The following letters are from Lloyd Maywood Staley (my grandfather) to his sweetheart Mary Beatrice Gray (my grandmother, of course!). They were all written during World War One.
(Photos courtesy of Marjorie Layton, Lloyd's eldest daughter)
Here is Lloyd just before the war in his college football picture.
Lloyd proudly wears his army uniform.
Take a look at Lloyd's "dog tags."
Here's his official army photo.
'Army City' Garnett, Kansas August 6, 1917
My Dearest Mary,
We are in the Army now. I am sitting inside our little old tent listening to the gentle patter of the raindrops on the canvas. It began raining here this morning and it is still at it. No drill today, so I will have time to write a letter or two. We got into the city all O.K., marched up to the armory and had dinner. They have mess in the armory. We have to march back and forth to eat. Eats are pretty good so far as they have some women helping with the cooking.
Set up camp in the afternoon. Shoemaker has been Acting Corporal in our squad. We got the tent up all right under the direction of one of the old heads who has seen service on the border. Some equipment was issued in the afternoon. As my name is down well in the list, I have not received anything yet in my own name.
Corporal Hilton is staying in town so he let me have his stuff. Got pack, gun, poncho, and numerous other things I don't know what are used for. Slept on the ground last night in a tent with just an even dozen in it. Some of the fellows are staying in town at hotels, rooming houses, and private houses. Taken altogether, things are in rather poor shape as yet, but I suppose it takes a little time to get around. A few of the bunch act like a bunch of bums instead of soldiers, but they will get that taken out of them when they get to a real camp.
They got Parker Melliush for kitchen duty the first thing. Walter Anthony was stuck for guard duty last night. It must be fine walking up and down in front of a row of tents watching the other fellows sleep. One thing they did do, everybody had to quiet down at ten-thirty last night. We had a good entertainment before lights out. (We had a light, too, as some of the bunch got hold of a lantern.) A fellow in our squad by the name of Donald gets off some pretty good comedy -- original stuff, too. He is a rather rough nut, but not as bad as some of this crowd.
There was some crowd at the station yesterday, wasn't there? I think I shook hands with everybody in town three or four times. Not a very pleasant task under the circumstances, either. Well, I got so much company in here that I can't think straight. This is rather a poor excuse of a letter, but I will write again soon.
With best of love to my own little girl,
EDITOR'S NOTE: There is a seven month interval between letters at this point. It is assumed that Lloyd continued to write to Mary during this time, but the letters were not preserved in this collection. Lloyd recounts this period of time in his memoirs:
"My army career began August 5, 1917, at Garnett, Kansas, which was the headquarters for Company K. Our company of raw recruits stayed at Garnett all of August and most of September until our training camp at Camp Doniphan, Lawton, Oklahoma. Company K left Garnett for our training area on September 30, 1917. I spent the winter of 1917-18 in camp at this Oklahoma cantonment. We lived in tents which had wood floors. They were heated by small conical stoves set in the center of the tent. The stovepipe went through the peak and there was no spark arrestor. As a result, there were many tent fires throughout the camp. It was an unusually cold and snowy winter and it seemed the wind blew constantly. Because of the strong wind, we lived in a continual dust storm. It was a common saying in the camp that Texas blew by one day and Kansas came by the next.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The photograph of Camp Doniphan (linked above) is courtesy of Tom Johnston of Oklahoma. He has an excellent collection of WWI letters and photos at his website http://www2.okstate.edu/ww1hist/.
"Our company was now part of the 35th Division U.S. Army and Company K became Company K 137th U.S. Infantry, formed by recruits from the states of Kansas and Missouri. The 35th Division entrained for Camp Mills, Mineola, Long Island, New York, on April 14, 1918. We went aboard the White Star Liner H.M.S. Adriatic for overseas duty April 24, 1918, arriving at Liverpool, England, May 7th. From this port, we went by train to Southampton and crossed the English Channel the next day. On the 9th of May, the Division landed at Le Havre, France. I was fortunate enough to be detailed to the Postal Detachment of the 35th Division, A.P.O. 743, where I served the rest of my army enlistment."
|35th Division: The 35th Division was organized from the National Guards of Missouri and Kansas. As Lloyd was unable to disclose his location in his letters due to the censorship restrictions, I will fill in what details I can whenever there is activity with the Division.
My Dearest Mary,
I write this on board a boat that will leave for overseas soon. Our letters are all censored from now on so there is no use wasting my time and the censor's trying to tell you some things.
I took in a little of New York last night. I went into the city from Long Island by the way of the tube under the Hudson River. I got out at the Pennsylvania station and spent the rest of the night to 1:30 a.m. just looking around. There wasn't any chance to go to a good show because you know how the advance sales take everything. Harry Lauder is at the Metropolitan and I would certainly like to have seen him.
I saw where the film "The Beast of Berlin" was being shown and right across the street was Arthur Guy Empey, "Over the Top."
The city is full of soldiers and sailors all the time, I guess. Anyway there were a good many last night.
