Fort Riley, Kansas 4/22/1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7

April 22, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I had the pleasure of a couple of letters from Mother this last week. I am glad she does not always wait for me to write regularly but don’t always manage to carry out my plans.

Thursday is the day of the doings in Emporia. I have not yet said anything about wanting to get away so really have no idea as to whether I will be allowed to go or not. I will ask for a 21 hour pass, it takes only two hours to get there and I can have from three o’clock Thursday till noon Friday to visit. I shall be disappointed if I can’t go but I can figure on making it some other time over Sunday.

The sergeants are going to have their banquet after all. It is to be in Manhattan next Friday night. I have been arranging the affair.  We will have a pretty fair meal for a dollar. A few of us are acquainted with some young ladies and we are going to have them furnish about a dozen girls for the men who haven’t any. We will have a little program and dancing after the feeding is over. There won’t be so much time for that as the last car back leaves at 11:30. We expect about twenty-two or three couples. That will make a nice sized party. Sgt. Hill and I spent yesterday in Manhattan getting things lined up for the event.

The new officers training camp is to open soon and several of our sergeants have applied for admission. I don’t know whether any of them will make it but I imagine two or three of them will. I sometimes feel tempted to apply for it myself but I don’t think I would care for the infantry work so I will stay where I am. The camp opens about the fifteenth of May.

wcgorgas2

Maj. Gen. William C. Gorgas USA

General Gorgas is here today. He is the supreme officer of the Medical Department. He is making a tour of the camps. I understand that he may make a call on our company tomorrow. We shined everything up today in case he should come but he didn’t. I saw him in the canteen this afternoon. He is about my size and not very imposing in appearance for so great a man. There is to be a parade for him tomorrow. The Y.M.C.A. is having an outdoor meeting tonight at which the General is to speak. Sgt. Hill has been called upon to sing for the occasion.

It has rained nearly every day for the entire week. Outside there is mud everywhere and the mud around here is so sticky that we can hardly get it off our shoes. Saturday there was a snowfall of a couple of inches. The snow hasn’t disappeared yet where it was piled up.

Our long expected pay day arrived last Thursday. If I remember right my dues were $3.85 or something like that. I will send five dollars which will pay me up to about the first of May. I need a couple of g-strings so will add two dollars for them. They used to be seventy-five cents. Lewis’ strings are the best and I would like to have them medium weight. If there is any change left add that to my dues.

We are still going through the same routine of drill and instruction. The men have gotten so tired of it that they are getting hard to manage. It has become a regular thing for a few men to take a vacation without leave after each pay day. They get a little punishment but they don’t seem to mind that.

Lights have gone out so it is time to trot off to bed. I am tired too, as we were up late last night.

Love from

Joe

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

Junction City, Kansas 4/7/1918

April 7, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

You see I am still here. A week or so ago I expected to be far away from here by now but we are still in the same old place and have no idea when we will get away. We have no further news about going and it almost looks as though we would be here a while yet. The men are pretty much disappointed. Their spirits were running high and they were filled with expectation and the delay has discouraged them somewhat. We are still prepared to go in case orders come at any moment but no one has any idea as to when that will be.

Yesterday being the anniversary of the declaration of war and the beginning of the Liberty campaign all the cities had parades. Junction City had one by the entire Medical Camp of Fort Riley. We walked from camp to town and then a couple of miles around town and back to camp again. It was around ten miles and we had our packs on our back all the time. I hope the citizens of Junction City appreciated our efforts and bought lots of bonds.

Today being Sunday there is nothing to do around camp so Sgt. Hill and I came into town this afternoon to write a letter or two and go to church this evening. I don’t know where we will go. It dosen’t make any difference to either of us as to which church we attend. I have been to several of the churches and I haven’t found any of them that had really good ministers. They are very small churches and I suppose pay small salaries so they get just what they pay for. There are a dozen or more churches and if there were only three or four they could pay more and have real good men.

We had quite a fire in one of our barracks a few days ago. It was in our tailor shop. Some men were here putting an oil preparation on the floors. The stuff had to be put on warm so they set a pail of it on the stove. It boiled over and caught fire and in just a few seconds that end of the barracks was burning rapidly. We got the men busy with buckets of water and in a few minutes it was out. We had several suits of clothes in the tailor shop and they were burned up. Our tailor shop has been given up now because we haven’t got a good tailor. We did have one but he deserted about six weeks ago and has never been heard of since. Our barber has been laid up with lumbago so we haven’t been doing much business in the company of late.

