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]

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