Junction City, Kansas 3/29/1918

Junction City, Kansas

March 29, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I have been going to write you a letter all week but we are kept on the go all the time and I haven’t done it. I can imagine that you feel badly about my going away but I really don’t feel that you need to worry about me. Of course our work over there will no be play and it won’t be the happiest and most pleasant kind of work but on the other hand it won’t be like so many boys are having to do right now. We will be taken care of pretty well and I doubt if we will ever have to suffer for lack of good food or clothing.

I like our company and the men and officers in it and I have a couple of good friends in the company so in that way I will be quite contented. It is not certain yet as to what work I will be assigned to definitely. When we really get started there will be a few positions open and any one of us may be put into them. It is possible that I may be put on the anesthetic work for awhile.

After we leave here we will go to Hoboken [New Jersey] and we don’t know how long we will be held there. Our letters from there will be mailed open and of course read by the censor. On the way there we can write as we please. There is no restriction on our writing while on the train. We don’t know when we will go but it probably will be some time next week. They never let you know very far in advance, they just tell you to get ready and some time after you get orders to get up and go.

For all we know we may be here a little while yet. It has happened before that a company got all ready to go and then didn’t go for some time after. We are not allowed to tell just when we leave on the boat, we won’t know it ourselves until we get on. We can mail a letter as we get on the boat and I will try to let you know in that way when we get off. We will probably be on the water about two weeks. That is the usual time. When we arrive you will be notified. I understand that when we leave we write a postal card which is left here and as soon as we arrive the card is forwarded.

I don’t fear the trip at all. The transports are as safe as can be and there isn’t any doubt at all but what we will get over in good shape. It will be a few weeks before you get a letter from the other side so don’t be worried if you don’t hear for a little while your letters to me will not be censored so you can write what you please. I will have to be pretty careful about what I say. I think we will be able to write letters all right.

As I write there is a dance going on here with a brass band for the music. They are making so much noise that I can’t even think straight. When I get some more news I will write you again and will say “so long” for the present.

Love from

Joe

© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Fort Riley, Kansas 3/25/1918

March 25, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I wonder if you are having as much summer weather in Chicago as we are here. We haven’t wanted any fire for a long time and overcoats have been put out of sight. If it were not for the wind which keeps the air full of dust nearly all the time the weather here would be ideal. The dust is very bad and it settles all over everything so that we can’t keep ourselves or our bed clothes clean.

The St. Georges Herald came today. There doesn’t seem to be a very great deal going on in the various lodges. I see the honor roll is growing with each new issue. The war will take away most of the younger men from the lodges and as time goes on the social affairs will be dropped. Music work in the colleges has fallen off a lot. Most of the boys are gone from school and the female attendance has dropped off, too. Next year will be still worse.

Our company is coming along in good shape. The men are improving right along and we have quite a reputation around the camp for being a first class organization. Evacuation Hospital No. One which left here last December is in active service now. Their commanding officer wrote quite an article on the work they are doing and it was printed in the Tribune last week.

According to the latest word we will be leaving in a few days. We are busy getting our things packed up as we are to be ready to go by Sunday. We may not have to go that soon but we are to be ready but it is very likely that we will go the early part of next week. It is probably that we will go to Hoboken [New Jersey] and I don’t know how long a time we will be there. The men don’t stay there any definite length of time because if they did that it would be easy for a U-boat to figure out when a ship would be leaving. This is not a bad time of year to go across and by the time we get located on the other side it will be good weather over there, too.

The men are glad at the prospect of going. Some of them, though, are not so anxious to go. We are fixed so nicely that those at home don’t need to worry about us. We won’t have near the hardship that many of the soldiers have and our work is a lot more pleasant and safe than many others. I have hopes that things will come out all right soon and we will get back to our old haunts again.

I had a letter from Gladys today. She thinks I have been gone for some time. It looks as though she had not gotten my last letter. I had a letter from Mrs. Davis also. It doesn’t look to me as though things were coming out very well for her. She is in Denver working now. I don’t know what it is all about but something seems to be wrong. Her husband doesn’t seem to be doing anything right now. He wants to go to France doing YMCA work but that hasn’t been decided yet.

When I get some more news I will write you again. I haven’t got Aunt Louise’s address so that if I got a chance to see her I wouldn’t know how to address her.

Love from

Joe

© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Fort Riley, Kansas 3/21/1918

JoeKitchin1

March 21, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Our company is on guard again and as I have charge of the guard house I am writing this from there. We have twenty one prisoners here now. A couple of them are men I knew then I first came here. Most of the prisoners are here because they took a vacation without permission. It is to “be expected” that right after pay day some men who cant get passes will go anyway.

Usually the punishment consists of a little stay in the guard house and a fine of anything up to fifty dollars. The prisoners aren’t so awfully bad but they just haven’t got sense enough to behave themselves. Most of them are young boys from eighteen to twenty one. Some of the prisoners complained to me that one of the men needed a bath so badly that he was a nuisance to the rest of them. I investigated and found out that he needed one all right so I sent him with a guard to scrub up.

