Doughboy Center

The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces

7th Division

Through the Eyes of a
World War I Private

Machine Gun Company, 55th Infantry, Seventh Division

Presented the Great War Society

Presented by Thomas Ethan Lindholtz and Richard Jeffery Lindholtz

Typical Specimen of TDL Letter

Private Tom Lindholtz, machine gunner with the 55th Infantry, chronicled his service in World War I in sixty letters home to his family. The originals like the one on the left are handwritten, usually on stationery provided by service organizations like the Knights of Columbus. His grandsons, Tom and Rick Lindholtz, have transcribed all the letters and present them to meetings of interested parties and have made them available on CD. For the Doughboy Center we have selected only Private Lindholdtz's immediate observations on his life as a soldier. These are presented otherwise without any editing in chronological sequence. One of his comments does require some explanation, however. Machine gun units were known as Suicide Squads or Clubs because when a position was being over-run, the machine gunners had to remain in place covering any withdrawal. However, since they always took a heavy toll among the opposition, under "Soldiers' Justice" they were most often not allowed to surrender. MH

Through Tom Lindholtz's Eyes

April 30, 1918, from Jefferson Barracks, Mo.

Well, we've been outfitted completely now and if a fellow came down naked he wouldn't be short much.

We have been given: 1 coat, 2 pair pants, 2 shirts, 1 pair leggings, 1 pair shoes, 5 pair sox, 3 suits underwear, 1 hat, 3 pr shoe laces, 1 knife, fork, spoon, pan, & cup, 1 hairbrush, comb, toothbrush, soap, and two towels. Isn't that some outfit. Everything is fine and I will probably send home some more stuff when I get a chance.

You are practically compelled to taken out the insurance $10,000.00 as there is no more pension law and I took 10,000 as it is convertible into an endowment policy after the war. It is made out 5000 to Pa and 5000 to Ma which is payable at the rate of 57.50 a month for 20 years if anything should happen from now on. If Ma or Pa should not be alive then the policy reverts to the elder sister which would be Ada.

It only costs about 6.50 a month, so I guess its alright.

Approx. May 4, 1918, Camp MacArthur, Texas

Accommodations at Camp MacArthur

Well we are located now for at least two weeks for quarantine, and after that we will get our final company assignment.

We got another typhoid "shot in the arm" today and we get the last one ten days from now. That will end our quarantine and then we get our company assignment.

We are just ready to go to "chow" so I'll close now with lots of love to all.

Your loving boy

Wed May 22, 1918

I have certainly taken a liking to this life and it agrees with me. I eat like a horse and my bowels move like a clock. I'm tanning up in good style and as soon as we get out of quarantine I'll go over and get a few postal card views.

I have had no dirty work to do as I was appointed acting corporal of our tent and all I have to do is tell the others what to do.

Approx. May 26, 1918

I've been assigned temporarily to the machine gun company, but don't worry about that. Some people say it's a suicide club, but that isn't so. And it's only temporary so I won't be here very long.

May 28, 1918

I believe Ada asked me in one of her letters about the machine gun so I'll try to do a little explaining to show you that it is a thousand times better than the trenches.

In the first place a machine gun outfit does not fight in the trenches, but is way out at the ends or flanks of the line and changes its positions very often so they can't find it. They are always concealed or hidden by camouflage and we have four artists in our company who are just making a study of that.

By the way I received the French Dictionary and it is great. Our teacher told me that it was the best obtainable and asked me how & where I got it.

Approx. May 29, 1918

It certainly is great and the exercise is making me fit as a fiddle. We get plenty of breathing exercises too, and I tell you that Pa has got the right idea about exercising and deep breathing. And prunes too. We get plenty of them. We have been out to the target range this morning and practiced with the machine gun. It sure is a wonderful invention.

Machine gun work is not half as dangerous as they claim because there are so few men to a gun and they are spread so far apart that they make a poor target. The men lay flat on the ground and you can hardly see them at 50 ft distance.

June 1st, 1918

I am assigned to the Machine Gun Company of the 55th Infantry and we are a special unit, detached from the regiment. It's a pretty good company and better than straight infantry by far. Some people call it a Suicide Club, but don't let them kid you. It is not.

