February 3, 1919. “I’ve been thinking of how pleasant is a South Carolina winter compared to this damp cold.”

February 3, 1919 to Mother.

“I’ve been thinking of how pleasant is a South Carolina winter compared to this damp cold.” This presages his expectation for a leave, which has now expanded from one week to two weeks and he’s looking forward to traveling to the south of France. “I’m planning to play golf most of the time as am badly in need of outdoor exercise. …expect to spend most of my time very quietly at Cannes which is said not to be so full of Americans as the other places.” He’s anticipating the arrival for duty of Lieutenant Bert France “to get him broken in before I leave.” He explains the complexity of what he is doing and why there is so much specialization. Aside from the continual coming and going of personnel, he feels he is now short handed, “having just released one to the peace conference”:

Have another who spends most of his time on the road in the districts north of Paris settling up claims where our divisions were last summer. And then have another Captain and 2 Lieuts. who do nothing but automobile accident investigation and settlement of these claims.

He refers his mother to the January 4, 1919 issue of The Saturday Evening Post where Isaac F. Marcosson has written in detail about the Service of Supply, American Expeditionary Forces operations. Though Monty is not mentioned in the article, “I know personally a great many of the officers of whom he speaks.”

He describes a “quiet week socially compared with the way things have been going lately” which consisted of “one mighty good dance on Monday night at the home of the Baron de Leonino, the wife of said Baron being one of the Rothschilds[1], and their home is some little cottage to call home. Think it is the most beautiful place I have been in Paris, not excluding the villa Murat[2] where the President is staying. As usual at these dances, I found people of any number of nationalities, this time meeting a couple of Rumanian girls who surely could dance.”

[1] Two possibilities—both problematic—David Leonino (d 1911) marries Jeanne Sophie Henriette Rothschild and Emmanuel Leonino marries bertha Juliette (d. 1906). In each case only one spouse is surviving in 1919. Monty’s identification leaves it unclear as to which Rothschild is intended though circumstantial information suggests it is the latter. Still need to locate the “little cottage” which may have been at 7, Rue Euler, since replaced by a commercial building.

[2] Something on this.

[full letter in progress]

January 26, 1919. “The opera was “Othello” and enjoyed it mildly but can’t say I ever enthuse over Grand Opera.”

January 26, 1919 to Mother.

Cold weather has arrived. “Our ‘chauffage central’ …proved insufficient and we got a bunch of wood from the Quartermaster Friday and have been having a big fire in the living room in the evenings which is quite a big help…. We’re getting mail and magazines a bit faster these days…. This morning we’re having our first snow of the season but not very much of it has stuck as yet.”

The color and glow of Paris are returning. He has an opera box thanks to his friend Mr. Pellerin. “He told me beforehand that it was a box with twelve seats so I invited in some of my officer friends and several American girls I know. However, even then was a bit surprised at the grandeur of the box. It was a regular room and located just in the bend of the “horseshoe” and just above the orchestra seats where you could see and hear everything.”

However, Monty is not otherwise impressed. “The opera was “Othello” and enjoyed it mildly but can’t say I ever enthuse over Grand Opera. Thought of yourself and Kate and how you both would have enjoyed it. There was a lot of khaki in the audience as there is everywhere in Paris these days but there were also quite a few ladies in the boxes in evening dress and more or less bejeweled. Paris is slowly beginning to dress up again.”

On the work front, he seems likely to get his Wofford classmate Bert France employed to help him with his work which seems t be increasing and to expand his staff which seems to be getting picked apart by exigencies elsewhere: “Am losing one of my Lieutenants to he Peace Conference where he is slated to be sent down in the Balkans and am pretty sure to get Bert to replace him.”

[full letter in progress]

January 19, 1919. To Mabel. “At present I’m simply keeping my eyes open for opportunities and, if anything attractive shows up, I may take it. In any event it appears that I will be with the army for six or eight months more at least.”

January 19, 1919 to Mabel.

Monty is still receiving belated Christmas presents and cards. “Have received one Xmas box from Wanamaker’s London store but don’t know whether is was the one from Bell or from Kate.”

