August 19, 1918

                                                                        “Somewhere In France”
Dear Mother & Dad:-,
            I am going to write a letter today even though I cannot mail it for a few days. We are on the go again and at present are laying off for a few hours at a place where there is a Red Cross Canteen and a YMCA. I expect mayby you are thinking of me most as much as I am thinking of you today. Twenty-one years ago today I never thought that I would spend my twenty-first birthday as I am “somewhere”, I know not where, in France travelling in a box car. I am glad now that I enlisted for now that I am of age I am almost ready to go into the real thing instead of just registering and waiting for the draft and the preliminary in the states, which I have gone through, before I would be ready to do my part. I think you are glad too. Clarence and I are still together and one of the Denver boys. Harve, the other one was assigned to another division from the last camp. He is a dandy fellow and we sure hated to part with him but had to do it anyhow. Harve (Harvey Hansen) & Tom (Tom Clifford) are there names. We three have great plans for after the war. Tom has had two years in the Colorado School of Mines & He is going to finish after the war & Harve & I are going with him. The war can’t last very long now & if we are not in school next fall I am sure we will be by Sept 1920. In the mean time it is a sinch that we will all get on the active firing line before the war is over. Thats what we are here for now and nothing else matters much at present. Still it is kind of nice to have some definite plans for what we will do after we beat the Dutch. Yesterday was the fifth successive Sunday we have spent travelling. It has become a habit for us to say, as the end of a week approaches, that we will be sure of getting out of wherever we are by Sunday. We are having a lot of fun out of it all even if it is not the most luxurious way of living. There are many things of intrest that we see each day that I can tell you all about when we get home. Meanwhile I will write as often as I can. It has been a month & almost a week since we left Camp Jackson & all that time with no mail so I am getting pretty anxious for the time when we will stay in one place long enough to hear from home. I will close now & will add a little more when we reach the end of our journey.
                                                                        Lots of love to all,
Aug. 22, 1918:- We are now located in a permanent organization. Clarence & I were lucky enough to get in same outfit. But it is not artillery. It is amunition train. We should worry. We lost Tom. Don’t know what they put him in. This is written by very poor moonlight. Write this address:
            Pvt. Harry Faris
                                                            Co. D.
                                                            2nd Am. Tn. *
                                                            A.E.F. France

P.S. Send me a bunch of newspapers now and then. I think they will come ok.


* Ammunition Train

September 14, 1918

                                                                        Sept 14, 1918
Dear Mother, Dad, & Sis:-
            Once more I find that I have time to write on Sat. evening when I may not tomorrow. I was glad I wrote last Sat. eve as I sure would not have had time right away again. This week has been one with many new experiences for me. In it I had my first experience under actual shell fire from the enemy. It was not much as far as war goes but was enough for a starter. I had been up around our artillery but never beyond where shells from Germany were singing to us. It was early in the morning before daylight when I heard the first one coming & heard it bust & saw stuff flying a little ways ahead. Gee! I felt empty. Had a right to however as I had had only a sandwich to eat since breakfast the morning before. After that they came over pretty fast for a while. One officer was wounded. Everyone else was lucky. I was not sorry when we started to pull out of there but don’t guess I was the only one. Lots of excitment. The day before I stood causualy observing a bunch of areoplanes go over my head about as high as an ordinary tree when all at once I heard bang bang & saw a couple of fellows firing at them with rifles. They were boche planes & did not know it until they were almost gone. We sure are lucky compared to the “doughboys”[1] as when our work is done we can haul out to a safe place for some grub & a little sleep.

 “40 & 8 Dining Service”[2] ©Harry Faris 2010

            It has now been two months since I received my last mail. A bunch of mail came in today & I thought we would sure get some but nothing doing. I hope before long. But say we get real American editions of papers printed in France. A few days ago I picked one up and turned to the “doings at home” colum. What do you think. The first item was dated “Hutchinson Kansas Sept 8” and told that W.Y. Morgan would soon leave for France to go into YMCA war work. Bully for him. He sure will be a dandy man. You can’t realize what the YMCA & red cross means to us over here. A big husky jolly YMCA man goes with this train. You notice where all my writting paper comes from. He carries candy, cookies, tobacco and junk like that with him. Not much but it seems so to the soldiers who if it were not for him could get nothing much from the French but wine & beer & get stung like the dickens for that. Of course he does not cause the French wine shops to go broke. But a fellow can get something else if he wants to. The red cross comes in farther up. I was served hot chocolate by a red cross man located in a dugout[3] where you could hear the shrapnel go pitty pat above. None of us had had anything to eat for about sixteen hours & it was a cold damp old night & hot chocolate sure hit the spot. He would not sell anything up there. He just give it to us.
            Well I must close & get some sleep while I can.
                                                                        Lots of love to all,

