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.
PS. I think this is the fourth letter I have sent.
© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.