What becomes obvious with this letter is that Dan’s mother wrote several letters on February 1. We do not have a copy of the letter that she wrote to Douglass Awick that prompted this response. The photograph attached to this post is of Celeste Brackett Newcomer with Danny, age 8, and his younger brother Lionel. It was taken in 1906.
Hand Written on “With the Colors” stationary
224th Aero Squadron
San Antonio, Texas
Feb 5th, 1918
Dear Mrs. Newcomer,
Just received your letter of February 1st and will answer at once for I know what it is to loose (sic) a loved one and not know but a little about the sickness and death of that loved one. My mother died while the rest of my family were under quarantine for scarlet fever and while I was at college in Va. During the period of her sickness I could earn only a very little concerning my people and her death was a sudden blow.
I will try to give you a coherent account of Dan’s illness and his life while with the Squadron. I will begin with the day that we were thrown together for I know you will cherish every little detail that I can give you. The day on which this squadron was formed was very warm, so hot that one perspired sitting still. The whole day was occupied with forming the squadron and it was late in afternoon before we were taken to the line of tents which was to be our home. After supper we were formed into squads and assigned to tents. Dan and I met for first time in this formation. Well while the rest of us were setting the baggage to rights and driving in a few pegs to hold tent in place, Dan and another member of squad went across the street and rustled some wood from an officers.
Dan made the remark, “We had better get some as we will not have time to get any from the woodpile this afternoon.” (the woodpile was a mile away.) After carrying a few loads the officer caught them and stopped them. Although the weather was so warm as to be uncomfortable, yet Dan’s forethought stood us to an advantage, for later that evening a sandstorm hit us and the temperature dropped about 50 degrees. The wind blew a gale.
While the rest of us sit on the sides of tent and hold it down, Dan fed the stove with wood and entained (sic) the crowd with tales of his wild and wooly day while on the Dupont police force. (Note: I do not know what this refers to.)
We all nicknamed Dan Jesse James the second because he was so successful in rustling food. Many times on a long line the tail enders would not get very much because those dishing out the food did not know how to dish so that all would be feed (sic) equally.
As our Squadron did not have a kitchen of its own until we moved to our present quaters (sic) we were eat at other kitchens and necessarily we were always tail enders. Well we were never out of luck because Dan would always find something extra for himself and us also. One day the feed was short. The cooks and kitchen police had saved some food which was still on stove. No one was supposed to touch this food except Mess Sargent (sic) who dished out for cooks and K.P.s. After we had eaten what we had been given, Dan says to us, “Follow me and we get something.” He went up to the stove and began dishing out the food there, filling his own plate and ours. A cook came and began to dish out this food. Dan stopped and told him to get out, and the cook got. Dan gave him a little and finished dishing out to us. The cook thought Dan was the one in authority and so he never said a word, but stood aside and let Dan have his way. Dan was the life of the company ready to do anything that turned up. Best of all he liked to chop wood which none of the rest of us liked to do. He kept a big pile cut always ahead.
Two or three days before Dan went to the hospital Dan said he did not feel very good and he had a boil or two. Yet he did not seem to be much sick. The day before he was sent up with the measles, we wanted him to go to hospital that is the field hospital here, and get some medicine for his blood, but he would not do so as he said that you was (sic) sending him some drugs from home. He would not report sick that day. The next day he reported sick but still he did not seem to be very sick and they gave him something at the infirmary and he came back to tent. He laid (sic) down and in a little while I went to his cot to see if he felt any better. As soon as I saw him, I knew he had the measles and I imediately (sic) took him to hospital.
After he went to hospital that is the base, we did not hear anything from him until about three days before he died. The Lieut. who had been to see him told me that he was very sick. I asked for a pass the next day to go to see him but the Sargent (sic) Major failed to have Lieut. to sign pass before he left for headquarters that day so I could not go. The next day were signing payrolls and could not get passes. The following day and (sic) order came through not to give any more passes except on issue through headquarters. Consequently, I did not obtain a pass until Friday the day after his death.
While at the hospital I tried to learn everything I could about Dan.
About all that I could learn was that Dan seemed to get along very well for four or five days but all at once pneumonia developed and in a few hours Dan was very low. As soon as Dan was taken worse they removed him to pneumonia ward, where they had bad cases. He lasted only a short time.
The Ward Sargent (sic) said that Dan seemed to take no notice of anything around him and not to talk except to ask for water or milk. His end was very peaceful.
I found one fellow in this squadron who was in the hospital with measles while Dan was there and who saw him two or three times. He said that Dan seemed to be doing very well until the pneumonia developed. The Ward Sargent (sic) told me that other complications besides pneumonia set in which helped to hasten his end.
I am so sorry that I was not able to get in to see him until after all was over.
I will have close as my candle is about gone and the canteen is a mile away.
I will write again as soon as I get some time giving you more details.
I wanted go home with him. I offered to pay my own way inorder (sic) to get a furlough but it was impossible. I would like to get home myself.
If I get near Harpers Ferry I will drop over to see you in person give you any details that I may know. I live at Romney W. Va. and have many relatives in Winchester Va.
Many packages and letters have been returned to you which were received since Dan died. You will receive them –something. Mail is very uncertain here.
May our Heavenly Father give you the help you need in this hour of heal.
Note: There are a number of words missing in this letter but I have left it as it was written. As the writer says, he was writing by candlelight and knew he had limited time to complete a letter.