Co. B. 1st Btn. 1st Rpl. Reg Eng
Washington Barracks, D.C.
I will try and write you a few lines tonight. I haven't done much today, only shoot. I have shot 60 rounds today and maybe you think my shoulder isn't sore. They say I have done fine this morning. I scored 84 out of a possible hundred but this PM I didn't do so well. They picked out all of us who scored above l75 and put us on the range for practice as quick firing. The first period I made every one a bull's eye, the second 1 bull's eye and 4 second class and scored 21 out of a possible 25. Then they put us thru a little faster than we could stand up to, being all stove up and sore from the hike. Every one of us fell below our first records and only 4 of us scored above the dead line. I stuck it by one point; one other fellow one above, and one 3 above. The other one went away high. We go to the range again Wed., and I am going to come back or know why.
We are shooting 200 yards at a spot about the size of a man's head. Wednesday, they make it 500 yards at the same target, and so on till we all fall out, I guess. Say, you ought to see the dust fog behind the targets when they turn us loose at the rate of 10 shots a minute. Some of the fellows don't get in all the shots but I always did. I only missed the whole target but once, and I shot at it as it went down.
They caught us napping last night. They go to bed here one hour earlier than we did over at the Fort so we were all sitting around writing and cleaning guns when taps were blown. We just had to drop things and flip out the lights and hit the hay.
I was in the kitchen today. We work one day and shoot one. There was about 50 of our Co. in the kitchen and we worked till we peeled exactly 5 barrels of spuds. We feed everyone in the academy, sailors and soldiers. There were several sailors in the kitchen, too. Our Mess Sergeant and the sailor's Sergeant were a couple of busy guys. They were yelling every little while at a couple of sailors this way or a pair of soldiers do this and so on.
Those sailors are dandy fellows. They have a pretty easy time of it, too. There is a little better feeling between officers and men in the Navy than in the Army and they all have it in for our First Sergeant because he talks so rough to the men. We hadn't been here 30 minutes until one of the Naval officers and our First Sergeant were in a mix over that very thing. One of the Instructors out at the range gave him some back talk and he took it, too. The Captain was our worst customer awhile but you wouldn't know he was the same man anymore. He is as cheerful as a kitten.
The Captain and 5 Lieutenants took the same course in shooting that we did. The Captain only beat me 3 points. The Lieutenants fell below me but Lieutenant Quail scored nearly a hundred. Those Lieutenants don't know anymore about shooting than we do. They just take a course in some Officers Training School maybe for 7 or 8 months and get a commission by passing a pretty soft examination. But Lieutenant Quail has been through the mill and knows his business. We all like him, too.
Well, you ought to be here now. They have Co. C down on the machine gun range for a few minutes practice after supper. They have up such a tat.tat.tat.tat.tat.tat., about a dozen machine guns going and the dirt on the hill behind the targets is just boiling like muddy water. We get on machine guns tomorrow evening if we qualify. I've got to make 13 more points at quick firing before I can go. I have plenty of room to improve considerably more than 13 points. I was no shape to shoot yesterday. I did pretty good for the first 10 rounds, then my shoulder was too sore and I simply went all to pieces. The gun is strapped to your left arm, tight and solid as it is possible to make it and still get the stock against your right shoulder. It has a fellow's arms in such a cramp that a fellow, as sore in the muscles as we were yesterday, is thinking more about the pain than the bull's eye. The big Naval officer said we would soon get so we would be as comfortable in the straps as an old shoe. I hope he is right for there is a medal for a Marksman and, if I get those straps to fit good and my shoulder gets hardened to it, I'll make some man shoot to get it.
The champion dead shot of the whole academy here is a Sioux Indian from N. Dakota. I guess he is some cat with a shooting iron from the way the Instructors talk.
Well, we are awful busy now so I don't have much time to write. Four fellows found time enough to shoot a few craps this A.M. Had up a pretty good pot, I guess, and the Sergeant found them. They are under guard now, working like thunder cleaning s___houses and spittoons and the like. And it's another job for us to guard the crazy nuts. They ought to put them up for the bull's eyes. I'd soon stop the extra guard duty. I've got about as much love for a gambler as I have for the Kaiser.
Well, I must close so answer soon. We will start back to Ft. Foote real soon, maybe Saturday or Sunday. Will write you again for my mail has to be transferred twice before it gets here and that takes time. Hoping to hear from you soon. I am your son,
Where is Harley?
Same old address
Wednesday, July 10
Well, I have been pumping hot steel to a finish today and, say, I'm a happy guy tonight. I have qualified for a Marksman now, finished up this PM. I was scared blue, though, for fear I wouldn't make it. They put us over the last half of the course at the rate of 5 shots in 20 seconds, 5 laying down, 5 standing offhand, 5 kneeling and 5 squatting. I never missed a shot. Every shot hit the target but once he drawed the red flag across the target which meant miss. I think my heart quit beating and I know I held my breath until my other 5 shots were pumped in. He shot up the white disk over the target 4 times meaning 4 center hits, and the red disk for a scratch. Then the telephone man says "Man at Target No. 3 got 3 points instead of a miss" Target operator never saw the whole target. That was mine. That cleared me of missing the whole target and gave me 3 points besides. Just put me on the dead line and I still had 5 shots yet. I'd a time to get over the excitement. I might have made more of them 5 shots but everybody was crowding around back of the firing line and round the tally keeper. It kind of got me shaky and I only made 13 points out of the 5 last shots, but I was all safe anyway.
