Somewhere in France, 11/24/1918

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November 24, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We are still here loafing around waiting for word as to what we are going to do. We are speculating on what is to become of us. Nobody knows a thing about it. The troops are going forward every day into Germany but they haven’t reached the end of their trip yet. So far no hospitals have been sent in but several hospitals seem to know or think they know that they are to go. We haven’t had a word one way or another and there hasn’t been the slightest indication of what they intend to do with us.

We stopped taking patients a few days ago but we have still a very few who are unable to be moved. Just yesterday one boy died of typhoid. We have a half dozen or so of our own company men who are sick but I don’t think any of them are in serious shape. We have been very fortunate so far. We haven’t lost a man and have had very little sickness. I guess we were so busy taking care of other men that we didn’t have time to get sick. Now that we are not doing anything we have more men laid up than at any time before.

We have been doing a little work during the week. Nearly all of our tents are down and all of our material and supplies is packed up and we have it all down at the track, piled up ready to put on the train.

I have had some mail this week. Two letters from Mother, one from Father and one from Mr. Killeen. The Killeens are not in Cedar Rapids anymore. There was always a little friction on account of Mr. Patty and last June, Mr. Killeen resigned. They are now in Akron, Ohio where he has charge of a musical society and does some teaching as well. He says he has a very good position and is glad to get further East. Their home is in the East and Iowa seemed like the wild and wooly West to them. I know Akron is a good town. Nearly all the auto tires are made theire and there is lots of money there.

I had a letter from Mrs. McConnell (Anita Blank) too. Her husband has left for Siberia. She has a little flat on Michigan near 55th St. She is working at her old job again. I don’t know what she does with the baby. I had a letter from Miss Hartley, too. She didn’t mention receiving the card I sent her from Paris. The Killeens got theirs. There isn’t any doubt but what some of our mail is not reaching you at home. Several other men have said that all of their letters are not delivered so it seems to be general. I am getting all of your letters but not always in the order they were sent. I think the reason is that some come to France direct and others come by way of England and therefore take a week or two longer.

I told you some time ago that Sergeant Hill had been recommended for a lieutenant. He passed the examination and the papers were sent in and everything seemed to be settled. It must have gotten in a little too late for when the war finished no more promotions were made. I haven’t seen him today but I suppose he is disappointed, but I think he is just as well off. It would cost him a couple of hundred dollars for his outfit and he wouldn’t be in the Army long enough to pay for it.

We had a football game today. The sergeants played the privates. It was a tie game, neither side scored. The field was dry when we started but it began to rain and soon we were rolling around in the mud. We had lots of fun out of it and probably will play again on Thanksgiving which is only four days from now.

You will be visiting somewhere, probably at the Dykes. We all have a lot to be thankful for this year and you at home should have a happier day knowing that the men over here are not suffering as they were two weeks ago.

It seems as though Nov. 11th was two months ago instead of two weeks. The time has dragged so slowly because we haven’t been busy and because we have been waiting for word to move. Nearly all of us want to go home. Even if we go to Germany I don’t think it will be many months before all of us are back home again. Now that the fighting is over the biggest thing is out of the way and the rest will follow, but we have been more impatient the last two weeks than ever before.

This is the rainy season here and it rains constantly but from the day the armistice was signed until today we have had the finest sunshiny weather you ever saw. The days have been warm and bright and the nights have been clear with moonlight almost as bright as days. Those who know the climate say they have never known anything like it at this time of the year.

I am very glad that both of you hae escaped the influenza. There hasn’t been so much of it over here in proportion. One of our nurses had two brothers die of pneumonia almost together.

I hadn’t realized that Christmas was so near. I hope this letter reaches you by then. I wish you much happiness for that and every other day. It won’t be long before we will all be together again so don’t let my absence cast any shadow over your pleasure. I shall be thinking of home and of the many Christmases that lay before us.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 11/18/1918

ymcalogo

November 18, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

This has been about the strangest week that we have put in here in France. There is almost nothing to do, especially in surgery and very few sick cases. We get one or two surgical cases a day and they are mostly cases where they have been celebrating with guns, rockets or grenades and got hurt. One negro came in who had been shot in a fight. He died the following day.

At present we are loafing around more or less and doing a little packing up again, we hope for the last time. We are expecting to have to move soon but we don’t know where and I doubt whether those higher up have made up their minds as to what they will do with us. It is only a week since the rumpus ended and we can’t expect them to know just what they are going to do with every one of the thousands of different organizations that there are over here. Events in Germany, which at present do not seem to be very reassuring will have a great deal to do with the sending home of troops. I don’t look for any large number of troops to go home until after peace is signed and that may be several months yet. I hope we may be among the early ones to go when they do get started. We deserve to go if any hospital does. We have handled more patients than any other evacuation hospital over here and we are the only one that has had a citation from Gen. Pershing. I don’t know whether all that will count towards getting us home soon or not but I hope it does.