The tobacco, candy and other things that we bought to take along had to be turned back as we can’t take it along. Our company fund now has nearly a thousand dollars in cash which is mostly profit from the camp exchange.

I had a letter from Gladys a few days ago. They thought I had gone some time ago and expected that their letters would be delivered in France. If we are here a little while yet I may go down to Emporia for a day. It is about time for their Spring Festival and I will get to hear some good music as well as to see my old friends. They may think it strange that I have been here so long and have not been down to see them.

Sgt. Hill and I have good times together. We have lots of things in common and are interested together in many things. He expects to be married on the trip East. He is going to marry the woman he was divorced from two or three years ago. He went to visit his child a couple of months ago and things were patched up and they are going to get married again. He is older than I, about thirty-two or three, but we don’t seem to notice much difference in our ages. Nearly all of my friends are older than I. I know of very few my age or younger.

I don’t remember what day I wrote you last but I hope you haven’t been worrying thinking that I have been gone. Whenever we get word to go I will let you know so you will know for sure.

Father’s letter came early in the week. I will send some money after payday which we expect this week. I don’t owe as much as I thought I did and having no book I never know how I stand.

Love from

Joe

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

Soldier’s Mail for April, 1918-1919

April, 1918: Toul (Boucq) Sector

St_Mihiel_map

St. Mihiel Salient (Click to Enlarge)

The La Reine (Boucq) Sector (also known as the Toul Sector) was the southeastern aspect of the St. Mihiel salient which was a bulge in the Allied lines remaining from the original German advance in 1914. This salient continued to threaten Verdun and Toul along with the entire right side of the Allied front (See detailed maps of this salient in the “Map Room”). The principle feature of the terrain in this sector was a ridge east to west from Flirey to Apremont with a highway running along it. The front line was anchored on the towns of Seicheprey and Xivray-et-Marvoisin, continuing into Bois Brule where it linked up with lines held by the French. The Germans had the tactical advantage of both observation and attack as the Allied front could be penetrated through several shallow ravines. In addition, the Allied trenches were in very poor condition and had drainage problems. The entire length of the La Reine Sector front was 18 kilometers and this was the first time an entire sector was completely entrusted to an American division.

On March 28, 1918 the 26th Division’s infantry was hastily moved into the sector while a German gas bombardment was in progress. The two necessities of life throughout the sector were to maintain cover during daylight hours and to encode communications with extreme care. On April 12, men of the 103rd Infantry were sent into the left side of the line at Bois Brule near Apremont and St. Agnant to reinforce the 104th Infantry which had been under heavy artillery and infantry attack since April 5. Throughout the afternoon and evening of April 12, the 103rd was engaged in small unit close combat with German infantry in a tangle of earthworks, wire and underbrush. The enemy was finally driven back from the American positions.

On April 20, following a 90-minute pre-dawn gas bombardment and taking advantage of a heavy fog, a German force of about 1800 troops assaulted positions held by the 102nd Infantry at Seicheprey. It was during this action that Stubby (refer to the page “Stubby, 26th Division Mascot”) was wounded by a grenade fragment. At the same time, throughout the day the Germans fired over 21,600 gas shells, 4,200 high explosive shells and 6,000 trench mortar shells into the American lines from Xivray to Bois de Remieres. This bombardment destroyed all communications in the sector, smashed American artillery liason and caused the infantry units to lose all track of each other.

Read about the Toul (Boucq) Sector here. See original film of the steam disinfection process for uniforms here. Also, read Sam’s April correspondence from the Toul Sector as he continues to live under fire in the trenches.

April, 1919: After the Armistice

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. After arriving in Boston, Sam traveled 3 hours by train to Camp Devens in Ayer, Mass. where he was billeted with the rest of the 26th Division pending discharge from service. Following a Division Review by the New England Governors at Camp Devens on April 22 and a grand Divisional Parade in Boston on April 25, the officers and men of the 26th Division received their discharges on April 28-30, 1919. Approximately only 57% of the officers and men who originally went overseas with the 26th “Yankee” Division returned home with it.

Read about life After the Armistice here. Read about the Grand Divisional Parade in Boston 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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