Mabel is making plans to visit though Monty does not “think there will be any chance before summer for any officer’s families to come over except as workers of some kind and if you decide to come over in the latter capacity shall be mighty glad to see you.” He explains there is no guarantee she would work in Paris and he points out that prices are high. “I recently took a girl to dinner in one of the nice restaurants, not one of the several extremely high priced ones, and the dinner check was 60 francs.” He works through the exchange rate at 5.45 francs to the dollar and realizes it was about $11.00.

The 77th Division put on a show with the President in the audience. The memorable moment was the “song about going home” which included the line: “’They told us we’d be home by Xmas but they didn’t say what year.’” This is a line that Monty himself will soon be singing.

He lunches with Auguste Pellerin in the company of the “mother of his daughter-in-law who is a Swede and has just come to France from Sweden by way of the North Sea, Scotland and England. She said that travelling with mine sweepers ahead was a little too interesting to be pleasant.”

With the war “over” and his own unit winding down, he thinks about a future in the context of his experience in France, with the French, and especially his “quartermaster” interactions which resemble commercial business activity:

As to my staying over here permanently I’ve thought about it a good deal but haven’t decided on anything as yet. I think there are going to be wonderful opportunities in business for Americans who speak French and know how to get along with French people and my work hasn’t been bad training for this kind of thing. At present I’m simply keeping my eyes open for opportunities and, if anything attractive shows up, I may take it. In any event it appears that I will be with the army for six or eight months more at least.

“Hope to get down on the Riviera for a week during February for a week’s rest.” He is looking forward to “golf in the sunshine” and declares the “winter climate” in Paris “abominable and you don’t see much of the sun from November to April.”

[full letter in progress]

January 12, 1919. “Would like to get a look at Italy while I am over here if they ever remove the ban on leaves outside of France.”

“Dear Mother:-

“Had my first States mail in two weeks,” he reports on January 15, 1919. It included a December 11 letter from sister Kate and a Christmas card from the Methodist church in Marion. He also got a package from “Wannamaker’s London Store containing, chocolate, bonbons and chewing gum….”

His description of work suggests that the AEF is throttling back. He is “busy” as he has claimed since arriving in Paris, “although am leasing practically nothing new.” His office is apparently occupied with “claims and adjustments.” He’s thinking about what might have been if he’d been an aide to his superior:

General Harts, my “boss”, returned from Italy with the President. Was talking to his aide about the trip and he said the president had a wonderful reception in both England and Italy. That’s one time I would have liked to have been the General’s aide instead of one of his staff as both trips were great under such circumstances. Would like to get a look at Italy while I am over here if they ever remove the ban on leaves outside of France. The railroad fare with the “tariff militaire” is very small and think I’ll run down if ever there’s a chance. Drove right up to the Italian border and looked over into Italy when I was at Nice in November of 1917 but at that time one could not cross.

He notes in closing that he is “glad to find from Kate’s letter that my mention of having seen Rabbit Mullins relieved Mr. Mullins’ mind.”

[full letter in process]

January 5, 1919. Kenly to Mother “Bet that big ‘blimp’ created some excitement along the coast as it is a big seven passenger one and 300 feet long.”

Hotel Letterhead                   Miami Florida Wednesday 191[9]]

[January 5, envelope]

Dear Mother:

Have put off writing each day, thinking that I would know definitely about my leave and only found out yesterday afternoon. Don’t know what day you will get off on, but it will be early next week as have to wait until the boy, who is on leave from our squadron, gets back and I am not sure which day it will be.

I have got to go to Washington as that is the only place I can get any information about what we are to do in the future and also to see about getting away from here and last but not least to see about my junior grade lieutenancy as have finally been recommended for promotion. James Matthews is giving me letters to several of his friends who are in charge of the aviation branch and he advises me strongly to go as Washington is the only place that knows anything. As far as my lung goes had it thumped again last week and it is entirely well and I have a half inch more chest expansion than I have ever had before.

Have been pretty high several times lately and haven’t had the slightest ill effects. That last leave was just what I needed to help my flying, as guess I was getting pretty stale, while now I am better than ever before.

A big navy dirigible and three flying boats are due here today en route from Rockaway, N.Y. to Pensacola. Bet that big “blimp” created some excitement along the coast as it is a big seven passenger one and 300 feet long.

