1 November 1918
On the Front
Mom and Dad:
Well a few lines. I received two letters from you last evening, and they made an excellent way for me to spend “Halloween.” Reading and rereading them.
A new drive started last night. The fellows called the start, “Holly even”, the Kaiser. Some noise. I suppose our kids tore off the usual stunts didn’t they.
You mentioned in one of you letters that you wanted to know the happenings for a while. Well, here is my diary for a day. And since almost every day is the same, you can get an idea from this:I got up at a quarter to five. Put my shoes on and went to chow. While eating chow the boche threw over some shells and we tore for the dugouts. Finally finished my chow. Now it is daylight and the balloon goes up. Is moved around several times as boche planes near. Bout now I have a hell of a time trying to satisfy myself by chewing some “star plug.” Then I go down and copy the weather reports six times in twenty four hours. Also get the war news off the wireless. Then maybe work on trucks painting or lettering. Then an officer comes along and wants his name panted on something. Then goes a hunt for a suitable brush. Maybe about this time a plane burns the balloon. All of us shoot at the plane with our revolvers, machine guns, and rifles. Maybe we hit it and maybe we don’t. Then maybe a few more shells burst near us or we have a near gas attack. These, however, are the small things. The important ones are: this guy knows where you can get some bar chocolate or this one knows where there is plenty of Prince Albert tobacco. Chasing cooties is another swell sport. And the perfect day is wound up by “chow” and sleeping in a pup tent and getting up several times in the night to high-tail it for the dugouts.
So at the end what do you think of the life we lead. Have a little work to do now so will finish this letter later.
I just finished copying some wireless dope so I will proceed. Am enjoying good health. Am sure sorry to hear about Im Phillips. I suppose Fiscy will join the Student’s Army.
Well, about all for the present,
Same old address
10 November 1918
Somewhere in France
Mom and Dad. Well, nothing much new, only today we got the news of the peace plenipotentiaries arriving for a conference with General Foch. It sounds good to me. There is something here now that I would like to tell you but can’t, so when I return you mustn’t forget to ask me about the civilian refugees in the church. It will be some story. Not much excitement lately. We had our balloon burned by a boche plane with American insignia on it.
14 November 1918
For the first time away from the front since July 5th.
In a camp, behind the lines.
Dear Mom and Dad:
Well, of all the wonderful things that could ever happen. The war is “won”. As the French say, “Fini la Guerre.” Every Frenchman we meet hollers, “Fini la Guere, Merci! Beaucoup.” It means– The war is over, thank you many times. We are sure some glad bunch. I sure will have a lot of stuff to tell you when I return. And that won’t be long. We are now way from the front for the first time. I just got rid of a bunch of cooties yesterday. I hope that they will be the last, too. The are sure the cause of one hell of a feeling.
Well, this is all for the present. So long and hoping to see you soon.
Behind the lines
Well I guess some of the censorship rules are lifted so here goes—
I got on the U.S.S. Siboney at Newport News, Va. On the 22 day of April. Left for overseas at 8 a.m. the 23rd. Was on the pond for about 14 days and landed a Brest. After a few days at Brest the outfit moved to Tours. Stayed a Fouks awhile and while there was issued my gas mask. We left Tours for Guer. Taking two days for the trip and stopping Redon. Stayed at Camp Coetquidan Guer, and got our balloon training. Left for the front and landed at Toul(?).
From Toul we went to “Roulecourt” and operated a balloon. Was shelled once while there.
Next we went to Fort Guonville which is directly in front of the historic “Montsec” which the Boche held.
We were shelled while there and had a balloon burned by a Boche plane. After a while at Guionville we left and went to Pontamousson and while there participated in the first American drive, the “St. Mihiel” drive. We lost one balloon there. When from there to Auzeville near Clermont about 20 miles north of Bar-le-duc. After we wre there awhile the second American drive started and I went up to the front with the infantry. It was there that I got the Boche general’s helmet. The town I got it in was in Varennes. We then moved up and operated a balloon at “Chatel Chelery”. Lost a balloon while there.
Were shelled out of this place by gas and high explosives. Then we started following the drive. When we got as far north as “Rancort” the armistice was signed. “Rancort” is near “Sedan”. We lost a balloon the last day of the war. It was burned by a Boche aviator in an American aero plane.
We left for the rear and landed in “Auzeville” where I now am. Auzeville is near Clermont. “Clermont” is near “Bar-le-duc”. I think we will stay here in Auzeville till we leave for the U.S.A.
Since in France have been thru and in Brest, LeMans, the outskirts of “Paree”, Nancy, Toul, Pont a Mousson, Nantes, Tours and a lot of other burgs, too numerous to mention.
Am in the First Army Corps which is composed mostly of Regulars. Have been working with the 42 Rainbow Division of late.
The men in the first Army Corps wear a white circle on a blue background on their left shoulder so if you see any fellows thusly branded, let me know about it for when they start to land in the States I will follow soon. [drawing] on the left shoulder.
Love to all
[Source: Photo and letters from 19 year old Private Walter from family archives. Top image from Electrical Experimenter,December 1919, p. 31.]