World War I News, 1917-1919
from the Denison Review
Letters to Home from Crawford County People Serving in WWI
September, 1918 - October, 1918
Frank C. King, (Denison Review 9-4-1918)
Frank C. King,
August 2, 1918
Dear Sister Nellie:
I received your letter today and was very glad to hear from you. I suppose you are going to school again by now. No, I have not had my eyes doctored yet. Tell mother that I will write in a day or so but news is so scarce that I haven't much to write about. I did not get the paper yet and haven't since I left Camp Dodge. Well sis, it is almost time to go to work so must close for this time.
Your brother, Frank C. King, Am. E. F.
Percy Cavett, (Denison Review 9-11-1918)
(.... missing 1st part of letter) - but paper is so scarce out here in the woods which we have taken from the huns that I cannot answer them now, but we expect to move out of here before long and then I will answer them. In the meantime, tell the following that I have received their letters and will answer later: Flora I., Helen Boylan, Albert Strissel, Mr. Huffman, Rev. Boyd and Fannie H. Well, mother, we were in the big offensive that the Germans started on July 11th and it sure was some bombardment. That was when Burgess Boslough went to the hospital as you have no doubt read in the papers.
We held them though and went within six miles of Paris and did not stop there but went to a place about 25 miles where we stayed three days and then went up and got in action where the Americans were driving the huns out of France. It was in this fight that Ed Flahive, Will Marshall and Leo Miller were wounded and sent to the hospital but they will recover and be all right. Before we came up here I was made a corporal and have been holding that position for some time and am getting along all right with it. I have had some real experience since coming over here. Men shot down next to you and I saw a fellow blown higher than a house by an explosive German shell, and it is marvelous how near a man can come to being wounded or killed and yet not be hurt.
I have sent a German helmet home and will send other things later, if I can. It is a private's helmet and makes a good souvenir. I had a lot of souvenirs but lost them in the action out here and have never found them. I do not know what we are going to do next, but we are in for a rest and I hope we get paid too, as we have two months pay coming. Well, mother, I must close for the time and hope that this finds you well and all the rest of the family also. With love as ever.
Corp. Percy Cavett, Co. B, 168th Infantry, Amer. E. F.
Eliphalet Stock, (Denison Review 9-11-1918)
Aug. 8, 1918
My Dearest Mother and All:
Just a few lines to let you know that I'm still well and happy and we are out of the fight just now. I received seven letters yesterday, which wasn't so bad was it? It sure makes a fellow feel good. I am sending papa a piece of shell of high explosive. It was the smallest piece that I could find. How would you like to see a piece about forty times as bag as that? One little piece, however, can put you in the hospital for several months.
I am also sending dad a dutch helmet by mail and he can put it on exhibition in his shop. Tell the fellows that I shot the hun with it on. I would like to send more souvenirs, but cannot just now. I suppose that you have read all about our battle before this. We sure had some time driving the huns, but they can't slip anything over on the Americans. Yes, the U. S. boys are coming (...missing rest of letter)
Henry Clay Laub, (Denison Review 9-11-1918)
Henry Clay Laub, San Francisco - The following letter was received by the Woman's Relief Corps from Henry Clay Laub, thanking them for the comfort kit which they gave him when he left for service. Henry is in the navy and is stationed near San Francisco at present and the letter below gives a good description of the island where he is located.
Wednesday, Sept. 4, 1918
Dear Ladies of the W. R. C.
I wish to thank you for the kit given me before I left. Several of the fellows are rather sorry they have none. There is not much danger of damaging one's clothes here but I have had two occasions to use the needle and thread. I suppose you would like to hear something of the camp. Godt Island has an area of two square miles, I should judge. We are in detention camp and are not allowed out of its limits. This camp is about forty acres. The whole island is like the peaks of one large and one small mountain standing out of the bay. The crest of the large peak must be a thousand feet from the water and the other about half as high.
Most of the boys were very much disappointed with this part of California. There are no flowers here, the sun rarely shines before noon and goes behind the fog clouds at four. The only flowers I have seen here are the same as the house plants around Denison. There are many palms around the lower barracks. At evening and morning the breeze from the bay is so chilly most of the men wear their P coats. These coats are the same as mackinaws. Until one becomes acclimated the weather is very severe with him. I was all of two weeks getting used to the rapid changes during the day.
