IN THEIR OWN WORDS ...
Time Frame: Boot Camp thru Shipping Over
Continuous from April 1917
U.S. NAVY - VITAL FOR VICTORY
After declaring war, the United States institutes conscription, federalizes the National Guard and expands the Regular Army and Marine Corps. Secretary of War Newton Baker here picks the first draft number.
An order came from the War Department to present myself at the
local draft board on Sunday morning... at 6:45 am, prepared for roll
call, as it was put. I reported on time but had a long wait for it
was not until 10:20 am that I marched down Germantown Avenue to Broad
Street with hundreds of others who had likewise been ordered to go to
camp. Crowds lined the avenue...
Sgt. Maximilian Boll, 79th Division
Unpublished manuscript, FIRST JOURNEY
Arrived at Camp Dix, Wrightstown, New Jersey 10 PM. Stood in
pouring rain until midnight while two men in contingent were deloused.
Then marched to barracks.
Corporal Eugene Kennedy, 78th Division
...From 7:30 to 10:45 we have infantry drill, bayonet drill and
physical exercise. That doesn't mean 5 minutes drill and rest
either... A total 20 minutes rest in that time. We generally have ...
combat problems between 1:00 and 4:00 pm rain, mud or dust... [Then] 28
inch steps at 140 steps per [minute] on a hike of several miles...
Recruit Named Bill
You probably are thinking the army has swallowed me up and that
consequently all of my relations with civilization have been
severed... After 10 weeks in the army I am, of course, getting
accustomed to the life. But I can't say I like it.
I have saved a little money, and when I get back home I'm goin'
to buy me two mules, and name on of 'em Corporal and the other one
Sergeant; then I'm goin' to lick hell out of both of 'em!
Nearly every fellow's parents and sweetheart were down to the train to see us off. Will, Del, and myself rode down with Art in his machine. The send off we received was a royal one and gave us a thrill we will long remember. Bill, Del, Ensley, and I were put into different cars but we managed to get to-gether despite specific orders not to leave our coaches. After four different officers had counted us to see that none were missing we finally pulled out for a destination unknown. As soon as we passed Delray and crossed the Pere Marquette tracks I knew that we were on the Toledo division and were going around Lake Erie. Donations of tobacco and gum that had been given us were passed around and we settled ourselves for a long journey passing the time in various ways; some playing cards, others shooting craps, and still others singing and playing string instruments which they had brought along.
Pvt. Hazen S. Helmrich, 3rd Army Hospital/Base Hospital 17
Well we are in NY. At last we arrived last night about nine
o clock we are now on the Hudson river about 20 miles from NY on the New
Jersey side. We are going to be here tell they get us every thing for over
seas service. That will take about two or three days. We have to be examined
again before we leave.
Well Minnie I never had a better time in my life than I did on this trip. We were yelling at everything even like hills and trees. When we went through a city we were all hanging out the windows and yelling with all our might we were met at every station by people they were sure glad to see us they waved flags and thrower kisses at us at home the
people are nothing like the people here they are more connected with the
war. When we arrived at new Jersey City We were met by a lot of girls some
of the boys went a little strong on there talk those who behaved there
selves were treated fine. I kissed a hundred girls and some of them two or
three times; there was one little girl who I would of liked to take along.
She was a little basfull but when she came to me she said I was a pretty
nice boy I had one of the boys hold my feet and hung out the window and she
loved me something offel [awful].
. . .[T]ell all the boys at home to get into there fighting
cloths and be ready to back us up and tell the girls that there is a very
important duty for them that is to keep the boys in good humer and not be
stuck up. . .[and] tell everybody that I am on my way and am going to keep going
till I get to Berlin.
Pvt. Joseph Reisacker, 356th Infantry, 89th Division
...As to leaving, we hear rumors and rumors and then some more rumors,
but I have it directly and on the very best of authority that tonight
is the night... All I can say is when letters stop, I've left here.
Private Gerald Keith, 74th Artillery
Weds. 2nd Got paid, and left Camp Devens at 2:30 P.M. and finished
the day in New York...
