Somewhere in France, 8/23/1918

ymcalogo

August 23, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I may not get a chance to write to you again for a few days so I will use a little time that I have now. I wrote you  a week ago and since then we have moved. It is a big job to pack up a big hospital like ours. The material had to be loaded onto trucks and carried to the depot, unloaded there and again loaded on the train. After we arrived here it had all that to go through again unloading. We are back near our first camp in France after we left the port where we landed. We will be here only a couple of days as we are awaiting orders and transportation to go on to wherever it is that we are headed for. We are not setting up the hospital here at all. It has taken a day or two since we got here to get the material straightened out.

It surely has been hot these last couple of days. We never had it so hot where we came from and I hope our final destination will not be any worse. We are not near any town. There are just a few houses gathered on one or two streets. In most of the houses I guess the people and the cows and chickens all live together. The country is hilly and beautiful, the fotthills of the [censored] I suppose. Last night several of us took a hike up the river a little way. We found an interesting cave and some ruins. The country around here is almost no good for farming. There are no farms, just a few plum trees and pasture for the cows.

We haven’t been getting any mail for a while and I suppose that it will be some time after we get settled before our mail finds us. I haven’t had any for two weeks or more so I should have quite a lot coming when I do get it.

There is a large town about three miles from here but we are not permitted to go there, probably because we are expecting word to go any minute. Now that I have the time there is no place that I can go to practice. We have a phonograph which belongs to the YMCA. That is all the music we have. Some of the records are pretty fair, but altogether there are only a few.

We are all encouraged over the reports of the progress of the war these days and also over the promise of the future. Perhaps it won’t be so long as I feared it might be before we are all together again. I am anxious to hear how the new business is going.

Give my regards to all.

Love from

Joe

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

Chateau Montanglaust, 8/15/1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

Evacuatoin Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

August 15, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I had a letter from Mother a day or two ago. I think I have gotten all the letters that have been sent. They have been coming about once a week. I wanted to write you Sunday but wasn’t able to make it. Perhaps before you receive this you wil have received the post cards I sent from Paris. I don’t know whether it is permissible to write in a letter that I have been to Paris so I don’t see that there can be any objection to my writing it here.

I had been hoping for a long time that I might get an opportunity to visit the city. Owing to the likelihood of our leaving here I had begun to fear that I wouldn’t get the chance. However last Monday I got permission to go in on an ambulance that was taking in some tires to be fixed. I got in about noon and left on the train at six the next morning. I was all alone and had no one to show me around the town but I inquired my way around and saw about all the things that I had in my mind to see.

First I tended to the errand that I was sent on and then I went to the YMCA headquarters and there I saw the man who has charge of all the entertainment of the camps in France. Some of the best artists and stage people of America are touring France for the YMCA. Mr. Towne said that he would like to use me in that work and would make a request that I be permitted to do so for a couple of months or a longer time if possible. I don’t know what will come of it but I certainly would be glad to get the chance. I don’t think there would be any objection on the part of our commanding officer. The YMCA is doing such fine work here for the soldiers that I don’t think that they would be refused a favor like that.

By the time that I got through with my interview it was four o’clock so I set out on foot to see Paris. The nearest things was the Church of the Madalein. There is no use of any trying to describe everything to you because the censor would have to take a day off to read it all. There was no service going on so I roamed around inside for a while. From there I walked down and passed the government buildings. I don’t know what they all were and didn’t have time to find out. I followed the Champs de Elysees to the Triumphal Arch. I could see the Eiffel tower in the distance so I headed for it, passing many beautiful buildings on the way. The pictures give little idea of the immensity of the tower. The Tracadero is close to it so I walked over there.

Nearly all the Exhibition buildings are closed now so there is nothing but the buildings to be seen. The buildings themselves are wonderful enough. I wanted to see the cathedral of Notre Dame more than any other thing in Paris so to save time I took a taxi over there. Taxi rates are not high in Paris. We must have gone three or four miles for about fifty cents. The cathedral was closed when I was there so I didn’t see the inside of it. On the way we passed the Louvre, Palace of Justice and many others. I spent the night at the YMCA hotel. There were no concerts or operas on as this is not the musical season and I didn’t care to go to a show in French. I saw a lot for the little time I had. Sgt. Hill was in and met a professional guide who took him around. If I get in again I will look him up. I came back on the train. Soldiers travel here very cheaply. The soldiers pay about 35 cents for what it costs civilians $1.50. Are they doing that in the states now?