The food is good and we get all we can eat. The meal, however, are like those at some boarding houses, when you eat there for seven days you know what each meal will consist of the corresponding day the next week. The cooking probably isn't as good as at home but by the time we get to eat it certainly is good. Our company has had only six or eight hours drill, that was week before last. Last week and this week we have been making new drill grounds and working around the officers' quarters. I am off twenty-four hours for letting the doctors have about a pint of blood this noon. I never had such a queer feeling as towards the last. I don't feel altogether right yet. Thanking you again for the kit,
I am Your sailor friend, Henry Clay Laub, U. S. Naval Training Station, Co. N-4 Detention Camp, San Francisco, Cali.
Frank Brogan, (Denison Review 9-11-1918)
( .... missing 1st part of letter) - work going up in every town and they were building ships and sub chasers and guns and ammunition of all kinds. We went over the largest bridge in the world when we left New York. We also got a look at Brooklyn bridge. We went through New York but I didn't leave the coach and went under part of the city in a subway. We were pulled through with an electric engine. We got off at New Haven and marched through part of the town for exercise.
When we go back the Red Cross society was at the train with ice cream and coffee. They sure were good along the trip and most every place we stopped they were there with something, either candy, ice cream, cigarettes, coffee, postals or lemonade. They are all dressed in uniforms and they take your mail too. Once place we went through the whistles were blowing at the factories and flags were waving and last night we stopped at New London and people came out barefooted to see us; they had gotten up out of bed. Well, it is almost dinner time so will close.
Frank Brogan, Co. A, 212 Engr. Regl Camp Devens, Mass.
George F. Knapp, (Denison Review 9-11-1918)
George F. Knapp, France. Miss Hazel Liese of Vail has sent us the following letter from her cousin, George Knapp, who is with the 168th infantry in France:
June 29, 1918
I just received thirty-two letters and among them was yours so will answer it at once. This is a very beautiful country and one can travel for miles and never see a wire fence. What fences they have are stone hedges. All the farmers live in villages and their barns, houses and hog houses are all in one and are made of cement, even to the roof, with a stone wall all around.
They have very fine gardens with all kinds of fruits and berries. I have found that the ground is very stony, from the experiences I have had digging trenches. They have fine horses and they raise rabbits and some chickens. I have been in the front line trenches several times and expect to be there again soon. At present I am in a deserted village back of the lines, sleeping on a feather bed, but it does not happen very often that we have such beds. I have had many experiences while at the front that I can relate to you when I return.
I am in an automatic rifle squad and our post is out in No Man's Land. I have been in several gas attacks and have been under machine gun fire. French life is great but give me the states every time. I see many air battles each day also. Well, I must go on duty now so will close. Hoping that this finds you in the best of health I am,
Yours truly, Pvt. Geo. F. Knapp, Co. B., 168th Infantry, American E. F. France
Raleigh Winey, Deloit (Denison Review 9-25-1918)
Raleigh Winey, France - Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Winey, of Deloit, have sent the following letter for publication, which they received from their son, Raleigh, who is in France and who is recovering from a recent gas attack:
Aug. 22, 1918,
I will try and write you a few lines this afternoon to let you know how I am getting along. I am feeling pretty good again now and have been out of bed for five days, just spent three days in bed. I am sleeping in a tent now and we play ball and drill a while every morning, then we can do as we please the rest of the day. I think I will be able to go back to my company in a few days. The two boys who were with me when I was gassed are still in bed, but they are getting along all right.
We were all in a dugout and a gas shell broke just in front of us and we got a taste of the gas before we could get our masks on. I got my mast on first so didn't get as sick as the other two did. We sure are having some hot weather over here now, but when the sun goes down it gets pretty cool and a fellow can sleep with two blankets over him at night. I expect you are having hot weather too back in old Iowa. Do you remember that fellow that stood beside me the morning we left Denison? His name is Palmer and he is from Manilla. He was shot in the hand and is here in the hospital with me. I haven't seen my old pal, O'Brien, since we left for the front. I haven't had any mail for a long time but hope to get some soon.
