gmhTODAY 22 gmhToday Oct Nov 2018 - Page 74

Letters From Home : Local Boys Write From “ Over There ”

Written By Elizabeth Barratt

When 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 .
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 dodge shells we would drop 2,000 or 3,000 feet and then climb back up , throwing them off range ... Four of our machines chased the enemy ... we did not , as we had no machine gun mount . I was some relieved when I got back .”
A German night bomb drop on F . M . Ballantyne ’ s camp didn ’ t merit as much luck . While his company was sleeping in a French field , a bomb exploded 20 feet from where the men were lying . He
wrote , “ My comrades and I escaped but we were all covered with dirt ... in the morning we buried those whose lives were taken .”
German mustard gas warfare wreaked severe damage on Allied troops , who were issued basic gas masks with filters made from ground nutshells . When captured , the Allied prisoners were treated brutally , but by contrast captured Germans were treated for wounds , fed , and sent to help civilians work the fields or oversee rail transports .
Missing home , Luke Feeney wrote from France in February 1918 that “ The climate is like California , everything is green now , and the farmers work up all their fields .”
Sergeant Howard Owen wrote to Mrs . W . A . Whitehurst of Gilroy that even though the United States began the war unprepared , that America “… not only has been successful with her own arms , but has instilled new will , new courage , new life into the blood of the Allies ... the Hun knows only too well the misery and desolation his occupation brought upon Belgium and France , and he cannot ask for mercy . There is a debt to be paid and he knows the price .”
At the close of World War I , despite a widespread influenza epidemic and some wounded soldiers returning home not fully recuperated , most local boys came back with dreams of fresh opportunities . Following the conflict , life for them would include new jobs based on fresh technology developed during the war effort .
Photos Courtesy of the Gilroy Museum
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GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2018 gmhtoday . com
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\[H\Yܝ BZ^KBܚ][H[^X]\]