Somewhere in France, 10/28/1918

October 28, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Our YMCA is temporarily out of paper so I am using some which I brought from the States with me. I had a little mail this week, letter number 25 from Mother, the British American Herald and picnic program from Father and a note from Miss Phipps. I am sorry you didn’t get the card I sent from Paris. I have a little collection of them here and will send the whole lot. I bought cards of only the things that I saw but at that I have quite a few.

There is a lot of influenza here too. A lot of our men are coming back from the front with it. There is great danger of its developing into pneumonia. We have lost a lot of boys that way, but so far we have had no serious illness of any of our own company men.

For a few days now we have had pretty nice weather, a sort of Indian Summer. It has been clear and dry but not warm. It is almost the 1st of November now and we can’t expect many more warm days. I don’t know how much longer the rain is to keep up but we are glad for a few days to let things dry up a little.

Inside AEF Hospital Train, 1918

I had a surprise last night. One of the boys I had teaching in Section Seven at Ft. Riley came in to see me. He is working on a hospital train and his train was here to get a load of patients to take back to the base. Our hospital trains are fine things. They have sixteen bit steel coaches, twelve of them are like hospital wards. The beds run lengthwise, like Pullmans but there are three tiers of them instead of two. The other cars are for the dispensary, kitchen and quarters for the train men. The cars are simply and well arranged, light and easy to keep clean. A man is just as comfortable and well taken care of as at a hospital. There are doctors and nurses on the train. I imagine hospital train work is pretty nice. They travel all over the country to the various base hospitals and usually have a few hours off at the end of the trip.

We have two million men over here now. That is quite a lot. By the time they all get hardened and used to the climate and fighting conditions they will make a big addition to the Allied armies.

I am getting a little time now to practice. When we first came here I managed to get from two to four hours a day for two or three weeks and I began to feel something like my old self again. Then we began to get real busy and my practice had to be dropped. Right now we are not so busy and the other hospital company and us divide up the work. They receive the patients one day and we receive them the next. We had a few lively days. Our team has set what we think is a record for cases. Night before last we did 123 cases between 7 PM and 6:30 AM. Nearly all of those were real operations requiring an anesthetic. The other four teams who were on duty on the same shift didn’t do near so many. Twelve hours straight of that kind of work is pretty hard and we are about all in when it is time to quit.

We were off this afternoon so I took a walk over to the aviation field near here. There are machines going up and coming down all the time. While we were there a big French machine landed and then flew away again. It had three motos and was twice as big as any American plane I had ever seen. Some German planes have been flying over dropping little hand bills inviting the American soldiers to desert and surrender to the Germans. They say that it is foolish for the Americans to risk their lives when they can come over to the Germans, give themselves up and live in Germany “in comfort” until the end of the war. I don’t think that many will take advantage of the invitations.

The report we have today is that Austria has surrendered. We get lots of reports on various things and it is a couple of days before we find out whether they are true or not. More often they are not true but I hope this one is. With Austria and Bulgaria out of it and Turkey helpless, Germany can’t stand many months or even weeks and with the present indications of dissatisfaction and change of government I look for them to give up soon. If Austria holds on the war may drag on a while yet.

I am glad to have Louis Schmidt’s address. I will see him if I get the chance. A few weeks ago I made out an allotment of ten dollars a month to Mother. That is for lodge dues and anything else that may come up, the rest can be put in the bank. All the Masonic lodges that I know of are not asking their soldiers to pay dues while away so I gave my Masonic dues no thought. I made the allotment in September before I drew my August pay so the money is due from August 1. I have about a hundred dollars that I saved. It may come in handy sometime before I get home again, whenever that may be.

Are you getting my letters regularly now? Since the middle of August I have written every week on Sunday or Monday. I haven’t missed a week so you ought to be getting my letters that often. It will probably be about Thanksgiving when you get this. I hope you will eat or have eaten a good dinner for me. I suppose we will have something extra on that day. We have pretty good meals and are comfortable in every way so we are contented.

I hope you can get coal enough to keep warm this winter. Coal is scarce here but so far we have not had to suffer any. The coal used here is mostly coal dust pressed into bricks. They burn pretty well.

Mrs. Davis’ address is Box 1836 Denver, Colo. I had a little note from her not very long ago in which she didn’t say what she was doing or how she was getting along. You should get the pictures from Loomis soon. If there is much delay you might write them and ask if they got the money. I don’t know how many pictures they will send you but I would like to have one sent to the following people for Christmas: Dykes, Danes, Beechams, Aunt Lizzie, Aunt Louise, Miss Phipps and Miss Davis and of course yourselves. If there are not enough to go around or if you want more Loomis will print them I think and you can pay them and let me know what it is.