In some ways I would like to go to Germany, in some ways I would like to stay in France but in most ways I want to go home. I would like to be home in the Spring so I could get some work to do by Fall. I don’t feel like wasting much more time. If we stay over here we will not be working so hard as we were and we will have some liberties I suppose. Our seven day passes have been due for over two months but we have not had any yet.

Today the two nurses and two of us men on our team took a little trip around the country. Everything is shot up. For miles around there are large and small shell holes every few feet so that it would seem impossible for anybody or anything to have lived through it. There are guns, ammunition and all kinds of equipment scattered everywhere. Men are being sent along gathering up the stuff and piling it up. There are small cemeteries with fifty to a hundred graves in them every little ways. Bodies are still being found around here in out of the way places. Our YMCA man went out the other day with a few other men and buried nine. The troops moved forward so fast that the thousands of bodies had to be left as they were to be taken care of later.

We are right on a railroad and the material that is being gathered is being brought here and dumped and there are mountains of shells, grenades, cartridges, bayonets and all kinds of equipment.

I had two letters from Mother this week. I am sure that you are not getting all of my letters. I have not missed a week in three months, I know. Perhaps you will get them all now and regularly. They ought to make the trip in a week less than they did. The last letter from Mother was mailed on the 28th of October and got here on the 16th. That is 19 days and up to now they have been taking from four to five weeks. Your letters are coming in order so I am sure that I am getting them all. There is more mail in tonight so I may have another letter or two in the morning.

It is late and I am pretty tired from our hike so I think I shall go to my little rabbit hole of a dugout and turn into my bunk.

This is letter number eleven since I began numbering them again. I haven’t been chalking them down in my book but I think I have the number right in my head.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 11/12/1918

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Tuesday, November 12, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Well, the unbelievable has happened. In spite of the fact that we have been looking anxiously for it for so long we can’t realize that it is all over. We are dazed but feel as though a great load had been lifted from our shoulders. Most of us went to bed early Sunday night because it was cold and dark and we were tired after working all day. A little after eight o’clock we heard a lot of yelling from one of the camps near us. In a couple of minutes another camp took it up and then another until everybody was out parading around and yelling and shooting pistols. Rockets and signal flares were going up everywhere. It was like a wild Fourth of July celebration. We had never been allowed to have lights showing at night on account of air raids but that night we built bonfires everywhere. The automobiles and trucks which for four years have been creeping along in total darkness threw on their lights and sped along the roads with their horns and claxons honking. Everybody expressed his joy by making as much noise as he could. During all this the cannon kept up their firing and the fighting did not stop until the time the armistice called for which was 11 o’clock yesterday morning.

We are still receiving cases. Many are sick but some are wounded. Most of those were wounded a few days ago but were unable to be brought back to a hospital, but some are accidental. The celebrations have cost many men their hands and fingers and the general recklessness has brought us many cases.

Naturally the big question is – When are we going home? That is impossible to answer now. We may be sent into Germany with the Army of Occupation or we may stay in France or Belgium. At any rate it is not likely that any troops will be sent home before Christmastime and perhaps not until later. It will take some time to get all these men home after they do get started. We have hopes of going home among the early ones but there is no telling what may happen. I think it is too early for any definite plans to have been formed.

I received five letters yesterday. One from Mother, Miss Hartley, Alice Atkinson, Miss Phipps and Anita Blank. Alice is in a hospital in Dunkirk, Belgium now. I have heard no more from the YMCA so I suppose that is all over.

No doubt there were big celebrations in Chicago and other cities when the great news came. There will be millions of happy people all over the world but there will be many sad ones, too. We can give honor to those who have given their lives and be glad that it is all over now. We will not have such tragic things to deal with all day long in our work, and it will not be long before there will be almost no work for us as the men will be living in garrisons instead of trenches and sickness will be cut down a great deal.

We have nothing but good things to lood forward to now.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 11/10/1918

ymcalogo

November 10, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

This is Sunday the 10th, Mother’s birthday. I sent a card some time ago which should have reached you by now. I shall send my greeting today by “wireless.”

Wonderful things have happened again this week. Events are rolling around so fast that we can only be amazed at the developments which are almost beyond belief. Tomorrow will tell the tale as to whether the day that the world has looked for for over four years has come or not. The papers tell us that the German envoys have arrived on this side of the lines and that their answer will be given by tomorrow morning. We are almost holding our breaths waiting for the news to come and hoping that it will bring an end to all of this waste of lives and limbs. Meanwhile the war goes on, the guns are barking as savagely as ever, the wounded are coming back and there is nothing at the front to indicate that peace is even a remote possibility. Some think that the Germans will accept the terms of the armistice and some of us are more skeptical. I am not committing myself one way or another. I am just waiting.

In my last letter I told you that we were about to move. A large part of the last week has been taken up in transferring us and our hospital to our present location. Five days before we began moving in, this place was occupied by the Germans. The ground has been plowed up by shells, the few buildings are shattered and on the hills around us the dead Americans and Germans are lying unburied. Our own little locality has been cleared off.

