April 30th, 2012 at 1:22 pm (Articles)
Memorial Day is not far away and the thought of all the soldiers that are still far from home are on my mind. During certain holidays we stop and take time to remember all they have done. It occurs to me; do we really know what they have done?
Mandy years ago my mother showed my sisters and I our grandfathers World War I pocket journal. He carried it with him from the time he was sent out from the U.S. until the time he was sent back. It is a simple red hardback journal, nothing fancy. He never said why he kept it during the war, so we have no idea what gave him the idea, but we are happy that he did.
My grandfather was Arthur Warren. He started his army stint July 7, 1917 to Camp Crutches, Aron, Colorado and was later sent to France in 1918. In his journal he writes a line or two every night before bed telling of the daily life of the Army soldier in WWI. Most of his posts list the weather, things he saw or did, and who with. Grandpa Warren did not fight in any big battles or receive a grand metal, he was the average soldier.
With only a sixth grade education it is amazing how far he got. His life was a hard one from an early age. He and his two brothers lost both parents when they were young and were raised by family that was let’s say “not nice”. He and his younger brother ran away from home and lived on the streets. The older brother set out on his own. My grandfather was a resilient man and he help raise his brother and put him in school somehow. He may not have been well educated, but he always worked hard and enjoyed life.
Here are some of his entries:
August 17–Goodbye old U.S.A. We may be gone for a long time. Out of sight of land and the Sixteen Transports all camouflaged, sure looks pretty. Left New York in single file just could see the leader. Lots of sub chasers everywhere, observation balloons ahead, bio-planes pass every few minutes. Heavy firing about 5 p.m. Heard later that one sub was sunk and one captured. Protection is perfect.
August 21–Clear & calm all day. Sub scare at night. Four shots fired at some empty life boats. Perhaps off a sunken ship.
August 27—Sighted Scotland at 8a.m., could see a coast guard through the glasses. Some shots fired heard a sub was sunk. South all day through Irish Sea, in sight of land most the time Scotland & England.
September 3—Rained in the a.m. and we marched to the train in the afternoon. Loaded on boxcars 7 x24. 40 men or 8 horses to a car. Rode all night.
September 4—Still going through France. See lots of German prisoners working along the road. Arrived in La Gurche at 10:30 p.m. Slept in a park and it rained on us all night. Everything is soaked.
September 7, 1917—Rained in the morning, but we all went berry hunting. The hedges are black with them. 12 a.m. I received our first mail since we left Kearny. I got eleven letters, more than anyone else. Sure welcome.
September 24, 1917—Hiked in a.m. Isssued gas masks & gas drill in evening. N.C.O. school at night, none of the walkers brilliant ideas. An areoplane tore the steeple off a church in La Gurche. Machine Burned up.
October 12, 1917—Nothing to do, but sleep. I’ve got a nice feather bed now and a nice room in a church 800 years old.
November 3, 1917—Left for La Gurche in a.m. I had La Guppe and went on the truck. Loaded the train and started about 9:30 p.m. on a French Pullman. It is awful crowded & we are 3 deep.
November 7-Went to Revingny in a.m. Saw two German trucks that had been captured. One had a gas cylinder 15 ft. long. Enough to kill lots of people. 2 p.m. report just came that peace had been declared and that Germany had unconditionally surrendered.
November 11—In charge of a fatigue detail. All a.m. cleaning up the streets. Got a lot of German coins. Telegram came at noon that the armistice had been signed. The frogs went wild and put up all the flags they could get. Weasles heard that the ship Missanabie of C. P. R. R. had been sunk on her return voyage. We swore at her coming over, but for some reason I feel sorry now.
November 26—Still Raining and cold. I’m in charge of quarters. Had VN. Inspection at 1 p.m. Drank lots of beer and tried to enjoy this weather by watching the trains of salvage go through. About 5 p.m. just after I was sitting around waiting for bed time when in walked my brother. I loaded in his ambulance and went to Contrison. We had some party. It was rainy and cold, but we didn’t mind it. He gave me a new German helmet and a trench knife. This world isn’t so large after all.
January 1, 1919—Resolved, that the last year has been a good year. The most important year in my existence and today is the last day I celebrate. I’m so stiff from yesterday’s excitement I can’t hardly walk or move my arms. No one can be a perfect man and be a soldier, but he can be careful if he will. What fun we have when we are drunk, we always pay for later. And the money I win gambling, I always spend foolishly of course. I don’t always win. I’m a good ways ahead considering what I’ve spent. But I haven’t go that although I have had what I considered at the time a good time. I’m not proud of myself for it now. Still I’m not ashamed, but I have swore off. Nothing to do, but celebrate. Most of the boys were drunk. Somebody tore up all the beds and broke up all the card games. Not safe in quarters before midnight.
These are just some of the entries in my Grandpa Warren’s journal. He was no great war hero, nor did he see great battles. He was the everyday soldier. I put together a typed version of his journal to share with anyone in our family that wanted one. Many have been sent. I was very proud to do this in his honor.
If you have or know of a war journal is your family, take the time to do the same for your family. It is a great way to share the histories of the soldiers in our line.