Thursday, December 15, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - French Christmas Card 1918

Tom's prior letter was a postcard from France, dated September 1, 1918.  On September 14, his unit headed out for the front lines.  Clarence Johnson wrote:

On the night of September 19, under the cover of darkness, we took up our positions on the Raon l’Etape sector in the Vosges Mountains, north of St. Die. This sector was held by the 321st from September 19 to October 17...The companies took their turn in the front line trenches, serving from 10 to 20 days each. This was our first experience under shell fire.

Conditions on the battle field were bad. Johnson described the experience vividly:

Among the things of which we will ever have a vivid recollection are “Cooties” [lice], rats, mud, water, sleepless nights, endless guard duty, talking in a whisper, leaky, bunkless, overcrowded dugouts without light or heat. But nothing will be remembered with more vividness than the shells that came shrieking and flying through the air day and night, many of which played havoc with our trenches and dugouts. There is nothing that can more successfully divert the mind from the physical discomforts of guard duty in a muddy trench during a cold, rainy night than a Boche 77 that has your range and is placing a high explosive within a few yards of you every few minutes.

Soon after they arrived on the front, Tom was severely wounded. His discharge papers said it happened on September 21; his service card  in the North Carolina archives said it was September 23. I could find no mention of any specific battles on either of those dates for his company so evidently, it was just everyday shell fire. According to his daughter Kathy, he was wounded in the right shoulder during the night and had to wait until the next day for help. His medical report says, “gunshot wound, right shoulder acromion and scapula,” and “peripheral nerve injury resulting in atrophy right shoulder girdle and arm.”  The initial report was 40% incapacitated.

Tom wrote cards and letters, including two from Base Hospital #17, in Dijon, France. He never mentioned his injuries. Note that the fighting ended on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.

Here is the fancy French Christmas card he sent, presumably in December 1918.

Hello! Miss Nora
Hope you are in the very best of health and still single.  I am coming home as soon as they will send us back. Am coming to see you just as soon as I get home. So be real good.  I am yours Sincerely,
W. T. Snider
The front of the postcard has an embroidered fabric flap.  The upper part lifts up and two cards were inserted into the pocket formed by the lower part of the design.  "Heureux Noel" literally means Happy Christmas.

The back side of each card has a short message.
Hope to see you real soon. I am real anxious to see you. I am well and having a very good time. Hope to see you soon.

Mech W. T. Snyder
My Best Wishes to you. I remain yours.

References:
  • Pension file for W. T. Snyder, file no. C 156 599; World War I pension files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Clarence Walton Johnson, The History of the 321st Infantry with a Brief Historical Sketch of the 81st Division (Columbia, South Carolina: The R. L. Bryan Company, 1919).


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