September 25, 1917
ON THE WAY TO FRANCE
Letter From Plymouth County Boy Who Will Sail Soon With
Corp. Perry D. Baker, a son of D. M. Baker, went east with the
168th Infantry (Third Iowa) a couple of weeks ago and sends the
Sentinel the following report of the trip from Camp Mills, near
Hempstead, Long Island:
We received order at our Des Moines camp to start packing
September 7, loaded baggage on the 8th, and 5:30 a.m. on the 9th
came orders to strike tents. Every tent in the two battalions
went down and by 3:30 that afternoon we were on the cars and at
4:40 p.m. our division pulled out. It was particularly
interesting because some of the fellows never before road on a
Pullman and we were traveling first class on the Rock Island in
Mr. Baker kept the following diary of his trip:
September 10: Are almost into Chicago. Last night some of the
boys had to go to bed early to see how the berths worked. I have
a lower berth myself, much better than the upper. A real joke
this a.m. The porter thought we were all green about the ways of
the Pullmans, so he put towels out and told the guard to charge 5
cents each. It worked until the Conductor came along. We made a
kick, then his game ended. He has nicknamed me the J. W. We are
in the yards. See the same things over again, women out picking
up coal. Seems as though the way wages are that people could make
a living without picking
up coal. I guess by the this time people are realizing what
soldiering is, when sons and brothers are going with the drafted
army. The country is overrun by men from 18 to 35 years that are
not married, that wouldn't enlist; got a yellow streak. The only
way they will make up is for every one to turned down every man
that isnąt married. If he isnąt in the army, they don't deserve
any friends. Iąm satisfied only I hat to think we got to fight
for such people. I heard a man 18 years old in Fort Dodge, Iowa,
say that heąd rather see his married brother go, than go himself.
A fine man and the cities are full of such. Really if they were
cut open, their blood wouldn't be red.
We have with us ciergs, high school men, college men, and men
from every business in the world, having wives, sweethearts,
sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers. Yet we are going out to do
our duty for we are protecting our folks at home. Thank God we
are volunteering. We've got the right spirit.
September 9, I saw any amount of captains and lieutenants bidding
their wives and babies goodbye. It just made my blood boil to
think they were going in some one else's place. Our Major Stanley
from Corning, Iowa, leaves a wife and family, yet the public
thinks we donąt have anything to contend with. Work from 5:30
a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Of course, we are not worked to death, yet we
are busy and thinking of the ones we left behind. The corporal
that sleeps with me is from Fort Dodge, Iowa. He has always
clerked in a ladies' furnishing store and he is sure a good
fellow. Writes home every day. He isn't home sick as he knows we
are going to be gone for some time. Will write again when we
Out of Chicago at 2:30 p.m. on the Nickel Plate line, not making
very good time. Had mess at 4 p.m. Is getting quite cold, guess
we will have to use our army blankets unless the steam is turned
on. Am sitting by a poker game. Can hardly write for watching the
game. We are only eating twice a day now, that is plenty while
riding on the train. If we ate any more, weąd go all
in. We are in a nice country, level, looks like Iowa. It sure is
cold enough to ruin the corn, which they have plenty of. Wish we
could travel in the day time and do our stopping at night. We
miss the best country at night. Was out of Iowa at 1:30 a.m. so
we didnąt see any of Iowa from Des Moines. At the rate we are
traveling we will be a week. Hope they take us out for exercise
as we need it and a shower bath would be just about right.
Everyone is throwing their address out the window. Will sure have
plenty of writing to do. I think our training will be sure to
keep us busy while we are in New York.
I got my last shot of triple typhoid. My arm is quite sore. I
take it in my right arm as I do my writing left handed. We are
sure getting full of typhoid serum and smallpox, which cost lots
of money. We ought to be almost bullet proof by the time we get
Tuesday a.m. 3:50: We are in Ohio now, I think we are nearing
Lake Erie, right close to Cleveland. This is the most water a
good many ever saw. This is the biggest lake I ever saw. We are
running right along the edge of it now for miles. All you can see
is water. Saw a small motor boat jumping the waves. Hope we see
some real boats in Cleveland. The bridges are all
guarded. We are along the lake again. They have got the
embankment reinforced. The wind is pretty cool. Ohio has most
everything, corn, oats, fruit and large vineyards, looks like a
wealthy state. As far as I could see for a long time was nursery
farms and nice homes; donąt think the people work very hard.
We are right in the city of Cleveland; large manufacturing
buildings, the most I ever saw. Large ship yards. Got a glimpse
of my first big steamship.
1:15 p.m. Eastern time. Time changed at Cleveland. Was out for
exercise. Was out for a mile or two. Some yellow foreigner told
one of the boys that if he had a yellow streak like he had, heąd
go home. Two of us tried to get him, but we couldnąt break ranks.
