Harry St Clare Wheeler,
His Navy Years - World War I, 1917-1919;
A quest to learn more about my father
By O. Keith Wheeler, August 2007
thumbnails below for larger image.
Click on thumbnails below for larger image.
Harry St Clare was born on
Brother Gus foreground
- Young St Clare
- next to youngest
in center of Corning
family photo, ca. 1905.
[click photo for details]
family lore suggests that St Clare helped in the assembly and maintenance of the
arriving seaplanes. Another hint of
information suggested something to do with lumber.
Maybe he helped build those large hangars where the seaplanes were
assembled and stored. His later
letters home mentioned that he was in the transportation department and drove
truck. Maybe he did all of these
jobs. Maybe sometime in the future
the family can find more detailed military records that can shed more light on
his daily military life.
St Clare was also writing
Clare’s WWI letters are not great works of literature.
They are a teenager’s personal expressions to his “sweetheart” who
was then a high school student back in the States.
In his earlier letters he gives little information about conditions or
his activities. For example, here is
an excerpt from his undated letter from “Somewhere in
St Clare’s WWI letters are not great works of literature. They are a teenager’s personal expressions to his “sweetheart” who was then a high school student back in the States. In his earlier letters he gives little information about conditions or his activities. For example, here is an excerpt from his undated letter from “Somewhere in
have had quite a lot of snow over here and it has frozen hard as ice.
We have good times over here but I would sooner be in the States.
… I haven't much to say only everything is O.K. over here.
I can't put in much about any thing over here or they would throw out the
So it would seem military
censorship, or the fear thereof, limited information given.
This is again implied by comments in his
can't write much for there's nothing to write about.
I had my picture taken the other day.
You will find one in this envelope.
A month later he writes on
“Knights of Columbus” stationary with a return address of “Base Hospital
No. 5,” relating that he has been recovering from an appendix operation.
He then briefly adds:
they are sure hitting the Germans pretty hard now and it won't be long before
the war will end.
As the war winds down,
his descriptions expand:
I guess I will go out
on liberty this afternoon to a beach where the Y.M.C.A. has a hotel and come
back Sunday night.
There is some fine scenery out in the country.
When you go on these small trips you see lots of interesting things.
I wish you could see some of the scenery I've seen since I've been over
here. This coming November will be a
year out of old
2 copies of same photo found
Name of ship in background?
|"U.S. Naval Air - H.S. Wheeler Brest France" written on front.||Same photo obviously cut down from larger size.||On back of 2nd photo with much writing cut off, "... ing on bank ... ship they captured ... the Spanish in the ... Spanish (?) and American war (?)"|
From his letters we
also learn that he is spending some of his time in the “transportation
dept.” and driving trucks.
The so-called “War to end
all wars” wound down with a ceasefire on
see I'm in the transportation dept. so are all the truck drivers.
And there will be lots of stuff to haul after peace is signed.
Yesterday I went on liberty. You
ought to have been here and seen the president when he landed.
There was ten super dreadnoughts & a bunch of destroyers that
convoyed him in. It was sure some
sight to see all those battle wagons come steaming in.
Today the French are having a holiday celebrating.
The town is all decorated with flags and large signs saying (Long Live
a “P.S.” to a
In mid January 1919 he
don't know if I will go back to the States for some time yet.
They are shipping most of the regular drivers to
You take a look at the battle field where there were happy homes once and
all you can see is ruined buildings and big shell holes all over the country.
Everything is as still as night, not a sound.
The smell of the battle field will make you sick.
You see bodies of soldiers that were never buried and some that they do
bury have only a thin layer of dirt thrown over them.
You see lots of the Yankee boys who have fallen, probably places where
they could not be seen easily, and are still laying with their clothes nearly
rotted off of them. The Germans they
don't bury very good. They just
throw them in a shell hole, probably sprinkle some dirt on the top of them.
So you can see how awful a place it is.
As far as you can see is nothing but ruined country like this.
I hope there is no other war like this.
St Clare on left with "chum" W.D.
of Kansas City, KS, on right.
have got off of the trucks now and I'm driving a light "White"
passenger bus. I make trips all over
the country hauling officers &
I usually make trips like these all over the country at nights and there
is sure some sights to see, old castles, large arches that have been up for
centuries, for this part of the country is one of the oldest places in France.
I wish you were here to see some of the scenery for it is entirely
different from the scenery in the States. Everything
is built out of stone, streets, houses, walls, even their electric &
telephone poles are stone or concrete.
Changes are in the wind
when he writes the following on
are going to leave here in a few days. I
don't know where we're going but we have to move (tout de suit) out of the
station for the French aviation are taking it over.
St Clare’s living
descendants do not know what happened next.
While his enlistment papers indicated that he signed up for 4 years in
July of 1917, there was an apparent push to demobilize the military for economic
reasons after the European fighting ceased.
St. Clare’s 1939
While his enlistment papers indicated that he signed up for 4 years in July of 1917, there was an apparent push to demobilize the military for economic reasons after the European fighting ceased. St. Clare’s 1939
his discharge on the East Coast, he returned to
and documents on this page have been found in family albums and belongings.
Only recently, an old photo album has come to the attention of St
Clare’s youngest children. This is
an album wherein someone, probably St Clare or his wife Doris, collected his
Web album Volume
Web album Volume
Web album Volume
invite any comments, corrections or other input regarding these photos and their
identification. Please e-mail Keith
NEW - 19 old French picture postcards have been found among family articles. These were loose postcards depicting scenes (probably before WWI) in the French cities of Brest, Paris and Bordeaux. The scanned images of these postcards may be accessed by CLICKING HERE.
Attempts to obtain more of St. Clare's military records from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, so far have been unsuccessful.
on St Clare, his life and family can be found on the WheelerFolk.org genealogy
pages. See: http://www.wheelerfolk.org/keithgen/d2.htm
For more on the family plumbing shop business see: http://www.wheelerfolk.org/norweb/plumbingshophistory.htm
Material from this web site was published in a Colusi Co. Historical Society article entitled, "The World War I Experiences of Harry St. Clare Wheeler," Wagon Wheels, Fall 2008, Vol. 58, Nr. 2, pp. 5-9.
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