[1] See Aug. 19 letter.  Harry is with the 2nd Ammunition Train, hauling ammunition to the batteries.  ‘The slang term “doughboy” was used to refer to American infantry soldiers through the First World War…Despite the rumor that Europeans coined the term because Americans were “slow to rise” to join the First World War, infantry soldiers were also called doughboys during the Mexican American War, from 1846-1847, and it is likely that the term became widespread during that period. Like slang terms in many languages, the origins of the word are rather murky, and there are a number of competing theories to explain how the doughboy came to be…Initially, members of the mounted cavalry used "doughboy" as a derogatory term for members of the infantry, who were generally looked down upon by other members of the armed forces…By World War One, however, the doughboys had adopted the term for themselves, and were using it in letters home and to describe themselves…Europeans used the word as a blanket term for all American soldiers, or Yanks.’
[2] The trip was planned with three days' rations, but with no means for cooking food or heating drinks enroute. The only attempt made to serve troops with hot drinks was at the so-called "Coffee Stops." These occurred at rare intervals subject to the caprice of the French Railroad officials; at these stops our men clambered from the cars, formed in line, and were served a luke warm, nauseating liquid, presumably charged up to Uncle Sam as a real substitute for the good old issue. It was on this trip that our men first used that antiquated and battle scarred side-door pullman, henceforth to be known to the doughboy as "40 HOMMES, 8 CHEVAUX" [40 men, 8 horses]. In these carriages, scarcely larger than a piano box, were crowded thirty-two men plus their equipment and rations, and although subjected on this and future movements to considerable scorn and ridicule, this means of transportation served its purpose throughout our continental traveling experience. These troop trains carried no conveniences such as heat, water, urinals and the like, so that it was only on occasional stops that the men had an opportunity to relieve themselves, refill their canteens and take a hurried run around a square or two to warm up.  J.F. Oakleaf. Notes on the Operations of the 108th Infantry Overseas. New York: Olean Times Publishing Company, 1921
[3] dugout. n. 3: a fortification of earth; mostly or entirely below ground [syn: bunker]

September 22, 1918

Dear Dad, Mother & Sis:-
Another week has rolled by and I will continue my one sided conversation with you all.  You all used to say I did about all the talking and I sure am now.  Still no mail.  Confound the luck.  I wonder if you are getting my letters.  If not we sure are having a great time jabbering at each other like a long distance telephone on a stormy day only a heap worse.  Gee how I wish I could tell you all I would like to.  It was not so bad last winter when I was out in New Mexico cause then I could write and tell you all I was doing and you could write back.  I recon our mail will blow on before long.  Some of the fellows have been getting some. 
The last two weeks sure have been busy ones for us.  It’s all over now.  The first period of service at the front for me.  We are back in a little town now for a sort of rest and a chance to clean up, sleep up and get fed up again.[1]  None of our company got hurt in this trip.  Every body is sort of tired and all “cootied up”[2].  Tom and his outfit went over the top.[3]  I was up the afternoon of the morning they went over and he told me all about [it].  We saw a heap of boche prisoners brought back.  Plenty of shells were busting around us at [the] time.  One fellow who was in our old battery at Camp Jackson was killed.  He was in another company of the Amunition Train.  Tom said one hit near the edge of the trench he was in and blame near buried him with dirt when it caved in.  
You would not think that anything in war could be interesting but the areoplane fights really are wonderful to watch.  No bird can pull off the stunts they do.  It really looks like a lot of birds twisting around in the air spitting smoke at each other.  They are hard to hit because they go so fast.  Some of them get it too.  
We are now stationed in a real pretty little village.  Sleeping in atticks, hay mows and the like.  Up to now I did not think much of the French people but the people here are bright clean people.  The town is clean too which is more than I can say for any other village I have seen.  The people seem most as pleasant and intelligent as the English.  And this is a heap prettier country than any we have been in before.  Perhaps it seems so because it is not full of trenches and shell holes.