I have been relieved for a little while so I am writing now at my own desk where I have better light and a better pen. We had a meeting tonight of the sergeants. We have meetings once or twice a week for the purpose of discussing various things in connection with our work. At present they think they want to have a banquet somwhere, either in Junction City or Manhattan. It is hard to find a good place to have those things as there is no place in either town that can really put up a good banquet. At first it was thought that we might have ladies present but that idea has been given up. I don’t care a great deal about a banquet myself but if the other men want it I will do whatever they decide.

Next Tuesday evening I am going to Manhattan to spend the evening with the piano teacher I met there some time ago. We played one evening a few weeks ago and spent a very pleasant evening. Some time I am going to make another trip to Topeka. When I do Professor Boughton, the piano teacher at the college and I will spend a little time playing. I get so little chance here to play with a piano that I am always glad to go somewhere where I can play.

When I got back here this evening I found Mother’s letter waiting here. I was glad to get it and the music clippings. I wish I could hear some good music around here once in a while. None of the towns down here patronize concerts at all. Kreisler gave a receital in Topeka three years ago and it was a financial failure. I see that Kreisler has retired until after the war. I hope it won’t be very long before he will be able to appear again.

joe_kitchin_4a

Joe motoring in his Betsy

The weather has been so fine the last week that grass and trees and bushes have begun to turn green. In some places the grass is quite thick. On Sundays especially, I often wish I had my Betsy here. Last year at this time I used to ride around every Sunday. Perhaps if we are here a while yet I may get a chance to get away and sell it. I really wish I had sold it last year when I had a chance. I don’t know what they are selling for this year or whether they are hard to get or not. I see a number of new ones running around so I guess Ford is still turning them out the same as ever. There are a lot of Fords here in Kansas but not so many as in Iowa. The state of Iowa has the largest number of automobiles for its population of any state in the union and I guess most of them are Fords.

It has started to rain a little bit tonight. That is the first moisture of any sort that we have had for a couple of months. The rivers around here are very low for this time of year. Usually they are up high and overflowing their banks, causing quite a little damage.

Our company is still plugging away at its drilling and classes. It has improved a lot lately and has turned out to be a very fine organization. The men have shown a lot of improvement in their work and themselves and the company is being run with a good deal of system. We are known around the camp for being a good company and other companies often come to us for advice and information and copy our ways of doing things.

I understand that five new evacuation hospital companies are being formed here. I also understand that Ft. Riley is going to be turned into a cavalry camp in a couple of months and that all medical organizations will be sent to some other camp. I don’t know whether we will be here by then or not. I wouldn’t mind going somewhere else for a change if we had to stay in America that long.

Well, pretty soon I must go back and take care of the poor prisoners. So good night.

Love from

Joe

© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Soldier’s Mail for March 1918-1919

March, 1918: Chemin des Dames Sector and Marching to Reynel

The 26th “Yankee” Division remained on the Aisne front in the Chemin des Dames sector until mid-March, 1918. Following its relief, the main element of the 26th Division marched to Soissons where it came under severe concentrations of long-range artillery fire while boarding trains to Bar-sur-Aube. On March 21 the entire Division began a four-day march Eastward from Bar-sur-Aube at a pace of about 20 miles per day, passing thorugh Doulevant-le-Chateau, Soulaines, Andelot, Vignon and Joinville-sur-Marne.

The Division arrived in the area of Reynel, where it remained for two days before continuing on to the Toul Sector where it relieved the American First Division. Troops billeted in villages around Reynel and Grand with Division HQ established at Reynel on March 26. Then began a period of internal transition in leadership as numerous officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) were taken from the ranks and returned to the United States as instructors. A large number of replacement officers were received who needed to acclimate to combat conditions.

Read about the Chemin des Dames Sector here, and the March to Reynel here. See original film of the 26th Division in the Chemin des Dames here. Also, read Sam’s March correspondence from the Chemin des Dames as he continues to live under fire in the trenches.

March, 1919: After the Armistice

In March, 1919 the 26th Division remained in the vicinity of the embarkation area near Le Mans, with the 103rd Regimental HQ located at Laigne. In late March, the Division proceeded to Pontanezen Camp at Brest, where the men boarded troop transports and finally sailed for home. On March 28, 1919 Private First Class Sam Avery made passage from Brest, France back to the United States with 7,200 other officers and men of the 101st and 103rd Regiments aboard the U.S. Navy’s troop transport USS America (ID-3006), returning to Boston on April 6 after a speedy 9-day voyage without the threat of U-boats.

Read about life After the Armistice here. Read Sam’s March correspondence from Laigne, France here. See original film of American troops sailing from Brest for home here.

The Soldier’s Mail correspondence is published here according to the sequence in which it was written. Therefore, letters are organized in “reverse order” with the most recent at the top. To read them chronologically, readers should start at the bottom and work upwards.

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