Man seeks relatives of veteran, woman tied to 1918 letter
(Tribune News Service) — When Daniel Juracek came across a letter written by a soldier in the 82nd Field Artillery to an South Dakota woman in 1918, he immediately wanted to try and get the letter to her family members, but he hasn't yet had any luck.
The letter, written by Bill Hutch who was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, is addressed to a Miss Eva Keller in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
In his letter, Hutch tells of being in the hospital.
"I had the measles and they make you stay here 10 days after you(r) temperature becomes normal, which is some more foolishness," he says.
He also talks of being part of the 15th Division and being stationed near the U.S./Mexico border.
According to historical information published by the 1st Cavalry Division Association, the 82nd Field Artillery Regiment was originally organized as the 24th Calvary on June 5, 1917. It was reorganized as the 82nd on Nov. 1, 1917, and eventually ended up stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas, assigned to the 15th Calvary Division.
While training was in full swing for overseas combat with the Germans, this unit was specifically trained and equipped for border service.
The Mexican rebel, General Francisco "Pancho" Villa, had been causing problems in cross border raids and had committed acts of aggression against U.S. citizens and soldiers for a number of years. A punitive expedition led by General John J. Pershing into Mexico had been carried out in 1916-1917. A number of Pancho Villa's rebel forces were either killed, captured or scattered. But Pancho Villa was never caught.
A search of military burials in the United States yields a William Hutch who died in 1915, three years before this letter was penned. This William Hutch is buried at the Hot Springs National Cemetery. No other records of a Bill Hutch or close variation of that name could be found.
While it appears Hutch was recovering from the measles when he wrote the letter, a search from that time period quickly lands on the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, which ravaged many parts of the country, including Fort Bliss.
Juracek, who now lives in Texas, but hails from Burke, came across the letter while deployed to Iraq in 2004 as a civilian working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"Another gentleman from the corps was telling me about a letter he wanted to get to the Fort Bliss museum," Juracek recalls. "It was written to a lady in Aberdeen, South Dakota."
Juracek works at Fort Hood, Texas, about eight hours west of Fort Bliss. The original letter has since been delivered to the museum in Fort Bliss, but Juracek kept a copy for himself in the hopes he might be able to find someone from either family through the connections he still has in South Dakota.
"After I got back from Iraq, I lost the letter. Then one day, I found it and posted it on Facebook," he said.
He also shared a copy of the letter with the American News.
That original message, posted in 2017, didn't get the results he was hoping for, and he has yet to find a member of either family, but it recently came up as a Facebook memory and was shared again.
"I want to get it to someone who is related to either of them," he said. "I thought it would be pretty neat."
The letter is filled with standard correspondence, but Hutch does talk briefly about fighting the Mexicans and a recent incident where Mexicans were caught attempting to smuggle ammunition across the border.
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