Sat. Eve. 6/29/18

My dear Folks:-

I've just finished a good square meal at the Y.W.C.A. and I'll wind up the evening by writing a few letters. There is to be a band concert here at 8 o'clock and I want to get thru with my letters before they start. First I'll tell you I received the BVDs and also my Sunday paper, but as yet the glasses haven't arrived. Hereafter if you send anything of value, be sure to insure it, as there is so much that gets lost that its worth the trouble to insure. Besides everything is so unsettled that we don't know what to expect. We are almost positive we won't be going over for quite a while, but we expect to move soon to some other camp. While I think of it, I'll tell you all the dope on my address. I'm in the 7th Division, 13th Brigade 55th Infantry, Machine Gun Co. My serial number is 482572. Be sure to save this information and copy it off, so it don't get lost. The best place to put it is on the calendar, I suppose.

Tuesday Noon 7/9/18

Well, here I am out in the wilderness, in the "Deserts of Texas", where there is nothing but sagebrush and cactus for miles & miles. We tramped it yesterday for twenty-two miles, about three miles further than we expected to go. There is nothing around for miles and miles except an occasional tree and we can fire away without any danger of hitting anyone.

Learning the Machine Gun

We left yesterday AM at 8:30 and arrived about 4 PM. We walk 50 minutes and rest 10 minutes. Inside of 3 hours after we arrived the place looked like a regular camp and we pitched tents, dug ditches and latrines and had everything hunky-dory.

This camp life is great out here and I am crazy about it (except for the drill, drill, drill.) However they are easing up a little now and we get two hours rest in the middle of the day which splits it up nicely.

Approx. July 17, 1918.

It looks like we are sure going over but I don't feel a bit afraid of it, and I don't want you to feel bad because we all know that the trip across is safe, and it will be from three to six months before we see any service, as there's absolutely no need of worrying.

Approx. July 19, 1918.

Just passed thru Parson Kansas and dropped you a card. From what I can dope out we will go thru St. Louis and then across possibly to Cincinnati.

This train is pretty shaky so you'll have to excuse the handwriting.

We are having fine meals and travelling ala Pullman. Three of us were lucky enough to get a compartment so we have it just fine. Already we are out of the hot belt and it is nice and cool riding.

Mon. July 22, 1918

Well at last we arrived after an even hundred hours of traveling and believe me it was some trip. Three of us had a compartment so we traveled in style and were very comfortable. The meals were fine and we enjoyed it all the way. The Red cross met us at every stop and gave us postals, stamps, oranges, ice cream cones and things like that. Our stops were about one to two hours at those places and we'd always take a walk for exercise. It looks like we won't be here for more than about five days before we sail and I'm real anxious.

At sea - Aug - 1918

The Leviathan, Formerly Vaterland

Today is our [_first whole?_] day at sea, and we expect to see land again in a couple of days. Of course I can't tell you where we expect to land, but no doubt it will be where all the rest land.

So far it has been a wonderful trip, a calm sea, nobody sick, and everybody happy. The ship we are riding is some ship and I tell you right now, it's a floating palace. They have movies at night and we are kept busy during the day going up on deck and being chased down about as quick as we get up. There are [__] decks, and the ship is equipped from A to Z. Swimming pool, shower bath, hospital, and everything imaginable.

We wear life preservers all the time and have Abandon Ship Drill every day, so there is practically no danger as far as a panic is concerned.

"Somewhere in France" Aug, 1918

Since I last wrote, I've been "busted" from lance-corporal to "buck private", but I'm really not shedding any tears over it, as I can just as well take orders from a "$12.00 a week" corporal as I could if I were him and taking orders from a "$15.00 a week" sergeant. If I lost out through an examination of any kind I might feel bad, but I think I forgot more last week than some of them will ever know.

Nevertheless I shall continue to soldier just as I have been doing and not worry any over it. We have a good company commander and there isn't a man in the company that wouldn't go to hell for him, and every one of us will go the limit for him.

Somewhere in France Oct 30, 1918

I just managed to scare up a couple of pieces of paper and if I write real small maybe I'll have enough for a letter, even though I haven't any envelope yet. We have just returned from an 18 day trip up at the front line and it was real exciting, interesting, amusing, and hair-raising. Most of the time a fellow is so mad and angry that he could eat a whole army of Huns, and when it's all over you can't help laughing. It's all due to the hardships which a fellow gets used to after while.

We are at present back for a few days rest and from all the peace talks going on we not get a chance to go back to the front again.

We had one real strenuous night at the front and I figure I was pretty nearly done for, but I came out just as safe and sane as I was in, barring a few scratches.