The city is an easy place to get lost because of the irregularity of the streets. Most all streets out our way cross each other at angles but in N.Y. they may take any direction. I walked down one street and when I took a notion to turn and go back, I wasn't on the same street at all and I couldn't tell where I made any turn.
I got a good look at the city from the waterfront today. It was a bright clear day and we could see quite a distance. I have seen pictures of N.Y. from the Hudson and I can say that the real thing was just a picture laid before you. I would like to have stayed at Camp Mills until I had seen more of the city but the powers that be see otherwise.
I can scarcely realize we are going. Everything moves off without any trouble or delay that it might just as well be a trip up the river.
Well, I have been looking forward to this for quite a while and I guess, now that the time for going has come, it fits right into my scheme and ways of thinking that the going seems only a small part of it.
Well, I must close so as to mail this right away so, goodbye little girl for a time at least. Keep on writing.
With truest love, Lloyd M. Staley
My address: Co. K, 137 Infantry, American Expeditionary Forces
Most anywhere on the Atlantic May 1, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
It has been some time since I have written you but facilities for mailing of letters is rather limited I have found. I suppose I may expect you to get this some time this summer and, if I am lucky, I may get my answer by next winter.
I remember that today is May the 1st and that it is also your birthday. The best I can do is to write a letter from almost nowhere on earth. I certainly hope May 1st was a more pleasant day in K.C. than here. The sea has been a little rough for two days and this is a pretty sick bunch on board this ship. I have been able to keep going all the time and, aside from feeling disagreeable, I have been alright. I don't like the looks of anything to eat, though, and don't expect to until this ship gets across.
I have been sort of an orderly around the office since I have been here and I get to move around a little which keeps me doing something. All I want to do is to cross this water just once more, then I have no desire whatever to go on any more ocean trips.
We are going to have an athletic contest of some description tomorrow. There is a half-mile run scheduled so you see we have quite a ship. It won't take very many turns around this deck to make the distance either.
There is little to write about, it seems. When I started to write, I thought I might be able to write quite a letter, but this trip is getting so frightfully monotonous that it takes all the pep out of one. The scenery is about the same all the time except it jumps a little higher and perhaps throws a little salt spray on you if you get too close.
Another amusement we have is to watch the other ships and see how far they duck into the waves each time. Sometimes they are almost out of sight in a hollow between the waves. I used to think I might like the Navy but, if this is a sample, nothing to it for me.
Don't be surprised or feel hurt if my letters are short. There is so much we can't say that I usually tell you about and then conditions for writing of letters are going to be decidedly poor, I am afraid. I will write all that I can and as often as possible and I hope that you get them all O.K.
I wish you all sorts of good luck and happiness for your birthday. This seems like an inconsistency as you may get this in a month or two, but I am sure you know my thoughts of you tonight.
So I close with the best of love for the only little girl in the world for me,
Your own Lloyd
|35th Division: May 11, 1918: The 2nd of five Divisions to cross the Atlantic this month, the 35th reached France via Liverpool, England. They began their overseas training with the British near Eu, France, under Major General W.M. Wright.
My Dearest Mary,
I have at last settled down in one place for a few days and, as I have about rested up, I suspect that I had better write you.
We came here by way of England as most all do. There was some little journey on the English railway through a very pretty country. When it comes to beauty in arrangement of the farms, these people here certainly have any surpassed. There is a very noticeable lack of men in both England and France. This little village has just a few men and they are old and decrepit. This place doesn't seem to be inhabited by the original number of families. Anyway there are a number of empty houses. It was not at all hard to find room for several companies and this is just a little country village. I am staying in a pretty good house. It is a brick house as all of them are. Even the floor on the ground is of brick. In one room there is a large fireplace where we keep a fire when it is cool. I occupy a few square feet of floor in the loft or the second floor -- whichever it is.
Some of the houses are right on the street and others are back a little way. The ones back from the street have a barn lot in front of the house and sheds all around the courtyard-like place that seems to be that particular person's allotted property. When these people make a garden, they surely make a beautiful place. I saw one place that attracted my attention particularly. It is surrounded by a wall, as usual, and inside the wall are flowerbeds of all sorts. The trees are trimmed into various forms. Everything is kept in the best of shape.
The people are glad to see us and they try to talk with us some. Once in a while there is one who understands a little English and we can get along fairly well. I met a boy about thirteen at one of the camps here who had taken English in the schools here. If I could have a person like that around, it would not take long to get a fairly good idea of the language. What little French I have had helps wonderfully in getting a good start.
Well, I suspect I have written enough already -- maybe too much. It is rather hard to write under the restrictions. I have not received any mail and I don't expect to for some time yet. We are some distance from the lines. How far, I don't know. Anyway, the country here looks peaceful enough.
Well, goodbye for this time. I will write as often as possible but how soon they will reach you is decidedly uncertain.