Colba Day also made his points. He is one devil of a good shot and this Co. doesn't have a man who can beat him in slow firing. He lost heavy in quick firing but he made enough extra on slow fire to put him over the dead line. I'm glad he made it. We shoot Friday to qualify for Sharp Shooters. We will have to shoot 200,300,500,1000 and 1600 yards and run from one line to another. Say, we start at the 200 yard line, shoot 5 shots, run to 300 yard line and fire 5, and so on up and back until we have shot 20 shots from each line of course. We won't do this all in a day but that's what they say we will have to go through to be a Sharp Shooter. We have to make at least 67 hits out of a hundred shots or it's no go. I don't have a ghost of a hope of ever being a Sharp Shooter. I wish I could just stop with what I've already made and not lose my reputation. I know I couldn't hit the bull's eye at 1600 yards with this here Missouri mule of mine for it has kicked at me as high as 4 times after I shot it once. Ha! Ha!
But no joke, on the square, I never saw anything in the line of shooting irons that can hold a candle to an Enfield Rifle. The second time I shot this thing this P.M. it liked to a kicked the muscle all off my right arm. I thought sure it had blown up. The Coach said it was the way I held it so I took his advice and held it his way. I found it lots better but it didn't stop kicking by no means.
This P.M. after supper they took us down to the machine gun range. They have 12 or 15 of these little Lewis machine guns and they have a stock like a rifle. You lay down and hold the thing against your shoulder and pull the trigger and away she goes. Clip holds 47 shells and it takes just 5 seconds to shoot them. When they start is when you get shook up. They have about half the kick the Enfield rifle has but a devil of a lot more kicks per minute.
I shot one clip and hit the bull's eye 12 times. Ha! Ha! Some shot, eh? Well, that isn't so bad, either, for a machine gun. The most of the boys only got 3 or 4. Some got 16, 22 and 23, and one or two fellows who had been at one before got 32 and 35. A machine gun is made more for speed than accuracy.
I couldn't see a blamed thing the last 12 or 15 shots, but smoke blaze and white heat and grease flying in my face. Say, you ought to see the empty shells fly. Ha!
This is a pretty nice place here. It is right on the Chesapeake Bay but it gets cold as thunder at night the same as at Ft. Foote. I guess that's the way of all this coast country. Is it that way in Indiana?
Well, they called all of us fellows out who had qualified for Marksmen and put us through the double shuffle for Sharpshooters. We shot at two, three, five and six hundred yards and I scored 227 points. The limit we had to make was 202, so you see I am 25 to the good so far. We go again tomorrow and try out. We have to get 238 points tomorrow in order to get the Badges. If we don't get 238 and get over 202, we get to try out on some other range. I forget just where they send us. There was a French man held the championship on fast firing until this evening and he only got 219. There was two of us skinned him this evening. My Corporal and I. The Corporal got 228.
Colba Day only got 208. George Prosser only got 193; he couldn't hold his gun down. We are the only 3 Brown Co's on the list for sharp shooting.
If I can hold the job down and make my points again tomorrow, I will be the happiest soldier in Uncle Sam's Army. It certainly is great sport all right, and would be a lot more fun if they would keep a fellow at it until his shoulders and arms got toughened in. We were shooting laying down most of the time this PM, and I wore a blister on each elbow, then busted them both. My shoulder is plumb blue but I wouldn't pay any attention to that this PM. I just hugged her close and pulled the trigger just the same, and it was always too late to flinch after the gun cracked.
If you want to see what we are up against, just step off 600 yards and stick up a black disk 8 inches across and see how big it looks.
I am lots better on fast shooting than slow. I got 110 on slow fire and 117 fast fire. The targets only stay up a minute and 20 seconds, and you have to lay down and shoot 5 times, grab an extra clip from your belt and ram it in, then shoot 5 more. The targets go down when the time is up no matter if you haven't shot but once. I got all the shots in and never had to hurry but once shooting at 600 yards. I had my sight raised and my hat rim knocked it down. I had to raise it and by that time she had started down, so I just leveled her at the top of the parapet and cut loose. The dust just boiled and he gave me two points on it, better than none.
Well, don't blame me if I got this shooting on the brain. It's the best shoot I've had in a long time. The worst I can say about it is that it keeps me scared to death for fear I won't make it. Ha! Ha!
How is everything with you folks. Has any threshing machines started yet? Well, tell me all the news. I haven't heard from you for some time now. The mail must be balled up again.
Well, I must cut this out and get some more instructions from the Navy officer again. They tell us everything they know about 40 times a day. They told me not to smoke when I went out to shoot and my nerves would be steadier so this PM I was so shaky when I got done firing on the 500 yard line I couldn't hold the chalk in my hands to keep tally for the man who shot ahead of me. So I lit my old pipe, smoked her dry and took a big chew of Star and went to the line and knocked 5 bull's eyes straight. I generally take their advice but they make mistakes same as anyone else. If a fellow has the habit he'd better take a smoke when he wants it for his nerves will go bum on him sure if he denies himself what he is used to.
Well, I will write again as soon as I lose the game. Ha! Ha! Write soon. As ever your son,