Thurs. 3rd Took ferry at Harlem & got off to go aboard transport --
Hamburg American liner "Amerika." Located in the third bunk from the
deck... rotten bed tonight, but the first one in 28 hours.
Fri. 4th Pulled out of dock at 2:30 P.M. and lost sight of lights
at 9 P.M. Lt. Morris & Sgt. Lawrence worked hard to get us fed and
did very well. No lights or smoking on deck.
Sgt. Edwin Bemis, 29th Engineers
On July 15th, we started our voyage, at 7 am, on the transport
Northern Pacific. The first day was quite thrilling with the
destroyers dashing around us and a dirigible balloon and seaplane
But the second day -- wow ! Sick isn't a strong enough word.
There were [also] a bunch of negro engineers on board from the deep
south, a new experience for me.
Our convoy left us and our boat and the sister ship, Great
Northern, were hitting it along at a great rate. I was called upon to
furnish two shifts or reliefs of twenty-four men each for watch
guard. From then on to the end of the trip I was busy day and night,
roosting reliefs and on the watch for submarines. At nite we slept on
the deck and the guard was fortunate as the poor fellows who were
sleeping below nearly suffocated. I got sick whenever I went below,
but felt OK while I was on deck.
Sgt. Edwin Gerth, 51st Artillery
...At 1:15 PM the alarm bells sounded while we were attending a
lecture. We hurried to our berth compartments
as the guns boomed,
and then on deck. The sub was a porpoise.
Pvt. Otis E. Briggs, 1st Division
Unpublished manuscript, A COMMON SOLDIER
Artist's Concept of the Submarine Threat
THE YANKS ARRIVE IN FRANCE
About 2:30 in the morning we entered Havre, France. The cries and shouts of greeting of the boatmen and boatgirls woke us up. We gathered by the rail and gazed for the first time at the brilliantly lighted harbor and realized that we were in France. We could distinguish many shouts of Le Americaine out of the hubbub of French that was shouted at us. At ten in the morning while we were waiting on deck with our full equipment on, a trainload of 500 wounded came in on the wharf beside us. They were brought on board at once. About half of them were suffering from gas poisoning. Their skin was yellow and their eyes were protected from the sun by paper shades. Many had both legs amputated. A few were Germans who were put in the lowest ward below the water line. The harbor was jammed with warships, transports and hydro aeroplanes. We marched two miles to a British rest camp. We passed hundreds of German prisoners being marched to and fro from work. They were a dirty hard looking lot. They all examined us minutely and I would have given a lot to know what they thought.
Pvt. Hazen S. Helmrich
3rd Army Hospital/Base Hospital 17
Thurs. 17th Sighted land at 10 am. Came into port [Brest] at noon
Tues. 22nd Aboard train -- corned beef, hardtack, coffee
occasionally. Went thru Rennes, Le Mans and Tours.
Sgt. Edwin Bemis, 29th Engineers
About dusk we got into Chalons sur Marne... We left men on the
train while we got off and attempted to inquire at the station where
the American headquarters were. The French looked very blank for a
while and then suddenly had an inspiration. "Ah, oui," they said, "les
dames Americaines", and to our great surprise took us into a large
waiting room where the American Red Cross had been running a canteen
for two years... They served [us] chocolate, soup and little crackers.
Lt. Birge M. Clark, Balloon Observation Corps.
Unpublished manuscript, WORLD WAR I MEMOIRS
Traveling through France
There are so many women [in France] wearing black and the other
[women] show what a strain they have been thru. There are scarcely
any young men seen except those who have returned minus some part of
their anatomy or else in such a physical condition that they are
almost helpless. All the men working are over fifty and then there
are lots of boys...
Pvt. Allan Neil, USMC, 2nd Division
Last Saturday night the YMCA gave us an entertainment and it was
surely fine. We could listen to an artist on a French harp now and
enjoy it. One of the three girls who gave the program was a good
looker and had a good voice. Afterwards, she led the singing
[and]... they sang every popular song I'd ever heard. All the
village notables were guests of honor, and, while they understood very
little of it literally, they got the spirit of it.
Lt. Loring Phillips, Services of Supply
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