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.

Prum, Germany 12/31/1918


Prum, December 31, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Just a few minutes ago Miss Schwartz came down to the hospital with the enclosed letter from Uncle August. I was indeed delighted to hear from him so soon and look forward to seeing him day after tomorrow.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve but we have no celebration scheduled so I shall probably go to bed early while you sit up and play cards with the Beethams, if you do as you usually do on New Year’s Eve.

Received the Tribune, concert program and letter from Mother yesterday. A few more packages came but mine hasn’t showed up yet. I have been visiting very regularly at the Schwartz’s and also with some young people who live across the street from them and they certainly have made me feel at home. We have been doing a lot of playing and have had very good times.

I am working this afternoon but we are not busy so I took time to write a note and send this on to you. Will write more later.

Love from


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

Prum Germany, 12/26/1918


December 26, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Our Christmas excitement and celebrations are now over so I can settle down and write a letter. We had a very nice Christmas and there was enough going on all day to keep everybody from getting too homesick. At midnight Christmas Eve there was a church service. We didn’t have the choir out but I played the organ. Christmas morning we got up at six and went through the halls of the hospital singing Christmas carols. It was raining on the 24th but during the night it turned cold and when we got up there was an inch or so of snow on the ground, the first of the winter.

We had two morning services at the church, at 8 and 10. The church was decorated with greens and a large tree with the usual ornaments and candles. There were large congregations and the choir did very well for its first appearance.

We got back to the hospital just in time for dinner and we had a very fine one. We got some live pigs and killed them so we had roast fresh pork in addition to stewed chicken, potatoes, peas, bread and butter, mince pie and pudding. The Y.M.C.A. gave us cigarettes again, cookies and chocolate. In the afternoon we had the party which the nurses had prepared for us. They had a tree and had made fudge, cookies and chocolate. The Red Cross had donated stockings filled with nuts, candy, cigarettes, oranges and a handkerchief. The girls bought up a lot of little toys and odds and ends in the stores here and had a fish pond. Sgt. Hill and I played most of the afternoon and later we danced. It was a very fine party and we are deeply indebted to the nurses for all the pleasure we had. It was a busy day and when night came we were tired enough to go to bed early. We thought of home a good deal during the day and knew just about what would be going on at certain times.

Sunday evening after writing to you I went with Mr. Huber, our Y.M.C.A. man and visited at his house. He stays with people named Schwartz and they have a beautiful big home and an American Steinway grand piano. Their daughter has just come back from school in Munich and plays piano. We spent the evening playing and they were very nice to me indeed. I am invited out there this evening again. It is so long since I have been in a real home that I hardly know how to behave anymore. The daughter, Conny, studied English in school so we can understand each other pretty well. I had her write a letter to my Uncle August for me, telling him that I was here and anxious to hear how things were with them. She told him that for the present it would be impossible for me to go to Dusseldorf but I would like to have him visit me here if he could manage to come. He will answer through Miss Schwartz and we will probably hear from him in a few days.

We got some mail the night before Christmas but there was none for me. Only five or six of the men have received their packages. They will be coming along pretty soon I suppose. I am still looking for the package of strings. Our moving around has delayed our mail I suppose.

There can be no doubt but what this was the happiest Christmas the world has spent for some time. The German soldiers are nearly all at home and a good part of the French and English are too. Those of us that are here wish we were home again but on the whole we are pretty well satisfied that we are through with the fighting.

So far there is no indication of our going home very soon. It looks as though we are going to stay here awhile. My regards to everybody as usual.

Love from


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

Somewhere in France, 12/9/1918


December 9, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Our long expected orders to move have come and we are now on the road. We don’t know exactly where we will finish up at but we are not headed homewards and we probably won’t be for several months. I don’t know whether the censorship has been lifted yet or not. I understand that it is supposed to be but we have had no orders to that effect so instead of saying where we are going I will let you use your imagination. I don’t think you will guess wrong.

Our mode of travel dosen’t promise to be very comfortable considering the fact that it is the middle of December. Through somebody’s error or neglect we haven’t enough cars so a lot of us instead of being able to ride in nice (?) comfortable (?) box cars have to ride on the top of flat cars between piles of stoves, tents, and lumber, any place where there is room to squeeze in. Another fellow and I were fortunate enough to make a place big enough for two of us and stretched a little canvas across the top so we have a little protection which means a lot in this miserable cold rainy weather.

There has been some hitch in our travel arrangements. We loaded Friday and left that afternoon. We rode a couple of hours, about fifteen miles and we have remained in the same spot for three days with no prospect of getting out. Fortunately we have quite a little food on the train and we have sent after more so we are not likely to starve even though we are marooned in a desert place.

Yesterday we sent up to the town where we used to get our mail and we got quite a little. My share of the lot was a letter from Mother, one from Father and one from Gladys. Gladys’ letter was written on the 14th of Nov. after the war finished. The other two were from the first week of Nov. It is funny how letters get all mixed up in coming over here.

I hope that Father’s hand is well again. My Betsy never balked on me that way. If she did it would lay me up for awhile. Mother’s letter had the list of addresses in. I doubt whether I will ever be able to see any of them now. Several of them are in base hospitals and they will not move up with us. I know only two or three on the list. I understand that aviation units will be among the first to go home so Gordon ought to be home soon.

We are glad to be getting out of this devastated country. I wonder how the people will treat us where we are going. I suppose they will have to be at least decent and they might even be friendly. If Mother wants to send me a letter addressed to Kr. Pr. street I may be able to forward it the remaining short distance.

My strings have not come yet but I look for them to show up sooner or later. The YMCA work must be all off by now and I don’t care so much now that we are likely to be pretty comfortable so I can have time and a place to practice.

I don’t know when this will get off to you. It generally takes a little time to make postal arrangements at a new place so if there is some delay you will understand it.

Love from


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

Somewhere in France, 12/1/1918


December 1, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

This is the first of December and it really feels like it. When we got up this morning we found the ground perfectly white with frost and the puddles of water were frozen hard. It is the coldest day we have had but it is only a little below freezing. We would much rather have it this way than rainy and muddy as it has been ever since the middle of August or first of September.

We haven’t a thing to do but sit around and wait for our orders to move and for transportation. In order to keep us from having too much time on our hands we are fixing up this place as though we were going to be here a long time. We have a bath house up now. That fills a long felt want. Where we were before we had a fine bath house but here there was nothing. We have a make shift one up now which is better than none.

I am still in my little dugout. When we first settled here we didn’t expect to be here for over a few days as I didn’t bother fixing my place up. But when it began to look as if we were in for a little stay here I got a little stove and fixed the place up. The Germans left dozens of little stoves around here and the railroad is lined with big hills of coal of all kinds so we are not lacking for stoves and fuel to keep us warm. I found a kerosene lamp so I can read or write letters at night so I don’t have to go to bed at six every night now.

Several of the officers passing by have been curious to know what was down in here and have looked in. They think I have about the best place in camp. It’s nice and home like and I have gotten rather attached to it.

I had a letter from Alice Atkinson this week and also from Mrs. Davis. Alice was still at Dunkirk, Belgium and was expecting to move in another day or two. Mrs. Davis was in Cedar Rapids. Mother probably has heard from her lately and knows more about her than I do. I judge that she is doing very well in Denver. I suppose I will be having some letters from home by the next mail that comes in.

We tried to have something of a celebration on Thanksgiving. The day was not cold.

Love from


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

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.

Somewhere in France, 11/24/1918


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


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

Somewhere in France, 11/18/1918


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


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

Somewhere in France, 11/12/1918


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


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

Somewhere in France, 11/10/1918


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


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


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