Dec. 19, 1918

Niederbieber Germany                

Dear Mother, Dad & Sis:- 
     By the heading you will see that we have moved again. We are in a little place near Bendorf. All these places are connected, by a streetcar line, with the big city in this vicinity, Coblenz. We are in a nice clean little town which is more than I can say for any village in France. The Dutch are mighty clean people. Clarence [Greer] & I with six other fellows sleep in the attic of one of the private homes. It is nice & clean and a whole lot better than a barn which is the best we ever had in France. The people treat us fine. We spend our spare time by the fire in their living rooms. There are two families. One on each floor. The man on the second floor was in the German artillery all through the war. Was on all fronts. His sister lives on the lower floor. Her husband was killed in the war. She has two awful cute little girls. Four and seven years of age. The other family has a boy about 7 and a girl about 9 or 10.

German children © Harry Faris 2010

     It seems strange to be on such friendly terms with people with whom we were fighting only a short time ago. The first night we were here (Monday) the man came up and invited [us] down by the fire. He said, “Es ist kalt hier. Sie können hier schlafen und auf dem Ofen sitzen.” [1]    One of the boys in the bunch can speak German. The rest of us are getting so we can speak & understand a good bit of it. German is a lot easier than French. The French people never seemed to care to talk to us any how.
     I guess we will be here as long as we are in Germany which may be until peace is signed this spring. We are in the second division and in the recently organized third army composed of the best divisions in France and made the army of occupation. The other two famous divisions are the 1st and 42nd. The 42nd is the rainbow division.
[2]   Both were fine fighting divisions. Our division has the 5 & 6th regiments of Marines and the 9 & 23rd infantry. It has the 12, 15, & 17th regiments of artillery. Then there is the 2nd Engineers, 2nd Trench Mortar Btry, 2nd Amm Tr, the Ambulance Corps, supply train etc. The first big thing the second division pulled off was at Cheauteau Thiery when they stopped the Germans drive to Paris early last July. Next they went to Swissons and were in the drive there while I was coming across. Clarence & I joined the Company at Pompey, near Nancy, on Aug 21. We went to the front on Sept 1 where we had our initiation on the firing line in the St. Mihiel drive. In October we were on the Champaign front where the Germans were driven about forty or fifty kilometers. Then came the final drive and we were on the Aragone Forest sector and crossed the Meuse river before it was over. Since then we have been following the Germans to the Vaterland and here we are & glad that this much is over and rarein’ to come home. We hope to be relieved and sent home but I don’t know how much chance there is.
     I guess you know about when we sailed. We left Camp Merritt about daybreak on Sunday morning and hiked five miles to the Hudson river where we boarded ferry boats and went to 23rd st landing N. York where we boarded the U.S. Transport Harrisburg.
[3] We stayed on board all day & night and sailed about 9 am Monday morning with 13 other transports. All landed safely in Liverpool on Sat Aug. 3. We did not go ashore until Sunday morning Aug 4 and we marched strait to the railroad station and had a nice ride through the heart of England that day reaching a camp at Romsey late that evening. On Wednesday we hiked five miles to South Hampton where we boarded ship and crossed the Channel landing at La Harve, France the next morning. After a couple of days there we were shipped down to a replacement camp near Bordeaux and after about three days there were sent to the front and the second division. Thus briefly you can get an idea of where I have been all the time. When I get home I will tell you in detail about everything.
     A week from yesterday is Christmas. A Merry Xmas to you all. My second Xmas away from home. How I wish I could be there. Little did I dream a year ago, when I was in Roswell, that I would be in Germany, across the Rhine, this Xmas. A lot better than being in France with the war still going isn’t it? I hope my Xmas box comes. You had not received the coupon the last letter. I sent it the day I got it. Don’t bother about getting anything else for me. It will be Xmas present enough for me when I get home. Gee but that will be some day. I’ll wire you when to meet me and if Sis is at school I’ll wire her so she can ditch her classes and get on the train at Emporia and come home with me. If Dad is home that evening we will all be home.
     I guess that I have written about all there is to write. Be sure & keep on writting often as I may be here a long time.
Oceans of love to all, Harry

[1] “It is cold here. You may sleep here and sit at the oven."
[2]  The 42nd Division was made up of men from twenty-six different states and the District of Columbia. One of its officers, Douglas MacArthur, suggested it be named the ‘Rainbow Division. “It will stretch across the nation like a rainbow,” he proudly noted. Zachary Kent. World War I - The War to End Wars. Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1994.
[3]  During the war Harrisburg made four voyages to Europe, two to Liverpool and two to Brest, with troops and supplies.

