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Lieut. J.E. Henschel, Motor Section, Advance PC, GHQ, A.P.O. 930, A.E.F. Trier, Germany. February 16th, 1919. Dear Dad: One of the inconveniences of having a wireless station is one's office is the fact that about every so often something happens to the electric lights. Of course, the station denies all responsibility, but that does not give us light and now we have learned again the wisdom of keeping on hand a goodly stock of candles. This morning, in fact all day was mighty pleasant for me, in spite of the fact that it has been wet and misty all of the time. We worked in the morning, and entertained two generals without being "cussed out". That made us very happy. You see, tomorrow is the day that the armisticers make the Germans weep once more, and when I saw the Generals come in the door, my spirits rapidly sank to the zero point. Whenever a set of officers higher than the rank of captain come into our happy home, it usually means mourning for some of us. Everything's coming along fine, and if things go as well the next fe few days, I'll be happy. In the afternoon, another lieutenant and myself oiled up a couple of automatics, and going out into the country found out just how far it is possible to miss a three inch target. Had a lot of fun none the less, and intend to continue the practice. When we come back in town, I went to the American church services in the Basilica. It is the old church that apparently was used by the soldiers who inhabited this barracks before the war. Quite a building, and a really wonderful organ. I enjoyed the music immensely; there's something good for the soul in listening to a fine organ, well played, don't you think? Anyway, the music did me as much good as the excellent sermon, preached by one of the chaplains that are stationed near Trier. Mr. Hoopes, late of Westport, wrote me a note, in which he mentioned the "New Master" of Ivanhoe. My congratulations to Ivanhoe; they picked a good one. Masonically speaking, there isn't a lodge room in the world that I could get into. Honest Dad - don't think me too much of a bone-head - I've forgotten doggone near every word of the work. Don't think that that means that I lost interest in the work; there simply has been no chance for me to talk Masonry to any one at all, and after a couple of years, all that I learned in the few weeks before I left home, has vanished into the thinnest of thin air. You have to teach me again, before I disgrace your on my return. It's awful. There is another equally young second lieutenant in the officer here in exactly the same fix that I am. He has his written credentials and wears a ring bearing the square and compass, but he's like I. I asked him when I was introduced to him if he was a Mason, and he answered, "Yes, but damned if I could prove it!" and grinned - and I grinned, and understood perfectly. A lot of water has careened down the old Missouri since we were raised. The all absorbing topic today is tomorrow, and what will happen tomorrow. Unless we all miss our guess,
the Germans aren't going to enjoy the party at all. I declare, I can't figure them out; they are perfectly satisfied, and all of them think that Germany's policy and way of doing things was O.K. Even the old lady where I am billetted sticks up for the Kaiser, and the treatment of Belgium, and all of the things that were done by the Germans. I used to think that the people could not possibly know about all that sort of thing, but the horrible truth is that they not only know a lot more about it than you folks in America, but glory in it. The things that have been called atrocities are known in detail, much more fully and completely than they have ever been published in our own papers, and when one talks to a German about it, he or she - for they are all the same, simply puffs out his chest and says ja, das ist gut! I told the old lady last night that her country and her own people would have to pay for all of that damage before they were out of the mess, and she assured me that she knew it, but "es macht's nicht aus; Frankreich and Belgium sind alles kapoot", which may not be German as she is spoken, but means that France and Belgium are a total wreck, and although Germany will some day have to pay the tax, it's fine business while it lasts. The mistake that people at home are apt to make, (I say that because every one that I know here made exactly the same mistake) is to think that the Germans think themselves well rid of the Hohenzollern dynasty, and that the Kaiser and his "gang" were the big factors - and all the rest of it. We used to think that all that was necessary was to rid of him, and the Hun would change his ways and become nice and meek and mild and in a way a human being. That's all right as reasoning, when one keeps in mind two things; that the Kaiser's gang" is practically all the population of Germany; and that a Hun is always a Hun. Why onest Dad, it gives one a horrible feeling to hear some one like this mild lady where I am billeted talk about the way the war was carried on, all the time rubbing her hands together and saying "das ist gut" to all the unspeakable things that happened. They say it is gut to cut off kiddies hands, and deport people, scattering families, and mistreat prisoners and all that sort of thing, and really believe it is so! That's the thing that we Americans can't understand, or at least some of us. If you ask them, they'll tell you quite frankly all about that sort of thing, and when you chance to remark that it is horrible, they open their mild blue eyes in astonishment. One must not believe for a minute that they have changed their skins; it isn't so, and they make no bones about saying so. Even here in Trier, in southern Germany, where is it reported that the people are clamering for a separate independent state, or republic, they quite frankly tell one that if they could get away with it, they would re-establish the old empire. The thing gets down to the same point always, the Kaiser system, as it is cartooned at home, and the German uncommon people are on and the same thing. It is impossible for one to separate the two any more than one can take a pound of butter and a small piece of the same butter on a fine dish and say that the one is good and the other must be hanged. It's all the same old story. The curious side of this business is that we Americans here are being educated more every day as to the ways of the beast, not by what we get from behind, but instead by talking with the people themselves. There is an order in effect prohibiting "fraternization" in any way, talking or otherwise, with the civilian population; sometimes I think that it would be a pretty good idea to do away with the order and let the Germans themselves tell al of our soldiers all about themselves.