With truest love,
Your own, Lloyd Staley
May 27, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
I have not been very prompt about writing lately. It has been about a week since I have written any letters at all. I am about out of writing paper but I can find some here if I look around a little. It is pretty hard to buy anything. One reason is that the stores and shops are so much different than our own that it is a little hard to get on to the customs. Then we are in a small village and no very large towns close by.
An old Wellsville boy with a regiment of engineers that have been here as long (or rather they came over about the time we moved to Ft. Sill) came over to see some of his old friends one night this last week. He certainly had a nice tale to tell us. He has seen quite a little of the real stuff and he is an American and someone that I know. That makes things a great deal more interesting. We have Englishmen here who tell us a lot of their experiences, too. I have seen a little of the results of an air raid and, if the weather is just so, the guns along the line can be heard quite plainly. Last night they kept up a continuous rumbling, louder than I ever noticed before.
The weather is certainly fine here. Like Kansas May weather minus the winds that blow every few days there. It doesn't get dark here until almost ten o'clock, just like the evenings your father used to tell of; those Scotland twilights. We are kept rather busy and we scarcely have time to dwell upon what good purpose these long twilights could be put to.
There have been a few letters get to the Company already but not many. I have not had one yet. I am in best of health and enjoying the Army so much as the law allows.
Write as often as you can and as much as you can every time you write for we fellows over here like to hear what is happening at home. Anything from old U.S.A. finds a place with us, even the Fords and they are quite numerous here. With truest, sincerest love,
From your own soldier "over there,"
Lloyd M. Staley
May 29, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
I received my first mail since I have gotten across yesterday. Two letters from you are dated April 19 and the other April 22. The first one was written before you had heard my N.Y. address and the other was addressed to Camp Mills. They were indeed highly appreciated letters and I believe that I can look for more right soon as the mail has begun to come now. There were two other letters for me also; one from Mother and Ethel, the other from James. The last was of the most recent date: May 6. This was certainly an excited company when we found out there was so much mail for us. Almost everyone got at least one letter and a few were as fortunate as myself.
I was rather surprised to hear that Robert was going into the R.F.C. although you had told me of it, too. But to know that he had already left for camp and by the time you get this letter he will probably be in England was just a bit of a surprise. Well, I am glad that he is in the service but, of course, I would like to have seen him in a uniform of the U.S.A. It is all one cause, however, and we are comrades just the same whether American, English, or what. I have seen some mighty fine men from Britain just what short time I have been here. (My pen went dry and I haven't any ink at my elbow as I did in U.S.) Speaking of the English, it is wonderful how men can go through three and four years of this war and still be smiling, cheerful, good-natured fellows, but they are. I agree with Robert when he says there will be two classes of men in America after the war -- the ones who went, and the ones who did not. And I believe as he does the ones who went are going to be the ones who will have charge of affairs when they get back for, if a man stands this war and still comes out smiling, he is a man. I certainly hope I may have a chance of seeing Robert over here but it would be only an accident I am afraid. Let me know his address from time to time so if there is any way of seeing him, I will do all I can to find him.
You must have a nice home now and right in your old neighborhood. And those fruit trees take my eye. I believe I could consume your total production right now. Some of these times we will sample that fruit and also stroll over to Swope Park and look things over considerably after the war, apres la guerre, as the French say. Whenever you say anything to them about certain things they can't do now, they always say "after the war," and I think that little expression shows to what extremes they are willing to go in self sacrifice. I certainly have a very high opinion of the French. They are most highly respected by the American soldiers and they return the compliment.
To sit here where I am now, it seems scarcely possible that we are so near the front. This country here is a peaceful-looking farming country and, to look out over the quiet fields, it is hard to realize that the fighting is so close at hand. To walk across these fields is just like taking a stroll over Dad's farm on some quiet Sunday afternoon. Only there are several things that are conspicuously absent -- most of all the folks that were left behind. The ones that you love and are loved by is what goes to make life worthwhile.
Well, the sound of the big guns somewhere not so many miles away has begun again. Sometimes the sound comes from one side, then the other, until it is hard to tell which way one could go and not find someone shooting at someone else. My address is the same: Co. K, 137th Inf., Amer. E.F. I expect you know it by this time but some of my letters may drop by the wayside so it is best to be sure for I certainly want to get all the mail that is coming to me.
So, goodbye to the little girl who has given up two loved ones so cheerfully and sent them away with the smile that counts.
With sincerest love, Lloyd
(Tell Aunt Jess I will write her soon. I am glad that you two have become such good friends.)
P.S. I have received another letter from you since I wrote the fore part of this letter. It was dated April 25. Also I got one from Mother dated May 10. It was marked No. 2.... suppose No. 1 was sidetracked somewhere along the line. This is the second letter I have written you since going into our billets. The other was not dated at all, maybe this one won't be when you get it but I am risking it anyway. Mother said my first letter written on the boat got by without being cut up. It had no cause for being cut up as I said almost nothing as most of my letters do, but wait until I can tell you. I will have some tale.