Well, this is a pretty long letter as I had better quit.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 10/20/1918

ymcalogo

October 20, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I am having an afternoon off and making use of it to write a few letters. I have just written a rather long one to the Walkers in Cedar Rapids. I have owed them a letter since before I left the States.

I don’t know whether I told you that a couple of weeks ago, Captain Harvey, whose team I was on was called away to another hospital so I am now on Major Babcock’s team. He has been laid up for a couple of days with an infected finger. Nearly all the wounds that come to us are infected and we who handle the wounds and dressings are liable to infection if we have any little cuts or scratches on our hands.

We are not receiving many patients right now. I don’t know what the reason is unless things have slowed down on this front. We are glad that we are still continuing to make big gains especially in Belgium and the north of France. Every little gain brings the day of our homecoming a little nearer.

I haven’t had any mail this week. The company has had a few letters almost every day but none of it has been for me. I sent you the picture during the week. I sent it on a board and wrapped in heavy paper so it ought to reach you in good shape.

Nothing has happened here this week to write about. It has rained continually except for one day and that was as fine a day as you could wish for. It has rained all day today. I went to the church service this morning and this afternoon we are supposed to be on duty but there isn’t anything doing so we are sitting around the operating room writing letters.

It begins to feel as though winter were coming on soon. This miserable, damp chill makes it impossible to keep warm. For my part I would rather have it freeze up and be hard than wade around in this mud all the time. They say that there is a lot of snow and slush here during the winter so perhaps we son’t be any better off then.

We haven’t heard any more about our leaves of absence. We are supposed to have one every four months. Ours was due a month ago and we were told we could have them after this drive was over. We are allowed seven days and the time taken in travelling and all expenses are paid. There are only certain places we can go to and they are in the southern part of France.

Have had no word from the YMCA yet. Things have been pretty dull around here of late. We have had a little spare time but there is no place to go or anything to do so time hangs heavily on our hands. Sgt. Hill and I play cribbage once in a while and I usually manage to beat him.

Well, as usual give my regards to everybody.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 10/14/1918

ymcalogo

October 14, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Having just a little time to spare today I have done a little house cleaning and put my trunk in order. I have a big stack of letters which have accumulated since I came over here and many of them have not been answered. Most of them are from Mother and as I have been writing home regularly I guess I can consider those as answered and dispose of them.

We get mail practically every day now and two or three times a week there is a little for me. I have had two from Mother, two from Gladys, one from Father and one from Miss Phipps. They do not come in the order in which they were written and mailed. The letter I received from Gladys today was written a week earlier than the one I received last week. I think some come direct to France while others go by way of England.

You seem to be having a lot of pleasure out of Betsy II. I am wondering when Betsy I is going to have a little run again. It is not costing much to keep the car and I guess I will take a chance on keeping it instead of selling. I would like to know what Fords are worth now, both new and used. After the war they will be cheaper than during the war as most of the Ford plant is turning out war necessities. There are thousands of little Fords over here. The French use a lot of them as well as the Americans.

I think I told you some time ago that Mr. Woodard is now the concert master of the Minneapolis Orchestra. Ezerwonky, their former first violin is now teaching at the Bush Conservatory. Van Vliet their eccentric first cellist is also among the missing but I don’t know who is filling that place. Has Gunn’s American Symphony done anything this year? No doubt the war has taken away most of his men as nearly all of them were eligible.

We have been so busy of late that I haven’t been able to do any practicing. I have needed nearly all the time I have had off for sleep. The night men sleep days and the day men sleep nights so it is impossible to practice in the barracks at any time. I had planned to use the theatre once in a while but on account of the rush of patients we are using that as a ward now.

We get soldiers from all the Allied Nations through our hospital. Of course they are very rare but we get them once in a while. The other night we had a French negro from the island of Martinique. The French have colonies all over the world and they have all sent their men here to help the mother country. There are Mongolians from Indo-China, negroes from Africa and small islands, Arabs from Algeria and Morocco. We have seen much less of the English and their colonials. Before we moved here we used to get English often because there was a British aviation field near where we were.

I saw something the other day that surpassed anything I have ever seen or may see again. [Censored] aeroplanes went over in one fleet. They were in battle formation and made an imposing sight. I understand that nearer the lines they met others, all together [Censored] going over. I’ll bet the Germans couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw them coming.

The good work at the front still continues. Every day the line moves eastward until now it is almost unbelievable that the powerful German army has been beaten back so far in three months. Germany has just sent their second note to Wilson saying that they accept his terms. A lot of people are excited and think the war is over. I haven’t heard Wilson’s reply but I don’t look for much to come of it. Wilson has said “No peace with the Hohenzollerns” and I think the German people will realize soon that they can have peace when we can deal with a responsible government.