Dec. 25, 1918

Niederbeiber Gernany

Dearest Dad & Mother:-
            Although he is a long ways from home, you may be mighty sure that your boy in Germany is thinking a heap of you today and wishes you all a very, very, Merry Christmas and a mighty jolly happy New Year. Both the Christmas cards that you, Dad & Mother, sent Clarence [Greer] and I reached us the other day. We both thank you very much. Our Xmas packages have not reached us yet but I think they will be here before long. The last letter was written Nov. 16. I am so sorry that you have so long and often had to go without word from me. I know that even now you are waiting to hear and I pray that that letter may travel like lightning. I did my very best through it all and from now on I will be able to send letters regularly. And I sure will.
            Christmas 1918 in Germany will be one that I will never forget. I don’t deny that I have felt rather homesick. It would be strange if a fellow did not. But it has been a mighty pleasant day. It snowed last night and the ground & trees were beautifully white when we got up this morning. We had a rip roaring Christmas dinner for the army. Roast Beef, mashed potatoes & gravy and even Apple pie. Wonderful for a bunch of fellows that have existed on corn beef and hard tack through the war. The YMCA gave us a box of candy with this inscription “A Merry Xmas from the folks at home through the YMCA.” Mighty nice. We have a good YMCA here now & a fine man. First time we have had anything like that for a long time and it will mean a lot this winter. As I say this has been a mighty pleasant day.
It is now after supper. I have spent a lot of time writting letters. I am going to write to Sis tonight. Her letter with the gum in it came last night and I sure appreciated it. Also want to tell you that the papers are coming. Nov 11 & 12th are the latest. By the way. Some fellows get little stuff like gum & Hershies Almond bar chocolate wrapped up in those rolls of papers once in a while.
I wrote you a letter telling you about our history but for fear you might not get it I will repeat it. Anyhow I wrote some stuff that might not get by [the censors] and might cause the letter to be cut up so as to cut out some of the other. We left Camp Merritt on Sunday morning July 21 and hiked 5 miles to the Hudson river where we boarded a ferry boat and took a little trip on the river to 23rd st landing N. York where we boarded to U.S. Transport, Harrisburg. We sailed at 9am the next morning. The first night out our convoy of 14 transports 2 battle ship cruisers & several destroyers was attack[ed] by two submarines. We were called on deck by general alarm at 3 am. It was a bright moonlight night and guns were firing all around. One of the subs got away and the other was sunk. Two days off the coast of Ireland we were met by the British destroyers. The next day they sunk a submarine with their depth bombs. All of our ships landed safely in Liverpool on Sunday morning Aug 4. We went direct by train through the heart of England to Romsey. Two days later we hiked five miles to South Hampton where we boarded a vessel and crossed the channel. Landed the next morning in La Harve, France and were shipped “a la box car” to Bordeaux to a replacement camp. After a few days there we were sent to the front as replacements for the second regular army division. Clarence [Greer] and I joined this Company at Pompey (near Nancy) on Aug 21. Sept 1 we went to the front where we had our initial work under shell fire in the St Mihiel drive which was a rip roaring success. In October we were in the big drive on the Champagne front. A few days after the drive started we had our kitchen stationed in Mt St Remy which before the drive started was a big Amunition base depot for the Germans. Late in October we moved to the Argon sector and our drive there ended up on the Meuse river front on the 11th month, 11th day & 11th hour. For the next week we worked day & night hauling supplies & clothes. Our division along with the 1st & 42nd (the rainbow division) was picked for the third army (the army of occupation). On Nov 17 we left Buzancy (near Beaumont) and started on the long trip through Belgium, Luxemburg and into Germany. The people of Belgium sure treated us fine. We crossed the Rhine on the afternoon of Dec 14 and are now nicely located in Niederbeiber, a small town near Coblenz. We are connected by trolley with Coblenz and all the good towns. We had it rough through the war but are setting on the world with good clean dry places to sleep, a bath house in town, and good eats. Paradise for a soldier over here. I guess we will be here all winter. Hope to be home in the spring. It will be a great day when we get home. Clarence will come for a visit after he has been home for a while. We will go to Aunt Jessie’s together and you will go with us. Won’t that be fun.

Young Harry at Aunt Jessie’s        © Harry Faris 2010

            Gee that fresh bread and fried mush you were eating for breakfast sure sounded good. Man, wait until I get home. I’ll show you how to eat Mothers cooking. I have an appetite like a horse and sure am feeling fine.
            Be sure and write often. I will too now that I can.
                                                                        Oceans of love,
(Send this to Sis & I won’t write her all about where we have been)