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August 25th, 1918. Mother Dearest: The third edition. A thousand apologies, but this letter home is not only long delayed, but for a time it seemed that it never would be completed. Day before yesterday I destroyed two half written letters to you, of the 16th and 18th, and indited quite a masterpiece - then proceeded to lose it while rousting out a guard detail. Which is really quite a help (the process of losing). Hence, tonight, by courtesy of the lieutenant, I am occupying the sacred seat and writing in the only legible way I know how. Three letters from you, a booklet forwarded by Dad, letters from Berthold and Ramsey - and none of them even acknowledged. Am afraid that I am very much at fault considering how very eagerly I look for letters from home folks. It seems that Ramsey has made his advent or debut or whatever it might be called into the big drama. So far as I could gather from his letter, he has been working in the Alsace region, and was back on repos "marking time" as he put it "in a sawmill" after a period up front. It's almost next to impossible for either of us to let the other know of his whereabouts, and we might at some time be quite close and not know it at all. We have not been yet, for we continue to be up the other way a bit. I am going to see if some way or other it can not be managed that we take a leave together. Leaves are granted every four months (?) so perhaps he is not in line yet, but it now being a year since I had my one and only wonderful trip to Biarritz, I am just about due again. I can postpone going on permission indefinitely until Ramsey can get away too, but the trouble would be in finding out just when that time would be. You can see that there are considerably great difficulties involved in arranging a vacation over here than in civil life, but perhaps it might be done. I hope so. Our outfit has had its hand pretty full for the past several months - in fact, ever since the first big German drive this spring. We have quite a number of times, and in all probability will do so again. In this way we have seen quite a bit of this end of France. (Come to think about it, there haven't been many offensive actions, either allied or boche, in which the Reserve Mallet has not had at least a little finger, since the Missouri outfit landed). At any rate we have certainly been working mighty hard, and we flatter ourselves into believing that we have accomplished no inconsiderable results. Even though we do not get a direct poke at the Hun - that is reserved for other outfits - if day and night work, without regard to rest or comfort, count for anything, we have done something. My only regret is that the several weeks that I was at the school kept me out of the push just that long, mon lieutenant's base insinuations notwithstanding. At any rate, our gasoline consumption has been counted in hundreds of thousands of litres, and the old "busses" keep on rolling - which after all, is the most important thing. There are so many things that I would like to put into a letter (and really they would be of interest) but most of them must be saved for the days apres la guerre. We have come nearer to being really in the war than ever before - lots of excitement, some very real danger, battlefields, some good Germans and a lot of prisoners, a rather rapid retreat, and advance that, pleased, God, will never be turned again for any considerable distance or time, and all the work that could possibly be crowded into twenty-four hours and five ton camions. Times like these, I confess, change the dreary old embusque idea into a knowledge that really our work does amount to something after all, in spite of the fact that our strfe-ing of the gentle Hun is not done personally. Also - while confessions are in order - I am
am eager to write that times strenuous bring out qualities in our New York taxi-artists that sometimes I doubted could be there. Our boys have worked mighty hard, with never a grumble that amounts to anything, and are always ready and willing go again no matter how tired they might be. The same thing applies to C.O. of company Travis, only more so. (Watch his maidenly blush as he reads this). It's so - and unto Caesar -----. In short, instead of being rather disgusted with the attitude of some of them, as I was for a while, I feel pretty proud of the outfit as a whole. it's a tremendous game, and at least they have come to know it. We have really seen quite a lot, and thanks to the fact that Fritz has discovered the fact that magnezium flares dropped from avions light up the earth in a really startling manner, the monotony of our work is not anymore. Night trips are now most satisfactorily - if sometimes disconcertingly - interesting enough to satisfy even the most bloodthirsty. A couple of nights ago, while driving the staff car of the company, I spent what was probably the most lilkly hilarious evening that has been mine in France. I have read that pyrotechnical exhibitions lost their attractions if prolonged for more than a half-hour, but this one did not lose in interest at all, even if Fritz did err considerably in the length of the th thing. I was pretty nervous for a while, but I could not help grinning when, after leaving the Ford in considerable haste, the lieutenant and I found ourselves in a munitions dump. You see, we left the car and beat a hasty retreat to the only cover that was apparent - a stand of brush by the road. As a safe refuge, I did not quite fancy the place, but it was amusing. We were gaying caroling a duet (On the road to Mandalay, I believe - and the lieutenant's voice is quite as charming as my own) when the shows started. One of the boys did something that night especially worthy of men mention. He was at a very