I visited an American Hospital in Paris. If I get another chance to go sometime I will see if I can’t transfer there. I know that there are hundreds of others who would like to, too, but if I were there I could study and so would have a reason for a request for the transfer.

About a week ago I had another little trip up into the territory that has been retaken from the Germans. It was the first I had seen of real devastation. In several towns there wasn’t a single house that one could live in. I don’ see how they can ever be rebuilt. At [censored] the civilians are moving back again. Some of them find their homes wrecked but for the most part there wasn’t a great deal of destruction.

I have gotten acquainted with some people near here who have been very kind to me. They have a daughter about sixteen or so who plays violin a little. I help her with her violin in return for which they try to teach me French. They are from Paris and stay here to avoid the bombardments and the Big Bertha. Everything was quiet while I was there. I saw only one or two places where there had been any damage from aviators or the cannon. I expected that the city would be pretty well deserted but there were a lot of people there. The city is dark at night, not much like the gay Paree before the war.

Our censor tells me that he had to cut out a lot of some of my letters lately. I guess some of them have been rather long, too. I hope there isn’t anything in this one that shouldn’t be and that it will get to you safely.

We are doing almost nothing right now, but wait. We are all well and being well taken care of. I hope this finds all at home in good health and spirits. My best regards to all.

Love from

Joe

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

Chateau Montanglaust, 7/17/1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

Evacuatoin Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

July 17, 1918

[Editor's Note: The beginning part of this letter was censored and cut out.]

…letter to you. I hope that this time I can get one finished and sent away. Just yesterday I received two letters from Mother, number 8 & 9. I have received all of her letters up to now. [Censored] …delivery we had so I suppose that there are several more letters on the way to me. I am glad to know that you have begun to receive my letters and that they get to you so quickly. You will be likely to get my letters pretty regularly now. That depends on my writing regularly and partly on its not being delayed or lost in transit. I try to write you at least once a week and oftener if possible but it has been two weeks now since my last letter to you. The reason is that we have been working constantly and almost without any rest. We have the privilege of serving behind the most active sector on the front and for several days we have been flooded with patients. For several days we worked until the entire company was worn out. Then the division headquarters sent us 100 artillerymen and 50 medicals and we let some of our men off for a 24 hour’s rest.

joe_kitchin_2a

Every day we receive more patients than we can take care of and we have to send them on to some other hospital without having anything done for them. Patients come in a steady stream as fast as we can write them on our books. We operate on them and send them on by train to a base hospital. [Censored] That will give you some idea of the amount of work we are doing. Patients come to us from the front in ambulances or trucks and it keeps sixteen men busy unloading them and taking them to wards. The operating room is constantly rushed [Censored] …tables going all the time. The surgeons have to work until all the cases are cleared out. A few days ago I was called to give anesthetics. We started at one in the afternoon and worked straight through without any interruption until seven the next morning. I worked with the same operating team all the time. The last couple of weeks I have been working nights, in charge of the receiving ward. That is a hard job when we are busy but not so bad when things are slow. I rather like the night work. I am off at 7 a.m. and sleep till the middle of the afternoon. Then I can practice or write some and go back to work at 7 p.m. Since we have been so busy I have not had regular hours. Both the day and night shifts have been working nearly all the time.

You can’t have any idea of what the war is until you are close to it. Of course we are not on the firing line but we can hear the guns and know when there is anything going on at the front. Our work is a constant procession of suffering. There are patients with wounds of all kinds and degrees, men choking and burning with gas, men who are mental and nervous wrecks from shell-shock. A lot of men who go through here are almost insane from their sufferings and experiences. When we are busy we can do little for the comfort of the patients. Some of them have not eaten for two or three days and we can’t even feed them as they have to be sent out to make room for others. Of course patients who stay with us a day or so are fed but we sometimes get men who are not severely injured and we send them right away. We can really feel that we are doing our bit here. We may not get the physical suffering that these men do but this hospital does a great work and we are all a part of it.

