ON THE WAY TO FRANCE
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 standard Pullmans.”
Mr. Baker kept the following diary of his trip:
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 don’t 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 leave Chicago.
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, we’d 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 didn’t 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 to France.
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; don’t 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, he’d go home. Two of us tried to get him, but we couldn’t break ranks. It sure is terrible in the big cities to see how many slackers there are. Certainly is too bad that there can’t 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 didn’t 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 best scenery.
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 that’s what it looks like. The farm houses are not painted up like they are in good ole Iowa. The small towns don’t 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 they go.
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. Didn’t 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 anyone’s life. Words can’t 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 isn’t 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 won’t 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, don’t 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. Will close.