Thursday, December 8, 2016
Courting Miss Nora - September 1, 1918 - “I am ok and liking France fine.”
Tom's last letter was a postcard from Camp Upton New York on July 24. He spent the next few weeks in transit. His unit road a train to Hoboken, New Jersey, and on July 31, boarded a ship to cross the Atlantic. The 321st Infantry took the SS Walmer Castle, an old English passenger ship. From various accounts, these ships were awful. Clarence Walton Johnson wrote, in his regimental history of the 321st Infantry:
The pages of this history should not be darkened by a detailed description of life on these troop ships. Certainly nothing about these boats, the mess and the crews in particular, improved upon acquaintance. The boats had a smell of their own... The odors from the kitchen were positively nauseating.
It took about ten days to reach England. The 1st Battalion went to a rest camp at Winnall Downs, southwest of London, for a few days. On August 16, 1918, the 1st Battalion crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France. They boarded a French railroad to take them closer to the front in eastern France. The railroad cars were called “40-8s", because each car could hold 40 men standing up, or eight horses. Johnson recalled
We were counted off in groups of 40 and packed into these small rough box cars (about half the size of the American box car), which bore unmistakable signs, which were equally distinguishable by sight and smell, of a recent cargo of cows.
The 1st Battalion was billeted in the small French town of Percey, southeast of Paris, from August 21 to September 14, 1918. They went through intensive training with emphasis on extended order formations and bayonet practice. Tom sent a photograph labeled “at the trenches.” It appears that these were training trenches. X marks Tom in the photo.
The first letter Tom wrote from France was on September 1, 1918.
The red marks are the censor's approval. The postmark is September 8, Bordeaux, France.
Dear Miss Nora.
Guess you think I am never going to write you any more. How are you getting long anyway? I am ok and liking France fine. So guess you are going to the big meetings long now. Wish I was there to go with you. Ha". Well I am coming back soon as the war is over and I don’t think that will be many years longer. You write me long letter and tell me all the news. Will write you again. I am with Best wishes your friend
Mech. Wiley T. Snyder
[red censor markings - Ok]
Tom enclosed a poem from a newspaper.
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).