8. Preparing for an Action in the Champagne,
My dear Mother,
At the last writing about a week ago, we were up behind the American front having just completed another term of service in the line. That surely was a well planned and well executed operation of the St. Mihiel salient. We thought we were coming out for a rest but we had not been in billets more than 72 hrs when we packed up; hiked 5 miles and entrained for somewhere else in France. Well you have probably read of the American offensive North of Verdun by this time. This sure has been a strenuous summer in my young life And now as the chilly winds begin to make you hug the camp fires and the kitchen stove, and sometimes drive you down to a deep dugout where you sit and shiver, your feet wet and your blanket soggy. Ugh! I sure long for that hot, blistering clime where the mangoes grow and the fat banyas [Indian merchants] sit cross-legged and fan the flies away from the luddies and gulabjamans [Indian candies]. Ai yo Karruman! [?]
As I sit here on a little wire cot with the light coming down the shaft of this "abri" [dugout] some 30 feet down in the chalky bowels of the plains of Champagne, and think of the delightful peaceful winter that is your prospect in India. I kind of hope that the war will soon be over and I can get back and smell the jasmine blooms and sniff the piney breezes of old 'Cheena" and Aryapatta [locales in India]. Well things, look pretty bright and everyone is in fine spirits.
We are in the support of French troops and can notice how hopeful everyone is now. We just got the word last evening of Bulgaria's unconditional surrender and with the allies attacking victoriously everywhere why we all feel pretty fine. Yesterday evening an aviator just returning from the front line was evidently so tickled with the success of the poilus that he dove straight down at us for about a thousand feet and then turned two loops just over our heads in fine form and then flew back with his report. The French are all in so much better spirits than when we first came over. It is all very encouraging. It's bloody. It's wasteful. It's devilish. But it's all for the good of humanity. The goal of a just peace with the German spirit crushed and Kaiserism with all it entails wiped off the map is what we are all freezing and bleeding and working for. May it soon come that is what we all pray.
Well Mother dear, this is the first of October, so I guess you will receive this letter somewhere around the middle of next month It may or may not reach you during your birthday week, Let us hope so, and call it your birthday letter. I hope it finds you well. John and I have so often wished for a good photograph of you all to carry with us during these troubled days as an inspiration and a sharer in our burdens. No gift for Christmas would please us more. It seems peculiar that I should have the opportunity to write a birthday letter to you just before going into battle. We are located on the crest of a hill in a fairly battered old woods in the old French, second line trenches. An old road built by the engineers of Julius Caesar, runs by the to this dugout. We have been here about two days and the battle still rages. The French are having a hard time getting old Heinie out of his trench system for it is 13 miles deep in this sector. Our guns have pounded and the men have attacked incessantly for 4 days and at last we [the French] have broken through the last kilometer of barbed wire and trench defended ground Is being bombarded by the heavy guns right ahead of us.
Another grim attack will follow when comes our turn. And we are going to chase him. Lots of fun ahead ______. It's fun[ny] in a way, but then many a thing in life has to be made funny to bear it at all. If we let our mentality get the hold on our nerves and on our emotions we couldn't obey our orders and that's all there is to it. It's a matter of sinking ones individuality as a whole into the fight and not using reason as a basis. It's hard sometimes but it's all in the game. And mother dear, that old adage you taught us all of Grin and bear It" is the one saviour In the mental life that is the result of this subjugation to self to the ultimate goal and the concentrated spirit of the whole thing. A smile is the best cure for all evil at the right time.
I thank God, I have a mother, who taught me how to smile in the face of everything. May you live many more useful year my mother darling and bless the world with your presence.
Love to you all from John and I.
Your devoted son