  Be sure an write to me how you get along.

Your Brother,


Franklin Ivan Pomeroy as a young soldier, between 1917-1918


I am an Accredited Genealogist® professional living in California. I have been researching and teaching since 1988.

2 thoughts on “Letter from Franklin Ivan Pomeroy to his brother Karl Pomeroy, 13 Jul 1918

  1. I see you have thoughtful, literate people in your non-Gooch family, too! And Ivan is a wee bit more handsome than our hard-traveled Ben Gooch. And he looks like a genuinely good and nice fellow – someone I’d be happy to have living next door. Hope you have time to keep up this blog!


    1. Yes, he was a good man and had a twinkle in his eye. He did have a kind of military bearing about him, but he was older when we knew him best and just was grandpa to us—playing gin rummy and dominoes with us while we shared orange sherbet ice cream. He also played the organ and had some entertaining songs he knew.

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