“Your letter of Jan. 27th is the latest home letter to reach me….”

“The A.E.F. are quite excited these days over Mr. Baker’s visit and you hear much discussion as to its probable effect on the general welfare of the A.E.F. and also on the conduct of the war.” Monty describes again the air raids that coincided with the visit and claims he was not “overly curious, it being my third raid.” Nevertheless, he’s not taking chances. “From now on think I shall take to an “abri” as they call the cellars which are thought sufficiently strong to be good protection. All such are labeled at the street entrance with the number of people they will accommodate and there is a good sized one right across the street from my hotel.” He describes the tension between curiosity and safety and concludes “the cellar is a bit healthier. In the raid of Friday a week ago I was standing in the street in front of my hotel watching the shrapnel bursting in the sky when a big one hit about 400 yards away and got the full benefit of the flash and explosion.”

He goes on to describe “the munitions explosion near Paris Friday.”[1]

I had just finished lunch at the Officer’s Club and was sitting there talking to some other fellows when a strong puff of air hit us and we heard the sound of breaking glass—it also made one’s ears feel pretty funny for a moment. Everybody lit out to the front to see what had happened and we all thought it was a daylight raid by the Bosche but then saw the big column of white smoke rising several miles away and figured out it was a munitions explosion…. It broke quite a bit of glass throughout the city.

He is happy to report that his French is improving. Dinner with French friends went on for three hours during which they spoke “nothing but French.” “One picks up quite a few new words and forms of expression on an occasion of this kind. Your ear has to become trained and mine has certainly had sufficient opportunity for the past four months with consequent beneficial results.” His felicity with language has brought some benefits, including “an invitation last night from some French friends to visit them this summer at their summer home on the coast of Normandy.”

He describes office life and his routine. “I’ve been around seven to seven-thirty getting away from my office every night this week and that’s a fair sample of all of us on office work.” He tries to cut back on Sundays “for this seven days a week will get your goat sooner or later.” His Sunday routine is to come to the office “for a couple of hours in the morning and catch up with odds and ends and write a letter or two, as this morning, but take the afternoons for a good walk.”

“I prefer, and I suppose you folks do also, to get my letters out on the typewriter and Sunday morning my stenographer isn’t here. Have an Irish girl who has been in France for fifteen years and speaks French as well or better than English. She is older than I am and nobody’s good looking child but fairly efficient which is more than my last one, a French girl, was. At that I’ve seen very few of them who can touch our American stenos for efficiency and I often long for one like Miss Gentry who was with Bomar & Osborne.”

He reports on cigar receipts and supply status and again recommends the “box at a time” method of shipment. He proposes that she send his letter home after she has read it “as I have little enough time to write.”

[1] This explosion at 1:45 PM March 15, 1918 destroyed a munitions factory in the industrially intense suburb of La Courneuve, seven miles northeast of Paris. Between 16 and 30 were killed and thousands left homeless from destruction of buildings within a mile radius. The American Red Cross is praised for its responsiveness. As Monty reports, the explosion shook the center of Paris.

 

Transcription:

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

March 17, 1918

My Dear Kate:-

Your letter of Jan. 27th is the latest home letter to reach me and enjoyed it thoroughly. You seem to be some busy lady but hope you’re fine time among your many and various activities to drop me a line again some of these times. Glad to hear you and Frank have come to know Jim Manning, tell him to write me and let me know what they are doing with themselves at Camp Jackson. Was interested in the news about Capt. Fitch[1]-it was probably best that he went out peacefully for I don’t believe he would ever have lasted as far as the trenches in command of a bunch of enlisted men.

