||Alfred A. Thelen was born in Oshkosh on January 6, 1891, the son of Stephen Thelen. He worked for the Witzel & Rossmeissl shoe store and became a partner in Thelen & Rossmeissl. He was drafted in April 1918 and did his basic training at Camp Grant, near Rockford, IL. Corporal Alfred A. Thelen became a member of Company F, 354th Infantry, 89th "Middle West" Division during World War I. The 89th Division was comprised of draftees from mid-western states and trained at Camp Funston, Kansas. They saw heavy action during World War I. Alfred died of pneumonia on November 24, 1918.
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||Letter from Alfred A. Thelen, Company F, 354th Infantry, 89th "Middle West" Division, to his sister.
Sat. Aug. 31st 1918
Just a few lines to you the folks hoping you are all well and hoping everything is coming fine. I am well and enjoying myself as much as possible. So far I have been very fortunate I haven't been sick a day since being in the service and hope to continue the same. Things are getting more lively in our sector, both sides are especially busy with the artillery. I was pretty near one shell that burst about 10 feet from where I stood, but I didn't get a scratch. I will (have) many things of interest to tell you when I get back but we are not allowed to write for fear that they might be of some value to our enemy. Quite a number of Germans are giving themselves up, they sneak over to our lines at night, and give up willingly, they also say many others would do the same as soon as an opportunity presented itself, here's hoping the opportunity presents itself soon, at any rate I presume the people of Germany & Austria would be glad to give up, if only the higher ups could see things in the right light.
I ran across a couple of Oshkosh boys at the last town we were at and believe me it seems good, one of the boys name was Thompson, & Fienager the latter one was in the machine gun Co. called "Suicide Co."
We have had supper and now I will try and finish. We had fresh lettuce, fried potatoes, canned meat, bread, coffee, and bread pudding, so you can rest assured we are getting plenty to eat.
This neighborhood is just full of plum trees, Blue ones, and small yellow, both are sweet, and the only trouble is we eat to many. This town we are in now is all shot to pieces, there are about 25 civilians living here, and the rest have left I presume. There isn't a building but what's had several shell hits so you can imagine its quite unique. The Catholic Church is all shot to pieces, but they have built a little on the inside and connected to the parts of walls still standing. I surely will never forget scenes like this one, and others I have seen but that's wars effects.
You would actually be surprised to know how many rats infest this country, every place you go, its just lousy with the pests, but in some way or other we have got used to them.
This country around here is very hilly, and really it's beautiful to look and see some of these villages at a distance of a couple of miles some all ruins and others quite active. The people you see are either very young, or old, of course this may be different in the larger cities. The best place in France, doesn't look as good to me, as any "little hole in the States". The nights are also very cool, so when you are not working at night you can at least sleep well. Most of our work is done at night, at least near the front. Everything is lively [at] night and no lights, either because so many aeroplanes are always observing, any lights and [they] will drop bombs or signal to the artillery to drop a shell near us or on if possible. We at least know that we are actively engaged in this war. Well here is hoping the Germans get enough and quit before they must quite because there is no doubt about it anymore, the war is going against them. Well dear sister this is about all I know of news so I hope you, Father, Mother and the rest are all healthy and feeling fine. I am well and enjoying myself as much as possible, so here's hoping the same for you. "I must close now, I am writing this in a dugout" Love and kisses to my parents and the rest of you from your brother, as ever
Corp. Alfred A. Thelen
Co. F. 354 Ind.
American Exp. Forces
Did you ever receive the insurance papers? If not write for them.
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||8: Communication Artifact
||Oshkosh Public Museum
||Thelen, Alfred A.
||World War I