Miami is all up on its ear now as a few of the rich people who live along the shore near the station are trying to have it moved away as they say the noise of the planes disturbs them.

They had a mass meeting of the citizens Monday night and fixed up a petition asking for the retention of the station and told the men who object if the fuss worries them to move away. Morning paper is in favor of the retention while the afternoon paper is for removal so they are slinging mind and a great rate. We are sitting tight in neutral and enjoying the fight.

We are living down on our little house boat now and like it a lot. It’s a good thing we got it as everything, both rooms, food, and clothes are out of sight.

West Summers, Mrs. Tenhet’s nephew, is down here for his health and he has been very ill with pneumonia and asthma. He surely has had a tough time as his kid brother was killed in France last [year] and then Mr. Summers died while I was home. West was a year ahead of me at Wofford.

The weather here continues horrible. Two moving picture concerns have been here since Xmas waiting on some clear weather to take pictures. Today is the first fair day since December and also the first one that I haven’t worn either my overcoat or raincoat. I think South Carolina has it all over Miami for a climate

I am sending some pictures of myself on a boat. Also some to Bell and Kate. Will see you sometime next week.

Love to all,

John

P.S. I am using hotel stationery as it is the only thing free in Miami.

January 5, 1919. to Mabel “Had a good New Year’s Eve, going to an all American dance which was set up by some of the Air Service crowd.”

American Expeditionary Forces [Printed letterhead]

Hq. District of Paris A.P.O. 702 Dec 28, 1918

January 5, 1918 [1919 based on envelope and context]

 

Dear Mabel:-

Your Xmas package containing the socks and chiclets reached me alright this week, many thanks for same. Will drop a note to each of the ladies who knitted the socks.

Had a good days hunting last Sunday, being fortunate enough to kill one of the two deer which the party got. It was a welcome change from office work to get out in the open all day. Went down with the same crowd is in October to their club about fifty miles south of Paris. They are all Frenchman who speak no English and I heard not a word of English from morning until night.

Guess your friend Miss Coker is in town but haven’t been able to get in touch with her yet. However, expect to go down to the Hotel Continental this afternoon if I am still unable to reach her by telephone this morning.

Had a good New Year’s Eve, going to an all American dance which was set up by some of the Air Service crowd. The girls were Y.M.C.A., Red Cross, telephone operators and nurses with a few of the newspaper women who are here with the Peace Commission. Really had more fun at this affair than at any other dance I’ve been to for we had also a real American jazz band furnishing the music.

We’re having a bunch of rotten weather now, raining most of the time and the Seine is very high, higher according to the papers than it has been since the flood of 1910 but there is still some distance to go before it reaches the mark it got to that time. No very cold weather here yet however.

Hope you are well and the “flu” epidemic is finished-

Love to all,

Carl

 

Thomas C. Montgomery [signed]

Thomas C. Montgomery

Capt. A.S.C., U.S.A.

 

 

 

January 1, 1919. Kenly to Mother. “If I don’t go to Argentina surely want to get away from here at once, because if I stay in the service I’ll be transferred to the regular navy and then promotion is by seniority….”

This letter may speak to how quickly things returned to normal.

[postmark: Miami, FLA]

 

Transcribed Letter.

January 1st 1919.

Dear Mother:

Have spent all of my spare time, since receiving Sis’s letter, in running around looking for available boarding houses. I’ve been to all the hotels and the only good ones left that have any available space are The Plaza and the Green Tree Inn that Mrs. Swift runs.

The Plaza is pretty nice, I think and feeds and rooms both. Their rates for a double room with bath and three meals a day are $5.00 apiece or $35.00 a week. The Green Tree Inn has no dining room and you would have to eat elsewhere altho there are several eating places in the radius of a block. Their best rooms, double with bath are $6.00 a day, minus 10% for being the family of somebody in service, which would make the room $2.70 a day for each one of you or $5.40 for both. The next to the biggest rooms are $5.00 a day or $4.50 for you all. That also is double room with bath. Mrs. Swift is the lady that runs the Wayside Inn where you dined with Oscar. Then her mother takes roomers and she has one big double room with bath, but cold water, large closet for $14.00 a week. Am going to see Mrs. Lloyd in the morning and see if she can help any. Have been around there several times but she has been out.

