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.

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 January, 1918-1919

January, 1918: Neufchateau Training Area

In January, 1918 the 26th “Yankee” Division concluded its preliminary training for the Western Front in the area of Neufchateau in the Vosges region of northeastern France. On January 23, word was suddenly received that the 26th Division had been assigned to reinforce the depleted XI Corps of the French 6th Army on the Chemin des Dames front, north of Soissons and the Aisne River. Hasty preparations were then made to complete the insurance forms, write home to loved ones and make ready for the move to the Front.

Read about the Neufchateau Training Area here. See original film of the 26th Division at Neufchateau here, including Sam himself standing Color Guard following Evening Parade [far right edge of frame at 06:19]. Also, read Sam’s January correspondence from Liffol-le-Grand as the winter continues, the men look forward to packages from home and Sam suddenly hears word that he and the boys are finally heading for the Front.

January, 1919: After the Armistice

On January 8, 1919 orders were received for the 26th Division to begin preparations for return to the United States. Movement orders were received on January 17, but the day prior to the 103rd Infantry’s scheduled departure, their commander Col. Percy W. Arnold was tragically killed in an accident. After burying their Colonel with full military honors and much sadness, by January 21 the troops were finally marching to the trains which carried them to the embarkation area near Le Mans.

Read about life After the Armistice here. Read Sam’s January correspondence from Sarrey, France here as he struggles with the weather, the boredom of waiting and the frustration of hearing that other units which only recently arrived in France have already returned home.

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.

Soldier’s Mail for December, 1917-1918

December, 1917: Neufchateau Training Area

In December, 1917 the 26th “Yankee” Division continued its training for the Western Front in the area of Neufchateau in the Vosges region of northeastern France. Supervised by the French Army, the training process included constructing a full-sized system of fire, cover and support trenches large enough for a battalion front which were used for practical exercises in attack and defense. This network of training trenches was nicknamed the “Noncourt Sector” after the nearby village of Noncourt and was used by all units to develop their skills in trench warfare. The Noncourt Sector trench system was called the “Quartier de la Sapiniere” (Sapper’s Quarter), with the earthworks named in honor of the New England troops: “Trenche de Boston” (front line of observation), “Trenche de Newport” (line of resistance), and “Trenche de New Haven” (support line).

Gas training also began on December 10 after the arrival of a shipment of 25,000 small box respirators and 6,000 gas masks. Due to the limited number of qualified instructors available, the men were trained one battalion at a time in a very preliminary fashion. Sam also found his responsibilities increased with the assignment of Drum Major for the 103rd Infantry band, leading evening Parade around the Ville each night.

Read about the Neufchateau Training Area here. See original film of the 26th Division at Neufchateau here, including Sam himself standing Color Guard following Evening Parade [far right edge of frame at 06:19]. Also, read Sam’s December correspondence from Liffol-le-Grand as the winter deepens, the first casualties due to illness are buried and Sam prepares for war on the Western Front.

December, 1918: After the Armistice

After the cessation of hostilities following the Armistice, the 26th Division was in such bad shape due to battle casualties that it was sent to the rear rather than join the Army of Occupation in Germany. On the march, it passed through the area between Gondrecourt and Neufchateau, finally stopping on November 23 at Montigny-le-Roiwhere Division HQ was established. The 103rd Regimental HQ was located at Chauffort.

As the Armistice was not a formal peace treaty, the men continued to maintain their training although leaves were now permitted. Military censorship of the mail was lifted, enabling the troops to more clearly reveal the nature of their whereabouts and activities. Prisoners were returned by both sides in early December. At Christmas, the 26th Division was honored both as the Division with whom President Woodrow Wilson shared Christmas dinner, and that which furnished the Presidential Honor Guard at AEF General Headquarters in Chaumont.

Read about life After the Armistice here. Read Sam’s December correspondence here as he experiences his first furlough since arriving Over There, and also finds himself back in the hospital on Christmas Day to ensure he dosen’t fall prey to the Spanish Flu.

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.

Soldier’s Mail for November, 1917-1918

November, 1917: Neufchateau Training Area

The 26th “Yankee” Division had arrived in France during the month of October, 1917 as the first complete American division and also the first National Guard division to be deployed as part of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). By November of 1917, divisional HQ had been established at Neufchateau in the Vosges region of northeastern France, and a new AEF training center was constructed which would continue to be used throughout the war. Initially troops were billeted in lofts, stables and outbuildings in the surrounding villages until suitable facilities at the training base could be constructed. The 103rd Infantry was billeted at Liffol-Le-Grand and Villouxel to the southwest of Neufchateau. Advanced combat training in trench warfare immediately began under the supervision of the French Army, and additional training in hand-to-hand combat was provided to American officers and NCO’s by the British Army at Bazoilles. Read about the Neufchateau Training Area here. Also, read Sam’s November correspondence from Liffol-le-Grand as the weather grows cold and he prepares for war on the Western Front.

