Full transcription of text follows:
Motor Transport Co. 831, Motor Reception Park #3, APO 927, A. E. F. Coblenz-Neuendorf, Germany. June 29th, 1919 Dear Mother: Last night was rather SOME night. What we have all been hoping for the last half year has actually come about; peace has been signed. Troops will start to move backwards now pretty rapidly, in fact some outfits are slated for the "big Trip" tomorrow morning. I myself am hoping to get my company together once more, and then back to work at the park. As fast as divisions turn in their transportation, we take it over, straighten it all out, classify and prepare it for disposition as the powers that be see fit. It is certain that after all the units are out, there will be no more transportation to turn in, and of course the spells the end of our stay over here the same as the other. The soldiers celebrated last night - in fact all of last night, in a way that rather worried the Germans and was hard for them to understand. There were parades and bands and impromptu bands, composed of valient bearers of tinpans, whistles, and anything else that could be found. There was also quite a lot fo shooting (strictly forbidden, of course) and star shells and rockets of all sorts. Also, the towns around here nearly went dry. The boys all had something to drink, although I did not see a single drunk soldier. About midnight, some artillery outfit started a barrage of blanks that brought the whole German population out. Guess they all figured it as a new sort of war. Anyway, we are glad that it is all over, and last night wanted the whole world to know it. You know it seems to me that the harder part of the job is yet to come, that is, seeing that the Heinies live up to their end of the bargain. When one is dealing with a nation devoid of any sense of national honour, a nation that operates on the basis that its words is worth while just so long as value received is coming in therefore, it is pretty hard proposition as to just how and what may be the best means of making this sort of people keep their promises. When at the moment of signing an agreement to do certain things, the German newspapers - even here in occupied territory - quote the biggest and most influential of the German people as saying that there is no intention whatsoever of living up to the agreement - why it may be peace, but it does not look very promising for the future of things. The Germans admit that it was the Fatherland and her rulers that were responsible for the whole horrible business, but they regret nothing at all, except that they did not get all that they wished this time. There is a tacit promise involved that the future holds a most uncertain quantity for the world at large. If all thinking Americans could only get over here and talk to these Germans, and understand their viewpoint, they could understand how it is that the German nation can make a promise and at the same time promise that it will not be kept. If they could see the people, the multitudes of soldiers-to-be-in-ten-years, the factories, all going strong - and then look over into France and Belgium, both
of whom we all are rather prone to forget in our own wishes to "get out of it", it's not so very difficult to look ahead and feel that the coast is not exactly clear. Such things as the burning of the French flags, things that can not be valued in money, the unveiled insults that have been given to the allied powers at every opportunity, the open threats, and the rest of the whole sickening business makes us all wonder just what more we are to expect. A nation without a conscience, a national lie, a world threat - all that is Germany. Their imperial seal and arms should be a broken promise, rampant, on a field of blood - a bar sinister, surmounted by a rows of laughing devils. The German thought is all about "the next time", and that "next time" they co not intend to make the mistakes that they made this time. There is only one thing that the German nation fears, and that is the loss of their national identity; it is the only threat that bears on them at all. So long as the fatherland is left intact, they have no fears as to what the future may hold for them, and have no scruples as to the way in which they may use the opportunities that appear. Industrially, they are sound; financially, a few months of peace will make them as sound as ever; so far as man-power is concerned, they have it, and to spare. In short, in every way, it seems to rather ignorant me, the German nation is about as well fixed as any, and a generation to the good of France and Belgium. In fact, I rather doubt whether France can recover completely in any time from the loss of her young man. I'm not a "bleeding France" idealist any more, but when one considers the fact that France lost 1,7000,000 men killed, without bringing in those maimed or out of the running, when one can go the length and breadth of France, and can find no young manhood whatsoever between twentyone and twenty-six - they just aren't there any more -, when one can go into northern France and see the richest part of industrial France, deliberately put out of business for years to come, it's pretty hard to blame it all on just "war", and it's pretty hard to find it possible to forgive those who rather boastfully admit that it's all true and that they did it - and are not at all sorry they did it. My work with the German automobiles brought me into contact with some of the wealthiest and most influential of the German civilian population in this part of Germany, and I know that this is the way they think. There was only one in the whole lot that was above trying, or being willing to try, to put over a crooked deal. It's like this; the German is infernally commercial. He would sell his soul if he could get a price for it, and makes the mistake of believing that the rest of the world is constructed the same way as he is. It is disgusting in the extreme, and also dangerous. He is a national coward, and a national crook, and his philosophy has taught him that others are the same. The same old line of "bluff" holds throughout. Now that peace is signed, note how quickly all the Bolcheviki tendencies with which she has been threatening the world will die out. And the worst of it all is, mother, that it's the people themselves. A nation is only what the people wish it to be, or what they permit it to be, knowingly. I don't trust them, individually, any farther than I would have our nation trust them, as a nation. I have had millionaires lie to me over things that are so small and so insignificant as to make the lie not criminal, but simply disgusting; such things as an automobile tire, or the price paid for a machine. There is one very rich German, Fritz Orth, by name, who owns the largest wine cellars in southern Germany, who would like to bribe me by free wine to let him know when American cars are to be sold, or to sell him one in some way or other. I'd like to send him down the line for a while, but as yet have nothing definite to hang him with.
Just one thing more, and the morning lesson is over. When returning Americans say unpleasant things about the French and the English, and a good many of them will do so, and a good part of what they say will be true we ought just to remember a few figures. France's population before the war was 40,000,000 - America's about 100,000,000 or two and a half times as much. To be in proportionately the same situation as France, we should have to have a death list of 4,250,000. Also, all of our industry useless from the sea as far back as Detroit. It would be necessary to walk down the street and see no young men at all; one would have to see that "dead" look in the eyes of those men one does see who have been through four years of the war. One would have to know that there was not a family in his acquaintance that had not paid its toll to the god of war. Then perhaps we could appreciate the position of our allies, and be able to criticize them justly, and perhaps then we would not be so like to forget all that has happened these last years, and perhaps there would not be so much talk of sympathy for "the poor German". England's position is much the same as France's, except that is place of having a roll of honours 1,700,00 long, hers is only 700,000. All this horror because of a nation's illegitimate ambitions, and yet they dare to talk of the "next time", when the blood on "Flander's fields" is hardly cold! Their devilish system, or psychology, or whatever it may be, is putting the old machine in operation already. They are figuring, and calculating, and making estimates, based on the next generation, and what might be done. You see, they have "lived" this thing so long that it can not be talked out of them in a few months; it must be "lived" out of them, in the same way as it was acquired. That takes time, and the will to have it so, and the German doesn't care particularly to have things changed. They think the same, and feel the same as always; they have the same ambitions, the same desires, only now they feel that of course the time is not yet. Once upon a time, long ago, changing the form of government and the Kaiser system might have accomplished what we all wish, but that was long ago; now the system is the people, and it "carries on", Kaiser or no Kaiser. This is enough raving for one morning. Perhaps you all get tired of listening - or reading all this, but honest, I can't stop once I start on these people. Therefore, to the customary ending, as my top-sergeant is waiting for this typewriter. SO, love as always, and most of my thoughts, and all of my hopes and wishes, are with those at home. Ned.
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||June 29, 1919|
|Year Range from||1919|
|Year Range to||1919|
Henschel, James (Ned) Edward
World War I