In June of 1918 my grandmother was in an industrial accident and lost her arm from just below the elbow. Not long after that, she married my grandfather. You might wonder why I’m telling you this. In honor of Memorial Day I’m going to share two letters with you that were written by a young private in the Army who was a pen pal of my grandmother. I thought about editing them because there are a couple of personal comments, but decided you might like to read them as written.
This young man was stationed in France, and I’m presenting you with his letters exactly as they were written, commas, periods, no periods, misspellings and all. These letters are a small piece of history, and I’m thrilled that my grandmother never threw anything away.
Thanks to these letters, for one brief moment I stood with a young soldier in the Argonne Forest on Armistice Day on November 11, 1918 (now known as Veterans Day). Yes, this is Memorial Day, and I’m remembering those who served our country. David was one of them.
“Nov. 12, 1918
I received your letter yesterday and was very, very sorry to hear of your terrible misfortune. Peace articles were signed yesterday and hostilities ceased at eleven oclock. We are in the Argonne Forest on the ground that the Germans have just left and will be glad to get back out of the lines again where you can see a civilian. And hope to be on the way home soon. I consider myself very lucky to come out of this great war as well as I am. The guns were firing yesterday right up till two minutes to eleven. Last night we held a clebration of our own the air was ful of star shells and rockets and flares which the Germans left behind. It was like a fourth of July celebration.
Tonight it is the same when a star shell is up you can read a news paper by the light. Well I have had a touch of gas in fact several kinds, tear gas, sneezing gas, clorine and several kinds and been under shell fire a great bit and now it is all over and every soldier has a big smile on his face. I must congratulate you on your marriage and I hope you live happy and I wish you the best of luck. I must close now as it is getting late so I will close now.
As ever your friend
Co. D 16th Engrs. Ry
Dec, 7, 1918
I received your letter today and was much pleased to hear from you. I am sorry that I have not any more pictures but if I ever get out of “No Mans Land” and get back to civilization I will have some more taken. I expect to get a furlough in a few days as soon as the bunch now out get back. It must be rather dead at home with all the chuches, Theaters and everything closed. Things are worse than that up here where we are all the towns and villiages are almost leveled and no civilians are back here yet. I would like to get back in the S.O.S.
The French Girls are very good looking and they are also very polite and friendly to us. If you see a French farmer Girl on Sunday when she is dressed up you would think she came right from Paris. And when you would see the same girl during the week working on the farm you would not recognize her. France is a very beautiful country and has a lovely climate similar to your state [Southern California] in some parts. We have had no snow here yet and it is quite warm during the day. Of course the rainy season is very disagreeable to us as we have to be out in it all the time. This part of the country that has been fought over there is nothing not a tree but what is dead and most of them broken and the ground is so full of shell holes that you cant go out after dark without falling in a couple of dozen of them and most of them are full of water. There is thousands of German helmets around here, we have one for a wash basin. I would like to bring lots of stuff home but I am afraid we wont be able to carry heavy junk such as helmets. I have lots of German buttons and decorations Well if I get my furlough I will send you some cards. I must close now as it is getting late
Co D. 16th Engrs (Ry)
P.S. This is German stationary I am using that I picked up in a German hospital.”
My grandmother had several photos of military men, but I have no idea which one is David, so I’m not including a photo. Use your imagination.
Until next time, I’m remembering military personnel throughout the years with admiration.
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