Our force now consists of about [Censored] men and nurses and still we haven’t enough. The nurses are fine. They seem to be capable and they do work hard. It is pretty hard for them as they have to live just as the soldiers do. There is no time for social affairs, or at least there isn’t now.

On the Fourth of July all France declared a holiday and the towns had celebrations. The town near here had a concert in the afternoon and all the town turned out. I played a couple of numbers on the program. All the rest was by the French soldiers. On the 14th which is France’s holiday they had another celebration and I helped out there, too. The French appear to like the Americans and are very cordial to them. They like thier money, too, and charge them double price for things. We are about due for a pay day soon. We haven’t had any pay for nearly three months. I had some money when I left the states so I have managed all right.

The only thing we spend our money for is for things to eat. The army food is not very good, and besides that it isn’t well cooked so we go to town every few days and get a meal. Things are expensive but we think it is worth the money to have an enjoyable meal now and then.

It has been quite cool ever since we came. We have had two or three warm days but that is all. Up to two weeks ago we had no rain but lately it has rained quite a bit. The weather changes quickly and on a clear day it may start to rain within a few minutes.

We can’t receive any packages from the states now because of lack of shipping space. I don’t know whether Mr. Mallam can receive things or not, he is not in the army. There isn’t anything I need right now but I might want a pair of those shoes in a few months. We get only the heavy hob-nailed ones over here and they hurt my feet. If Mr. Ballam stays perhaps they could be sent to him and he send them on to me.

It is nearly time for me to go back to work and I must get my supper first so I must plan on writing again in a couple of days. We are all as well as can be and I hope everything is going well with all at home.

Love from

Joe

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

Chateau Montanglaust, 6/23/1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

Evacuatoin Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

June 23, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

This is Sunday and I have planned to write a letter home every Sunday and during the week, too, if possible. If it had been yesterday my letter would not have been written.

Since I sent my last letter our mail has found us and we have had two deliveries. I was fortunate enough to receive ten letters out of both lots. It certainly made us feel good to hear from home. Home dosen’t seem so far off now that we have a connecting link. Five of the letters I received were from Mother. The last letter was numbered 6 so there is one still to be accounted for. As I look I see there are only four letters from Mother. In the first bunch there were tow letters dated May 15 and 18. The next one is dated the 30th and the next the 7th of June. It took the last one only 16 days to get to me. That is very good time. It will take my letters longer to reach you. They are put in here in the office and censored whenever the officer gets around to it. Then they are sent to the mail headquarters. I don’t know whether they are censored again there or not. After that they are sent to the states. Letters coming to us are not censored at all.

This is Wednesday morning and this letter has hardly gotten started. Sunday afternoon and evening there was a rush of patients and I had to lay aside letter writing and everything else. There must have been three or four hundred that came in that night because it was necessary to open more wards. I had four wards to look after and I was on duty in them from early Sunday morning until ten o’clock Monday night without any relief or sleep. I have had to do that twice in the last week. We are short of men and so we have to work long hours. We haven’t enough nurses to take care of the wards either. Every few days we get a few more so we have now either sixty or seventy, I am not sure which. They are very patient and hard working and do a lot of good for the poor fellows who are placed in our care. The privates who work in the wards don’t know a great deal about that work. They do the normal labor and the nurses and doctors do nearly all of the medical work. We are short of doctors, too. Some of them who are in the wards have nearly a hundred patients at times and it isn’t possible to give the necessary attention to so many. We are looking forward to receiving more men and probably doctors, too, so it will be better then.

The patients who came in Sunday night were mostly gassed. Some were burned and some had inhaled it. It is terrible stuff and causes more suffering than shot wounds. If they don’t get it badly they recover without any permanent injury but those who get much of it in their lungs either die or are left with weak lungs and throats.

This surely is a busy place. When we are rushed everybody has to work until the rush is over. In the operating room there are four tables going all the time, night and day. Sunday the receiving wards couldn’t take care of all the patients as they came in so they were laid out on the grass and the doctors and nurses worked on them there.

