“It wasn’t so bad”
“The Boches flew over us
very low shooting their guns. No
bullets came near us but soon they began to shell our abri. One shell hit it
fair but didn’t cave it in. It seemed miraculous that we were not hurt. The
shell exploded just ten feet from where I was. We had several trips and I think
that the Boshes shelled us for the shells came uncomfortably near the
road. But even at that, it wasn’t so bad. I missed the best. Though I was lucky
to save my baggage (i.e. wounded)”
Northeast France, American ambulance driver’s dairy – Private Heller and the
Bantam Boys: An American Medic in World War I – Photo: Spring 1918, France, a
shell exploding too close for comfort… La Contemporaine, France.
“Thurday, April 18 1918 – On duty at 7 P.M. — Very quiet. Hardly a gun shot. Cook from
Nice is a music wizard – No Calls.”
American ambulance in Argonne, Verdun sector – France – Diaries of Samuel Keplinger – Photo: WW1 French soldiers playing music in the abri at night.
“In the rear where the
kitchens are, we always stop and bum a
kitchen is set up in a sort of a court yard, near the dressing stations. Here we located an iron boiler, that the Germans
had left in their hasty retreat, which helps us out quite a lot in cooking. Things are going fine here, in fact, too
good to last…”
April 18 1918 – American ambulances’ kitchen in Beaumont (Nancy, Toul Sector), France. La Contemporaire, France – Text source:
History of Ambulance Company Number 139
“Don’t you worry about me”
“April 1918 – Have seen more war during
the past week than I saw in a year and a half in the Ambulance; Verdun and
Monastir thrown in. I realize more and more what a nasty business it all is. It
is all right as long as you can stay in your burrow, but when you have got to
go outside, where it’s falling all around, it is no fun at all. We’ve had a
little bit of everything, including gas. Have been awfully lucky three or four
times. Was caught outside making the rounds yesterday morning— couldn’t go in
any direction—so crawled into a shell hole and stayed there until it was over.
Don’t you worry about me. Am very, very happy to be with the
French. They have certainly treated me wonderfully. Am still very green, but am
learning as fast as possible. It is all a glorious experience”
In Aisne, France, a “green” American infantry soldier, initially
a volunteer ambulance driver, at the front during the German Spring Offensive –
Letters – Photo: Spring 1918, France, American and French soldiers taking shelter. Archives du Ministere de la Culture, France.
From forehead down to feet – Itch, itch, itch, Till night drives the day away!
“Well don’t worry about little old me. I have learned
how to take care of myself by now. I even wash behind my
ears, that is, when I do wash, which is about once a week. Outside of a slight
cold in my head, I am feeling very well and seem to be in excellent health.
Before this light goes out I will have to go on my nightly hunt for cooties.
They seem unusually active tonight and as they have a habit of keeping us
awake, I think that I’d better leave you now and see what I can find. Give my
love to dad.”
1918, American ambulance driver in the Verdun sector, France – Letters from Verdun – Illustration: WW1 soldiers hunting for lice –
1918 – Saturday – Slight change in sanitary service of the
sector. Triage moved from Benaménil to Chenevières. Boche avions added a
little excitement to the doings.”
American ambulance driver’s log in Baccarat sector— Record of S. S. U. 585 Illustration: WW1, France, Caught by the Search Light , by Jessie Gillespie
“A fine spring day, and we have just completed our Saturday morning
inspection of persons and barracks. Saturday inspections are a
good idea as we are all compelled to be cleaned and
shaved at least once a week!”
Spring 1918, American ambulance driver in the Verdun sector – Letters from
Verdun – Photo: Early spring 1918, American ambulance drivers relaxing in the
sun. Archives du Ministère de la Culture, France.
“April 10-11 1918 – Cut
more hair and shave. Move from Sermoise to Braine. Pitch dark. Sleep in car in
street. Notified by Lieut that I am to have Croix de Guerre. Big punch bowl.
Have to buy champagne for boys.”
In Aisne, France, American ambulance driver’s diary – Special Collections Department, Stewart Library, Weber State University. Illustration: WW1, France, ambulancing at night. Herbert Ward.
“the cutest little foxes I have ever seen!”
“When en repos the poilus trap foxes,
hedgehogs, rabbits, and other animals and then train them. Over across the road
in one of the courtyards are the cutest little foxes I have ever seen,
which play around and are just like little collies until we show up, when they
scamper off and get behind a box or a stove and blink at us. I tried to buy one of them, but the owners are
too fond of them to let them go.”
WW1 American ambulance driver’s diary – History of the American Field Service in France – Photo: WW1 American ambulance driver holding a fox. Maine Military Historical Society
“April 9 1918 — At the Somme both sides seem to be holding off for a bit to get their breath. By a general French order all
sections going to the Somme will leave trailers and personal baggage behind and
live out of the cars.“
In the Marne region, France, American ambulance driver’s diary – Diary of Jerome Preston – Photo: Spring 1918, Northeast France, American ambulance convoy driving through a village.