[Update: Corrected factual error.]
Armistice Day was celebrated as an end to The Great War in Europe. Subsequently it was called “Veterans Day” in the United States in 1954. In Canada and most of the Commonwealth, it is observed as “Remembrance Day.”
Those decorated envelopes were sent by “Tid” Myers, my great grandfather, to his son, Pvt. Walter Myers, while Walter was stationed in France. I remember Uncle Walter as an almost blind old man whose hobby was amateur (HAM) radio. I was too young to understand his hobby, and didn’t know enough about WWI to ask him what I’d ask him now. Uncle Walter passed on in 1978 and I never knew what he had gone through until decades later.
The following are transcripts of letters sent by Walter Myers to his parents. He was in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in WWI. The Signal Corps used balloons to survey the German trenches and movements, and was a very risky business.
The messages below are as is, without editing.
France, August 27, 1918
Dearest Mom and Dad,
Was under fire for the first time recently. No casualties. Believe me you have never heard such an unearthly noise. Everything quiet then all of a sudden “Boom” s-h-h-h sh-sh-sh-sh. The boom is when the shell bursts and the “sh” sounds like the wind whistling through a crack. The “sh” is caused by flying splinters. The damned Dutch can’t hit a barn so we should worry. We have dugouts.
Sorry I can’t tell more. This may be cut out. I don’t think it will though because there is no information. I guess the Dutch remember shooting at us. So this letter wouldn’t give them any “info.”
October 25, 1918
On the Front
Dear Mom and Dad:
Well, as per usual. A short ‘un. Have had some excitement lately but I get so darn used to excitement that it takes something more daring each time to satisfy me. We lost another balloon the other day. Burned by a boche airman. God knows but maybe our machine guns didn’t give him “H” but he got away with it. Our observers landed safe in their parachutes.
The Boche shelled us the other night and one shell landed about ten feet from your truly’s tent. Say, boy, you ought to have seen our gang high-tail it for the dugouts. It was in the middle of the night and we all had to get out of bed but you didn’t see anybody in their under clothes for we never take our clothes off. I haven’t had my clothes off for about three weeks and Lord only knows when I got a bath last. There is an old shell hole about ten feet from my tent which is full of water and I am going to take a bath there if I freeze my “arse” off.
You want to know if I “ever” had the cooties. Well, I’ll tell you. I have ’em most of the time. But they aint so worse after you have ’em a while. I “kinda” got used to ’em. We call the Boche, “Jerry.”
November 14, 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 Guerre, 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 away 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. They 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.
[Update: The Philadelphia Intelligencer ran a story about the envelopes today, with more pictures.]