The A.E.F. are quite excited these days over Mr. Baker‘s visit and you hear much discussion as to its probable effect on the general welfare of the A.E.F. and also on the conduct of the war. I think it ought to be beneficial all round for it’s impossible to fully understand the situation over here without having seen it yourself. He certainly got a warm welcome his first night in Paris for the Bosche came over and staged a bombing entertainment, their second in four days. This time I wasn’t overly curious, It being my third raid, and circumspectly stayed indoors. From now on think I shall take to an “abri” as they call the cellars which are thought sufficiently strong to be a good protection. All such are labeled at the street entrance with the number of people they will accommodate and there is a good-sized one right across the street from my hotel. This curiosity is all well and good but I’ve been uncomfortably close to where a couple have dropped in previous raids and I think the cellar is a bit healthier. In the raid of Friday a week ago I was standing in the street in front of my hotel watching the shrapnel bursting in the sky when a big one hit about 400 yard yards away and got the full benefit of the flash and explosion.

You will have, of course, seen in the home papers something about the munitions explosion near Paris Friday of this week. I had just finished lunch at an Officer’s Club and was sitting there talking to some other fellows when a strong puff of air hit us and we heard the sound of breaking glass – it also made one’s ears feel pretty funny for the moment. Everybody lit out to the front to see what had happened and we all thought it was a daylight raid by the Bosche but then saw the big column of white smoke rising several miles away and figured it out as a munitions explosion which it turned out to be. It broke quite a bit of glass all through the city.

My French continues to improve little by little; one night this week another officer and I had dinner with some French friends who speak no English at all and it was nothing but French for three hours with all kinds of subjects of conversation. One picks up quite a few new words and forms of expression on occasion of this kind. Your ear has to become trained and mine has certainly had sufficient opportunity for the past four months with consequent beneficial results.

Paris is now beginning to show signs of the coming of spring and I shall be more than glad to see it-guess in a month or six weeks one will be able to see better reason for the it’s being called “Paris, la belle”. What is out near the Bois de Boulogne Friday afternoon and saw bits of green here and there. Of course that and Versailles are the show places in the spring and summer and I’ve been saving up going to see them until that time. Incidentally; had an invitation last night from some French friends to visit them this summer at their summer home on the coast of Normandy. Only hope that I’ll be in position to get leave and take advantage of it.

Everybody continues to be awfully busy and all army circles; I’ve been around seven to seven-thirty getting away from my office every night this week and that’s a fair sample of all of us on office work. I’ve quit doing anything more than is absolutely necessary on Sunday for this seven days a week will get your goat sooner or later. Usually come down for a couple of hours in the morning [Sundays] and catch up with odds and ends and write a letter or two, as this morning, but take the afternoons for a good walk. I prefer, and suppose you folks do also, to get my letters out on the typewriter and Sunday morning my stenographer isn’t here. Have an Irish girl now who has been in France for 15 years and speaks French as well or better than English. She is older than I am and nobody’s good looking child but fairly efficient which is more than my last one, a French girl, was. At that I’ve seen very few of them who can touch our American stenos for efficiency and I often long for one like Miss Gentry was with Bomar & Osborne.

As you seen from my letters home, I’ve got two shipments of tobacco and cigars all right but if any others were sent, they haven’t come to my sight yet. It’s better to send cigars only a box at a time and then if one is “submarined” buy some mail handler, the loss isn’t so great.

You might send this letter on home after you read it as I have a little enough time to write. Regards to any of my Columbia friends, particularly Miss Degraffenried, who has probably forgotten me by now, and love to yourself and Frank,

Yours, Carl

OK

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lt. Inf. U.S.R.

[1] Obituary in The Iron Trade Review, December 27, 1917, p. 1393. Captain Thomas William Fitch, Jr., age 39, died in a New York hospital on December 21 following treatment for “chronic ulcerated stomach”. He was President of the Columbia Steel & Shafting Company, Carnegie, Pa. His assignment at Camp Jackson (Columbia, SC) came in August 1917 following a short stint at Camp Oglethorpe, GA where he had been posted in May 1917. Apparently he was known to Monty from Camp Oglethorpe. The enlightening line in Captain Fitch’s obituary is he “was a grandson of William Tecumseh Sherman of civil war fame…” and his last past was Columbia, SC.

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