We have secured our houseboat and moving aboard tomorrow. It’s pretty nice and is anchored about two blocks below the Ostend. Four of us are going to be on it. Hope none of the others are subject to seasickness.

The weather here still continues in fits and spells. We had a cold spell for the last three or four days when it was cloudy all the time and so cold that slept under three blankets and had to wear an overcoat all day. Yesterday it turned very warm and has continued so today. Tonights paper said another cold wave would hit here tomorrow.

I’m going on my leave about the middle of January. Am going to Washington while on it and see about getting away from here and also about the Argentine proposition. If I don’t go to Argentina surely want to get away from here at once, because if I stay in the service I’ll be transferred to the regular navy and then promotion is by seniority which would mean three years as an ensign before being made a junior lieutenant, while if I can get on a good station right away can probably get a promotion to that grade first and then be transferred to the regular as a junior lieut. Lieut. Valdes, who is in charge of personnel assignments now in Washington, was my old squadron commander at Pensacola and know he will help you any way he can

Love to all,

John

 

December 28, 1918. “We had a big dinner at our apartment Xmas day”

Saturday, December 28, 1918 to Mother.

Will write you now instead of tomorrow as am going out tomorrow morning for an all day hunt and will probably be too tired when I get back in.

….

He makes a point that he is “no longer ‘Infantry’ nor is it A.R.C. but A.S.C. My proper address now is Capt. Thomas C. Montgomery A.S.C., U.S.A., Hq. Dist. of Paris, A.P.O. 702, A.E.F.” Whether he assumes a precise address will expedite his mail or he is just one for having the record accurately reflected isn’t clear.

“Had very pleasant Xmas. On Xmas eve had dinner downtown with two other officers, the wife of one of them and another American girl. Afterwards we went on to a “reveillon” as they call it at the home of some French friends, which consists in a grand celebration, with dancing, food etc. We left at about 1:30 A.M. whereupon our hosts were quite peeved as it seems it is not good etiquette to leave one of these affairs before daylight in the morning. Personally I should have had to go to sleep somewhere before that time. We had a big dinner at our apartment Xmas day and then in the evening I went to dinner at Madame Borel’s. The latter was a quite homey dinner but very pleasant as it always is at her home.

Thursday night went with another one of the fellows in our apartment to dinner with some of his friends over on the “Left Bank” of the river and afterwards to a small dance over there. Had our invitations to dance through Madame Borel, it being a new place to me, and it was one of the most beautiful houses I’ve been in here. The people were very distinctly of the real kind and it was their first attempt at entertaining American officers. Enjoyed talking to a French Major and his wife who were just back from the States where he had been an instructor at Camp Gordon at Atlanta.

Had a note from Miss Coker a day or two ago saying that she expected to be here on leave next week so hope to be seeing her again at that time.

December 22, 1918. “It’s a rainy Sunday night in Paris and have dropped by my office to write you before going on to a reception.”

Sunday, December 22, 1918 to Mother.

“It’s a rainy Sunday night in Paris and have dropped by my office to write you before going on to a reception. Know you much prefer a typewritten letter because my chirography is so hard to read and they’re easier and quicker to write.

“These continue to be social days though I’ve lived a quieter life this past week. However, this afternoon went to two teas and then, as mentioned above, will be going on to a reception in a little while. The first place I went to this P.M. was a new one for me and Madame Borel, at whose home I was later, told me that they were about as old a French family as there is and that they received no foreigners before the war. However, their chateau was saved by our troops and she is now very grateful to Americans. ….

“Had a look at King Victor Emmanuel[1] the other day, his arrival making the fourth big reception Paris has had in the last month. All these Kings look like their pictures—that’s about all I’ve seen to remark about them. Wilson’s reception is to my mind the biggest ovation any one of the bunch has received, however. The Parisians have been particularly captivated by his smile. As one old French lady explained to me the other day—“We thought of him always as a man ‘tres severe, tres glacial’[2] and we knew he was a great man but we were surprised to find he was so human.” Was reading last night “Le Cri de Paris”[3] a weekly paper that always has a lot of interesting comment in its editorials and they had one whole paragraph devoted to ‘le sourire de Wilson’[4] as they call it.

