gmhTODAY 22 gmhToday Oct Nov 2018 - Page 74

Letters From Home: Local Boys Write From “Over There” W hen the call came in April 1917, young men from the local area answered the summons. The United States had pledged to join its British, Russian and French allies to fight in World War I. As part of an eventual 2,000,000-man force in Europe, known as “Over There,” troops served under the command of Major General John J. Pershing. The fresh recruits sent letters home, describing the tedious train journey across the United States, basic training in the military camps dotting the East Coast, followed by an 18-day crossing over the Atlantic. Soon the tone changed to messages with details on the daily sleep-deprived, grindingly filthy life in the European trenches. The letters, filled with accounts of combat and camp life, were often shared with family and friends, and some were published in the local newspaper. One such was Sprig Fredrickson. After reaching England in February 1918, he wrote that the cold was so severe that each man was issued five blankets, three to sleep on and two to cover themselves with. “Our quarters are tents which hold 21 men. They have wooden floors upon which we sleep, or try to sleep... The tents are heated by a single oil stove...we read and write by the light of a tallow candle.” From France, Al Fahey depicted local privations, noting that old men and women were working in the fields, in car shops, and conducting at railroad stations, work usually done by men. 74 Threatened by regular artillery barrages and enemy massed attacks, he wrote, “We are a short distance behind the lines on an American front. The boom of the guns is heard day and night and tonight we can see the guns flash fire. Aeroplanes fly over us. An occasional shell drops in our vicinity.” For the first time in history, World War I combat featured air battles. In September 1918, Fahey described an episode, “Once in awhile a German plane visits our vicinity. I am waiting until Uncle Sam gets his full strength of planes over here. Then things will happen in a hurry…The big bombs dropped by aeroplanes can do more than a little damage.” Bomber pilot Carl Stewart penned, “At 21,000 feet, the pilot nosed the machine over so he could speak to me. When you start down, you have the motor just turning over and then you can talk to one another... We dropped four bombs overboard at 5,000 feet... Of course we were shot at, and were pursued but that did not bother us as our machine was good for 135 mph, and to d H[H[ ܈ Y][[[XX\ [[Hٙ[K\ق\XX[\\YH[[^KHY \HYXX[H[[[ H\YH[Y]Y[HX˸'BH\X[YXۈK[[[x&\[\Y&]Y\]\]XXˈ[H\\[H\Y\[š[H[Y[ HX^Y Y]H\HHY[\HZ[ˈBSH8(SԑSS8(SPTSБTӓՑSPT NܛK8'^H\Y\[H\\Y]H\H[ݙ\Y]\ [B[ܛ[H\YYHH]\\HZ['B\X[]\\\\\HܙXZY]\H[XYHۈ[YY\H\YY\X\X\][\›XYHHܛ[][ˈ[\\Y H[YY\ۙ\\BX]Y][K]H۝\\\Y\X[\HX]Y܈[Y [[[][X[ܚHY[›܈ݙ\YHZ[[ܝ˂Z\[YKZHY[^HܛBH[H[XX\H NLN]'H[X]H\ZH[YܛXK]\KB[\ܙY[[H\Y\ܚ\[Z\Y[˸'B\X[\[ܛH“\ˈːK]Z\و[H]][YH[]Y]\Y[B\[\\Y ][Y\XH8'8)ۛH\Y[X\ٝ[]\ۂ\\]\[[Y][ ]˜\YK]YH[HوB[Y\ˋH[ۛۛH[BZ\\H[\][ۈ\\][ۂY\ۈ[][H[[K[H[\܈Y\K\H\HXHZY[HۛHXK'B]HHوܛ\K\]BHY\XY[Y[H\Y[ZX[YH[YY\]\[šYH[HX\\]Y [[\[YHX]X[\و\ܝ[]Y\ˈ[HۙX YH܈[H[[YH]؜˜\Yۈ\XH][Y\[H\Yܝ BZ^KBܚ][H[^X]\]