Well, goodnight sweetheart, Lloyd
June 19, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
I will write again now as I got a letter from you last night. It was real swift in getting here, too, dated May 19, just a month ago tonight. That isn't bad, is it. I believe I am getting my letters from you pretty regular. You said something about writing five and I believe I have gotten that many alright. I will tell you the dates on the letters I get from you and in that way you can tell what ones I get over here.
I had quite an experience getting this last letter but I would do the same thing gladly if I thought I would get another tonight.
I am on detached service at Brigade post office and consequently am away from my Company for a while. The Company is about five miles from here or was last night. They may be a hundred tonight. My mail goes to the Company and, as I knew some mail came for the 137th Regiment, I set sail for my share right after supper. Well, I am always experimenting and I decided I would hunt a shorter cut across the fields. Well, I got to where I thought the Company should be and it wasn't the right place, but it was the machine gun company of the 137th. Well, I enquired for my outfit and secured three more fellows to continue the journey with me. One was Joyce Kirkpatrick who is with the machine gun company now. We got to K Co. alright, but I stayed there a little too late and besides I lost Joyce. Well, I started back and again tried another shortcut. It seems I can't be taught that these French roads are the worst places on earth to get lost. I got out in the fields where crooked roads run all directions in the darkness and just made a bad mess of things to tell you the truth. I was lost absolutely after trying all the cow paths, farmer's lanes, and every other road I could run across. I decided to go back if I could find the way out. I did, after several false starts down the wrong roads. I got down to the main road again and back to where the machine gun company were billeted and stopped till morning. What was funny, Joyce had the same experience as I did but I beat him to his billet. We bunked together that night. In the morning I got up at first call as usual and started for town at once. Got back O.K. except I didn't get any breakfast. But don't forget I was doubly paid by that fine letter from you.
I haven't told you much about my job yet. Well, I and another K Co. man -- a new man -- were detailed for post office duty. We go to work at eight o'clock and usually get done by four. Anyway sometimes we are busy all this time, then other times mail comes rather slow. I don't have any formations to trouble me so on the whole it is a good place.
You asked if they have roses here. Yes, they do and some beauties, too. Peonies -- I never saw any prettier ones. Then they have a big red poppy (I guess it is) that are dandies. They grow wild in the field but are not as big as the cultivated ones. Daisies are everywhere. Last night at the Company one of the fellows made a bouquet -- I guess you would call it -- anyway, he arranged some daisies and some other flowers and bound them tightly on the outside. He made a border of fern leaves and I must say it was a neat looking piece of art. The ferns are grand and grow anywhere in the woods it seems.
I would certainly love to show you some of the beautiful places around here. I can't tell you all as I can't express myself in such terms. The country is lovely without doubt, but deliver me from the conditions under which these people live. I will tell you that part when this war is over and I can again talk all that I want to right where you can listen!
I am glad that you are working on the Red Cross drive for I know that girls like you will do wonders towards winning your goal. I know that the soldiers over here have a great need of the wonderful work of the Red Cross and also the Y.M.C.A. The soldier is dependent, it seems, on organizations of that sort for many necessities that still keep him in touch with civilization itself. So I salute you, lieutenant, with all the honor of a military salute.
Well, it is bed time for me and you know I lost out a little last night. A soldier must sleep. So, goodnight to you, little girl, may God's blessing rest upon you.
With sincerest love,
Your own Lloyd
June 24, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
It is about time to write again and, as I feel rather in the humor and have the time, I will proceed without any further delay.
I am still in the same place as I told you in the last letter -- at the Brigade post office and the four of us are the only ones left in this town. I mean Americans, of course. We are having quite a time as we are our own cooks and are ruled by our own sweet wills. I can't say that it will be so pleasant, though, if we are here for a few days more than we are expecting. Anything to eat is awfully hard to get, especially if you are a soldier. The Army is supposed to feed us, you know, and everything outside the Army is for civilians and God knows they need what little they can get. The people here, two or three men, cleaned up the building used for storage of supplies in order to get what might be left behind. They thought they made a good bargain, too, and I suppose the Americans did leave more than the French ever do.
Oh yes, I meant to tell you what we had for breakfast and all this was cooked by the corporal in charge and what assistance I could give. We had fried eggs, we bought some from a
Frenchwoman, steak, Army issue, we got a half-cooked chunk of beef from the Company we ate with, butter or oleo, strawberry jam, bread, and coffee. Bread was Army bread, white bread, too, and about one hundred percent better than the French people eat. That was not so bad, was it, for an Army meal. I only wish I could have one like it every day.
Our office is right next to the schoolhouse and we often talk with the schoolmaster, make signs or any other way to communicate. They have separate rooms for boys and girls over here and the children that get to school at this place are no larger than would compare with our attendants of the third or fourth grade. I don't know whether that is as far as they expect the children to go or not. The schoolroom looks a great deal like any schoolroom. The benches or seats are longer than ours -- they must seat two or three together. The room has an abundance of maps, pictures, and blackboards. They seem to study the geography of France but little of any other part of the world. We were much interested in the map of France as we wished to see where we had been in our journey and I must say I was very much surprised at how much we had really covered. I sure want to tell you all about it one of these days. Just take that big map we so often have studied and talk until we can't talk anymore and then just take you in my arms and kiss those sweet rosy lips again. Well, they talk of the girl that was left behind, for my part I can see you just as plain as I ever did and you look a thousand times more dear to me now and someday we will be the happiest boy and girl that there possibly can be anywhere in the world.