Last month made my last payment on 150.00 worth of Liberty Bonds, which should be delivered to you. There will in all probability be a lot of delay, due to the endless paperwork of an army, in the matter of delivery, but it should come along in some time or other. There is no way of my knowing whether or not these have been delivered, except by letter from you. In case there has been what seems to you too long a time between the last day of January and the day you happen to think about the matter again, and no bonds have appeared on the murky horizon, let me know by letter and I will send a string of letter to different offices in an effort to speed things up a little. I know a lot about delays and mixups in this bond business and allotments to make me believe anything possible. You see, such a lot of people were taken into the offices at Washington who knew nothing at all about work of that sort that all sorts of delay and misplacing has taken place. Also, the fact that I was given a commission between the first and last payments might tend to ball things up mostly royally. Those things happen; one may in my company has an allotment that has been running for over a year to his wife, and as yet there has not been a payment made. We write a letter each Monday in regard to it, but I guess those pidgeon holes are not only large but many. After next pay-day, I hope to send home $100.00 in some form or other. I saw some form or other, because I don't know how one can send money home from Germany. I have given up all hopes of ever getting a leave; in fact, so long as the work holds out and I am really neede, I don't want one very badly. That's why I shall be able to send this sum home. A vacation of a week is the most expensive thing that an officer can do over here. In spite of the leave areas, it costs about $200.00; ask Ramsey. Any way, there is no chance of my being forced to take one in the next few months, so I guess that the best way to feel about it is to stop wanting one. Nicht wahr? Do you remember the postcard that I sent Mother relative to my insurance - the government one that was first sent to me? Would you mind sending me the number on it, if you people have received no official notification that I have taken out war risk insurance? So far as I am able to find out, no one that I know who enlisted over here, or who made application for insurance on this side, ever was favoured to the extent of having sent to him or to his assignees anything but that postcard, which acknowledged receipt of application for insurance, but said nothing what so ever about insurance being granted. It seems to me that now is the time to find out about the matter, if it is possible to do so. I had the number entered in my note-book, but the notebook went the way of most of my other things a year ago. Anyway, I rather imagine the insurance is in force, even though we have no official notification of it, for I have had deducted from my pay-roll while an enlisted man (?) and have deducted myself from all pay vouchers since, the proper amount for premium. Did Mother ever receive the Kodak pictures for which she asked? They were taken, and as I had no idea of the place to which I was headed when I left Decize, a good friend of mine, Robertson, was to have them developed and mail them for me. Anyway, there are a lo more that are now at a German shop being finished, and they will be on their way toward the States in a few days. In a letter to Mother, I mentioned some things that
I was going to send Berthold. They have not been sent yet, for I have been too busy to buy paper and string to tie them up. Fact. One has to make a shopping tour to find things, and up to now I just haven't been able to do it. For Berthold's benefit, elucidation, etc., here is the list as it stands: a couple of saw-tooth bayonets, a German pack, with the straps for it, two helmets, of the dress and field type, two swords (which I fear is too long to be mailed) an unloaded handgrenade, or the "le "lemon" kind, and some stuff made of paper. Also, a small shell fragment, which came near to getting Neddie. As we can not send more than seven pounds at a time, the things will arrive in installments. Maybe there will be other things as well. Shortly after getting to the front, I started in to collect souvenirs. I collected a goodly number at various times, only to lose them all, or be obliged to throw them away with other things when we had to move too rapidly, and since last winter and the following spring, I have rather lost interest in souvenirs Gave it up as a bad job. I don't want any myself; I've got all the souvenir that I care for in the back side of my hand some where. Wish I could throw it away as easily as the other kind. Still, I can see that Berthold and the girls might like to have a few things like that, so when ever I see any thing more of that sort - some little thing that looks as though the folks at home would like to have it, along it goes and joins the pile. There is one thing in particular that I really should like to get hold of; that is one of the shiny steel helmets that were designed to be at the Kaisers party at Paris in 1914. As the part was called off, these helmets as a war asset were a total loss. I have only seen a few of the things, and neither love nor money could separate them from their owners. This letter is a lot longer than I figured it ould be, and has a lot less in it than I hoped there would be, so I guess it's about quitting time. The orderly who seeps out the office each night is making all sorts of hints that this is no time to be writing, especially on a typewriter on Sunday night. My love is always at home. Some day I may be there along with it, but I am afraid not for some time yet. Say hello for me to any at Ivanhoe who know me - but don't tell them the kind of Mason I am! Affectionatly- Ned.- The only thing larger than this paper is the envelope! After reading this - I have sagely come to the conclusion that neither my spelling nor ability to handle a typewriter shows remarkable improvement.
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||February 16, 1919|
|Year Range from||1919|
|Year Range to||1919|
Henschel, James (Ned) Edward
World War I