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World War I letters, 1918-1919
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World War I letters, 1918-1919
Ray Sweeney World War I letters, 1918-1919


Sweeney, Ray, 1896-1986, creator


This collection includes 19 holograph letters written by Ray Sweeney to his mother in San Francisco. Letters written from January through September 5, 1918 were sent from bases in California. A letter misdated June 18 (for Sept. 18) and subsequent letters through the end of the year were sent from Honolulu, Japan and the Philippines when Ray was on active duty. The remaining three letters were sent from Mare Island while he was awaiting discharge. Some of the letters are on YMCA and Knights of Columbus letterhead. A photograph of Ray is included as well as two business cards and a price list for military issue clothing.
Ray Sweeney writes initially from Mare Island where he talks of the military routine including guard duty -- on one occasion for 1 1/2 hours in the rain during a funeral service. He is soon transferred to San Pedro prior to going overseas where he tells of living in a tent with 150 other men all sleeping in hammocks. On June 18th he includes in his letter a price list for military issue clothing -- from hats to shoes -- totaling $69.82 and says "I don't think there will be any money coming to us the first money after you look at the list of clothes they charge you with." As for his daily routine: "All we been doing for the last couple of days has been marching and carrying guns till our feet nearly fall off."
At the end of July Ray is assigned to a special detail for two weeks at Exposition Park. On July 31 he writes: "The War Department is showing an exhibit on war trophies they have captured. There are so many of them it nearly takes up a square mile." This was the "Allied War Exposition", sponsored by the United States Committee on Public Information, that traveled around the country during 1918. Displays included military equipment and documentation of the ongoing war effort and parades, speeches, and battle reenactments were scheduled daily. Over 199,000 people attended during the 12-day run of the event in Los Angeles. Ray's letters don't include any details about the Exposition but he mentions how the men standing guard were affected by the heat: "We have two companys that guard from 12 oclock one day till 12 the next day. It is so warm soon as one shift is off duty they hit the shower every hour or so."
In September Ray sails for Hawaii on the S. S. Nanking. He is much impressed with Hawaii: "Everything is as clean as a whistle and the homes are beautiful" and describes a colorful departure scene: "We had to be back to the ship at eight oclock and you should have seen the boys every one was loaded down with pineapples and bananas, as much as a whole bunch in each hand." Landing in Japan, he barely has time to "tramp" around Yokohama before sailing again. A few days later he is in Shanghai, and he gives a vivid description of the Bund: the colonial architecture of the American, British and French banks; the omnipresent rickshaws and crowds of people.
The next port is Cavite in the Philippines where the sailors await reassignment: "After we leave here they say we will go on a training ship which has the Admiral of the Asatic Fleet on it. There is a gold braid come in from a ship in about 30 minute and they are making us all pick up a shovels and rake to make believe we are busy." As he waits to ship out again there are rumors that the war has ended -- and soon Ray is on his way home and returns to Mare Island where he is discharged in February of 1919.


1918 (issued)


Sweeney, Ray -- 1896-1986 -- Correspondence
Sailors -- California -- Correspondence
World War, 1914-1918 -- Personal narratives, American
United States. -- Navy. -- Pacific Fleet.
Allied War Exposition.


Ramon Alexander (Ray) Sweeney was born on June 15, 1896 in San Francisco, the son of Daniel A. Sweeney and Estella Schimp Sweeney. He attended Laguna Honda Grammar School until his father's untimely death just before the 1906 earthquake forced him to get a job when he was 10 years old. In 1917 Ray enlisted in the Navy and was initially stationed at Mare Island, California, and then transferred to San Pedro. He sailed for the Far East in September of 1918, and spent time in Honolulu, Shanghai and the Philippines. At the end of hostilities he was discharged at Mare Island in 1919.
Ray found employment in the wholesale fruit and produce market with Jones & Pettigrew in San Francisco, and later established his own business, entering into partnership with Al Francis. He married Ida Francis Maritz on February 20, 1926, and they raised a son, Ramon D., and two daughters, Loretta and Eda. After his retirement in the 1950s, the Sweeneys moved to Los Altos where Ray was active in community affairs. He was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Sons in Retirement, the American Legion and the Garden House Senior Citizens. At the time of his death on April 24, 1986, Ray and Ida had been married for 60 years and had 17 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. He is buried at Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto.
Ray Sweeney World War I letters, 1918-1919
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.



Physical Description:

23 items : port.







Copyright Note:

Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.