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Letters from The Great War

During World War I, letters were the main method of communication between soldiers and the homefront. This gallery of war letters from the Center for American War Letters offers a glimpse into the lives of the men and women who lived through World War I, in their own words.

Courtesy of Andrew Carroll. Scan by National Postal Museum of loan for exhibition "My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I"


General Orders No. 38 letter from Gen. John J. Pershing to “My Fellow Soldiers,” dated February 28, 1919, sent from France


Now that your service with the American Expeditionary Forces is about to terminate, I can not let you got without a personal word. At the call to arms, the patriotic young manhood of America eagerly responded and became the formidable army whose decisive victories testify to its efficiency and its valor. With the support of the nation firmly united to defend the cause of liberty, our army has executed the will of the people with resolute purpose. Our democracy has been tested, and the forces of autocracy have been defeated. To the glory of the citizen-soldier, our troops have faithfully fulfilled their trust, and in a succession of brilliant offensives have overcome the menace to our civilization.

As an individual, your part in the world war has been an important one in the sum total of our achievements. Whether keeping lonely vigil in the trenches, or gallantly storming the enemy’s stronghold; whether enduring monotonous drudgery at the rear, or sustaining the fighting line at the front, each has bravely and efficiently played his part. By willing sacrifice or personal rights; by cheerful endurance of hardship and privation; by vigor, strength and in-domitable will, made effective by thorough organization and cordial co-operation, you inspired the war-worn Allies with new life and turned the tide of threatened defeat into overwhelming victory.

With a consecrated devotion to duty and a will to conquer, you have loyally served your country. By your exemplary conduct a standard has been established and maintained never before attained by any army. With mind and body as clean and strong as the decisive blows you delivered against the foe, you are soon to return to the pursuits of peace. In leaving the scenes of your victories, may I ask that you carry home your high ideals and continue to live as you have served – an honor to the principles for which you have fought and to the fallen comrades you leave behind.

It is with pride in our success that I extend to you my sincere thanks for your splendid service to the army and to the nation.


John. J. Pershing

Commander in Chief

See this letter and many others on display in My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from WWI at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum starting April 6, 2017.
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