Your loving son, Raleigh Winey, Co. I, 131 Inf, Amer. E. F.
Richard Ely, Denison (Denison Review 9-25-1918)
Richard Ely, Enroute. Miss Kaletta Bohlken, of Ricketts, has received an interesting letter from Richard Ely of this city, which was written on board ship while enroute to France. "Tick" as he was familiarly called, left Camp Gordon with a bunch of Denison boys who have all landed safely in France according to recent reports received.
Somewhere on the Ocean
Well here goes. Not only me, but the ship too. It's some rocker. I haven't been feeding the fish but thought sure I was going to. But the fish hadn't ought to be hungry: there are enough who are feeding them. Don't know where I am going. Am just out sightseeing on the ocean, I guess.
Did you get all of my letters and how about the suit case? Did you get it? Seems like things get lost quite often when a fellow don't want them to.
We have a nice bunch of nurses on board ship. I am on guard on their deck and when we guards get ready to go to sleep they bring us out a bunch of their blankets. Of course we sleep on the floor, but it makes a good bed with all the blankets. I would rather sleep up here than down in the hammocks. The hammocks get to swinging when the boat rocks. When some of the guys wake up in the night rolling on the waves it sure makes them sick.
I saw Ed Gleason today; first time since we came on board and another guy who asked me if my name wasn't Ely. Maybe it was Hollrah. I don't know. I am rather disappointed as I have not seen a whale or any flying fish; not a thing but one bird. Would like to see a whale but am afraid I won't have a chance. We have two bands on board and it sure helps kill time. I had to laugh at one fellow. He has just gotten over being seasick. He just said he wanted to cross this pond once more. Then it could dry up for all he cared.
When I get ready to come back I would like to go around by California and Washington. I know some people there that used to be neighbors to us. They were great friends of mothers. May I wouldn't know them any more though. They had target practice with the cannons yesterday and believe me, I would not want to be within range of them either. The gunners are the crack shots and they showed it to. We have fire drill every day and they sure go some to get on deck when the whistle blows; and there is some bunch too. We were life saving belts all the time, so if anything did happen we would all be prepared. But I feel just as safe as if I was walking on land. Well, tell all the folks hello. I would like to see them all. And be sure and take care of yourself.
Yours, Richard Ely
Marie Mathews, (Denison Review 10-2-1918)
Miss Marie Mathews, of Omaha, niece of Mrs. D. O. Johnson, of this city, has arrived in France, where she is doing canteen work. Miss Mathews in a letter received recently had the following to say in regard to the work over there:
I was crazy to come over, but I thought I was a little selfish in wanting to come for I realized that the work at home and in the schools was important and must be done, and that perhaps one was doing just as much to stick to their job - but all that has changed in my mind. With the number of teachers that are resigning, school may become disorganized but they still have a foundation and they will muster new forces and go on, but this proposition is another thin. Workers must come to do these things.
I had no conception of the need. A little over one year ago, 18 workers came here, now there are one and half times as many as the number of people living in Denison and you can't imagine what they are doing. If you could know I'm sure you would be mighty happy to think I could come. During the time we've been here, we've spent our time fulfilling the legal necessities and attending lectures covering the scope of work. That in itself may seem unnecessary but when I tell you there are thought to be at least twice as many spies here as the population of Denison, doesn't it seem more clear? Everything I ever heard that was awful, I've heard confirmed at almost, if not quite, first hand.
Our boys have seen service like veterans. American women must die here. We expect in the next few days to do service locally and to be assigned to regular duty next week. Mrs. Willie K. Vanderbilt is in charge of the canteen workers here. She signs herself Anne Vanderbilt. She works as steadily as any other clerk and she is not young. Now here is a thing not to forget - we will be on a line of communication but we will not be close up at all. Oh, I never in the world knew so well how to be proud of America. If you know any women with a son in the marines congratulate them. They're wonderful, wonderful.