Every day or two we evacuate all the patients that are able to be moved. That is a big job, too, so between receiving and evacuating and taking care of the patients while they are here everybody is kept on the jump.

I was taken away from the ward work yesterday and put in the operating room giving anesthetics. It is six months since I did any of that and I feel pretty shaky. I got along fairly well, though, and gave ten in a little room over half a day. We worked straight through without any stop. As soon as one operation was through I started putting the next man to sleep so that he was ready by the time the doctors got their hands washed and were ready to begin. I was afraid that I might have to begin all over again getting used to the operating room but it didn’t bother me at all. The operations were all for removing bullets and pieces of shrapnel from all parts of the body. The wound itself may not be very big or painful, but it usually takes a lot of cutting to get the pieces out. We have some doctors with us who have been over here for some time doing this work. Most of the company doctors are in the wards.

Since writing you last I have received three lots of mail. There were about ten letters from Mother. Several of them were forwarded from Camp Merritt. I think I have received all that she has sent now. There were also two letters from Father, one of them was forwarded from Camp Merritt. Besides those I recieved letters from Gladys, Jessie Saunders, Miss Phipps and Mrs. Davis. Altogether I must have about thirty letters. I don’t know how I am ever going to answer them all. I suppose that by now I have received all the back letters that I have coming to me and from now on will get them as they are written. I will be able to answer them more regularly then, anyway.

I am rather surprised to hear of Felber going in the Navy. I suppose he knew he would be drafted and thought he would like that better than the Army. The Navy men are enlisted for four years but there may be some way to get out when the war is over.

I will drop Mr. Ballam a line. It is not likely that he will be around here. He probably is working at some supply depot which will be farther back.

Things are rather quiet around here today. We have sent most of our patients out and there dosen’t seem to be much doing at the front so we have a little breathing spell. We spent a part of the morning fixing our tent up. There are six of us in our tent. There is room for eight so we have a table to eat and write on. Over here the men are not allowed to have beds so they sleep on the ground. One of our boys speaks French and has been friendly with the caretaker of the estate and he has loaned us six of the countesses mattresses so we in this tent have soft, warm beds.

Our biggest problem is in regards to food. We are not situated where we can get food from the American Army. By arrangement we draw our supplies from the French Army and their stuff is not so good as ours, and there isn’t as much of it. All we can get from them is bread, coffee, fresh beef and sugar and occasionally a little flour. That dosen’t give us much variety. We get potatoes, too.

The weather has been very cool. At night it is really cold. I would like to have a little hot weather just for a change. Three nights this week German aeroplanes have flown over us on their way to bomb Paris. The anti-aircraft guns near here shoot at them a lot but I haven’t heard of their doing any damage. They haven’t bothered us and I don’t think they will.

We have about a dozen Germans in one of our wards. I think I shall have to go in and see them today. I don’t know who they are or where they are from. They are being taken care of just the same as our men are.

According to the new rules now it is impossible to send us packages of any sort. The Americans have been sending so much over for the soldiers that it took up a lot of shipping space and flooded the mail system over here. There isn’t anything that we are really in need of anyway so we can get along all right. The YMCA is going to open a little canteen here so we can buy chocolate and other things that we need.

Everybody here is well and happy and working pretty hard. We hope to be getting home someday but I expect that will be some time yet.I must pay up my letter debts this week and will try to write you again in a few days.

Best regards to all and

Love to you from

Joe

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

Chateau Montanglaust, 6/16/1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

June 16, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I wrote you a letter a week ago but as we have been on the move since it is probable that it was not forwarded for a few days.

The day after I wrote you last we got word to pack up and move. It is a big job to move a whole hospital but we got it done in a couple of hours. We traveled about twenty four hours. We didn’t go so very far but troop trains don’t travel very fast and we went a rather round about way. We had better luck as to accomodations this trip. The officers had first class compartments, the sergeants had second class and the privates, third class. We were as comfortable as on any American train. As we got nearer the front we began to realize that the war was getting close. A good part of the trip was through country that had been occupied by the Germans in 191^. We saw very little of ruins, probably because they had been repaired since or that there wasn’t much damage done. Our route was just about along the line of the furthest advance of the Germans. Of course they don’t occupy that ground now. Many of the fields had a number of graves in them which were marked by wooden crosses.

