Somewhere At Sea, 5/21/1918

800px-Hapag_Vaterland

SS Leviathan (Formerly SS Vaterland)

At Sea,

May 21, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I suppose that it will take this letter three or four weeks to get to you and before then you will have received the two postal cards that I mailed at the dock. They were to be held until our ship arrived on this side and then mailed. Let me know if you received them and when.

We are still at sea and I don’t know when we will land but in order to get word to you as soon as possible I am writing this now as there may not be time after we get off the boat. The voyage has not been a hard one. It has been rather warm all along, overcoats having been used only occasionally at night. The sea has been remarkably calm. For six days there was hardly a ripple to be seen. Then for a couple of days it got a little rough but calmed down again and probably will remain so for the remainder of the trip.

So far I have managed to keep all of my meals with me. I haven’t been sick but there were one or two times when I felt a bit unsettled around the region of my stomach. A good many of the men have been sick nearly all the way and some have eaten almost nothing since they got on board. They get very plain food with very little variety and the kitchen and mess hall are stuffy and smelly as they always are on a boat, so that the men have very little appetite. They are all figuring on the big feed they are going to order in some restaurant when they land. They don’t seem to realize that what they can get in a French restaurant these days is very limited. I doubt whether the men will be allowed any time for wandering around. They are not recruits in a training camp anymore.

The sergeants were expectig to travel second cabin but were disappointed. There are a lot of officers on the boat and they completely filled the staterooms. However, we eat with the petty officers of the boat and have real good meals. The sailors have much better things to eat than the soldiers. We eat in a room which is away from the kitchen. We have porcelain dishes and eat all we want, and don’t have to wash our dishes after we eat. We have our bunks with the rest of the men in the hold. It is to be expected that as many bunks as possible would be crowded into as small a place as possible. They are arranged something like berths in a Pullman except that they are three deep instead of two, and from the floor you can touch the ceiling with your hand. The bunks are arranged in rows running lengthwise of the boat. Water is the most precious thing on the boat. It is hard to get any to drink and wash with and what we get is not very good.

I hope the package I sent home from Camp Merritt arrived in good shape. I had to do the best I could with what there was at hand. I have my violin and music with me. There is an order that musical instruments will not be taken but I decided to take a chance and walked right on the ship with my fiddle under my arm and nobody said a word. I have used it a few times on board. The YMCA has a little organ and in the evening we get it out on the deck and the men like to gather around and sing. I usually play a solo or two and someone sings, so we make up a little program. A couple of days ago Sgt. Fontaine and I played some numbers for the officers in their room. They have a piano in there. We got permission to go in there and practice and do so once in a while.

What we are allowed to write in our letters is not much. I could write nearly a book about the things we are not supposed to write about. I imagine that the letters we write now will be pretty strictly censored. After a while they may not be so strict. We will be allowed to write as often as we please, for the present, at least. Even though we write regularly the letters will probably arrive at irregular intervals. I will number my letters so that you will know whether you receive them all. If you number yours, too, I can keep track of them. The government discourages the sending of packages to the soldiers. There is so much of it to handle and the troops move around so much that a lot of the mail is never delivered. I understand that it is possible for the American soldiers to get almost anything they need from the army canteens.

I have been dabbling with French a little since I got on the boat. What I have learned in these few days is very little but I hope to learn more. Sgt. Fontaine speaks very good French and he has been helping several of us.

This letter will be mailed when we land and probably will go back to the states very quickly. We don’t know when we will get into port or even what port we are going to. It is practically certain that I won’t get to visit my grandparents because we are not going that way. We know that much and that is about all.

We don’t know when we will land but the rumors are that it will be in a couple of days. At any rate when you get this you will know that we are safe on French soil. So far we haven’t seen anything to scare us. We bombarded a whale yesterday and finished him up. The only excitement we have had.

I will write again as soon as we land and tell you more.

Love from

Joe

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Am. Ex. Forces

Via New York

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

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