Ralph J. Dickinson, (Denison Review 10-9-1918)
Ralph J. Dickinson, Ft. Worth, Tex. The following letter was written by Ralph J. Dickinson, who was a graduate of the Denison high school in 1916, and will be remembered by many people in Denison. He is a cousin of Mrs. C. H. Richardson of Vail to whom he wrote this letter which is a most interesting account of his experiences in flying at Kelly Field No. 2.
84th Aero Squadron, Texas, Kelly Field, No. 2,
Sept. 13, 1918
Dear Cousin Carrie:
You surely must be busy as I haven't heard from you for some time. Please write and give me some news. It is now 9 a.m. and I just came down from a little aerial flight, was up an hour and six minutes. The sky was as clear as a crystal this morning and the air was fine, not a blimp any place. Down near the ground the air was really chilly, but after we got up about 100 feet it was real warm. All that I had on my head was a big pair of goggles. We went up about 3500 feet. When we climbed in the ship the lieutenant told me that he would turn the control over to me after we got up 1500 feet.
He first asked me if I had ever flown a ship before, and I told him that I had had an hour or so of instruction. Well, we took off, went around the course twice and way we went. By this time we had over 1500 feet altitude but I did not get the control until we were up about 2500 feet. Then he shut off his motor, nosed the machine down to keep flying speed and asked how high we were. I told him, and then he gave her the gun and motioned for me to take the ship. You know these planes can be driven from either seat.
Well, I did rights for about thirty minutes and then he took the ship again. He then put it into a tight spiral. Oh how we did spin around. I had to laugh at one of the fellows the other day. He went up in my ship and when he came down there was oil spattered all over the wings and he was as white as chalk. His whole breakfast lay in his lap. Oh how we did kid that fellow.
Well, after flying in tight spirals for awhile the lieutenant decided that it was about time to go in so he cut the motor and spiraled down to about 1000 feet. There he put the machine into a side slip and oh, how that old ship did do sideways. It feels just like going down a steep hill. When we got down to about 500 feet we gave her the gun and came in and landed. We had been up an hour and six minutes and had used nearly fifteen gallons of gas. This is just an instance of what I get nearly every day here at Kelly. No, I don't get the control every time, but I get them quite often. You should have seen that old ship rock and go up and down the firs time I had the controls.
I sure did keep the nose bobbing some. I almost forgot to tell you that I am leaving here this week, perhaps I will go to Mineola, but don't know yet. Will probably eat Christmas dinner in either England or France. At any rate I hope so. I am enclosing a letter of yours which I received a day or so ago. It had been to England, France and I don't know where else. I am sending it to you for a souvenir.
Goodbye, Ralph J. Dickinson.
Edward H. Boyens, (Denison Review 10-9-18)
Edward H. Boyens, France - Miss Minnie Boyens has handed us these letters recently received from her brother, Edward, who is now in France in active service:
Somewhere in France,
Aug. 30, 1918.
I received your letter this morning which was dated July 20th. I sure was glad to hear from you all the same. You don't need to worry about me as I am quite a ways behind the firing line now. We have been very lucky so far and haven't lost a man, and I hope that luck stays with us. We went through parts of England that certainly were pretty, but we did not stay long enough to see much of it. We drill on Sunday, sometimes and some times we don't. It doesn't make much difference though, as sometimes we don't even know it is Sunday. Alfred is near here somewhere, and I talked to a couple of boys from his division but none of them knew where his company was stationed. I am acting corporal now, but don't know whether I'll pass or not. It is about dinner time so will close. Tell all my friends hello,
Your brother, Edward H. Boyens, Co. ?327th? Inf. Amer. E. F.
Frank Brogan, (Denison Review 10-9-1918)
Frank Brogan, Camp Devens, Mass., Oct. 2, 1918
We have had a nice day today and it is real warm tonight and looks a little like rain. We have been building bridges all day again, first we built one on the lake and then three others on land. It is not very hard work on land but on the lake it is harder. We built one in 45 minutes and then tore it down in 12 minutes. We had a sham battle this forenoon. We got out in the weeds and trees and another company attacked us and tried to get through, but they didn't succeed.