dangerous place, and the logical thing would have been for him to leave the camion at once - which he did. In a few minutes he returned could not find his driving partner, and decided to his camion back to camp. He had had some trouble - lost a bolt from the steering road assembly, and the substitute fell out before he had gone very far. Even this did not turn him loose, but he took another,.bent the thing into some sort of shape, and started again. When he had reached the most unhealthy spot that he could find in the neighborhood, his troubles overtook him again; the gasoline feed line clogged up. He cleaned it out - quite a job, considering the circumstances, and managed eventually to bring the car home to camp. Sounds like a citation, doesn't it? I only wish that it were. His driving partner id something pretty good, too, although we did not hear of it until later. For very sufficient reasons, he was pretty well upset (a rather highly strung, nervous sort of a chap anyway), and left the p premises more or less in a hurry. He walked on until he found a hospital, where he had decided difficulty in making himself understood. I imagine he was rather incoherent (as he told us later, "The doctor gave me two pills so that I would stop shaking long enough to talk to him"). Here he found directions back to camp, but hears also a rumor that Dietrich, the first boy, had lost an arm, and thereupon - in spite of the fact that he was not at all fit - went back to hunt for him. If you had seen the boy after he reached camp, you would appreciate that it must have taken pretty heroic efforts to go back to -- oh, where he had just come from. Poor fellow, he was pretty well "shot"; I sent him out on a convoy today, but don't know whether I really should have done so so soon. Things like this make one feel pretty good. When the course at school was completed and we had all graduated whether with honours, in disgrace, or simply assez bien, none of know, we were assigned to duty whether various units. I was very fortunate, and rejoined my old outfit. This makes the work much more pleasant in every way, for me at least.
I also had the rare good fortune to be out of the mess, and was given a new job, that of pilot to mon lieutenant's flivver. It's a wild ship, and some of its voyages are long and stormy, but I liked the work immensely for a number of reasons. Chief of these is the fact that it furnishes a school in which the trials and tribulations of the C.O. of an outfit of this sort may be learned pretty thoroughly - all the details and ins and outs. This would be exceedingly valuable in case ever ---- but all that is far, far in the dim distant, and may be only a mirage at that. But lack and alas, that job is no more, for the Chef de Groupe deemed it beneath the dignity of an E.O.R. (meaning embryonic something or other) to soil his lily whites playing chauffeur - shofer. Or else he did not think it a sage place for such a creature. At any rate, I would have found myself out of a job had it not been for the fact that Coburn and "Tad" Robertson went on permission a few days ago; for the time being I am replacing Coburn as top-kicker to the best of my ability Of course there is only one "S" and I could not hope to do the thing as well as he does, but then, here I am. After his return, who knows? My place in society is very variable. There isn't a great deal that I can write, in spite of three pages of typeing. The thing that interests us most now-a-days is the fact that Fritz has turned around and is headed home. The "nach Paris" idea cost him a lot and resulted in very little; his journey "nach Berlin" we hope will be even more costly. Indications are that Wilhelm's intentions are receiving quite a set back. America was about two years too long getting into this guerre, but that she is here it's up to her to see that the stem to the boche bubble pipe is shattered beyond all hope of repair. Some general expounded sagely enough to effect that victory in war comes only with the destruction of the opposing army; here we have a little more to destroy - there an infernal principle, a theory, an entire national philosophy to discourage. Whether the Hun illusion can be dissipated or not is question that nobody can answer, but one thing is certain, that whether it is possible or not, our job will not be finished until the results are such that Germany can nev-again act on the same basis. Home means a lot more to us now than it ever did before and consequently we all want to be home just as soon as possible - in fact, that is just why we are not at home now - but there is n't a one of us who would go until the job is done and done right. Thank the power that be in all sincerity that America knows now that when it comes to smahing and wrecking false gods it can't be done with honeyed words and the "please be nice" tactics, but takes a horribly powerful hammer. Even the ex-taxi-ists have come to that conclusion, and when they come around there isn't much excuse for any one else. It may be a long or a short one (I don't pretend to guess which) but it's certain that the main event is a finish fight. (Henschel on international politics and military practice, to be continued in our next). Like the big black steveadore, "Boss, I'se beaucoup tired", and so will the censor be when he gets through with this. Lots of love, and a good-night kiss. Ned (Say hello to the Russells for me. It must be pretty nice for them to be home agin; I can't imagine any place other than Kansas City as home).
From the service of James E. (Ned) Henschel, Co. B Reserve Mallet--French Army, American Field Service, Quartermaster Corps, General Hdgts., and Motor Transport Co. 831.
|Date||August 25, 1918|
|Year Range from||1918|
|Year Range to||1918|
Henschel, James (Ned) Edward
World War I