Our present situation is a very good one and we think we are practically permanently located here. We are on the estate of some countess whose name I do not know. She lives in Paris now but has been here a couple of times this week to see what we were doing with her place. There is a fine old chateau and beautiful grounds. The house is not well arranged for hospital wards so it is used for operating rooms, offices and quarters for some of the officers. We are in small tents around the edge of the grounds and have about twenty-five ward tents up now. When we are all fixed we may have room for a thousand patients. We haven’t all of our operating equipment yet and so have not really begun to work. There is a small hospital attached to us called a Mobile Hospital and they have all their equipment so they have been doing some operating. Last night we got our first taste of what is coming. We got word in the evening that some gassed men were being sent to us. I stayed up all night with eight men to take the men from the ambulances and put them in the ward and in four hours we received nearly four hundred. They were sent to us from another hospital so they had been treated and there was nothing for us to do but keep them warm and quiet and feed them.

We have over a hundred wounded patients but they are taken care of at present in the Mobile Hospital so I don’t see them. When we are fixed to do operating we will be rushed with wounded patients. We have five wounded German prisoners. They receive the same care and treatment that our men do and I guess they hardly know what to make of it. They are surprised to be treated so well. One or two of them are in pretty bad shape but even at that I guess they are glad to be here.

Most of our patients are Marines and I guess the Marine Corps has been doing good work at the front. We hear reports of American successes which I suppose are comparatively small but they are encouraging. We can realize that we are close to the front. At night we can see the flashes from the guns and rockets. We can hear them plainly although they are several miles away. There is hardly a minute of the day that we can’t hear the hum of an aeroplane. Some days they are more numerous than others. The second day we were here we often saw five or six up at the same time. A couple of days ago a German plane wandered over this far but a couple of miles from here the anti-aircraft guns got him. We are so used to the planes by now that we don’t look at them anymore. Our patients say that at the front the German planes do whatever they want to unmolested. We hope that all those planes that the U.S. is said to be building will soon be in service.

Since beginning this letter two days ago I have been put in charge of two wards. I have the officers ward and a ward for enlisted men. None of them were very seriously wounded. Most of them had been operated upon at the Mobile Hospital and then were sent to my ward to be sent on to a base hospital. They are all gone this morning. Two of the officers were suffering from shell shock which is a mental and physical derangement caused by exposure to shell fire. One lieutenant thought he was still in the trenches and was talking to his men and giving orders. We don’t keep patients very long. As soon as they are able to be moved they are sent back to a base hospital to recover. A good many expect to be sent home when they are well as they are not fit for further service. Some of the men have been over here a year and they would give a leg to get back home.

It is surprising, though, how cheerful most of the men are in spite of their injuries and hardships they have gone through. Some are anxious to get back to the trenches while others are terror stricken at the thought of going back again. They have a pretty hard time of it, all right, while they are in the trenches. They are all hungry when they get here and something to eat and a bed look pretty good to them.

A representative of the YMCA comes around every day or two and gives the patients a piece of chocolate and some cigarettes. There is a small building on the grounds that used to be the servants’ quarters. When the French soldiers were camped here it was used for a YMCA and I understand that the Y is going to open it again for us. There is a good piano up there and Sgt. Fontaine and I have been using it in the evenings when we had time.

We have about forty female nurses with us now. I have a nurse and tow men in each of my wards. The nurse tends to the dressing of the wounds and the men do the other work that has to be done. The work is not so awfully hard but the days are long and wearisome.

We get the American papers from Paris every day. We are vitally interested in the news from the Chteau Thierry region. So far the news has been very favorable. A few days ago the papers told of an air raid on Paris. Some of our men who were up saw the search lights from the city as they tried to find the aeroplanes and shoot them down.

On account of our moving around no mail has gotten to us yet but I understand that we may get some soon. Everybody is anxious to hear from home. It is six weeks now since we left New York and that is a pretty long time to be without word from home. I hope you didn’t have to wait that long for a letter from me.

