Saturday, November 10, 2007

10. A Letter from Father - 7 Oct 1918

Hard to believe, but it's been two months since I've written a post on the series of my great-grandfather's service in Russia during World War I! On this Veteran's Day weekend, I thought it appropriate to add another.

Read more about the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces at

On 7 October 1918, Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Sr. wrote a letter to his son, Bryan, stationed in Russia with the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces. Unlike the earlier letter Bryan received from his mother, Angelo's was chipper, cheerful, and patriotic:

Home in Muskegon, Oct 7 - 1918,

Dear Bryan,

Both your letters received today, that were written somewhere on the ocean. We were very much surprised to know you are going so far away, but we know that all will come out well at last.

You ask what news we hear of the war. Well, everything is panning out very well indeed and it is no longer anything of a question of time that the good old stars and stripes will wave over Berlin.

You know we keep posted as well as we can about the Great War. I have a fine wall map showing the lines of battle, sent by my company. You may rest assured that the U.S.A. is back of our boys every step of the way.

What a wonderful experience you boys must be having, and what a lot of the world you are seeing.

It is a great consolation to know that the "Devil-fish" of the seas has lost his grip, and his [power?] is rapidly passing away. Great honor and glory have been won by the Americans in France, and Lloyd's Co. was and is now, in the thick of it. Thank God, he has so far escaped injury. They have been cutting the Boche's lines to ribbons, and hurling the boastful Huns backward and every backward towards the Rhine. The crack Prussian guards have come to fear the furious attacks of the 125 and 126 Infantry of the good old U.S.A. And just as sure as God is in his heavans, just so sure the Germans will wish they had never been born, rather than to face a figure clad in khaki. And our armies on land and sea will be crowned by victory. During these times of world wide war, our hearts must not flinch, nor our courage falter. And, please God, the strife will soon be over, and our brave lads once more will hear the cheerful words "homeward bound."

Muskegon lays a memorial monument for its dead. The corner stone is to be placed next

Monday. You must know many brave men from Muskegon have already paid "the great price."

And, as Lincoln once said that "these honored dead shall not have died in vain, we hereby dedicate ourselves to the unfinished task."

Of personal matters, there is not much to write. I am still traveling. Money comes in slowly, and debts accumulate. But far be it from me to complain of the battle for bread, when you all are fighting for the freedom of mankind.

I have been able to sell the car, a little cash, and notes. I have been able to buy part of my coal for winter, so we will not freeze, at least. Money is always handy when one has a family, to be sure.

Donald grows, both in body and in mischief. He is a fine little chap. Angie is improving in health, and is doing well in his studies. He says little about our absent ones, but I note a vein of seriousness in him, which is strange in one so young.

The home is just as you left it. We have a collection of war records, which we often play, and which, perhaps, make us more lonely, than they cheer.

Reva is the same. Alas, Eternity will tell the story. However terrible the inexorable facts, we learn to carry our cross, as did He of olden times.

Your mother will write to you, so I will close. Be of good cheer. He who cannot bear to see a sparrow fall, sits watch and ward over the destiny of man, and will eventually bring about smiles in the face of tears and heart-ache.

Again. Be of good cheer, and some day you will relate to us your wonderful experiences, on the other side of the world.

With unceasing love,
Your father

P.S. Greet the lads of your Co. with a hearty hand grip and "God speed" from me.

Quite a different tone from Father than from Mother, to be sure! Angelo must have known how important to morale it was to send an upbeat letter, even though, as I note, there was little actual cheerful news about the home life to be sent. Angelo, Jr. (Angie) appears to have been ill; perhaps he also had come down with the Spanish Influenza. The mention of Reva has to do with her mental illness; she most likely was living at Traverse City State Hospital in Traverse City, Grand Traverse Co., Michigan. The quote from Lincoln is from his Gettysburg Address, the scanned image of which is viewable for free at Footnote, here.

I've searched in vain online to find a mention or a photograph of the World War I memorial laid in Muskegon. If any of my readers can help me here, it will be much appreciated!

Other posts in this series:
1. A Polar Bear in North Russia
2. The Family of Angelo and Lula Robbins
3. Bryan and Marie - A WWI Romance
4. Bryan Gets Drafted
5. Basic Training at Camp Custer
6. Getting "Over There"
7. Bryan and King George V
8. To Russia, with Influenza
9. A Letter from Mother - 25 Sep 1918

1 comment:

Mike said...

"I've searched in vain online to find a mention or a photograph of the World War I memorial laid in Muskegon."

I'm told that Muskegon's Polar Bear memorial was located in the median of a local highway and was removed several years ago, possibly for refurbishment.

Mike Grobbel
Polar Bear Memorial Association
Stranglers of the Revolution