William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
Finding Aid for Erwin Thomas Collection, 1917-1919
Meg Hixon, August 2012
Erwin Thomas collection
0.25 linear feet
This collection is comprised of 51 letters that 2nd Lieutenant Erwin A. Thomas wrote to his family in Pontiac and Brown City, Michigan, while serving in Europe during World War I. Thomas, a member of a machine gun company in the 125th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Division, discussed his experiences in the trenches, offered advice to his younger brother, and described his travels in France, Luxembourg, and Germany during and after the war.
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
Erwin Thomas Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
The collection is arranged chronologically.
Second Lieutenant Erwin Acil Thomas was born in Burnside, Michigan, on February 5, 1893, the son of John C. Thomas and Lucy Ann Foster. He had four siblings: Charles, William, James, and Walter. In 1917, he joined the United States Army, and he served abroad with the 125th Infantry Regiment's machine gun company between March 1918 and May 1919. He participated in active combat at the front lines in France, and he was stationed in Germany in late 1918 and early 1919. During the war, his family lived in Pontiac and Brown City, Michigan. On June 27, 1927, he married his second wife, Grace E. Joslin of Clare, Michigan; they had at least one son, Clarence. In 1940, Erwin lived in Montrose, California, with his wife (listed as "Pearl") and two children: Clarence and Erwin, Jr. Erwin A. Thomas died in California on May 10, 1980.
Collection Scope and Content Note
This collection contains 51 letters (plus additional enclosed letters) that 2nd Lieutenant Erwin A. Thomas wrote to his family in Pontiac and Brown City, Michigan, while he served in Europe during World War I. Thomas, a member of a machine gun company in the 125th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Division, discussed his experiences in the trenches, offered advice to his younger brother, and described his travels through France, Luxembourg, and Germany during and after the war. Also included are 2 letters that Erwin's cousin, Gideon E. Foster, wrote to the Thomas family, and a reprinted newspaper article.
Erwin wrote one letter to his parents, John C. and Lucy Ann Foster Thomas, from Fort Custer, Michigan, in September 1917, and sent his remaining letters from Europe between March 6, 1918, and May 1, 1919. In mid- to late 1918, Thomas shared his impressions of France and of military life. He spent significant time in active combat in the trenches along the Western Front, and described the effects of constant artillery fire. On September 2, 1918, he mentioned his participation in the Oise-Aisne offensive, and in his postwar letters, he occasionally commented on his trench experiences in further detail. Thomas also reassured his parents that he frequently read his copy of the New Testament, from which he sought comfort during his breaks from the frontline fighting. While in France, he visited Quentin Roosevelt's grave (August 11, 1918). Thomas often signed his letters as "a true soldier boy," and took pride in his military accomplishments, which included awards of merit.
After the war, he wrote about the armistice, peace negotiations, and his experiences in Germany. He provided his impressions of some of the freed parts of France and of the area around the Rhine River, where he was stationed throughout early 1919. In his letters to his brother Walter, he encouraged him to continue his violin lessons.
The collection also contains two letters from Private Gideon E. Foster to John and Lucy Thomas, his aunt and uncle, about his service with Battery A of the 330th Field Artillery, which did not see active combat on the front (November 14, 1918). Erwin Thomas also sent his parents a typed copy of a New York Herald article entitled "Three Cities Wait to Welcome Thirty-Second Division" (February 3, 1919).
- Families of military personnel--United States.
- Fort Custer (Mich.)
- France--Description and travel.
- Germany--Description and travel.
- Luxembourg--Description and travel.
- United States. Army. Field Artillery, 330th.
- United States. Army. Infantry Regiment, 125th.
- United States. Army--Military life.
- World War, 1914-1918--Campaigns--France.
- World War, 1914-1918--France.
- World War, 1914-1918--Trench warfare.
- Foster, Gideon E.
- Thomas, Erwin Acil, 1893-1980.