Remembering World War I Letter Home to his Brother, from a Sampson Boy, France, 1918

(from The Sampson Democrat)

My dear James: Your most welcome letter of October 1st was received and enjoyed immensely. You are mistaken though in thinking that Camp news is not of interest to me,and especially your camp. You remember that I spent eight long months in such a place myself. I can’t think of anything more desirable than going home, and next to that would be a real U.S.A. Camp.

We have lived in the ground so long and tramped about so much, that to be anywhere for a month would seem wonderful. However we are now back in an old time French village, with a church, a wine shop, and a little store where we have to pay 60 cents [$9.47 in 2015, ed.] for a pound of grapes, 10 cents [$1.58] for an apple, and 50 cents [$7.89] for a thin bar of chocolate.

I bought some eggs the size of guinea eggs and paid 12 cents each for them [$1.89, or $22.68/dozen]. Of course we trade with French money and therefore we spend the francs. The other day one of the boys got a new one dollar bill from home and we all gathered to pay our respects to a piece of Honest-to-God money. The soldiers do not think much of francs as money.

Well we did run poor old Fritz almost to death, sure enough. [“Fritz” was a sympathetic nickname for German soldiers used by the Allies in WWI. It was derived from “Old Fritz”, a nickname for Frederick the Great of Prussia, 1712-1786. ed.] He left machine guns, rifles and artillery as though they were so many toys. He is getting the best licking he ever got, and the old Kaiser is off for a race by now.

Everything points to an early peace, and, o boy, can’t you imagine our pride for really being instrumental in bringing this awful calamity to an end. Not the pride that swells you up, but just the kind that almost makes you weep for joy.

Our division has done some wonderful work, and no doubt some stirring history was made when we went thru the Hindenburg line. [known as the Siegfried Line by the Germans, a heavily fortified area built by the Germans from the northern coast of France to Verdun] We found a complete human butcher shop in a part of the tunnel – the very place where dead bodies were cooked to extract the fats. And bodies were right there on the chopping block beheaded, dismembered and ready to be thrown into the big cauldron nearby. You remember when it was reported that the Germans were operating such a place, that no one could believe it, but it is as true as there is a war. I saw lots of dead Germans who would make very good soap, ha, ha. I’d hate to use it.

It is now real late, so will close for this time. I will write as often as I can. With best wishes and lots of love from your bud, HAROLD.

Remembering WWI