There is some excitement to that all right. We had a fire drill too the other night. We were called out at 12:30 and it didn't take us long, but there was no fire, just a drill. The sickness here is getting pretty well checked. There were five of the boys from our company came back from the hospital today and no more have gone in lately. I put in an application to accompany a body home to Fonda but another fellow got to go instead. We would have been given eight days for the trip but it would take three days each way and then if we were late at all I wouldn't have had any time at home at all.
One boy went to Sioux City and the Nicewohner boy was sent to Sac City. There are not visitors allowed in camp for awhile. A fellow was just reading the paper that 700 boys were released from the hospital tonight that had recovered. That was quite a bunch but they were going in that fast for awhile. I was talking to a fellow that just got back and he said there was a little room there now and they are able to give them better care. I got another sweater tonight and a helmet, a pair of socks and a pair of wristlets. They are machine knit but are real heavy. They were issued from the Red Cross. I also have my name and number plate that we wear around our necks. There are two aeroplanes flying around here all the time. They came up from Washington D. C. and are advertising the Liberty loan. Must close for this time.
Guy Schwarzenbach, (Denison Review 10-9-1918)
G. Schwarzenbach, Camp Hancock, Ga. - Mrs. J. Schwarzenbach has handed us two letters recently received from her sons, Guy and Clarence, who are both stationed at Camp Hancock, Ga.
Dear Mother and All:
I received your letter this morning which was written September 26th and had been sent astray. Your address was correct, but the mistake was in the handling. Mother, don't worry about me getting sick because I am doing everything I can to take care of myself. If I were to stroll in on your unexpectedly you wouldn't know me for the lots of sleep, fresh air, good grub do wonders for a fellow. I may take you by surprise some of these days so look out. We have the influenza here too now. Everything was all right until a bunch of fellows were transferred from Camp Grant, ill. here and about 500 of them had the "flu."
There wasn't room for them in the base hospital so they had to put up extra tens. I guess we have about 900 cases in camp now. The Y.M.C.A. and Liberty theater and all public places are closed. They have prohibited soldiers from riding in autos or street cars; or going into any building in town. We aren't quarantined in camp but might as well be because town is five miles away and if we can't ride there we can't go. I don't think it will last long though as they have controlled the spread of the disease. We have a real clever little home now since we made a floor in it. We have manufactured a regular writing desk out of rough lumber, we have pigeon holes for our letters and have an electric light right over it.
We are always figuring on how we can improve the looks of our tent, and we have the cleverest little place around here and everyone who goes by stops and looks in. There are four of us together and we surely do have a picnic. One man was with the regular army seven years and the other two from New Orleans and have been in about two months and myself one year and six months. My lieutenant asked me and several others to make application for the O. T. C., but I am undecided as I am six months too young and will probably get turned down.
I am going to try for a furlough, as I want to be home when Grandma is there. Ringling Bros. Circus was here but soldiers were not allowed to go so we have to miss it. My Red Cross sweater sure does feel good on cool days. I have four good, heavy wool blankets beside the quilt you sent me so have no trouble keeping warm. I got the box of cookies you sent and they sure were good. Well mother, I am sleepy and tired so will close and go to bed. Tell dad hello for me and give my regards to all I know.
Lovingly, your son, Guy.
Clarence Schwarzenbach, (Denison Review 10-9-1918)
Clarence Schwarzenbach, Camp Hancock, Ga.,
Sept. 29, 1918
I received your letter, also the magazine and found lots of good reading in it. I am glad you liked the hat cards which I sent. I went to Alken, S. C. the other day with a fellow from Florida. It is a town about 28 miles from here by trolley and sixteen miles by road. A lot of building is going on here, the camp is being enlarged and a lot of barracks being built.
I hope I will be quartered in barracks this winter. We had a fine dinner today, chicken, mashed potatoes, celery, soup, stewed corn and bread. I hope Maynard likes school for he must finish high school anyway, and then must plan on a college education. A good education is what counts now and even in the army one must have an education. I can see what a great advantage it would have been to me now.
Love from Clarence, Hdg. Co. No. 2, T. T. D. M. G. School, Camp Hancock, Ga.
Pearl Gary (Denison Review 10-23-1918) (... 1st part of article missing) ... publish this one, which tells of her work in a most interesting way.