The turning point of the war has come but there probably is a long hard pull ahead of us yet but the end will come. I suppose that right now you at home are eagerly waiting for each paper that comes out for peace news. Our papers are a day old when we get them so you know the news before we do.

I am sending you a coupon for a Red Cross package. The package will be small and I know it will be a question as to what to send. I would like a couple of packages of Gen razor blades. We are not near any commissary and can’t get things like that. We have a YMCA canteen but we can only get tobacco and cookies there.

I can’t understand why you should have been two months without a letter. I may have missed a week when we were so very busy but I don’t see why you had to wait so long. Gladys didn’t have one for three months and I wrote three or four in that time. I hope everybody will get my letters regularly now so no one will think that I am neglecting them or that I am unappreciative of their writing to me.

This ought to arrive about Mother’s birthday. I send a little card which is all we can get around here.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 10/8/1918

ymcalogo

October 8, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I have received three letters from home this week, two from Mother and one from Father. I think I have received all the letters that have been sent to me now. The letters come irregularly and not always in the order in which they were written. Since beginning this letter I have received another from Mother, number 23. The last one I had before that was 21. This last letter didn’t take long to get here. It was mailed on Sept. 7 and got here on the 8th [of October].

It dosen’t seem that you have been getting all of my letters. You should have had more than five up to that time. For some time I have been trying to write every Sunday but the way my hours in the operating room are arranged I can’t always do it. When I miss Sunday I make up for it on Monday.

There has been little of interest that has occurred here during the last week. The early part of the week we were kept busy. The drive [Censored] kept us going [Censored]. Our men are quite happy over the German request for a peace discussion. I haven’t much hope of anything coming of it. We haven’t heard yet how the Allies have received it but I do not expect it to receive much attention.

We are having the most miserable weather I ever saw. Today we have had five or six hail storms. It is really cold and the constant rain makes it miserable. However, we can’t complain. We have nice warm clothes and beds and pretty good things to eat. The boys at the front are the ones that suffer. No word from the YMCA yet. I am still expecting to hear every day.

Let me know the addresses of any of our friends that came over. A few days ago a young lieutenant came in to see me. He was a student at Coe and happened to be passing by. Occasionally we meet someone we knew at Ft. Riley and who have come over since we did. Our men are coming over pretty fast now and their presence is bringing results at the front. All the Allies are having success and big gains and a lot of it is due to the help of the Americans and the renewed courage that the enthusiastic Americans have given them.

I haven’t been outside of camp for a month [Censored]. For some reason or other the German planes don’t seem to be so active around here as they were a while ago. We have not seen one for a long while and we used to see them quite often. Once in awhile when we have a little time in the evening Sgt. Hill and I play a few games of cribbage. When I was in Emporia they gave me a little cribbage board and I have used it to good advantage. He has been recommended to be made a lieutenant. He is a very good office man and a good deal of the success of our hospital is due to the efficiency of the office. He deserves it and I hope he gets it.

I wrote a letter the other day to the Loomises in Emporia. I enclosed five dollars and asked them to make some pictures and send them to you, I don’t know how many I will get but I think there will be enough to send to a few friends at Christmas. I still have these they sent me and I will send these on to you. I have the little camera with me but I haven’t any film. We came away from Ft. Riley so suddenly that I wasn’t able to get any and in New York we were told that we couldn’t get those things.

The package of cartoons came a couple of days ago. They are very good and enjoyable. You can’t really appreciate them until you have been through these experiences like we have. The Red Cross has a little reading room with a few magazines in it and I think I will put the cartoons over there. The Red Cross has a little canteen here where they serve [Censored]. The YMCA has a little store where we can buy cookies and tobacco. They have very little and it isn’t very cheap but we buy things there once in a while for a change.

We had an exceptionally good supper tonight. Fried steak, boiled potatoes and gravy, boiled onions, two very good biscuits and cocoa. When we first came here we got nothing but canned corned beef and beans for every meal for nearly three weeks. Corned “willy” that often is pretty tiresome. When we work all night, which I do every other night, we have a very good meal at midnight. We can’t complain about our food now and men are generally [Censored] …had it but we get lots of them from the front and a great many of them don’t get through it.

I owe several letters yet and once in awhile get one written. I can’t write regularly to everybody and I don’t think they expect it. We have been here long enough now to have seven day passes due us. Things are too busy now to let us off so we may get them later. We are allowed seven days to visit the place we go to and the travelling time besides. I would like to go to the southern part of France if I get to go.

My regards to everybody and lots of love for yourself

From

Joe

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