It looks as though we were not going to get paid till next month, we will ge two months pay in one. I understand that after we are here six months we are entitled to a weeks furlough. The American soldiers are not supposed to go to Paries. There are other cities which have been made the official recreation places. They have American theatres and have Americanized the towns so that the men can get along as well as at home. I would like to get into Paris sometime but I don’t know how it can be done. I hope to be able to arrange a little time now and then for practice but it is rather hard to do so. The ward work is not hard but your are expected to be on duty almost all the time. Perhaps when we get going a little while I can manage for an hour or so a day.

I want this letter to get off today so I will close now. I suppose you will have had one or more letters from me by now and that you have been writing me right along so that there will be several of them when they do get here. I will write as often as I can, at least once a week. I will try to write to my friends now and then but I may not be anble to do very much in that way.

Give my best regards to all.

Love from

Joe

PS. I think this is the fourth letter I have sent.

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

Somewhere In France, 6/9/1918

Somewhere in France

June 9, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We have changed our location since I wrote you last. As I told you in my last letter we didn’t expect to stay where we were very long. We were there just a week. We didn’t do anything but loaf around there. When we came there the camp was crowded with the soldiers that came across with the same convoy that we did. After the camp itself was filled they put the new arrivals out in the nearby fields. We were about the last to leave of the men that came over with us. But as we came away there were other ships in the harbor unloading men. Men are coming over as fast as they can be taken care of, and faster than I had any idea of.

It is a little over a week ago that we packed up and loaded onto a train of “36 men or 8 horses”. Our trip was nearly four days long, straight across the widest part of France. Of course there was no comfort in the trip but we enjoyed it just the same. We passed thorugh some famous old French cities but we usually went around the edge of them and so did not see much of them. We stopped once or twice a day for an hour or so at small stations. Some of them were regular stopping places for troop trains and the YMCA and Red Cross had put up places to serve coffee and bread or sandwiches. At almost every large town the Red Cross had coffee for us. That was very welcome, especially during the night. The nights here are pretty cold and there was no going to bed in the box cars. We were lucky if we could even sit down and catch a couple of winks of sleep.

There are a lot of American women over here, both Red Cross nurses and regular army nurses. We saw quite a few of them on the way here. They seem to be a fine lot of women. Those who were serving coffee along the way had been at the front and were sent back to do “canteening” for a rest. They worked pretty hard at that but they didn’t seem to mind how hard they worked if they could do something for the soldiers.

As we went further east we met several French hospital trains going back loaded with French wounded. That made us feel that we were beginning to get close to things. Several of the towns had prison camps. The German prisoners were out working on the roads, building the camp or doing other work. They have it pretty easy. They don’t work hard and are well taken care of. I hope our prisoners in Germany are as well off. In one town where we stopped I talked with one of the guards who had some prisoners out building fences. He said that although they see train loads of Americans going to the front every day, the German prisoners won’t believe that they are Americans. They have been told that the submarines are preventing the Americans from getting over. They think we are English or Canadians in American uniforms. I wanted to talk to one of the prisoners myself  but that isn’t allowed.

At one town I talked with some English soldiers who had been wounded and after getting out of the hospital were put on light duty further back. At another town we talked with some French soldiers. One of them was an aviator who had been shot down with his machine. The French people were very cordial to us. We saw lots of women doing railroad work in place of the men who are away. The only men we saw were those beyond the military age. Everybody is tired of the war but they won’t give in.

Our present location is hardly likely to be permanent. We have a real hospital of sixteen buildings. Ten of them are wards and the rest are mess halls, office buildings, sleeping quarters, etc. It has not been used as a hospital as yet and so far we have received no patients. We have been busy cleaning up and putting the place in order. When we first came there was almost no hospital equipment but we have received most of that now.

I have told you where Evacuation Hospital No. 1 is. We are about thirty five miles straight south of them. The American front is north of us and the lowest extremity of the French front is just a little further to the east. It is rumored that we will not be here long but that we will soon move further up behind the American line. I understand that the Americans have had a big part in the activity around Paris and it is probable that if we move we will be around that neighborhood. We are all anxious to get into the work and be doing something.