Sept. 28, 1918
Your letter was a very pleasant surprise and who do you think I heard from the same day? Bernice Bonney. I had not heard from her for years. It surely pays to come to France. Your letter was so newsy that it was a great pleasure to read it and I think I can find time to write to an old classmate. Perhaps you would like to know something about our hospital. As you notice it is a mobile hospital and it seems like we "mobile" most of the time. Most of the time our hospital is in wooden tents, occasionally in barracks. From the time we land in a place we can set up the equipment and be ready to operate in twenty-four hours, which is quite wonderful, I think. We follow the line and we surely have some time following since the Germans began to run.
The patients are taken from the field in ambulances to the first aid dressing stations and then brought here or some other nearby hospital where they get the next necessary immediate attention. (Patients started to come in last night and I had to stop and am sitting up in bed writing now as I can't sleep.) As soon as a patient is entered on the books he is sent to a ward where his clothes are usually cut off and his face and hands are washed if things are not too busy. If he needs immediate attention he gets it and if he does not he waits his turn and in due time is taken to the X-ray room where they locate the foreign body and then to the operating room where the same is removed if possible.
Sometimes they are in such a place that it is better to let them alone. From the operating room they are taken back to the ward where they stay until it is safe to transfer them to a base hospital. They leave here in an ambulance again and go to a Red Cross train, which is quite a complete hospital and quite comfortable. Sometimes they are a few hours and sometimes many on the way to a base. The morale of our troops is wonderful. Once in a while you will find a mother's baby but not often. They are great boys and it is not going to take them long to get the kaiser. We are all looking forward to the time when we get home.
It will be lovely to have more than a teaspoonful of water to take a bath in and a few feet of space in which to dress and have some light at night and cozy corner to read in. The nurses all live in one large tent, about thirty more than we had when we started and you can imagine one person having about six feet of space. In that space we have to get our trunk, cot and suitcases. Our clothes racks are improvised sometimes of branches of trees and often of pieces of lumber picked up. I store everything I am not using constantly in my trunk and use the tray for a dressing table.
There is a rumor afloat now that our trunks are to be sent back to Paris as they are too much to carry around. It will be quite inconvenient, but there is no great loss without some small gain and it will be that much less to pack each time we move and we can stand anything. The Red Cross is wonderful to the boys and nurses both. A great many of the supplies we use come from the Red Cross, such as gauze, pajamas and all the things they have been making in the states, besides candy, gum, chocolate cookies and many other things. These things are all given to us.
Paris you know is France to most of the Americans. It really is the only lively bright spot I have seen. Other parts of France do not appeal to the ordinary American. Well, Mab, I could go on and write about France and many different things but will not tire you this time. Remember me to all my friends and to your mother in particular. Write again.
Love to you. Pearl
Otto Peters, (Denison Review 10-30-1918)
Otto Peters, Camp Cody: Mrs. C. H. Richardson of Vail has handed us the following letter which she received from Otto Peters, who is stationed at Camp Cody, N.M., where he has been for more than a year. Mr. Peters formerly lived in this locality and has relatives and friends here who will no doubt be pleased to hear from him in this way.
Camp Code, October 10, 1918
Mrs. C. H. Richardson, Vail, Iowa,
I will take time this evening to answer your letter received some time ago. We have had a touch of the Spanish influenza as they have in every other camp, but haven't much of it. We are inspected twice a day and our noses and mouths are sprayed with some kind of dope which doesn't taste good, but if it will prevent the disease, it is far better than being sick. I saw a letter in the Review from Chas. Odgaard and he seems to like Camp Dix better than old Cody; well, who wouldn't? It looks as if the war will soon be over and it can't end too soon to suit me. It looks like rain tonight. I have been here nearly a year and have seen little or no rain, so you can imagine what a desert this is.
Your friend, Otto Peters, Aux. Remo. 326, Camp Code, N. M.
