Letters From Soldiers
Jan. 6, 1919
I received a letter from you the other day and sure was glad to hear from you. I am glad to know that you are well enough to write again.
I guess the people of the states were some glad when hostilities ceased.
I have written to you several times but I don’t know whether you received them or not.
I have no idea yet when we will go home, as we are a part of the occupation troops. We have been through so much since coming over here that we hardly realize yet that the fighting has ceased.
The second division has been in five pitched battled and I have had the luck to go over seven times in those five battles without being hit.
I guess the second division has been through as much bloodshed, if not more, than any other American division. It has had one tenth of the total casualties of the American E.F. It has taken one-fourth of the prisoners taken by the American Expeditionary Forces. I think that is a good record and not to be beaten.
With lots of love and best wishes,
Sergt. J.H. Bynum
From Corporal J.H. Finch
La Mans, France
Feb. 17, 1919
Will tonight take the greatest pleasure in answering your letter which I received yesterday afternoon. Was indeed delighted to hear from you.
Had a nice Christmas but it was a rainy one. It has been raining nearly every day since (words obscured) but the weather didn’t turn cold until last month. It is very pleasant here now but we are still having plenty of rain.
We had a parade last week, the 30th Division. About five miles from Beaumont, France, was the little town we were located in at that time. There were about 27,000 soldiers received. General Pershing and lots of other officers were in the receiving stand. There was quite a number of French people out to see the parade. The third battalion of the 119th regiment, which was the I.K.L. and M. companies, were also selected to pass review by General Pershing. It was snowing and some cold. I thought I would freeze standing at attention, but as we are the Old Hickory boys, we got along fine and General Pershing gave us a very high reputation. We have stayed in Blaumont, France, longer than we have in any other town since we have been over here. We were the first troops that were ever in Belgium. We hiked from a little village called Nouse in France. We started out on July 2nd and arrived in Belgium July 5, 1918. It was a very long hike, being over 40 miles, but we got along fine. When we arrived at the place where we entered Belgium, we were about three miles from the front lines and were under shell fire about two months, while the enemy airplanes were over every night dropping bombs and even dropped some when we were 40 miles behind the lines. Beaumont and La Mans, France, are the only places I have been in that have not been bombed by the enemy. The enemy usually come to drop bombs about dusk and our large guns would throw their search lights on the enemy and shoot, bringing many aeroplanes down. It seems very good to know that the war is over and not to hear the bombs dropping all around us. It seems good that we do not have to go back into the lines any more.
Well, we left Beaumont last Monday and arrived at an American camp once more, about three miles below La Mans, France. The 30th Division is together once more for the first time since we left Camp Sevier.
Well, mama, you said tell you something about France, so I will tell you a few things which happened during the time of war. On Sunday morning, September 29th, 1918, at about 5:30, we went over the top at the Hindenburg line, which had never been broken before. The shells and whiz bangs and bullets were bursting and flying everywhere and we could not see in front of us more than 50 yards for the smoke. It was not very long lines but I was there before I knew it. The enemy was retreating, but shooting at us all the while. They knew that we were not going to give in, so some of them threw their guns and were running down the trench with their hands up. On our right we were shooting in the dugouts while everybody in the left had already gone over the enemy’s trenches. I could not see more than a half a dozen of Company K boys. There was about three dozen of us all alone but we captured quite a number of prisoners and started out with them. We did not get all of them for there was plenty of them and they were shooting at us all the time until we were out of reach with the prisoners. The big shells were still dropping all around us. We had on our packs, mess kit, and I had a little entrenchment took, which is a little shovel, on my pack. I felt something strike me in the back but I thought nothing of it. Just before we captured the prisoners I was a little scared, for there were not many of us together and I was afraid we would be captured or killed. We arrived at the aid station all o.k. and I turned my prisoners over to an M.P. at the aid station and he gave me a receipt for 20 prisoners. In a few minutes Tink Lamm came in with 30 more prisoners. We did not know what to do then as our company was still advancing and we did not know the way back to our company. We decided to eat our lunch, which was in our mess kit, so I asked Tink to take my mess kit off my haversack. When he took it off there was a hole in it that had been shot through it and as I had my raincoat on I asked him if there was a hole in it. There was not so I could not understand how the bullet had gone through the mess kit without going through me, so I happened to think of my entrenching tool. I took the shovel out of the carrier and there was the bullet and a dent in the shovel. I was scared more than ever as there was a pain in my back but I sure was some thankful to know that it did not get me. So the little shovel was my friend and surely saved my life and I thank the Lord for taking me through and for the good health that I have had during my 20 months service. I have been on the job all the time, night and day, while in the lines so I have had very good luck all the way through while in Belgium and France. I hope to land safely in the good old U.S.A. soon.
Well mother, I will ring off for this time. There are lots of other things to tell you when I get home.
Give my best regards to all. With love and best wishes.
Corp. J.H. Finch
From the Hickory Daily Record, March 24, 1919
Sgt. Griswold Says Armistice Saved Germans From Disaster
Sergt. C.M. Griswold of Co. D, 55th telephone battalion, in France, has written his friend Mr. Frank Dankel of the Hickory Electric Company of his sensation at various times during the past year. His was a dangerous job and was calculated to make him think frequently of the folks at home, of his sins and good deeds, and all such, and the sergeant’s mind considered everything.
Sergeant Griswold, who was along the front with the signal corps, said the signing of the armistice prevented a massacre of the Germans, for they were doomed. He says the Germans are not so bad to get along with and he even “lets” them scrub the floor of his room.