At present the men are laying walks and making roads. They have been doing that ever since they got into the army and they are tired of it. Our quarters are very comfortable and in that way we are in luck. We are using the beds from the wards to sleep on so we have springs and thick soft mattresses. I have charge of this barrack and have a little room all to myself. I can read and write and practice in here without being bothered by anybody.

We are not so fortunately situated in the way of having a town near us. There are four little towns within the radius of a mile from us but they are hardly more than a few houses gathered together along the road. Only one of them has two streets in it, the others have only one. There is nothing in any of the towns of interest. There are no stores that have anything that we would want to buy. There are some restaurants but I don’t know what we can get to eat there. Our meals here are pretty fiar. Our food is sent down to us from a depot near here. It consists mostly of beans, bacon and such things although we do get some fresh beef every few days. There is a commissary here where we can buy little extra things. We can get canned fruits and jam, soap, toilet articles and tobacco. Everything we buy there we get at the cost price.

[Editor's Note: The rest of this letter has been lost to history]

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

Somewhere In France, 5/26/1918

Somewhere in France

May 26, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We are finally landed on French soil. After getting into the harbor we stayed on board a couple of days while the other boats were being unloaded. We came off yesterday afternoon and hiked up here to a camp outside of the town. We didn’t go through the city itself but went around the edge of it. The boys were delighted with the pretty country and the quaint houses. The houses and trees and flowers are all different from what they have been used to in the States and everything is new and interesting to them. Almost every second house has a sign on it “Commerce de Vins”. The soldiers are allowed to have light wines and beer so the stores do a good business. Prices have gone up a great deal since the American soldiers came. The French Soldier makes five cents a day and of course can’t spend much out of that. The Yankees are willing to pay any price for what they want so prices go up. That makes it hard on the people who live here.

We are only temporarily located at this camp. The men come here from the ships and stay three or four days and then go on to other destinations. After you are here two or three days you have your turn at taking a bath. The last week on the boat we kept our clothes on all the time so we are about ready for a little scrub. The camp is very old. I doubt whether it has been much in use by the French of late. The barracks are of stone and the whole camp has a high stone wall around it. It is reported that it was built in Napoleon’s time and I suspect that is true. There are no lights in the barracks and the water system is crude and inadequate.

There are no French men of military age to be seen, just boys and older men. Even the young women seem to be scarce. Perhaps they go to the cities to work in factories and business houses. The women seem to run the farms and the taverns. The farms are not big, just a little patch and a cow or two.

The people out here in the country have odd costumes. Nearly everybody wears black, those who wear colors look to be fairly well to do. The men wear real broad brimmed hats, seemingly of plush. They have silk ribbon bands on them which dangle down several inches over the ends of the hat. Their pants are big and roomy and their coats very short and tight. The women’s dresses are very plain, rather full skirts and close fitting above the waist. Today being Sunday they all had on little white caps. The people here are Bretons, related by race more to the Welsh and Irish than to the French. They seem rugged, perhaps the people in town are different. The soldiers are common to them around here so they don’t pay much attention to them.

The first letter I wrote wasn’t sent away for some time so I put the second one in with it. I don’t expect that I will receive any mail for a long time. We will probably be on the move for some time and it may be hard for mail to find us.

We are all well and in the best of spirits and I hope the same is true of you.

Love from

Joe

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

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.

Camp Merritt, New Jersey 5/8/1918

May 8, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I was rather surprised to receive three letters from Mother this morning. One of them was due here a couple of days ago. It probably was delayed somewhere. Aunt Louise also favored me with a letter. I am sorry that I will be unable to see her at all. I will not even get a chance to telephone her now.

We expect to leave here tonight. Our bags are packed and have gone ahead. We will leave about two or three in the morning and will board the boat at ten tomorrow morning. The boat is liable to leave any time in the next two or three days. We found from some sailors we met in New York that the Vaterland is in port and is due to sail about Friday. We may be fortunate enough to get her. She is the largest boat in the transport service. There are a lot of soldiers going from here so I imagine we will need a good sized boat.