John Marolf, (Denison Review 10-30-1918)
John Marolf, France - The following letter was written by John Marolf who recently landed in France, going from Camp Gordon in the August replacement draft:
On Active Service, Amer. E. F.,
Sept. 17, 1918
Well, I am in France at last, after a long trip on the water. It took us 15 days, and that is as long as I ever want to be on the water again. I never thought a fellow could get so sick of water but I found out they could. And to think it is all on account of the d-n kaiser. I see by the paper though that the sammies are giving it to him and if we ever get there the Germans will surely get it from us too. We are having pretty good weather here, I am feeling fine, have plenty to wear, plenty to eat and not much to do just now. It won't be long until we are back, as it won't take much longer to trim them in good shape, and that is what they need. Hope I hear from you soon.
Your brother, John Marolf - 25th Co. Amer. E. F.
Sid Bonney, Buck Grove (Denison Review 10-30-1918)
Sid Bonney, France - Dr. and Mrs. A. F. Bonney, of Buck Grove, have recently received letters from their son, Lieut. H. S. Bonney, interesting extracts of which follow:
Jusqu 'au bout! Look in that little French dictionary you have hidden away and you will find that the two words mean "Until the end," and are symbolic of the spirit of France. Until the end not only in words, but in actual spirit.
I have been from the battlefield of the Somme, where the British made their advance last year, an advance that proved to be a defeat, to the front in Picardy, Lorraine, the Marne and everywhere to everywhere indelibly stamped on the soil of France the mark of the Prussian. Villages have been reduced to masses of rubbish, unrecognizable as villages, and in many cases nothing remains to tell that there were villages except a few red stains in the yellow soil where the bricks that made the houses have been ground to powder by shell fire and stained the ground a dull reddish color. For miles stretch the everlasting barriers of barbed wire, tangled masses often 200 yards in depth, miles of which was once equipment, but abandoned in haste and not yet recovered by the salvage department.
Broken down wagons, cannons, tanks, piles of shells, trees deliberately cut down by the retreating hun, but never a trace of living thing either animal or vegetable. Nothing but waste. A soil churned beyond recognition by countless thousands of shells and dotted over all, as far as the eye can reach, with the little hastily erected cross which mark the last resting place of those who gave all that the world might be a decent place for honest people to live in and that their children and their children's children need never again live under the menace of Prussianism and all that it implies .... (missing part of letter) .... the best of the argument they were willing to continue, but let our men get going and the only word they seemed to know was "Kamerad" hollered good and loud, accompanied by a march in our direction with arms well up.
Some of them tried the little trick of holding a little automatic pistol in their hand until quite near and then using it. Oh sure it worked. Like h-ll it did. Too many of our men knew that that little habit of giving a surprise party on the hun's part and the bird that tried the little trick was tootsweet(French for pretty quickly) a kamerad for some other imp in the realms of his Satanic majesty. Yes, ho, the Americans may be new at the game, but so far there has not been a boche able to pull of anything like that on Little Willie, the Yank.
Talk about your souvenirs. Gee! A short time ago I was in what would be a relic hunter's paradise. Everything imaginable that had been made in Germany littered the ground. Rifles, pistols, ammunition, thousands of rounds of it, helmets, bayonets, field guns, shells and lots of huns. Dead ones. I sent several small pieces home so that the neighbors may see them. (He sent souvenirs, not huns). Either I have a horse shoe or a rabbit's foot following me around as so far I have missed getting any small fragments of hun ammunition into my system, but I have certainly had some close shaves. Had a pair of breeches cut, my overcoat sleeve ripped about a foot, the blanket torn off my bunk and the last time I was blown out the side of a car by a G. I. Can (a 6 inch howitzer shell). As a result of this last calling card I am minus the hearing in my left ear but outside of that I got nary a mark.
Knowing as I do, your attitude towards religion as a steady diet, and also what you know of my past career in that respect, the following outburst from me may come as something of a shock to you. No, I have not gone and got a stroke of whooping, hollering, shouting religion, but have simply received the conviction that there is beyond a doubt some power greater than that of us mortals that controls the destiny of men.
What I have seen of the work of the men who follow the teachings of the Good Book on the field of battle, the unfaltering devotion of the members of the various religious creeds in time when men's nerves were only a tangle of sensitized fibers, that carried added torture to brains already wrecked with delirium under conditions that one would scarcely consider it possible for human nature to endure, caring for the wounded and the human wrecks of battle, with the sing of hun bullets all around them, shells bursting near enough to scatter mud and dirt over them, and the men they were caring for, has convinced me that its more than mere human guidance that has carried them through.
