N. A. Westhoff

Mr. Westhoff served in World War I.

He served in the U.S. Army in France.

Source: Marshall Wells Hardware Newsletter (see below)

Marshall Wells Hardware Newsletter from World War I

From N.A. Westhoff, late of the Credit Department, at Duluth.
Written at Camp Grant, Ill.
July 26, 1918.

Your letter of July 3rd was promptly forwarded and received. It was just the kind of a letter I wanted.

To be absolutely frank, I have a satisfied feeling that no matter where you go, men in every walk of life are using their very utmost to serve our Country in these trying times. Sacrifices are in a different way, and it is the performing of these duties well, in khaki and in some actual service.

It was just four weeks Tuesday since we left Minneapolis. From the time we answered the roll call and boarded the train, we were well taken care of. In fact the Government takes one so completely in hand, that everything is arranged in advance, with no hitch or disappointments to cause complaint.

In this respect no doubt we were more fortunate than some of the earlier contingents. Our coaches, thirteen in number, were clean and orderly, and we made ourselves quite comfortable in the chair seats. About 7: o’clock the following morning, two diners were attached to our train and a hearty breakfast served to each man. At 12:30 we were in camp.

It was an interesting sight to see the rows of Barracks, covering many acres of ground, with power, warehouses and other buildings studding out at regular intervals. From afar, it surely resembled a large manufacturing plant, sprung up over night, but as the train advanced the scene took on a new aspect.

Arrived at the Camp Depot, you pile out with your baggage and a double line is formed immediately along the coaches. Standing on the freight platform and a distance away are several officers, old army men, calm and poised. Immediately near us are the “non-coms” and “hard-boiled.” They march us sort of military fashion up to our temporary Barracks.

When it comes to swearing, a mule skinner has nothing on some of these “non-coms.”

Soon we were given our mess outfits, consisting of a meat pan with a long handle and a cover. You place your knife, fork and spoon in the pan, place the cover on it and clamp it down with the handle. A cup (oh, it will hold almost two parts) is also furnished; and now . . . are ordered “fall cur.” What they really mean is fall in and “come and get it”—that is, the cooks are ready.

Knocking about for almost twelve years I have become quite familiar with cafeteria-style service, but this is the only place I have found where they keep the line moving. In one hand you grasp the handle of your meat pan, balance the cover on the handle, holding it in place with your thumb, and in the other hold your cup. The cooks and K.P.’s (kitchen police) are ready for the attack. A Non-commissioned Officer is near at hand and anyone so unfortunate as not to be able to balance his equipment and drops any of it is told to hurry up, because “you are delaying the war.”

The mess is very good and plenty of it. Each man receives a liberal portion of well cooked meat, potatoes, usually one or two kinds of vegetables, sauce, or other dessert, and either tea or coffee and sometimes lemonade. Bread in plenty is on the table.

All men as they come to Camp are assigned to what is called the Casual Detachment of the 161st Depot Brigade. The Depot Brigade is, in other words, a supply and clearing house of men.

Here you receive your examinations of all kinds, allotment of clothing, inoculations, vaccination, etc., etc. About the first thing they do is to slap on a sentence or quarantine. For 21 days no one is allowed to leave the Barracks or the immediate grounds. This is done so that they can find you when they want you, because every once and a while even now, we are told we are in quarantine for a day or so.

After mess, the first day each man receives a slicker, two blankets, a barrack bag and a cot. Six men to a bale of straw—so grab all the straw you can get, if you want a soft bed. One blanket is placed over the tick and tucked around it; the other is used as cover. If you are handy, a fairly decent bunk is the result of your efforts, and after a good day’s work, I have had no trouble whatever in getting a night’s sleep.

The weather at this season of the year is quite remarkable in that it turns cool almost cold during the night. We are situated between two riggers and this accounts for the changed atmosphere. The first really hot days were last Saturday and Sunday, and more or less this week. Up until that time it rained nearly every other day or night, just enough to settle the dust and conditions were ideal.

After a few days of our first week we were regularly split up and assigned to different companies and detachments. On the fourth day together with three other boys I was assigned to the Ordnance Office, and have been there ever since. We report for duty at 7:30, with an hour and a half for lunch and are through at 5:30. Five of us change about, working nights and Sundays. This happens to be my night on. With the continual changing of men from one place to another within camp and out, it has kept us busy.

The days go quickly, but it seems four months since we arrived. We get up at 5:45 and our day lasts until 9:00 P.M., when all “lights out.” In your spare moments and few there are, you must do your washing, cleaning up, writing, etc. It is a great life, but to keep well and fit and feeling right, you must continually keep at it.

Mr.---, it is hard to explain, but I think you understand. While I have an ardent desire to be at home and at times feel an awful aching feeling in my heart and long to see and be with my wife, I am extremely happy and contented. I have tried to analyze my feelings, and generally when I am at it, receive my daily letter, and greatly satisfied and encouraged, learn that my darling wife is expressing herself in like manner. This may appear odd to some people, how we can be so happy, but there is an ideal that fills us both, and not until we have fulfilled our duties will we give up. This is the daily encouragement I receive and I am not going to do less, when there is [letter cuts off]

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