It sure is terrible in the big cities to see how many slackers
there are. Certainly is too bad that there canąt be a few
squads detailed to hunt them up. They are making life miserable
for us. We have to suffer for their doings.
As far as Cleveland is concerned it is a great business place,
but we didn't get a very good welcome. Maybe they didnąt know we
were coming. The non-coms are having a hard time keeping the
booze off the train. Will lay off and write the folks and wife.
Mess at 6:10 p.m. String beans, boiled potatoes, break, three
pieces, butter, pressed ham, rice, peaches, coffee. This is our
menu for supper. We are in Pennsylvania now. Are only going
through one corner, only 89 miles. Just pulling into Erie, Pa.
More people living in one house than ought to live in a flat.
Erie is noted for its large railroad shops and it sure has got
them. The plants cover blocks from what we could see. Any number
of them. We were here twenty minutes and not out of the yards
yet. Must be the biggest shops in the United States. If we only
come back as good as we are going this will be a wonderful trip.
Will get into Buffalo, N.Y. at night, of course. We miss all the
The land must be almost worn out here as they are using some kind
of fertilizer, is white like lime. Lots of white clover or thatąs
what it looks like. The farm houses are not painted up like they
are in good ole Iowa. The small towns donąt look very thrifty,
not like ours at home, but the big cities are way ahead. Labor is
cheaper here. Any amount of foreigners; lots of vineyards right
here, acres of them. We are still traveling along the New York
Central line. It sure is a peach. Wish was traveling as fast as
The farmers here must have plenty of time as most everyone has a
nice flower bed. Can still see Lake Erie. One of the boys said he
could wash his feet in it without even getting the water dirty.
We hit Buffalo, N.Y., at 10:30 p.m. Didnąt go to Niagara Falls.
We are still in New York. Arrived at Binghampton 9:30 a.m.
Another good big city. If we go by New York City it will be at
night. Will get to Long Island by tomorrow a.m. This is a very
pretty valley, nice river on the left and also foothills and
foothills on the right. This certainly is the place for auto
tourists. Looks like an ideal camping place.
We are along the Susquehanna River. If New York has got any
prettier places than this, I hope I can get to see them as this
is simply grand. The foothills are covered with evergreens;
everything is green just like summer at home. A month of hunting
here would be worth ten years of anyoneąs life. Words canąt
express my feeling, to sit here and look out at real scenery.
Seems as though I'm in a movie show. We are going to have mess
about now anyway.
Mess is over. While we were eating we hit a tunnel. We were three
minutes going through. One of the boys had some water in his mess
kit, put it out the window and hit a rock so he is short. We had
a good breakfast, Kellogg's Toasties, German friend potatoes,
beans, bread, butter, jam and coffee, not a bad mess.
Pulling out of Scranton, Pa., at 11:50 a.m. eastern time. We are
only 145 miles from New York City, just pulled through another
tunnel. Must have been guarded some time by the 13th U.S.
Infantry as their name made up of rocks, very neat. We were out
for exercise at 1:05 p.m. until 2:35 p.m. A very pretty place,
just a water tank, but we stayed there until 3 p.m. A very
pretty lake, a small field with stone fences. Just past some
field artillery training camp. This isnąt any farming place, just
a few patches, all brush and swamp. Looks like Arkansas. Hope we
hit the mountains by dark. We hit a few mountains at 4:40 p.m.
real ones, but not very many. Will soon cross the Delaware river;
going for mess.
Mess over. We are in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Quite a crowd out.
They have a company with the Rainbow division. We wonąt hit
Morristown until dark. We are on the Pennsylvania line now. Not
very many houses between towns. The bridge here is guarded with
colored troops. We are running behind time. All the operators are
on strike so every train is delayed. Three sections running close
together. We come under the Hudson river at 3:40 a.m. September
13. Was in the Pennsylvania station, New York City, at 4:40, then
pulled out to Long Island at 6:30. Stayed there until 11:30 a.m.,
waiting to be moved. We detrained at 1:30 p.m., got nicely
settled by 6 p.m. Have a good place only it is low. All branches
of the service are here. All kinds of airplanes flying around.
Don't know how long we will be here.
September 14: Reveille at 5:30 a.m. Foggy as it always is this
close to the ocean. Quite cold. We have a good Y. M. C. A.,
shower baths, so I guess we can take care of ourselves. One thing
that sure is fine for the soldiers is the Y. We can go there and
write, donąt cost anything. Only for stamp, and have music and
everything to keep any one from getting lonesome. Going for mess.
Mess over at 7 p.m. Will write later what our daily routine is.
Corp. Perry D. Baker
Co. F., Hempstead, New York
~Transcribed and submitted to Iowa Great War project by Linda
Ziemann, Iowa Old Press Co-Editor