I haven't had a letter from you for over a week now but I can't get my mail as I should. It goes out to the Company and I can't get to the Company. This idea of working in a post office and then can't get your own mail is some idea. I am going to have you send my letters directed to the 69th Brigade, P.O. 35th Division, American Expeditionary Forces. Then if I change again soon, I will immediately let you know.
Well, it is getting close to dinnertime and I must help get dinner -- we are regular cooks now. Tell me all and everything that you possibly can write as I sure love to read your letters more than anything else, unless it is writing ones for you to read.
By the way, I read that story in the April American yesterday. It was the luckiest thing I ever got hold of one. You asked me to read "Pictures Burned in My Memory" I believe and I must say that, as far as I have gone in this business, that story certainly tells the straight stuff. I used to think that a lot of such stories were written by men with highly colored imaginations but I see now that they could tell even more and still be speaking the truth.
This must be "fini" or I will miss out on the eats and that can't be done with impunity in the Army. So, goodbye for a little while my own little sweetheart.
With sincerest truest love,
|35th Division: June 30, 1918: Division moved to Vosges mountains for training under the French north of the town of Wesserling. They were considered in active battle service.
July 3, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
I have made another little move since I wrote the last time. This time by motor truck and only some forty or fifty miles. We certainly passed through some beautiful country -- some of the best scenery I have seen here in France. Our office is now in a big room of what the people here call the chateau. The building is quite old and is built in the form of a square with one side missing. In the center of the square is a large flowerbed bordered around by a nice plot of grass. It is quite attractive I must say. The whole place around looks like a park with its large trees and well laid out paths through well-kept lawns. It is quite hilly around us, too, larger hills than where we were before. On the whole, I believe it is the best place I have stopped yet. The people are much better dressed. Really I have seem some very neatly dressed ladies around -- almost makes one believe he were in U.S.A. And would you believe it, I found a swell tennis court hidden away in some shrubbery not far off and last night I even saw several ladies with racquets all fixed for a game. Civilization yet. Saw several old O.U. chums, too. Hub Lock, Andy McBride, Harrington, and Art Barnes. The Engineers are here, too, now but I suppose they will be moving toward the front, too, as all the rest.
Saw two German aviators that were brought down near here a day or so ago. They were not hurt scarcely at all. Anyway they walked along with their guards alright. They were pretty good looking men, physically, too.
Well, tomorrow is the Fourth of July and I wonder what you will be doing. I know pretty well my line of activities for the day: get out the mail and get what comes in ready for the different organizations, maybe a band concert thrown in for the Engineer band is here. I can remember quite well a year ago tomorrow and I have no doubt but you do, too. Well, here's hoping the next year will find U.S. in more peaceful pursuits than the last Fourth or this one.
By the way, I saw Frank Norman yesterday. I expect you remember him. He is with the Engineers, too. I hadn't seen him for a good while before we left Doniphan.
I don't seem to be able to think of anything to write that I could write, while there is so much that I can't that it stifles the rest of my thoughts. I will write again soon. So, goodbye for a time, little girl. With sincerest love,
Your own Lloyd
July 5, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
I have received two letters from you in as many days so I feel as though it were my turn again. The first one was dated June 9 and the one today, April 28. Some contrast, don't you know. We got a lot of mail today that was addressed to Camp Mills -- one regiment had enough mail for six or seven letters a man. They ought to feel pretty good tonight. Also I got a letter from Mother also dated June 9th. You both had a nice little description of your visit in K.C. I don't need to say how much I have wished I could enjoy a day like that. This letter is sort of a task as I have had to look through a half dozen sacks of mail for a man, after his company mail. I don't mind, though, as I know how the fellows want their mail. Mail is almost as essential as a square meal. You can hardly imagine the excitement and joy there is in a bunch of fellows when the mail comes in.
You are sure keeping yourself pretty busy with your Red Cross and every other thing that needs a little aid to keep things turning along in nice shape. Wish I could help with that wheat harvest. I believe that would be a regular picnic after a few months of France. I had a little harvest experience one year about a century ago. That was the year we graduated and you spent a big part of the summer in Nebraska. Those were golden days. I think our last year in H.S. will always stand out as one of the best times of my school career. I came very nearly saying "in my life," but I won't do that for I believe you and I will have the happiest time when this business over here is over and the soldiers will go sailing the other way across the Atlantic. Gee, I hope I can get in on those cherries for you know I am a great lover of cherry pies. Pies! Say, I hardly remember when I ever ate one of those things. It's been a good while, I know. So one of the Taylor girls is married. Don't you know that nearly knocked me off the bench when I read that, although I did have a faint recollection of one of them having a gentleman friend last summer. I don't remember which one even. Well, this world takes some queer turns sometimes. By the way, where did the fellow come from? Thought all the good men were in the Army.
