This is the second in a series of 14 letters I will be posting—letters which were written by WWI Private Allen Lee Millard (“Nig”) Gooch to his family back home in Duncan, Arizona.
We will follow Pvt. Gooch from his first week in boot camp to his last letter from France at the close of the war. Readers will catch a glimpse of his fears, girl troubles, concern for his family, and his duties as an MP, as he grows from a young man who doubts he will see the trenches to a soldier on the front lines of the final offensive of an epic WWI. So follow along as this story unfolds…
[Letter from Allen Lee Millard Gooch (Nig) to his family, 12 May 1918 from Camp Funston, Kansas. Transcribed by Dayna Gooch Jacobs. Slashes indicate page breaks. Original spelling and punctuation.]
May 12. 18
Mother and All:
Just received/ your letter of interest/ which cheered me so/ much. Am so proud/ you all are getting/ along alright. I cant/ write much tonight/ for I am just about/ all in from another/ knoclalation [inoculation] taken this/ morning. This makes/ three knoclalations/ and two vaxinations/ and this one was a/ [p2] hard one to stand/ as the needle was/ so large and they/ stuck it so deep/ didn’t hurt so bad/ untill about an hour/ afterwards then it made/ me sick and my/ arm sure is sore.
I don’t feel like writing/ much but want to/ send you all another/ picture of me and a/ friend of mine in/ the same tent./
This is Sunday and/ [p3] my first day off/ but don’t feel like/ running around. Wish/ I was with you all/ but know I cant be/ for some time,/ but am sure I will be/ some time. No one/ here seems to think/ we will ever see the/ trenches.
Ma I have no/ one I knew except/ the ones came with/ me. Jinnie Pittman/ and Josh Clark and/ some boys from/ [p4] Clifton including/ Edd Bonita they are all in this Co. I/ think Ross went/ to California, Believe/ me we sure had/ some dinner today./ Chicken and noodles/ with strawberry short/ cake and ice cream./ We have plenty of/ eats all the time and/ believe me I sure do/ eat too.
This is the first in a series of letters I will be posting—letters which were written by WWI Private Allen Lee Millard Gooch to his family back home in Duncan, Arizona. Part of his military service record was already posted in previous weeks. Letters are a wonderful resource for genealogists, as you will see. For a closer look, just click on any of the images. The letter has been transcribed for you at the end of the post.
A.L. was drafted, and entered into service 25 Apr 1918. Here is the first letter in the collection, written—so aptly—from Camp Funston, Kansas (not exactly summer camp, but sounds like one!) on 1 May 1918:
Transcription of letter from Private Allen L. M. Gooch to his parents, 1 May 1918, Camp Funston, Kansas, letter in possession of Dayna Gooch Jacobs, King City, California. Envelope missing. Transcribed by Dayna Jacobs. [slashes in the transcription indicate line breaks]
May .1. 18
Dear Parents and All:
As my arm is / a little better will / write a little. Am / rather tired tonight / this is our second / day drilling and they / sure put us through / We are at Detantion / camp no 2. Where we / get our first grade / training. expect to stay / here about three week then go back to Funston / to the Barricks where / it will be a little / more comfortable. There / is eight in each tent / get up at 5:45 in the / morning, take our cots / out side scrub the / floor, line up for / the roll to be called / to breakfast get / our mess citts full / of fairly good grub / come back to our tents / and eat, go back and / wash our dishes, Then / then [sic] march to the drilling / grounds and / play afew athletic / games for exercise / then get bussy. I / didn’t think I could / stand it the first / day I was so sore / from vaxinations. / But I feel good today / and don’t think it / will be as hard as / I thought for I know / I can stand it if / others do. And all / that worrys me is / you folks at home.
I am goeing to take / out a ten thousand / dollar insurance which / will cost me about $6.00 / per month and if / I get killed you / will draw $57.50 a / month for 20 years / the government is giving / dependant Parents $10.00 / a month where the / soldier will give $15.00 / of his wages. And I / am goeing to try to / get that don’t know / if I can or not. That / will be 10 apiece for / you and paw and / 15 from me will be / $35.00 a month that / will help you live / and will leave me / about 8 or 9 dollars / for tobacco that’s all / I kneed. So dont / worry about me I /will do just what / others is doing, the / best they can. As I / want to go to bed / will close and write / you latter. Write / me offen for I don’t / have much time. /
Here is a photo of my grandfather, Allen Lee Millard Gooch. He served in the 89th Division, Military Police company in France. He was inducted on 25 Apr 1918 and discharged 11 Jun 1919. Below is a picture of him on his motorcycle–his job was to paint signs and ride to the front (or close to it) to post them. I don’t know the nature of the signs, but I do have letters he wrote home which describe the bullets whizzing by his head as he was riding back to his unit. I will post some of his letters sometime. They are amazing!
A few pages from his Military Service Record are posted here.
Here we see a mention of his stay in an evacuation hospital for “influenza” from 19 Dec 1918 to 21 Jan 1919. This flu pandemic spread from Jan 1918 to Dec 1920, and killed 50-130 million people worldwide. It was particularly dangerous to the military because of the close quarters of an under-nourished soldier population. Allen Lee Gooch received the Purple Heart medal, and I think it was for this hospitalization. I am glad that after living to see the end of the war on 11 Nov 1918 he was not killed by the Spanish flu the next month.
Other interesting tidbits on these pages are the name of his brother, Frank Gooch, and a physical description of Allen Lee Gooch Brown hair and eyes, fair complexion, 5 ft 4 1/2 inches tall.
These pages give us his parents’ names, Jack H. Gooch and Victoria F. Gooch, his birthplace (Purcell, Oklahoma), his occupation (Barber), age at enlistment (25 years 3 months), and his signature. Throughout the file he is identified as “Allen Lee Willard Gooch”, but his middle name is actually “Millard”. Looking at his signature it is easy to see why somebody thought it was Willard. The “M” has a tail on it that makes it appear to be a “W”. This record is only the second place where I have seen his father’s middle initial of “H” in an actual record, and it is the only place I have seen his birthplace of Purcell given. Previously, all unofficial family records gave his birthplace as Shawnee, Oklahoma.
Using the online eVetRecs at the National Archives website http://www.archives.gov/veterans/ I ordered a World War I service record for my grandfather, Allen Lee Millard Gooch. I knew my chances of getting a file were slim because in 1973 a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, destroyed 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF), including 80% of personnel discharged 1 Nov 1912-1 Jan 1960.
Indeed, I received a reply to my request that said my requested records were part of the 1973 fire. I was sad. Then, amazingly, I received a thick packet with much, or possibly all, of my grandfather’s file with copies of the “burned” records! Here is a page:
This record–an “Application for Certificate in Lieu of Lost or Destroyed Discharge Certificate”–proves that you never know just where you will find some of the best information. This record provides us with:
Place/date of enlistment and discharge
City and State of birth
Approximate birth year
Probable residence after discharge
This is only one of many pages in this record, and the others are equally interesting. I may post some more soon.
This record also proves you should never give up just because you are told a repository burned. Yes, the records burned, but hey—not entirely!! Let’s hear it for the 42 fire districts that responded to the alarm and battled the blaze for 2 days.
I received an unexpected bonus one day when a box containing replacement medals for my grandfather’s WWI service arrived in the mail: A Purple Heart, a WWI Victory Medal, and a medal for his participation in the battles of Meuse-Argonne and St. Mihiel. What a treasure! I will post photos soon.