November 8, 1918 – Somewhere in France

 

Dear Mother,

I wrote Mr. Holmes a letter a couple of days ago and in it I described my experiences in France and as I can save time by copying it I will send it to you and if he should fail to receive it you can let him see this one.  As the roads are too muddy for carrying messages with motocycles I am having a little rest today so tho’t I’d write you a few lines to let you know I still hold my job with “Uncle Sam” but if everything progresses as well this month as it has the last six weeks I’m afraid he intends laying off a million and a half of us before long but there isn’t a one of us but what will be tickled to death to get back to the old U.S.A.  I am going to try and tell you some of my experiences during the few months I have been in France.  After receiving a number of weeks of preliminary training back of the front lines in one of the pretty portions of France our division took over a line of trenches in a quiet sector and here received our training in trench warfare in preparation for our part in the “Big Drive” which started Sept. 12th which I’m sure you read about in all the papers.  At this time I was Battalion liaison runner or message carrier and the most dangerous part of my work was dodging high explosive shells and being careful not to run into regions that contained poisonous gases while delivering messages.  Hundreds of times I threw myself flat on my stomach and heard the pieces of shrapnel flying over my body from shells bursting a few rods away and although I have had many narrow escapes and seen many of my pals killed or wounded I have escaped without a scratch.  I will never forget the night of Sept. 11th or rather the morning of the twelfth as it was my first sight of real warfare.  For a number of days everything was quiet, except for an occasional exchange of a few shells, as both sides were working night and day bringing up heavy artillery, provisions, etc.  We men knew on account of the great preparation that a big drive was to be made but didn’t know the time set until at one o’clock sharp on the morning of the 12th a large gun spoke out and from then on for about ten hours there was a continuous roar from the hundreds of guns that were sending a continuous stream of the only kind of peace messages that seem to have any effect on old Kaiser Bill, namely: three to sixteen inch shells that tear holes in the ground from two to twelve feet in depth and as wide as twenty feet.  When the infantry or doughboys went over the top a daylight following a creeping barrage put over by our artillery we didn’t find the kind of opposition we expected for the Germans had been so surprised and terrified by the severeness of our artillery fire that the ones who didn’t retreat came running out of their dugouts and trenches with their hands above their heads yelling, “Kamerad, American Kamerad” excepting those who manned machine guns and although they put up still resistance for a time they eventually did the same as their comrades.  We advanced about twelve miles in  less that forty-eight hours showing the Germans to be poor open country fighters, their style being trench fighting.  It was a great sight to see the hundreds of prisoners being passed back to the rear and we losing so few men in comparison to their losses.  A few days after the big drive I had a slight attack of bronchitis and was sent back to one of the base hospitals for a short rest.  Upon arriving at Divisional Headquarters I was transferred from Co. E to Hq. Troop and am now on of the Divisional dispatch riders or messengers and I am riding a Harley Davidson motocycle like the one I use to have while in Lakeview.  As you know I always liked riding so enjoy my new work very much.  I haven’t found any branch of work in the army that didn’t have some disagreeable feature and with my new work it is carrying messages on rainy nights without any lights and over all sorts of roads but we’re in war now and not riding for pleasure and as I have a good raincoat, rubber trousers, and hip boots for rainy weather and a leather vest and cap for cold weather I can’t complain.  There is no speed limit for dispatch riders and when we strike good roads we sure do ride for the quicker you make your trip the better satisfied are the officers at the message center.  Yesterday I had a very pleasant trip of about forty miles as I carried messages to a number of Headquarters who were located back of the fighting area and had good roads all the way.  The best part of the trip was that I saw two L.V. boys, Avery Main and Walter Fink and we surely had a great visit as they are the first home boys I have seen since arriving in France.  They both looked fine and said they had seen Henry Jorgensen a few days before.  We motocycle riders have an expert mechanic to repair our machines and see that they are in first class running condition at all times so our work is to keep ourselves and machines clean as clean as possible and do the riding.  When Sherman said “War is Hell” he expressed it too mildly to describe the present war with the new death dealing devices, especially the poisonous gases used.  A person to realize the destructiveness caused should see the devastated regions with his own eyes or take a trip through the beautiful portion of France which the “Huns” failed to reach and then pass on into “No Man’s” land where you see nothing but shell holes, barbed wire, entanglements, miles of trenches, piles of ruins where little French villages once stood; then you could understand why the French have such a hatred for their enemy, the “Huns.”  I have seen a portion of the beautiful scenic part of France and many places and things of historical value, especially the little village where “Joan of Arc” was born.  Then again I have seen the devastated region from south of Metz to north of Verdun.  Have seen many aeroplane battles thousands of feet above the earth and a number of machines have come to the ground in a wrecked heap.  One day I saw a daring aviator come out of the clouds and amid a barrage of anti-aircraft and machine gun fire set fire to three observation balloons, the observers jumping from their baskets with the blazing balloons above them and landing safely with their parachutes.  I have surely written a long letter and suppose you have tired out reading so will bring it to a close.  Yesterday and today before were great letter days with me as I received fourteen and a number came from Lakeview and I enjoyed every one of them immensely.  Hope to see you all soon.

Your loving son,  Glenn