By the way, in the letter dated April 28, you said something about sending a package. I hope you did not think I was forgetful enough not to mention it at all, but really this is the first I had heard of it. There have been boxes and packages going through the office here forwarded from Mills but I guess mine was lost in the rush somewhere. Just the same, I appreciate your effort so never mind this time little girl. I am coming back someday and I won't be so far away that you'll have to even talk loud to make yourself heard. When I do get back and anyone even mentions the idea of leaving USA, I am going to knock some sense into him right on the spot.
There is one thing I don't want to forget to tell you and that is how I spent my Fourth. Well, the first thing away from the usual morning routine was a little affair put on by the French. While we were in the office I heard bugles playing away down the valley and at first I thought it was the Americans. But as the music came closer, I knew it was none of our bugle calls. Soon the French came in sight. There were three or four companies, I should judge. (They don't divide their units as we do). At the head of the column were the buglers and the drummers. They certainly made a martial appearance. Behind the buglers was the band and right after the band was the French major on horseback dressed up like a prince with his shining sword and all the rest of his paraphernalia. Then came the soldiers. They are real soldiers, too, although not like Americans by a whole lot. They marched up not far from our office and formed in a square, the companies on three sides and the French and American officers on the other side of the square. Then the men who
were to be decorated for distinguished service took their places in front of the French officers. The band played a piece and the French officer began reading something -- I don't know what. Anyway, in a little while he stepped up to the first man, pinned a medal on his breast, shook his hand in congratulation. Then he stepped back and read the next man's pedigree and so on until the whole line had received their medals. Then the band played the Marseillaise and also the Star Spangled Banner and the little ceremony was over. It was quite impressive nevertheless. With the French and American flags waving all around and the soldiers intermixed like they were friends when if the truth be known, one nationality could not understand a dozen words of the other.
Well, then I worked till about 3:30. After that I started out to see what was doing. There was a ball game, contests and so forth down at the next town some 3 kilos from here. I did not stay long as I could not get interested. A big hill over the way a little kept bothering me so I set out to climb it all by myself. I rather enjoy my own company at times. Well, you know how it is. I just want to be alone with my own thoughts. It was quite a hill, alright, but certainly worth the effort. The view from the top was wonderful. I did not realize what a pretty country we were in until I got out where I could see a little way. We are in a valley here and, with hills all around, it is rather difficult, of course, to see very far. One thing that was quite picturesque... About the top of the hill I came upon a flock of goats watched by a herder and his dog. On looking around, I could see other flocks pasturing on the hillsides.
Well, I won't say anymore but you keep these letters and when I get home I can recall the scene quite well by what little I have said here.
Oh yes, I have had another letter from Doug and he is quite anxious to see me. Said he might drop in on me someday. Said he was writing letters in order to keep busy so I suppose you will get one soon.
Well, I must stop for this time. I really did not know I could write so much but I told you in the letter I wrote July 3 I would write a real letter soon.
So, goodbye for a little while little girl. I hope you are getting my letters as well as I am yours. Wish you were here to enjoy some of these long twilights in the hills. They are certainly grand but I can't allow myself to think too much of them or I would be crazy in a week.
Let me know all you can of Robert. Really it seems like old times, this lingering over the goodbye. With truest love from the one to whom you are the dearest girl in the world.
Your own Lloyd
July 15, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
I have received the first letter from you saying that you had heard from me since landing in France. The letter was dated June 12th. I have one also from Aunt Jess of the same date. She has been very good about writing me and I intend to answer her letters as promptly as possible. Your letter was the one containing a little story of an officer's conversion and I was much interested
in the item. We soldiers are more or less religious at heart although it is sometimes hard to tell it from appearances. But nevertheless we like to read something of that kind once in awhile as it rather gives us food for thought.
Yesterday was the Frenchmen's big day, Bastille Day, and they had quite a celebration. There was another awarding of medals at some little town close by but, as we were busy, I did not get to see this ceremony. In the afternoon they had a series of games, contests, etc. for the entertainment of the public. Hand grenade throwing, assembling machine guns, and running a course with full equipment, climbing a pole, a steeple chase with mules were some of the contests held. But the real enthusiasm was shown in the evening. About 8:30 the band started playing and a parade started. It looked a great deal like the 'pep' parades we used to have at school after some football game as far as noise went. The children joined in this, leading the procession with lighted Japanese lanterns all shining, making a very pretty sight, then the band and bugles -- the French always have their buglers along. Next, a platoon or so of soldiers then, behind, everybody that wanted to join in to paint things red. The procession stopped near the office and, while the band played a selection or two, some of the crowd let go with some fireworks. They would throw the things right up over a crowd and when the things came down, everyone would scatter, but no one cared. It only created a new form of excitement. The French sure have a lot of enthusiasm on an occasion of that sort -- more so than one would think after four years of war.