November, 1918: Meuse-Argonne Offensive

In November, 1918 the 26th Division moved into captured German defenses along the Kreimhilde Line with the 103rd Infantry’s center of resistance near Romagne.  The entire divisional front was subject to heavy gas and high explosive artillery fire as the German Army prepared to withdraw. On November 8, the 103rd Infantry responded to evidence of the German retreat with an advance into German front-line positions which they occupied before new advance lines were established. The 26th Division then attacked towards the southeast and remained on the advance until November 11. The 103rd Infantry made its final advance in line with the other regiments in pursuit of the retreating Germans, reaching the road south of Ville-devant-Chaumont before coming to a final halt at 1100 hours.  The men of the 103rd were occupied with clearing machine gun nests until the very last moment, and some were angered when their artillery support suddenly stopped before realizing that hostilites had finally ended.

Read about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive here. Also, read Sam’s November correspondence from captured German lines as he continues to endure both heavy fire and the loss of friends while also worrying about his family during the Spanish Flu epidemic.

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.

Soldier’s Mail for October, 1916-1918

October, 1916: South on the Border

In October, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade embarked on a 60-mile campaign march to Fort Selden in New Mexico (today both a National and New Mexico State Monument). The entire marching column contained 18,000 National Guard troops from Massachusetts, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and South Carolina. Heading relentlessly northward through scorching desert heat, many men were felled by heat exhaustion and lack of water. Near the end of the march, the troops from Massachusetts were ordered to immediately retrace their steps across the desert to Camp Cotton where they awaited relief by newly-arrived troops from Georgia.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read the page October, 1916 to learn more about the Long March to Fort Selden. Read Sam’s correspondence to his family as he relates his ongoing experiences of camp life and the hardships of service on the border.

October, 1917: The Long Voyage

Following the formal entry of the United States into the Great War, the U.S. Navy was challenged with organizing the greatest sea lift of soldiers and supplies in history up until that time in order to effectively fight in Europe. Never before had American military might been projected so far from home for so long and on such a scale. The overseas troop transport effort became known at the “Bridge of Ships,” accomplished by assembling a large collection of passenger liners, borrowed British ships and seized enemy vessels to help carry more than 2 million men and 7.5 million tons of cargo across the Atlantic.

Sam Avery and other men of the 103rd Infantry sailed aboard the S.S. Saxonia from Hoboken, NJ to Halifax, Nova Scotia before crossing the North Atlantic in convoy to Liverpool, England. After traveling by train to Southampton, they crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France before traveling by train once again to their final destination at the new AEF training area near Neufchateau.

Read about the “Bridge of Ships” here. Also, read Sam’s October correspondence which details his Long Voyage from America to embattled France.

October, 1918: Meuse-Argonne Offensive

In early October, 1918 Sam Avery finally returned from the hospital to the 103rd Infantry which had been severely battered during the St. Mihiel Offensive. Immediately upon his arrival, the Regiment was on the move again to Verdun with the rest of the 26th Division where it took up defensive positions before joining the AEF’s final attack during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Sam would bring home shoulder-straps cut from the uniforms of German troops captured during the final advance.

Read about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive here. Also, read Sam’s October correspondence from Verdun as he continues to endure both heavy fire and the loss of friends while also worrying about his family during the Spanish Flu epidemic.

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.

Soldier’s Mail for September, 1916-1918

September, 1916: South on the Border

In September, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade continued to secure the Border from their base at Camp Cotton (the “City of Tents”) outside of El Paso, Texas. The National Guard troops were inspected by the Regular Army to ensure their compliance with Federal standards for training and performance. In mid-September, there was a Brigade March to test the men’s strength and endurance after three months of active duty. This was followed by a military parade to Fort Bliss which formed the largest military column seen in the United States since the Civil War.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read the page September, 1916 to learn more about the living conditions of the Massachusetts troops at Camp Cotton as they continue to secure the Border. Read Sam’s correspondence to his family as he relates his ongoing experiences of camp life and the dangers of patrolling along the border.

September, 1917: Watchful Waiting

Following the formal entry of the United States into the Great War, in August 1917 1st Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the 8th Mass. Infantry were mobilized once again for federal service. The encampments used by the men of the 8th Infantry for training and reorganization were at Lynnfield and Westfield. During this time, the 8th Mass. Infantry was disbanded and Sam found himself reassigned to the 103rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. Read Sam’s diary notes and letters about life in the encampments, being reorganized into the 103rd U.S. Infantry and preparing to sail to France.

September, 1918: Recovery in the Hospitals

In September, 1918 Sam Avery remained in the AEF hospital system while he recovered from severe gas poisoning. At the same time, the 103rd Infantry participated in the St. Mihiel Offensive with the rest of the 26th “Yankee” Divison. Read about recovery in the AEF base hospital system here. Also, read about the St. Mihiel Offensive juxtaposed with Sam’s September correspondence which reveals a rare parallel narrative.

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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