Before the war
After the war
An exhibit by the
Oregon State Archives
On Active Service
A prisoner in Germany
"A Soldier's Dream" by Everett Miller
As he marched away from
his home that day,
He was gone with many a cheer,
He left his sweetheart and friends behind,
And one he loved more dear.
It was his dear old
Who stood there all alone,
Wondering just how long t'would be,
Before her boy would be home.
For now he's down in
By the flowing Rio Grande,
And he makes his bed each evening,
On the lonely Texas sand.
But as he lies a dreaming,
Of his old home far away,
If you could only read his dream,
These words they-d seem to say.
Mother dear I'm dreaming
And I long for you each day,
Though I'm a soldier on the border,
And you're many miles away.
But don't worry loving
For I'll return some day,
And bring back that loving freedom,
They tried to steal away.
But no matter where
Always bear this in your mind,
I am fighting for you mother,
And Old Glory all the time.
Many Oregonians serving in World
War I were captured and became prisoners of Germany. The following
is the story of one prisoner of war
Miller's parents allowed him to enlist at 17. (OSA)
A 17 year old enlists
Determined not to miss the fight, young Everett Gerald Miller
left his home in Ruch in southern Oregon's Applegate Valley. He traveled
south to Kermitt, California and enlisted
in the Army as a private in a field artillery battery. The Army stationed
before sending him to Texas for a six month stint at sprawling Fort Bliss.
A long, hot, dry summer in Texas seemed interminable to this eager
young soldier. His days were spent drilling and waiting to be "sent
The length of the wait gave Miller plenty of time to feel homesick
as the poem to his mother shown in the sidebar reveals. To Miller's
chagrin, he took ill and was forced to delay sailing to Europe
for a month.
in May 1918, he left for France.
To the front...
Everett Miller saw duty on the front lines
very soon after his arrival in Europe. Later, on the night of July
14 while fighting at Chateau Thierry, he helped move the artillery
guns of his battery into position to fire
German positions. The large artillery pieces were pulled by sets of
horses that had to be moved back to a "horse line" until
they were needed
to pull the artillery again. Miller went back with the horses but the
group was under heavy fire from the Germans the entire time. They
lost about seven or eight men and about 27 horses as a result of the
bombardment. Miller suffered no injuries. The next morning he and the
mess sergeant started back to the artillery guns with a tank of water.
That was the last time Miller was seen by his battery. View artillery
While a prisoner in Germany, Miller sent cards to his family
through the Red Cross. (OSA, Oregon Defense Council
Records, Personal Military Service Records,
World War I, Box 3, Jackson County, School District No. 40)
Three weeks passed before an artillery friend of his heard
news. Apparently, Miller had been gassed, captured by the Germans,
and recuperated in a hospital. Later, he was sent to a prisoner of
war camp in Langensalza, Germany. The Red Cross located him, kept his
family in Oregon posted, and carried letters and
cards as much as possible. One card sent by Miller found him working
on a farm, apparently with prisoners of other nationalities. Later,
he was moved to another camp at Rastatt that at the time
had only American prisoners. This suited Miller well since "we
get along fine." Finally, in December, weeks after the signing
of the Armistice ending hostilities, a Swiss Red Cross train arrived
at Miller's camp. Apparently,
he and the other prisoners had no other way to leave Germany.
Everett Miller did not reveal the specifics
of his imprisonment. However, other soldiers reported that the hardships
immediately after they were captured.
Just reaching the destination of the prison camp could be an ordeal.
One prisoner, Reginald Morris, remembered the scene:
" A week of tramping about behind the lines followed. We
moved like a herd of cattle about to be slaughtered, from one
barbed-wire cage to another. Sometimes we were nearly
bombed by our own airmen. We seemed to be on exhibition,
and forced to march in fours and keep in step.
by day, I became weaker until at last it got difficult for
me to walk any distance. My feet began to blister;
my socks were dirty and began to rot. In time the blisters
became open sores and my socks fell off my feet. My slight
wound complicated matters.
I just dragged
myself from place to place. The guards
paid no attention to my painful state. They just pushed
me along or hit me with the butt-end of their rifles when my
legs began to give way or the pain of walking became too great."
Once in camp, the experience didn't improve. The men often were separated
out for work according to their skills. Still, most worked in back
breaking manual labor in mines, farms, machine
shops, loading docks, or similar settings. Military discipline among
the prisoners sometimes was the first casualty in captivity. In some
were subtle at first but then escalated into an "every man for
himself" mentality. In this scenario some men stole food from
others and the weakest died first. Sickness could become a death sentence
American prisoners of war in 1917. (Legacy
Preservation Library, Forward-March, Page 127a) View prisoner
of war photographs.
Housing was often primitive. In one place,
Morris had to sleep on a stone floor with only a bit of straw to limit
the cold. But, "straw could only be kept by sitting on it; as
soon as your back was turned, it was taken by your neighbouring bedmates." Another
soldier, Victor Denham, reported equally poor conditions: "The
sleeping quarters were of wood and so old that the beams and roofs
were alive with wood lice and bugs, which dropped on our faces as we
tried to sleep, and gave out a horrible smell when squashed. When we
complained, our guards thought it a huge joke." Most of the men
moved outside and slept on the ground to escape the lice and bugs.
The prison guards, of course,
could make life miserable. Denham,
believed that those guards who had not been to the front tended
had experienced the horrors of the trenches offered more compassion.
For example, when Denham
was put in a punishment cell by the guard in charge, one of the guard's
subordinates waited awhile and then "came along to release me
with a fatherly pat on the head."
Hunger was common in the prison camps. Denham typically received horse
bean soup with a few small cubes of meat for lunch and a slice of black
bread with the occasional small herring for dinner. Reginald Morris described
another sort of problem:
" Unfortunately, our prison was placed
next to a field bakehouse. Hour after hour, fascinated,
we would watch groups of Russian prisoners stack hundreds
of freshly-baked loaves on wagons to be sent away. In
our eagerness to smell the bread, our faces were pressed
right up to the barbed wire.
It was a horrible torture to which we helplessly
submitted ourselves. The temptation was irresistible. In
this case pain itself became a pleasure. Every few
minutes, a guard came along and slashed with his bayonet
to keep us away from the wires."
(Oregon State Defense Council Records, Personal
Military Service Records, World War I, Box 3, Jackson County,
School District No. 40; firstworldwar.com: Memoirs of Reginald Morris,