Category: war is hell

A letter to mamma before the battle

Dear mother,

We are about to enter
into the first drive that the United States has made in the war, and some of us will not live through it. But mamma, I want to let you know that I am
willing to give my life gladly. Mother, we may not meet on earth again, but some day we
will meet and there will be no sorrow there. And if I go, mother, in my
last minutes on earth my thoughts will be of the dear little mother who alone
has fought the battles of life for the last fourteen years—long years—to raise
me to where I am now.

I have gone through many hardships
since I have been over here that it did not look like I could go through, but I
went through all o. k. and I am glad I have. It does not matter what
hardships I have gone through, they could not compare with those you have
suffered for me. I know I am not worth half the trouble you have endured for me,
but if I had lived to come back one aim in life for me was to
show the world that I could be somebody, and most of all to show mother how
much I love her. 

With love to mother, I remain your son. God keep
and bless you till we meet again.

Corporal Rufus Shelton.’

Rufus Shelton was killed on
May 29, 1918
, in the Battle of Cantigny – this
beautiful letter, addressed to his mom was found In a pocket of his uniform.

See Rufus Shelton’s entire letter
and story here

As we think of the Armistice, we still have te…

As we think of the Armistice,
we still have tears in our eyes. Those are tears of profound relief; relief of not
fearing death anymore; tears of joy for being alive; but above all, tears for peace — 
that loud rallying cry: “Never Again”.

November 1918, a French soldier’s thoughts after the
armistice – René Plard – WW1, France, French soldiers in their trench. Mémoire et Histoire

                                              …

                                                           “A certain breathless horror”

“I have seen the wounds of France — the
entrails of Reims and the guts of Verdun, with their bare bones thrown naked
to the insulting skies; villages in dust and ashes—villages that lay so low
that they left no mark beneath the snow-swept landscape; walls that stood in
wrecked and awful silence; rivers flowed and skies gleamed, but the trees, the
land, the people were scarred and broken. Ditches darted hither and thither and
wire twisted, barbed and poled, cloistered in curious, illogical places. Graves
there were—everywhere and a certain breathless horror, broken by plodding
soldiers and fugitive peasants.”

After the WW1 armistice, US
Army Major J. E. Spingarn
writing from Germany where he was serving. Photo: 1918, exploring the snow-swept ruins of Reims, France. La Contemporaine

“November 10 1918 – Good God, what a day…

“November 10 1918 – Good God, what a day! Could this be really
the end? Or will we have to fight tomorrow? Anything would be better than
this uncertainty. Unable to say a word, we stare at each other in silence with
only one thing in mind: the end! Before these talks of peace started, we
thought that this war would never end.”

French soldier’s diary – Carnets de Guerre et Notes de Marceau Denoncelle – Chtimiste – Photo :
WW1 French soldiers in their trench. La contemporaine

                                              …

                                                        The only thing in our minds

November 8 1918 – In
front of us we can distinguish the silhouettes of the Lorraine forests; how many machine-guns are hidden in there? The
attack was set for the 6th, then postponed until the 10th. Then we suddenly
learn that Germany is sending envoys to discuss an armistice. Foch has given them seventy-two hours to
sign. This is the only thing in our minds at present. If the armistice is
signed, it’s peace; if not, it’s an immediate
attack, and butchery in all its horror.

A French
Soldier’s War Diary 1914-1918
– Photo: WW1, France, tired and anxious French soldiers –  Ruffineck44,
France

                                 “Everything e…

                                 “Everything else under
the sun but ourselves and our work”

“We work 48 hours at a
time. We see much of suffering and waste and blood and pain; we smell
powder and drugs and wet blankets and trench mud, we see the price that’s paid
for every trench when we see the human scrap that’s thrown back for us to pass
on back to the discard. It gets to you; it’s depressing and maddening
sometimes. Now, with such a routine what do you think a fellow is going to
want to write about when he
writes. It’s going to be anything else in the world. We don’t
even talk about the work among ourselves. We talk about everything else under
the sun but ourselves and our work.”

WW1 American
ambulance driver’s letter in France – Harold M. Page, Illinois Ambulance
Unit –  University of Illinois Archives – WW1, France,
American ambulance drivers relaxing after work – Cape Fear Museum

                                              …

                                               “Over the top.” St Georges. 11-1-18

“Morning came at last. Our Infantry went over the top. We got
a few shells and laid sort of a barrage and Jerry laid one too. He caught our
Infantry with it. He sure slaughtered them for a while. It looked awful. Men dying
and dead everywhere. Jerry shot all kind of gases in there. I wore a gas mask
all day that day.”

American soldier’s diary in the Meuse Argonne Offensive. Text
and photo: The 80th Division Veterans Association

Note: starting November
1 1918, the US infantry/artillery advanced and captured Landres-et-St.Georges, St. Georges, Landreville, and Bayonville;
continued the advance for several days; captured Fosse, Nouart, Letanne, and and Beaumont. Crossed the Meuse the night of
November 10-11, 1918. See Google Map.

“These past 3 nighs I have been waking up wond…

“These past 3 nighs I have been waking up
wondering if I am not dreaming, if i am
really here. We have lost
the habit of this restful silence. Everything is calm. Can it be possible? Our joy is growing. Every day we are getting used to happiness again.”

October 1918, a French civilian who stayed
in Lille, Northern France, during the German occupation – The Long Silence: Civilian Life under the German Occupation
of Northern France, 1914-1918 –
– Photo:
October 24 1918, Lille, relaxed French citizens reading a notification informing
the population on how to move around in the recently liberated city. La
Contemporaine

                      “A feeling of helplessne…

                      “A feeling of helplessness and powerlessness that is most depressing.”

                   

‘There
is nothing quite so uncomfortable to hear as the near whistle of a shell. The
more you hear the sound the more it affects you. There is something in the
sharp whine which seems to create despair and induce subconscious melancholy.
There is a feeling of helplessness and powerlessness that is most depressing.
The thunder of the guns or the crash of the bursting shells cannot be compared
with the sound of this approaching menace. It is as if some demon from the
depths of Hades were hurtling toward you, its weird laughter crying out,
calling to you and chilling your blood.

Later, after a close call, it is more of a nervous strain. It is
a curious fact that the longer a man has been under shell-fire the harder it is
for him to stand it. This is one of the forms of so-called “shell-shock.“’

WW1 American
ambulance/truck driver in France – The White Road of Mystery – Photo: WW1, France, American ambulance driver Harry Crosby, standing next to his destroyed ambulance. He never recovered from this close call while serving in France and died
in his 31st year in a murder–suicide.

“October 1st 1918 – Nearly every crossro…

“October 1st 1918 – Nearly every crossroads
is heavily mined and tho the engineers
move just behind the attacking waves to discover them and render them harmless, still many mines are left
to be exploded later by a horse’s hoof, a wagon wheel or a foot, causing numerous deaths and leaving huge holes.
Generally the mines are so laid that a piece of wire
when pulled or disturbed will detonate them tho often they are timed to explode
after a certain number of hours. We saw many Belgians grouped around horses who
had been killed by mines from which they carved off large lump of steaks.”

American ambulance driver’s diary in Belgium – The Compensations
of War
– Photos: October 1st 1918, mines on roads & streets in Noyon,
Northern France, not far from the Belgium border. See Google mapLa Contemporaine