Shell hole
© Harry Faris 2010

Boy heck.  I hear the village church bell ringing.  I think I will quit and hunt up Greer and go to church and see what it is like.  I was out on a trip this morning & did not get back till after dinner.  Have been inside of a real church just twice since I joined the army.
            Oceans of love,


[1] “As the war ground on, the fighting forces in the trenches faced a bizarre existence.  Soldiers were rotated in and out of the front lines, sometimes going to the countryside, where they bathed, rested, ate well…Then, back in the trenches, they were faced with the misery of mud, slugs, frogs, rodents, lice, and often utter boredom.”  Kathlyn Gay and Martin Gay. World War I . New York: Twenty-First Century Books, 1995.
[2] "Cooties", in the World War One sense of the word, were tiny little bugs that lived in the seams of uniforms for that unlucky multitude who lived in the trenches.
[3] Over the top – Once the artillery bombardment had pounded the enemy’s defenses, the infantry climbed out of the trenches and advanced toward enemy lines… Gaps in the defensive line were filled by highly mobile machine gunners. Against them a soldier armed with only a rifle and bayonet and laden with heavy equipment was an easy target. Simon Adams. Eyewitness WORLD WAR I. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2001.

Oct. 16, 1918

Dear Mother & Dad:-
            It sure has been a long time since I have written you. Over two weeks. I told you once that I would write you as often as I could and it still goes. There have been a few times in this time that I could have written if I could have got hold of any paper.
            Up to and after the last letter I wrote you I had received no mail. You asked me to carry your addresss & a request that you be written in case anything happened to me. I did not tell you but I have done that since before we sailed. I don’t want you to worry about me cause heck I am coming back. Its just an accident when a fellow gets “bumped off”. Of course there are a lot of accidents but really these boche can’t put a shell where they want it to save their neck. That is the only thing we are ever in danger of is shell fire and I have never seen them hit the road. First they go a little over, then not quite far enough and pretty soon they get disgusted and give it up and retreat some more. These Germans sure are some runners. They sure keep us going to keep up with them.
Yesterday was the first time in three days that we have seen any water to wash in or had time to wash hardly. We were in a town one night that the Germans were in that morning. Water was scarce. Next morning they said no water to wash in even for the General.
If you have been reading the papers lately you can guess what we have been doing. We think it will be over before long & I will be home before you know it. It is hard while it lasts. Our infantry has suffered some terrible losses and the sights we see as we follow them up are more terrible than words can tell. I don’t mind seeing the woods & fields covered with dead Boche but it is awful to see Americans laying there too. It cannot be over too quick. Every day American boys are dieing for the victories of the hour.
            This is a rainy old morning and we are living in our pup tent again. The town we are supposed to be in is all shot to heck and we couldn’t find any buildings to live in that had any roof on.

Bombed out building in France
© Harry Faris 2010

            Will close for this time.
                                                                        With love,

Nov. 25, 1918

                                                                       Somewhere in Luxemburg
Dear Mother Dad & Sis:-
            It has been almost a month since I wrote a scratch and I am afraid you will be worried. But it has just been impossible to write since the first of the month when things began to happen fast. Most of the time there was no way to mail letters. A few days there was but I was out nearly all the time then. Of course you probably know as much & more than we know now. We went through one heck of a drive that spelled finish for the Germans and the armstice[1] and that you know about. Greer and I are both ok. Some of our men were killed & wounded and some died of disease. Spanish Influenza[2] got some but we missed that. I have been almost sick with a cold but am allright now. We are stopped in a little village for a few days. Have been on the road all the time & will be for some time. Don’t know how long it will be before things are settled up so we can go home but hope it may be before so very long. Some think by Xmas. Others are pessimistic and say not before spring. One guy said he would be satisfied if he were home by spring. I said I would be too, next spring, but that in the mean time I would sure be dissatisfied. But the time is coming when we will be home Mother dear. If we can just keep well under the exposure that we are having to be under.