“…. We are having a big Xmas dinner of our own at our apartment in the middle of the day and that night I am going on to a dinner and dance. Suppose all the family will be gathering in Marion about tomorrow and you’ll be having the usual round of family dinners. This is my second time away from them but hope to be with you next year. I enjoyed it but it made me a bit homesick yesterday when I attended the usual Saturday luncheon with my friend, M. Pellerin. This particular one was a kind of Xmas affair with lots of family connections and old friends and this other American officer and myself were the only outsiders although Mme. Pellerin tells me that she considers Lt. Richard and myself as quite in the family now.

“Suppose John must be all right by now and has regained his strength again, it being a month since Mabel’s letter telling me he was up. The ‘flu’ seems to be pretty well over here although there are still some cases of it.”

[1] King of Italy (reign, 1900-1946)

[2] ‘very stern, very icy’

[3] “The Voice of Paris” (1887-1940 with intermittent publication during WWI), was a satirical journal that also covered sports, finance, politics, art and theater. The covers featured notable theater personalities and political cartoons.

[4] ‘Wilson’s smile’ (literally: ‘the smile of Wilson’)

December 16, 1918. To Mabel. “Last week was another gay one socially—I was out every night which is too much for a working man….”

Transcribed letter [handwritten]:

Hq, District of Paris

A.P.O. 702 A.E.F.

Dec. 16th

Dear Mabel:-

Your long letter of Nov.20th reached me last Saturday and enjoyed it as usual. Sorry to hear John has been sick and mighty glad he came out of it all right.

The big excitement here was, of course, the arrival of Wilson on Saturday last. Had a pretty good look at him from my office window which looks out on the Arch de Triomphe. All Paris was out to see him, occupying windows, trees, roofs, and every other possible view point along the line of march and he surely had an enthusiastic reception. Thought of you all at home and how much you would have liked to have been here. I little thought in August 1914 that such an event would ever come to pass and still less that I would be in Paris to see it. My Commanding General was formerly his Aide de Camp and is therefore much in attendance on him now that he is here.

Last week was another gay one socially—I was out every night which is too much for a working man and this week, I’m taking it much more quietly. Last week went to two private dances and one larger one, out to dinner twice and played bridge around at the Embassy one evening. The larger dance was given by the “French Homes,” an association of French ladies gotten up for the particular purpose of entertaining American officers and they expect to give a number of others during the winter. Will enclose my invitation card for it if I don’t forget it [enclosed]. A number of prominent people were there among whom one that would have interested John was Nungesser[1] the second French “Ace.” Also an interesting Scotch girl I met had been in Russia all last winter with a British Red Cross formation.

As to how long I’ll be here that is, of course, very uncertain. The tendency is to replace Reserve with Regular Army officers where possible but, inasmuch as our work is highly specialized, it seems quite likely that I’ll be here until next summer or fall, it being almost impossible to find Regular officers with as much experience as I’ve had on this work during the past year. The Assistant Chief of my Service was in my office this afternoon and it was his opinion that I’d do well to spend Xmas of next year in South Carolina. That being the case, hope it will be possible for you and Mother to come over but guess the passport restrictions will be pretty stiff for some months yet. Also the price of living and of travelling here at this time is very high. Paris right now is absolutely full of people, the hotel accommodations being somewhat short because a number of hotels are occupied by ours and the other Allied Armies and peace Commissions. The Colonel of my Service and another Lt. Colonel came up from Tours on Saturday and my interpreter tried sixteen hotels before he found a couple of beds for them.

The weather here has been unusually mild so far but suppose it will soon be turning cold. Played golf yesterday afternoon and it was almost a spring afternoon.

Was talking today to a Major who served under Frank Harrell and thought very highly of him. He is now a Colonel and in command of the 16th Infantry of the 1st Division, now in Germany.

Lots of love to all,

Carl

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

Capt. A.S.C., U.S.A.

 

[1] Charles Nungesser had 43 victories, making him the third ranking French “Ace” after René Fonck (75) and Jules Guynemer (53). Guynemer’s plane was missing over Belgium in 1917 which left Nungesser as the number two living French Ace. Nungesser disappeared in 1927 attempting a nonstop transatlantic fight from Paris to New York two weeks before Charles Lindbergh flew nonstop from New York to Paris.