Some of the boys seem to be a bit blue about going. When it comes right down to it, it is not very easy, I will admit, but I know that it is harder for those at home than it is for us. I don’t think any of the men are afraid for anything that might happen to them, it is just the thoughts of leaving everybody and causing them the worry and pain that we know it does. Some men have nobody that they are leaving and some have drifted away from their home folks, so for them it is a comparatively easy matter.

If the weather stays like this for a couple of weeks we will have a fine voyage. We don’t know where or how we are going. We are taking enough rations for five weeks but that is just a precaution. When we get on the boat we will address postal cards and they will be forwarded to you as soon as the gov’t gets word by cable that our boat has arrived.

As I told you before, don’t worry about me. As long as you don’t hear from me you will know that I am all right. When any accident happens the gov’t gets word to the relatives immediately. Travel by sea is perfectly safe now. Possibly more so than in peace time.

Received the magazine today and am glad to have that to read on the trip. We can carry nothing of that kind with us. All we have with us is what we can carry in our little ration bags, our big barrack bags go in the hold and we don’t get those until we are located on the other side.

I will send my extra stuff home tonight. When I packed today I cleaned house and found a few things I will not need for a little while. I am still not sure about my violin. I will find out at the embarkation headquarters.

Well, I haven’t very much to say. I hope that it will not be so very long before we can be together again. I hope that when I come back I will find you both well and I hope that all goes well with you while I am away. I have no fears for myself at all and want you to feel the same way about it.

I must close now, sending lots of love to both of you.

Your son,

Joe

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

Camp Merritt, New Jersey 5/7/1918

May 7, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I am putting on a little style today, writing in real fussy paper and with pen and ink. This is the paper that is given out at the camp reading room. The place is just as nice and neat as the paper is. This is a stub pen, though, and I can hardly write with it.

I see by the New York papers that you have had it warm in Chicago, too. It has been really hot here and it is so damp that we feel it more than we used to at Ft. Riley. I don’t know what 110 would be like here. We had it that hot in Ft. Riley last summer.

Today the Company let some men go to New York again so it looks as though we would not go before Thursday as they will not be back till tomorrow. A regiment of Engineers went out last night, or this morning rather. Troops always leave here during the night. I don’t know why they do because everybody knows they are going a day or so before, at least we did with these men.

A new lot of cavalrymen came in yesterday, they are old timers having served on the [Mexican] Border a couple of years. Their principal occupation seems to be shooting craps. Gambling is prohibited in the army but their officers don’t seem to care. We have always been strict about that in our company but I have heard the last couple of days that some of the boys are playing on the quiet. If they would play for small amounts it would be all right but some men lose all thier pay as soon as they get it.

Received a letter from Father this morning, also a dues book. I think I can keep track of my dues all right. I would have sent enough to pay up in advance but I didn’t know when we would get paid again and I wanted some money to spend on the trip if the occasion arose. I understand that sometimes the men don’t get paid for a couple of months after they get on the other side. I don’t know what causes the delay. Maybe the U-boats sink a boat full of money once in awhile. That is possible of course. When the war is over the deep-sea divers ought to be in great demand. There will be a lot of stuff to bring up from the bottom of the sea.

I am rather surprised at John’s going into the Navy. He will learn how to scrub decks now. They have to work pretty hard. There are always lots of sailors in New York, more than there are soldiers. There are so many ships going in and out and as soon as a ship lands the sailors are off for a day or two. The day we were in we saw a lot of them and half of them were drunk. It seems easy for them to get booze although there is a law against providing soldiers or sailors with liquor.

I haven’t the address of Aunt Louise or of the Kessler’s so I haven’t written them. I could call them up and probably will if we have to go before I write them. I haven’t kept my addresses separately and I must have destroyed the letter that had those in.

I don’t think we are more than 75 miles from Philadelphia. If I had my Betsy I could drive down some time if I had time. This is almost a suburb of New York and the towns are so close together that you go from one town into another without noticing the difference.

There isn’t anything that you can send me that I am in need of. We can buy nearly everything at the canteen here at prices less than retail. Will write you again tomorrow. Have written you every day since I came except the day I was in New York. This ought to be the sixth letter.

Love from

Joe

Camp Merritt, New Jersey

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

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