March 24, 1918. He writes to his mother about “the new gun[1] with which the Bosche is supposed to be bombarding Paris from a distance of 75 miles.”

[Y]esterday morning, as I was shaving in my room, heard an explosion as of a bomb and a few minutes later, while on my way to the office, the alert was sounded. Everybody thought it was a daylight air raid and we continued to hear an explosion about every fifteen minutes until along in the afternoon. This morning again I was waked about seven o’clock by the wail of the siren which means an air raid and shortly after the explosions began again. They are still continuing at this time, 11:30 A.M., at about 15 minute intervals so it seems there must be some truth in the supposition that some kind of a long range gun is operating with aerial torpedoes which are in some way timed to drop at Paris.

This is a good description of the “gun” considering it has been in use for less than 24 hours. It is in fact about 75 miles distant and it’s just a big gun; the shells are large artillery shells and no timing devices are involved. The mystery if there is one is that they seem to arrive silently without warning. More?

Monty is nonchalant and actually rather fatalistic about it all. “Am going out with a friend for a long walk in the country this afternoon for a little exercise and air. I don’t see any use sticking around in a cellar as some people seem to be doing, or a great many of them, for if one of these torpedoes is ticketed for you it will get you and that’s all there is to it.”

“No mail from home since the 27th of January but am looking for a bunch any day now.” There is a mail backlog at both ends.

[1] Monty’s detail is fairly accurate considering that his letter is written the day after the first shell hit Paris. The gun was a technical achievement quite apart from the fact that is was neither very effective nor efficient. It was intended for shock value and domestic propaganda. By most accounts, the gun operated from March 23 until August 9, 1918. The number of rounds fired is a disputed 320 to 367, killing approximately 250 and wounding 620. The worst event killed 88 and wounded 68 on March 29, a scene described later by Monty when he meets a survivor.

A lot is written about the “Paris Gun” which Monty sometimes refers to as “Big Bertha” and which the French routinely called “La Bertha.” The guns were mounted on rail cars and relocated frequently during the several months of operation. Their use coincided with the final German offensive of the war and they disappeared completely after the war (despite an apparent understanding that one be made available to the victors), apparently too valuable as technology to fall into enemy hands. The gun fired the first manmade stratospheric projectile from such a distance that the rotation of the earth had to be considered in calculating the trajectory.

 

Transcription:

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

March 24, 1918.

Dear Mother: –

Have just been looking over the morning papers which give a fairly full account of the new gun with which the Bosche is supposed to be bombarding Paris from a distance of 75 miles so suppose there is no harm in writing about it. Friday night, after nearly two weeks without a raid, the alert sounded but nothing happened and the all clear signal came in about an hour. However, yesterday morning, as I was shaving in my room, heard an explosion as of a bomb and a few minutes later, while on my way to my office, the alert was sounded. Everybody thought it was daylight air raid and we continued to hear an explosion about every 15 minutes until along in the afternoon. This morning again I was waked about 7 o’clock by the wail of the siren which means an air raid and shortly after the explosions began again. They are still continuing at this time, 11:30 AM, at about 15 minute intervals so it seems there must be truth in the supposition that some kind of a long range gun is operating with aerial torpedoes which are in someway timed to drop at Paris. But by the time you get this letter the home papers and magazines will probably have a good deal more dope about it than I can give you, so it’s hardly worth while to say anything more about it as it’s all guesswork so far.

The weather has continued fine all this past week end and is getting very springlike though it’s still fairly snappy in the early mornings before the sun gets well up. Am going out with a friend for a long walk in the country this afternoon for a little exercise and air. I don’t see any use sticking around in a cellar as most people seem to be doing, or a great many of them, for if one of these torpedoes is ticketed for you it will get you and that’s all there is to it.

No home mail yet since 27th of January but am looking for a bunch any day now.

 

Love to all,

Carl

 

OK

Thomas C. Montgomery

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

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