There are shell holes every few feet and quite a few shells that have fallen but haven’t exploded. The greatest danger around here is from hand grenades. There are hundreds of them lying around everywhere and one is liable to run onto them and kick them and find himself minus one foot. The Germans build a railroad through here and where we are seems to have been a depot but it is burned down. There were a couple of buildings around but none of them are at all usable. The men are living in “pup” tents, just big enough for two to crawl in. I have found myself a dugout which makes me a pretty comfortable home. It is dome shaped and has a stairway running down into it. Inside there is a cement floor and the walls are of heavy planks. It was probably used by the officers as a protection from shells and air raids.

We have worked very hard getting the hospital set up. We have so much equipment and after we got our tents put up it had to be hauled and stored away. We are nearly through and have a pretty good outfit set up. The town near here is all shot up and in ruins. The civilians must have retreated with the German army.

We haven’t established any mail connections yet so I don’t know when this will get away or when I will get any more mail. I will write again later. I hope the night or tomorrow morning will bring us wonderful news.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 11/3/1918

ymcalogo

November 3, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

This is Sunday again. The weeks seem to go around so fast. On the 9th it will be six months since we left the States. It dosen’t seem that long ago. The time has gone quickly because there has been so much that is new to us that we have never gotten tired of our place or work. We have been here now close to three months, and as far as the location is concerned it is the least interesting that we have been at. However, we are so comfortable that we are perfectly willing to stay here a while. We dread the job of packing up, moving and unpacking an outfit like this.

I had a letter from Mother this week, also one from Miss Phipps. I am glad that my letters are reaching you more often and regularly. It is discouraging to both parties to write letters and not have them delivered. I know you look anxiously for my letters and I don’t like to have you disappointed.

This has been a big week for everybody, with Turkey and Austria quitting. There will be millions of happy people in Bulgaria, Austria and Turkey this Christmas with their men back from the wars. It looks as though it would all have to be over soon but I expect Germany will hang on all alone for a while yet. All our men feel that the end is in sight. I shall not be disappointed if we have to stay here a few months yet. It seems almost impossible that such a change could come about in so short a time. When we came over the Germans were driving on to Paris, pushing everybody out of their way and there seemed to be no stopping them and the situation looked darker than it ever did before. Now Germany stands alone with her armies defeated and driven back. There will be a new order of things in Germany before long. Already the Germans themselves are demanding it. It will have to come sooner or later and the war could be over tomorrow if it could be brought about.

It is a couple of days since I began this letter. I was unable to finish it then. We have had orders to move and are now all ready packed up and expect to leave tomorrow morning. I understand that we are going to a desolate place where there are no barracks or buildings. It is in the territory that has been reconquered during the last couple of weeks and the little village has been nearly totally destroyed. We don’t feel very happy about leaving this place or the prospects that are before us. However, it will be the first time that we have been situated in once-occupied territory and we are rather pleased over that.

A few days ago I sent you a couple of the papers that we get here. There will be nothing interesting in them in the way of news but they will give you an idea of what little news we get. I received Mrs. Dyke’s book of cartoons last week. I don’t know when they were sent but you mention them in your letter as having been sent some time ago. I have enjoyed them and passed them on to the others who have had some laughs at them, too. The Red Cross gets magazines from the States pretty frequently. They are usually a month or two old but we like to get them just the same.

We had a big fire near here a few days ago. There is a camp near the town and one of the barracks caught fire. The barracks are covered with tar-paper and the fire spread quickly so that ten barracks were burned before it was put out. These French barracks are not so good in some ways as those we had at Ft. Riley. They are built right on the ground and the rats have fine homes under the floor. At night they come out and run around and get into our mess kits and other things. Those we had at Ft. Riley were built up off the ground so that there was no place for the rats to hide.

There has been a lot of influenza over here, too, as there has been at home. I don’t know whether we have had as many cases in proportion to the number of men or not but we have had a lot of them go through the hospital. None of our company men have been laid up, except for perhaps a day or so. We haven’t had any serious sickness amongst our own men.

Mother asks about the American boys marrying French girls. I don’t know any such cases. Where the soldiers are located in or near towns where there are young people there probably are some instances but where they are situated as we have been for the last three months and probably will be for the rest of the war there isn’t much likelihood of anything like that happening. The French are all Catholics. There are no other churches in the towns. Paris has some Protestant churches but they’re either English or American.

Our chaplain has a service every Sunday. We have a very nice chapel but I don’t kow what we will do after we move. The chaplain of the other hospital that works with us was called home on account of the death of his child. He was due to go home the 1st of December. They give their service for one year.

The other hospital stays here. They are lucky for this is very comfortable and we haven’t any comfort to look forward to. We have had a week or more of pretty good weather. It has rained only once or twice and hasn’t been really cold. We must expect winter now most any time. Will write again as soon as we are located.

Love from

Joe

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