All for Heaven, Hell or Hoboken: The World War I Diary and Letters of Clair M. Pfenning, Flash Ranger, Company D, 29th Engineers, AEF
Reprinted by permission of the Author and Publisher
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A TRIP OVER LAND ON THE FRENCH "PULLMAN"
From the Diary of Clair M. Pfennig
Anthony G. Finan
Traveling Across France
Pvt. Pfennig's War Service and Career
At the age of 26, Clair Pfennig was drafted into the National Army of the United States to fight in the World War. After basic training at the Washington DC Barracks, he was assigned to Company D, 29th Engineers. On July 9, 1918 Private Pfenning boarded a transport ship in Hoboken, New Jersey bound for Europe.
Upon arrival in France, Private Pfennig travelled by rail to the Lorraine district of France. In August, he attended advanced training schoolf for engineers at Fort St. Menge outside the town of Langres. There he received specialized instruction in flash ranging at the newly-created Flash and Sound Ranging School. . . [His unit] took up position at the front iin the Toul sector of the Lorraine, outside the town of Thiacourt. . . until the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.
After the war ended, his unit was one of the few chosen to travel into Luxembourg and Germany as an occupying force. . . Following a lengthy bout with influenza, Private Pfennig finally returned to the U.S. on March 11, 1919. He received his honorable discharge 11 days later.
Black Doughboys of the Segregated 92nd Division
Clair Pfennig's Unit Would Eventually Be Assigned to the Second Army with these Troops
When he returned home to Bristol [Connecticut], Clair Pfenning married Ruth E. Olson, the woman to whom he had proposed priot to his induction. . . [After a career as] a registered engineer and land surveyor in Connecticut...at the age of 81, Clair M. Pfennig died on August 22, 1973.
Pvt. Pfennig Discovers France
Bugle sounded at
Reached R.R. Station
Boarded trains at
Pulled out at
Boarded the "French Pullman" other words "French Freight Cars" sign on door said 8 Chevaux (about 1/2 the Am. Car Size) 40 Hommes so 42 of us piled. Had a slow day. Stoped once for coffee. Food issue was good. Slept on floor. Passed Rennes late at night
Moved on all day destination changed to Langres Station. Sidetracked for some time because of supplies to Chateau Thierry Drive. Passed Tours in P.M. Not much to see but fields. Passed Gun Factory at 7 P.M. "Krupp Factory of France"/ Left main line and moved all night. French coffee served at midnight and tried to sleep -- d___ d___ d___ -- Passed throu Bourges.
Traveled right along during morning. Reached Dijon at 11:30 Red Cross served coffee and cakes. Was best ever. Put in supply of eats left 1:30 P.M. in good spirits. Reached U.S. Camp Williams at 4:00 Side tracked and Red Cross again showed their colors. Was switched around [and] left 7 P.M. reached Langres at 11:30 P.M. Trucks carried us to [Longeau].
Reached Barracks with baggage at 3:30 A.M. Turned in at night on floor. Better than box cars. had little sleep, eat breakfast and visited the French village. All of stone -- manure piles in street. You judge the hospitality and money of a place by the size of the manure pile. Took shoes off first time in four days and washed hands and face. Not able to take bath or wash any thing. Feeling good but tired. Barracks used before by 165th Infantry of Rain Bow Division on arrival.
Gen Pershing Passed in auto at retreat.
Village Behind the Front - Note Manure Piles Near Houses
Was fair day. Good food but not enough. Inspection of rifles at 3:00 P.M. . . Light till 9:30 P.M.
Camp located on huge plataue 1200' A.S.L. [Above Sea Level] and on main truck line to front from Dijon. Prices high.
Clear warm day. Was day of rest. Had Company Bath at 2 P.M. in Canal of the Marne. First bath since the Toloa pumped salt water and first good change since left Wash. Barracks.
Clear [and] warm. Right to buy light wines granted at solidiers hours 10-1:30 [and] 5:00 - 9:00 Served in wine cellars by little beer maids
Saw the French style of Bull servicing Cow on Main St. of Langres.