We had quite an exciting time at the front and one night in particular had my goat. We got into a terrific artillery barrage which lasted fifty minutes and I began to said "Goodbye" but the shell with my name on didn't arrive, and after it was all over we laughed and joked just the same as before. It came so suddenly we didn't get a chance to go to a dugout and we layed flat on the ground while the shells whistled and busted all around us.

Machine Gunners in Action

There are so many things to write about but most of them are prohibited by the censor, so I can't say much, but life in a dugout is quite interesting and between cooties, skippers, and crumbs, a fellow keeps scratching all the time. Nevertheless, its lots of fun, and I'd a whole lot rather be right her now, than walking the streets of Chicago in civilian clothes.

I don't think I've had a sick day since I've been in the army and I've stood some of the worst exposures that anyone could dream of. One night we slept in the woods after an all day hike and it rained pitchforks and cats. I woke up under a wet blanket, and was soaked from head to foot, but I dried out and felt tip-top in a couple of hours.

Nov 14th, 1918

My Darling Mother:-

Since writing you last, I was up to the front again; and was in on the final drive which brought peace the morning after, although I never expected to see daylight again, the battling was so terrific. We went over the top and captured a hill they have taken and lost about six times. We were two days doing it, without food or sleep and were relieved on the morning peace was declared.

I am now enroute some rest camp being one of four lucky fellows to get a seven day furlough and believe me I'm happy. I'll write you all the details of it when I return. We expect to land somewhere near Monte Carlo and will be three days travelling each way and seven days there.

My company is bound for Rhina and its about 150 kilometers hike. I am hoping they will be there by the time I rejoin them. There isn't any hope of being home by Christmas but I'm happy as a bird as long as there aren't any more shells to face.

Nov. 28, 1918

We are not to be used for occupational troops after all, and I believe that we may get home before I had hoped. At present we are right back at the front line where we left off fighting and are busy gathering up salvage clothing, equipment, ammunition, and barbed wire entanglements.

To begin with we sailed from Hoboken on Aug 3rd on the Leviathan which was formerly the German Trans-Atlantic "Vaterland" and landed at Brest France on Aug 11th after eight days of smooth sailing with very few sick.

We then rested a few days at a camp outside the city and continued our journey inland to Corezy-Le-Chatel which lays near Dijon and stayed there about five weeks. That is where we got our preliminary training and on Sept 29 we started again toward the firing line. We stopped for a week or more at another camp and on Oct 7th at 4 am we moved again for the front. These moves are all made on foot and at night with full packs so its no joke.

On the night of Oct 4th we moved up to the firing line and stayed up there until Peace was declared.

Of course we weren't in the very front line all the time, but there wasn't a day that we weren't dodging shells and some days we were way out in No Man's Land. In fact, the night before Peace was declared I spent in a shell hole out in No Man's Land and I never expected to see dawn. We have been fighting in what was called the Lout Sector on the St Mihiel front and were directly in front of Metz. We are right in the same place today, cleaning up and covering up the scars of war, such as shell holes, ammunition, etc.

Our chances of getting home soon look brighter every day, and I hope to see the states before February. We are right near Nancy if you know where that is.

Feb 11th, 1919

It's just six months ago today that I landed in France and it seems like six years. I'm really no closer to home than I was then.

I've been booked to go from here for about three weeks but everything turns out to be a false rumor and the result is I'm still here.

The latest rumor seems to be the most reliable, and that is that we will leave here very shortly for Southern France and after a few weeks of examinations we may start for home. That's the best information I can gather.

Feb. 18, 1919

I just read an article in the paper, disclosing the war plans before the signing of the armistice and it said there was to be a big drive on Metz, Nov. 14th and our division was to be on the flank which means we would have had to bear the brunt of the fighting. It would have been the greatest battle of the war and as it was heavily fortified I suppose we would have had heavy losses.

Luckily we didn't have that battle to do, and I'm not sorry.

At sea - Mar 20, 1919

I'm writing this before we land so I can mail it as soon as we hit shore. The first thing I shall do is wire for fifty dollars as I'm dead broke and may want to buy a few things.

We sailed from France on the 14th and have had real smooth sailing so far. We are on a small boat, "The Pastarco" and it will be about a fourteen day trip on the water so I figure we will land on the 23rd or 24th.

Sources and Thanks: Tom and Rick Lindholtz reserve all rights for the use of this material. They may be contacted at: MH

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