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 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 August, 1916-1918

August, 1916: South on the Border

In August, 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 troops received word they would not be needed  to invade Mexico after all, which resulted in a loss of morale made worse by a lack of promised financial aid from the State for troops with hardships.

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 August, 1916 to learn more about the living conditions of the Massachusetts troops at Camp Cotton during the Texas rainy season. Read Sam’s correspondence with Em for August as he relates his experiences of camp life and the dangers of patrolling along the border.

August, 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 for federal service. The encampments used by the men of the 8th Infantry for training and reorganization were at Lynnfield and Westfield. Read Sam’s diary notes and letters about life in the encampments and being reorganized into the 103rd U.S. Infantry.

August, 1918: Recovery in the Hospitals

In August, 1918 following the Aisne-Marne Offensive, Sam Avery was hospitalized due to the effects of severe gas poisoning. Read about recovery in the AEF base hospital system here. Also, read the August correspondence of Sam and his sister Em which reveals a rare and fascinating dialogue across the miles in wartime. Em’s letters were “Returned to Sender” as Sam moved through a series of hospitals over two months,  and thus are preserved for us to better understand life on the Home Front during the Great War.

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.

Happy Independence Day!

UncleSam4th

Soldier’s Mail for July, 1916 and 1918

July, 1916: South on the Border

In July, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade were stationed at Camp Cotton (the “City of Tents”) outside of El Paso, Texas. In addition to adjusting to the high desert climate, the troops found themselves under fire and in a state of war with Mexican forces along the Border.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read Sam’s compelling account of his journey South from New England to the “North Shore of Hell”. Read the page July, 1916 to learn more about the mission of the Massachusetts National Guard as some of the first troops to defend American soil from foreign invasion since the War of 1812. Read Sam’s correspondence for July as he battles homesickness and the elements along with the enemy.

July, 1918: Champagne-Marne Defensive and Aisne-Marne Offensive

During the first half of July, 1918 Sam Avery found himself under heavy fire with the 103rd Infantry in Belleau Wood which the 26th Division took over from the Marine Brigade. Read about the Champagne-Marne Defensive here. On July 18, the Second Battle of the Marne (Aisne-Marne Offensive) commenced with the 103rd Infantry attacking in line with other Allied units. In a week of fighting, the 26th Division captured 17 kilometers of ground in the first real advance made by an American division as a unit, but at the cost of 20% casualties including Sam who was severely gassed.

Read the page Aisne-Marne Offensive to learn more about the action in late July, 1918. Also, read Sam’s correspondence for July and learn more about the experiences of the 103rd Infantry during grueling combat conditions.

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.

Original Portrait of Sgt. Sam Avery by Jack Skinner

1st Sgt. Samuel Avery, Hdq. Co., 103rd Inf., 26th “Yankee” Division

It has long been my desire to have an original painted portrait of my great-uncle Sam to accompany the book project which is a companion to this website. I turned to my colleague, friend and skilled New England artist Jack Skinner to assist in this endeavor. Over nearly two years, Jack rendered this astonishing work in acrylic paint based on some old photos and painstaking historical research.

This work pictures 1st Sgt. Sam Avery seated in front of the door to a French farmhouse in the Vosges region of France, his Springfield 1903 rifle propped behind him. On the front of Sam’s uniform blouse can be seen ribbons for the World War I Victory Medal with 5 Campaign Stars and the Mexican Border Campaign. Below the ribbons is the Sharpshooter’s Medal. On the left sleeve is found the 26th Division’s “YD” shoulder patch, 1st Sergeant’s chevrons, and Overseas Service Stripes (1 for every 6 months overseas) along with a “Sammy Star”  indicating Sam’s arrival among the first 100,000 AEF troops in France. In Sam’s lap is shown his M1917 helmet bearing the 103rd Infantry helmet mark.

Click here to discover other captivating original artwork by Jack Skinner available at FineArtAmerica.com.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 49,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 11 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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