It means an awful lot to get home and I guess we will get there allright. There is not much that a guy can write now but believe me there will be a lot that I can tell you when I get home. Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me often but I will write as often as I can. There is only one place in this town where there is a fire and a guy can write a letter and that is the salon[3] but I guess it is better than no letter. The ink we bought in a store is called “Kaiser tinte”[4]: It will do to write a letter with too. I have been all around Leonard Hudsons Regiment and once located his company but we were on the move and I did not have time to hunt him up. I don’t think they are coming up with us now. I saw Tom the other day. He is allright. Will close for this time.
                                                                        Love to all,

[1] The most notable armistice, and the one which is still meant when people say simply "The Armistice", is the armistice at the end of World War I, on 11 November, 1918, signed near Compi├Ęgne, France, and effective at the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." Armistice Day is still celebrated in many countries on the anniversary of that armistice; alternatively 11 November, or a Sunday near to it, may still be observed as a Remembrance Day.
[2] The 1918 "Spanish" flu pandemic: An estimated 50 million people, about 3% of the world's population (approximately 1.6 billion at the time), died of the disease. An estimated 500 million, or 1/3 were infected.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jeffery K. Taubenberger and David M. Morens. 1918 Influenza: the Mother of All Pandemics, January, 2006. Retrieved on May 9, 2009. Archived 2009-10-01.
It was called "Spanish" because the press in Spain, not being involved in the Great War, were the first to report on its impact. It is thought that the virus may have played a role in ending WW1 as soldiers were too sick to fight, and by that stage more men died of flu than were killed by weapons. 
“In all, 62,000 American service personnel died of the flu – more than were killed in battle.” H.P. Willmott. World War I.  New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2003.
[3] Salon – French word for lounge
[4] Tinte – German word for ink

Dec. 15, 1918

                                                                        Bendorf Germany
Dear Mother, Dad & Sis:-
This is one day when I am going to write a letter and I think it can be mailed in the near future. None of my letters that I have written since the war[,] have started [been mailed yet] as we have had no out going mail on this big trip. There is a lot that I want to tell you so I’ll start a way back. The first letter I wrote you may sound sort of blue as I was still sick[1]. About half the company was sick and a lot went to the hospital but a lot of us managed to stick it out on the trip and now we are here. I am feeling fine today and have been for some time. We have had really a wonderful trip through Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany. We crossed the Rhine yesterday afternoon (Dec 14) about 4:30. We are stationed at present in a real nice little city with good bunks to sleep in in upstairs rooms of buildings in the main part of the city and real street cars go by all the time. Reminds one sort of home. We are beginning to be civilized now. The other day were all taken to a big bath house for a bath and I put on new socks, underwear, shirt & trousers and felt like a human being. It was the first real bath I had had since Oct. 27[2] except for sponge baths from a bucket of water. Oct 27 to Dec 13 is some time. Today I got a hair cut in a Dutch barber shop and we have a good place to keep clean so we are setting on the world. Also got my ingersoll[3] watch fixed.
We got one months pay the other day, the first we have had. Only $7.50 and I owed half of it and it is all gone now. I bought a bunch of post cards to bring home with me. Also bought this paper. We have no YMCA.
            Your last letter was wonderful. The one written at the close of the war. I am so dreadful sorry that no mail has started home from me but it has been impossible as no mail has been sent. I know you will feel uneasy until you get these letters which will come all at once. If there was any way I could cable you I sure would, but someday you will get this and someday I will be home and that will be the great day.
            Did I never tell you that I am in the second division[4] which is one of the three crack[5] divisions as well as one of the divisions picked for the army of occupation. We hope to be relieved and sent home but I don’t know if there is any chance.
            No I never got the letter with gum [censored]

[1] Harry does not clearly state it, but it appears he had the Spanish Flu and didn’t want to worry the family.
[2] November 1, 1918 - After pausing to regroup and resupply, Allied armies resume their eastward march as the U.S. 1st Army and newly formed U.S. 2nd Army attack remaining German positions along the Meuse River near southern Belgium.
[3] Ingersoll found lasting fame with its Yankee one-dollar timepiece (“The watch that made the dollar famous”); it sold over 50 million of them between 1895 and 1918.
[4] “The 2nd Division, 25,000 men strong, contained a brigade of regular Marines and a brigade of volunteer army troops.” Zachary Kent. World War I The War to End Wars. Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1994.
[5] crack (krak), adj. of superior excellence. Webster's Approved Dictionary, 
The World Publishing Company, 1954, Cleveland and New York