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Catalog Number 1996.51.136BU
Object Name Letter
Accession number 1996.51
Description Full transcription of text follows:


France, December 30, 1917 Private J.E. Henschel- American Mission- Motor Transport A.E.F. Reserve Mallet- France- Dear Emmet- You letter of December 14th was delivered this afternoon; it pleased me a lot to hear from you. Will you thank your Mother for me for the "knee-caps"? They have not been delivered as yet, but probably will have been long before you read this - judging from the time taken by mail in transit. It was mighty good of her to do things for me, and I certainly do appreciate it. In fact it seems that every one is just a bit too good and too thoughtful of me - for really you know - all of my friends have written


or sent things, or both until [ms illegible] ly know how to say "Thank you" wait until you get over here yourself and see how welcome a letter is. The four that arrived today are the first for a month. You are right about my being in on the ground floor - most emphatically ground - of a vital part of the service. This is something unique in American military [ms illegible: 1 wd] and will develope into a tremendous thing. Consequently there will probably be remarkable opportunity for advancement and the next six months should bring big changes. They have already occured. After being in this service for six months and five days - I am now promoted to the place of private-first-class. Although one does exactly the same things as before - this is a great deal better than being a French conducteur - or an American private; in fact - just $3.00 a month better. You must not think that I am


at all "dissatisfied"; the trouble would be that I am too completely satisfied. I ought to want a closer whack at friend Boche - but I am getting so that I am not so particular. That is why I am trying to transfer to something else. I can't make infantry (physical disqualifications - although I carried a pack for nine months on the Border) - so I am pulling hard for heavy artillery - since that includes trench mortars, I am told. They tell me that I can not obtain a commission (see "infantry") and when one get down to essentials - any other advancement is no advancement at all. Hence - if I am doomed to be a private the rest of the guerre - it's not going to be in the Q.M.C., and this service is called just that.


Now then - having delivered of the "great American gripe - shall proceed. You have read the term "camouflaged"? With us it means my number of things and is used for any occasion that American adaptability can find for it. For instance - a truck newly cleared is "camouflaged" - as is one with the speed-governor removed - to represent a touring car. The most successful artist is the cook who can camouflage the war bread to a likeness of a fried fritter or a bread pudding, and carrots and turnips into a savory meal. But there is no camouflage for an oversized egg. Overalls are also camougflage - indicating a hard-working soldier. (The animal is yet to be found). The most current usage of the term - however - is to indicate one who has an "easy job" or a "soft birth". Being in this sense synonimous with "embusque".


We adapt a number of French words and phrases to our own horrible uses - and that is about the extent of our ability in French. I can now buy something in a store, get the substance of newspaper article - hold a conversation (if I know approximately the subjects to be discussed), but the great privilege of "cussing out" someone heartily is, alas, denied me. Here follows a [ms illegible: 1 wd] conversation (pardon the spelling). "Ah - Anglaise?" "No - Americaine." "Long temps en France?" "Six mois." "Beaucoups (or bow-coo) Annee- en France?" "Vingt million peut etre." "Ah - c'est tres bien. Avez vous essence pour briquet?" (This is inevitable; the French cigarette lighter is always out of gasoline).


"Ah. Oui." "Merci, Monsieur, bon Jour" "Bon Jour." Oh yes - and how long the war lasts - and he always has either a "briquet" made from a 75 shell for sale - or a "souvenir Boche" or both - and for the first two months the American always buys the things. I have a large bag cull of "souvenirs" to worry about. I must close - but will write again soon. Let me hear from you. My regards and sincere gratitude to your mother for her thought of me. Ned. (Pardon both the scrawl and the tone; life as a private is conducive to neither good nor refined letter-writing).

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 December 20, 1917
Year Range from 1917
Year Range to 1917
People Henschel, James (Ned) Edward
Subjects World War I
Letters (Home)
Military life
Camouflage (Military science)