Took another hill-climbing excursion an evening or so ago. The evenings are so long that I usually have to find some sort of diversion. It gets monotonous handling letters all day, anyway someone else's letters. You know if they were for me, I could never get tired. This trip I took another hill and I must say that it is wonderful how much beauty there is if one just keeps his eyes open. I can't just say what it is, but somehow when I get where I can look around over these picturesque hills, that something just grips me and I wonder if I am really seeing them or is it just a mirage. They are wonderful, that's all. How often have I wished that you might be with me on one of these trips. To be frank, I take them for a chance to hold communion with myself and let my thoughts run back to you. It is rather an inspiration, so to speak. Anyway I can always come back singing and feeling in the best of spirits.
I am going to send you a little snapshot that a Frenchman took of us one day while we were eating. It ought to get by O.K., in fact, one of the fellows has sent some already. That is the corporal in charge of the office a little to the right of center -- he with the huge slice of bread. The civilian postal man is next on the corporal's right. The other man was not in the picture. I won't say where I am for that is obvious, no doubt. How do you like the looks of the overseas cap? Quite nobby, don't you know. Those caps and wrap leggins are the correct styles over here.
You asked something of our weather here. Well, I must say it is usually fine. We don't know hot weather at all. There isn't a night or hasn't been when a couple of Army blankets can be used with comfort. They have nasty little rains, though. It doesn't seem to rain hard, or hasn't yet, but it keeps at it quite persistently at times. And, as far as I know, the time is not camouflaged here, only they count time on the twenty-four hour system. Not as a rule, but all official statements relating to time use that system.
Well, it is time for a good soldier to start on his prescribed eight hours slumber so goodnight for a time, little girl. With sincerest love,
Your own Lloyd
July 19, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
I have had two more letters from you since I wrote last. Ones I should have had a week or so before I got them. One of May 26 and the other of June 2. These letters had been down to K Co. and then back to me. That is why they were slow in getting around. The mail eventually finds you even if the letters do not come in chronological order. These were both dandy letters just like I want to get from you. They did me a world of good and I can read them over and over again and still there is some new inspiration I can get. I only hope my letters to you are half as good. I also got two letters from Mother, one from Clarence and one from Louise D., making six all in one day. That is pretty good for one time, don't you think? But I guess they had been saving up so as to shower on me.
I am glad that you had such great success in your Red Cross campaign. I know there is no joy like that you feel when you do some useful work for such a wonderful cause. I, too, am doing my little bit in this big task for you. For you are my America and embody all the ideals that our great country stands for. Maybe if America had let her task slide by undone it would not have affected me or you materially, but we would not have upheld the ideals that our country was founded on and sooner or later the effect would have been tremendous and America a mere puppet to some gross power built upon false ideas. So what am I that I should not go and fight against the evils before us. If I should fall, there certainly could not be anything nobler in my short lifetime to fall for. So, there you are, and I think that most everyone in our Army has some of the same sort of an idea. Oh, this is a fine bunch of boys over here and anyone should be proud to be with such an outfit of real red-blooded Americans. That last word is a wonderful word. You can't just realize how much it really is until you come to an occasion like this. Don't you know I believe I have some of the same feeling as the old crusaders had when they left to conquer the holy land. We are here to preserve a holy land and make it indestructible forevermore.
Well, I just came in from seeing them shoot at a Boche plane. Some fireworks. They make things lively, I can tell you. When anything like that starts, they blow a bugle for everyone to get under cover but usually we all run out to see the fun.
I sent you a little Kodak picture in the letter preceding this one. I will tell you again so maybe it will get by alright.
Well, there isn't much more than that I can write about now. Everything is moving along fine for me. We had quite a bit of mail from USA yesterday and I expect there will be more today. We like to have it come even if we do have more work to do, for a few days work is the spice of life over here.
Well, goodbye until next time, little girl. With all sorts of love to the truest blue American in USA.
Your own (even if a million miles away) Lloyd
July 26, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
I haven't written to you for several days now so I feel that another letter is about due from me.
There hasn't been much out of the ordinary taking place around here. Just our eating, sleeping, working routine. I have not had a letter for about a couple of weeks but I think they are held up by K Co. My mail is still going there and they are never very keen about forwarding anything. I will get six or seven all at once like I did before.
Saw Bruce Allison, Ralph Weaver and Ernest and Bill Gormly last night. The 140th band was not far from here for a few days and, as soon as I heard they were anywhere around, I looked them up. I also made another find a few days ago. I found a chaplain who is a Baptist. I didn't suppose there was any such in the Army. He is a mighty fine man, too, just the sort of a fellow that 'takes' with the soldiers. I became acquainted with him through the P.O. but I had never found what his denomination was until just recently. He comes from St. Louis and is chaplain of the 110th Engineers. Also I went to church last Sunday. Inside a real church -- pipe organ and all. This is the first time I had been in a real church since last summer. I think that you and I went the last time I could really say I had been to church. Of course I have heard talks out of doors and the like. There is a little chapel here that is open to the Protestants in the Army and it is a neat little place, too. They have a pipe organ and a choir loft over the entrance and hallway. Then at the other end is a pulpit placed up high and reached by steps leading from both sides. I expect you have seen the like. Looks like a sentry box at some prison camp. But my friend the chaplain did not use this cage. He used a little platform just below it. One of the fellows of the band played the pipe organ and another was used as a soloist. It was a mighty fine little service we had, I can tell you.