Priest, preacher, rabbi, I have seen them all caring for wounded men, working over the battlefield without regard of what must e the religious views of the men they met, caring for one and all with the same spirit of self sacrifice. Before the war the Salvation Army was, to me, something that amounted to almost a free vaudeville show held on the street for the entertainment of the public, said public usually consisting of almost the lowest possible element of the human race and the riff-raff of the cities.
Over here, with only the receipts from their work among said riff-raff and the scourings of the human race as their means of income, they have accomplished work that other organizations, posing as public benefactors with a (boasted) hundred millions back of them, have not begun to do. Up in the front line trenches you will find their little hold in the ground and a man unfit for military service, and you are always sure of a cup of hot coffee or chocolate and often a bite to eat, and a daily paper which is several days old, but new, and it is all donated free. In accordance with their religious belief, they do not sell tobacco, but someone in the United States through a kindness of heart made a big donation of "Bull" to the Salvation Army and it is piled up where the men can help themselves.
It is not for sale at any price and I have never yet seen a man take more than one sack from the pile at a time. And that when the quartermaster was out of tobacco and a smoke was worth a dollar a whiff. Back of the front you will find them in some old wreck of a building running a little hot drink stand and perhaps in addition, they will have a little canteen where you can get real American candy and cookies or something (.... missing part of letter ....) in that line. Often some of the Salvation Army girls are there and then it is homemade doughnuts and pie for the men, but an officer has a hard time getting in to get a bite. This is one place where rank cuts no ice and, in fact, a private gets in easier than the barred ones do.
In Paris there is a canteen that will not allow an officer in it, and they have a soda fountain that serves ice cream sodas and honest to goodness ice cream and if you are a commissioned officer you can't buy it, and if you are a buck private it costs you 25 centimes. About 4 cents. The allies have been given renewed confidence in final victory, for there have been restored large areas to France, immense harvest fields of grain have been recovered. All this shows them that under a single command, working toward a definite end, a victory will come which will forever make another war like this impossible. Not that the hun is yet beaten, but the beginning of the end is nearer by far and it means that the allies need only "carry on".
September 10th - I just got a letter from C. H. Q. today and I am transferred from Infantry to chemical warfare service, so I am no longer an infantry officer, for which I am duly thankful. The C. W. S. is going to be a big thing before this was is over and I shall have opportunity of seeing a little more action than I had as an infantry officer attached to the engineers.
September 16th - I do not know what the word on the sign I sent you means and therefore I cannot tell you. All I know is I took it from a trench we captured and set it along with the rest of the stuff I started on the way. I sent some more today, a fuse from a heavy shell, a French fuse, base from a 77m and a 100mm hun shell, two hun hand grenades with fuses which are dead. These you will observe look like little black eggs, a "pineapple" serial bomb (This is a foot long and weighs3 1/2 pounds).
The material in which they are wrapped is paper cloth used by the hun in place of real burlap, quite a strong fabric and serves very well for sandbags, etc. We are having a little rest after the fracas and getting squared away for another rap at the hun. Gee, this last stunt was more of a foot race than a battle. I went past the first wave of infantry and did not know I was there. I lost my direction and thought I was going east while, in fact, I was headed north as straight toward the huns as I could travel. However, I soon found out my mistake and beat it. I do not know where the next show will come off, but I suppose we will be there with the bells on, as we always seem to go where there is something doing.
I have talked with people from the reclaimed districts and they are sure glad to get from under hun rule. I was recently transferred from infantry to chemical warfare service so my address in future will be as follows: H. S. Bonney, 1st Lt. C. W. S. R. G. O., 1st Engineers, A.P.O. 729, Amer E. F. France. Chemical warfare, as you no doubt know, means gas and as I have been at the work ever since I arrived here I was transferred from infantry to C. W. S. after the service was organized. It puts me in a class by myself and my job will go blooy after the war, as I do not think there will be any use for gas officers when this show is over.
Love to all, Sid.
Transcribed by Melba McDowell