“Well, I got my gun,” wrote Wilson Sprowl to his family from Camp Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan. It was June, 1918, and the Monroe County, Kentucky resident, in training for duty with the American Expeditionary Force, boasted of his prowess on the rifle range. Tied with another soldier for the top score, he reported that “I warent beet.” A month earlier, Wilson’s biggest complaint was the series of inoculations that had left him with a sore arm and caused some of his mates to become sick or faint.
One of the letters Wilson sent home was not his own; it was instead a neatly handwritten message from George V of the United Kingdom. The King welcomed Wilson and his fellow recruits “on your way to take your stand beside the Armies of many Nations now fighting in the Old World the great battle of human freedom.” He wrote of his desire to shake the hand of each American soldier and “bid you God speed on your mission.”
Wilson Sprowl’s mission, unfortunately, ended with his death on October 4, 1918.
A finding aid for Wilson Sprowl’s letters in the collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library can be downloaded here. For more World War I materials, search TopScholar and KenCat.