Saw a picture show last night. It was one given by the French Foyer du Soldat -- an organization serving about the same purpose as our YMCA. The pictures were adapted to a French audience, of course, and I am afraid I did not read many of the explanations, etc. This show was held out of doors beside the Foyer and it was attended by all the French soldiers, a great many of the townspeople and most of the Americans. They place the picture machine back of the screen and usually so close that the pictures are not nearly as large as those of an American show. This was an out-of-door affair, of course. I haven't had the opportunity to see a show in a regular house yet so I can't say what sort of pictures they have. I don't suppose there is such a thing as a show this side of Paris. It seems that everything of that sort is in Paris and the French don't expect to find such things anywhere else either. Something of a sacred right that belongs to Paris alone.
Before this letter reaches you, it will have been a year since I have donned the O.D.s. In some ways it doesn't seem that long but, when I look back over events, it certainly seems like a long time since a bunch of rookies left Ottawa one Sunday. I don't think I will ever forget the evening of Aug. 4, either, will you? In fact, I believe the celebration was continued until the early morning of the fifth, was it not? Well, the old Ford did it, though, but just the same maybe the Ford knew what the occasion was. We thought maybe that was the parting but, in a way, it was just the beginning. For I know there were many golden hours that we spent together after that. Say, you never saw such wonderful moonlit nights as they have here. They are grand. It is always cool evenings and such wonderful moonlight nights as they have here. They are grand. It is always cool evenings and as still as it ever could be. Then, when the moon comes up, it lights the hills and valleys with that mellow light. Well, it's almost enough to make a man desert the Army, that's all I can say.
Well, I must close and be up and doing as I took a little time off early in the morning to write this time. So, goodbye to the little girl who is always uppermost in my thoughts and is all the world to me.
With sincerest love, Your own Lloyd
|35th Division: July 27, 1918: Division moved to the Garibaldi subsector.
July 31, 1918
My Dearest Mary,
Well, I have had another letter from you since I wrote last. This one was dated June 30. It takes about that much time, it seems, for a letter to get to us. Also, I had one from Mother of about the same date. You two seem to write about the same dates every time and when I get a letter from one, I can almost always expect one from the other right soon.
We have moved again but not far this time. Moved on my favorite moving day, Sunday, or rather the day the Army has picked for me so many times. We have our office in an old barn of some sort. Quite a drop from sorting mail on a billiard table. The floor is so rickety here that we are in danger of going through every time we make any movements. Also, I may say the ventilating system is good -- extra good -- and the elevator going down is in perfect working order. I forgot to state our office was on the second floor. The lighting system is rather poor, though. I intend to see the landlord about it soon but I am afraid we would have a hard time "comprening" each other and I don't know the sign language for more light yet.
I just came from K Co. and everyone there seems to be in good health and the best of spirits. Brought a letter back for Shoemaker, to go out tomorrow. Shoey is working in the kitchen now and, from all appearances, he is getting lots to eat. I suppose they will be moving up to the trenches again as soon as they have been out the usual time.
I am going to send you an issue of the Stars and Stripes as soon as I have finished reading it. This is the A.E.F. paper and I think that you will be pleased to see what sort of a paper it is. This paper is not the regular newspapers we get but sort of a sheet that reflects the A.E.F. spirit. Our news sources are the Paris edition of the N.Y. Herald, Chicago Tribune, and the Daily Mail. The last is an English paper put out by the London Daily Mail.
Found where there is a ruin of an old castle and as soon as I find the time I am going to see what there is to see there. It is on a small hill that rises rather abruptly out of the valley and, from the looks of things from the ground, it is indeed a hard place to reach even now. Those old timers were fond of such sites I have been told. The fellow that picked this place, picked a good one, too.
Heard from Doug a few days before I got your last letter. He seems to be in the best of spirits and he hears from Joe I. occasionally, too. He says she is in Washington D.C. working for my able employer. Well, he has a lot of jobs open, it seems, from the way the revised draft classification looks. That one took a lot of boys that were not expecting anything just yet.
Oh! I must tell you I saw Becker a night or so ago. He showed me a letter he had from Robert and, as a return favor, I gave him the one I had from Doug. Don't misunderstand me and think that is our regular custom in the Army. That is the exception rather than the rule.
Well, it is getting late so I suppose it would be best for me to ring off for this time. So, goodnight once again, little girl. I have often wondered how long these goodnights will be said this way, but it is all for the best and one of these days... Well, it will be some day. So, goodnight to my own little sweetheart.
Yours with sincerest love, Lloyd
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