‘As I saw them cooking their coffee in a canteen cup over a
solidified alcohol tin, I thought
that I had suddenly come upon a colony of cliff dwellers!’
Note: large cans
carried food, while milk cans were frequently used to carry coffee
to the front lines. To warm the coffee, solidified alcohol was used if
WW1 American surgeon’s diary in France – Wade
in, Sanitary! & Somewhere Over There – Photo: WW1,
American soldiers warming up their coffee in Meru, France.
‘November 26 1917 — We were given a gas mask test with tear gas, first breathing in till the
tears ran and then putting on the masks to show how well they worked. Went out
to get wood among the batteries across the road, chopping up the trees that had
been cut down by yesterday’s bombardment. The afternoon was remarkably clear;
but it hailed violently at supper time… The English have made a wonderful
advance at Cambrai.’
American ambulance driver’s diary in
Marne, France – Diary of Jerome Preston – WW1, France, American soldiers gas mask
drill in the woods.
‘I wish I could be with you at Christmas
but will be with you in spirit and maybe the next
one will bring us all together. We are going to have a gathering on Thanksgiving Day. We are going to
have music, songs and several acts; will write you all
about it later.
Will close now and get this in the mail.
Give my love to all. With love to you and Dad.
November 1917 – Letters from the Oregon boys in
France – Photo: WW1, American soldier writing a quick letter home – Signal Corps USA.
‘The dark gray German
their sinister black crosses, looked like Death hovering above. They were for
Folks at Home: The Glorious Story of the United States Marines in France as Told
by Their Letters From the Battlefield – Powerful photo published
November 18 1917 in Le Miroir, French newspaper. Gallica, France.
clear morning the ordinary life began again…
‘We rose in the darkness, and left after a
hasty breakfast. The morning was mild and misty but It grew light rapidly and
by the time we arrived at Prat, the gaunt plain was easily visible. All was
quiet and peaceful – how deceptive. The inferno about to break
It happened. Innumerable flashes darted out from the gloom and shells
screamed overhead; the rattling clatter of machine guns echoed among the hills;
signal rockets and star-shells lit the scene eerily. Now the German batteries
were replying and there were rows of cruel flashes along the crest of Mont Haut and in the air. There were streaks
of crimson in the southeast sky over the dead plain and birds sang. It seemed
unreal. I wondered who was working the thunder machine in the wings.
After an hour and half
the firing ceased. In the clear morning the ordinary life began again. Burricos laden with bidons tinkled their musical way along the piste; files of
territorials appeared with picks on their shoulders and I was carrying two terrible head cases…’
November 1917, in Champagne region, France – American ambulance driver’s diary – Diary of Jerome Preston . Photo: WW1, Champagne region, donkeys carrying water and
food supplies to the trenches.
“Forward—Halt!” and “Left side step—March !” – on
hike with seven sections this afternoon. A three-hour hike.
Fall 1917, Eastern France, American
ambulance driver’s log Record of S.S.U 585 – 1917-1919 – Photo: WW1 American
troops hiking in Meuse, France. Images de 14-18, France.
Meanwhile, back at home.
‘November 14-15, 1917 – The infamous “Night of Terror” was precipitated by women who stormed
the White House in Washington, DC, protesting the fact that women were not
allowed to vote in national elections. Suffragists
were arrested and thrown into prison in the Occoquan Workhouse in
Virginia, where they ate rancid food and were denied medical care and visitors.
On November 14, the workhouse guards greeted 33 women
protestors, and began beating, kicking, dragging, and choking the group.
Women were lifted into the air and
flung to the ground. One was stabbed between the eyes with the broken
staff of her banner. Women were dragged by guards twisting their arms and
hurled into concrete “punishment cells”. This tragedy no doubt, led to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution
that permitted women to vote’
Faithful to the Task at Hand – Women of Protest, Library of Congress –
‘Mother, Lill tells me that you are getting
gray-headed worrying about me.
Well, Mother, that is foolish, as I am just as safe as if I were back home with
you. And that little bullet didn’t hurt me a bit. In fact, it will be a good
lesson to me. I won’t try and stop any more of them. And you know nothing will
happen to me, as only the good die young, and I haven’t a chance. So please
ease your mind, and stop worrying about me. And when this is all over, I will
be home with bells on, and I am going to make some noise. I can hear them
asking questions already. How is that? I will have enough stories to keep you
up day and night, telling them to you. You can’t imagine what a great thing it
is to be able to get into this little fight. And also be a MARINE! Just a
little proud of that name, and so are you, aren’t you, Mother?’
Ww1, France, American Marine’s letter – Dear
Folks at Home: The Glorious Story of the United States Marines in France – Photo WW1, France, Don’t Forget To Write Home.
‘My Very Dear Mother:
Just a word before lunch. It is a windy
late autumn day. I used to like the wind, but now that I’m in this game
I don’t. In one class this morning 5 men flew; 2 had forced landings; 1
finished safely; 2 smashed up while landing, all because of the wind. Don’t
worry, though, I’ve seen accidents lately but any one killed. Since I’ve been
here, only a finger has been broken; it was peculiar, too, because the boy was
spilled out of his machine by some telegraph wires and fell to the ground; his
helmet saved him.
I don’t like the wind, but the
purple and rusty landscape is enchanting. Now a long streak of vineyards with a
row of leafless trees veiling in their dusk the white facade of a chateau. Now
a cluster of rays from out of the clouds on to a bunch of golden trees and their
barkless trunks, — all is a land of color, of rusting gold and tarnished skies
American ambulance/truck driver in aviation school. He was killed in the skies of France,
January 24,1918 – A Poet of the Air –
Photo: 1917, France, the view from an aviation school’s Farman.
‘Sunday, 4 November 1917. Verdun. It is the wildest place I’ve been
at yet . The road was very rough, scrubby pine
covers the hills which are very poor and rough. We see many artillery batteries
covered with pine branches for camouflage. The 155mm artillery roared all night. They seem to shake the whole earth. I thought
all hell had broke loose when they began. It was the heaviest cannonading
American ambulance driver in Verdun – Private Heller and
the Bantam Boys:
An American Medic in World War I – The author’s Twitter – Photo: 1917, driving through Verdun. Private collection.