July 8, 1918. “I’ve never seen so many American flags hung out on the 4th even at home.”

July 8, 1918 to Mother. [verbatim]

Dear Mother –

No mail from home this week but have certainly had lots of luck in seeing fellows I know. As I wrote you last week, Bert France[1] and “Tommy” Thompson from Union were both here several days on their way back to the states as instructors. Last Monday night we had had dinner together and were sitting in front of a café when we saw one of our classmates at Wofford, a fellow Brogden[2] now over as a 1st Lt. Medical Corps. Then he hadn’t much more than sat down with us when who else should come along but Charlie Wofford who I didn’t even know was in France. Consequently, we had quite a reunion and much fun swapping experiences and news. In addition that afternoon just before dinner Bert & I had seen at his hotel Dr. Cook, our old French and German professor, who has been a Consul in Greece for some years and then was on his way back to the States on several months leave. Saw Bert and Tommy off to a “Port of Embarkation” Tuesday night but had two other pleasant surprises Friday morning when Jim Gregg from Marion dropped into my office and not an hour after him George Norris from Columbia, with whom I was in the same company at Oglethorpe. Both were looking as if the A.E.F. agreed with them and wish I could have had more time to talk to them but they hit me on a morning when I was too busy to even stop and talk to good friends for more than a minute or two. Jim asked particularly after Kenly.

The “4th” was quite a big day here as you probably saw in the papers. In the morning I went over to the Place d’Iena to see the ceremonies in celebration of the 4th, including the naming of the “Avenue du President Wilson” and the parade. All of it was most interesting, particularly as I saw Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Poincaré, Joffre and lots of other dignitaries. Our boys surely looked good when they came past, particularly the crowd who had just come out of the trenches with their “tin hats” and fighting equipment. You know leave to Paris has been “defendu” as a general thing and these boys certainly were enjoying it while here for which can’t say I blame ‘em at all. They were all over the Boulevards that night and the French were enjoying them as much as they were Paris. The French certainly did do themselves proud in honor of the occasion—I’ve never seen so many American flags hung out on the 4th even at home. We are the only Americans in our apartment house and that morning the concierge came up with a big U.S. flag which he carefully fastened to our balcony.

On Tuesday night, I had dinner with three French officers with whom I have a lot to do, and my architect M. Veber. The dinner was given in my honor at the big French officers club and I surely enjoyed the occasion. The Frenchmen are wonderful fellows, particularly when you know them well, and I always like to go out with them. This evening I spoke & heard nothing but French for about three hours all of which is most excellent for my French.

Had a nice trip today out about forty miles and back by automobile. Swapped off my “Flivver” for the day for a big National limousine[3] and my interpreter and I went out in state. I don’t really need him much any more to interpret but take him along to help me find my way and “parley” occasionally when the vocabulary necessary is beyond me.

Have been transferred this past week from an “acting” Quartermaster, which I’d been for seven months, to the Renting, Requisitions and Claims Service, a new service which takes over all renting & requisitions of real estate, all billeting of troops and all claims arising from these things as well as claims for “damage to property or person” by the A.E.F. I’ve been doing this kind of work for some time but the Service didn’t officially take over all this until July 1st. The work is quite interesting and the Service promises to become quite extensive in size and scope.

I have no further kick about cold weather for the last two or three days have been quite sufficiently warm. It has been very dry since the middle of May and is very dusty in the country.

But it’s getting to be bed time so good bye until next time. Some of the fellows had home mail today so hope I’ll have something tomorrow. Incidentally, got three “Lifes” from Mabel Saturday for which many thanks but send me clippings instead as they are less bulky & I can buy the “Lifes” here.

Love to all,

[1] Bertram Horatio France. Spartanburg, SC. Wofford classmate from Monty’s 1909 graduating class of fifty-seven men.

[2] James Chester Brogden. Batesburg, SC, Wofford, Class of 1909.

[3] Pierce-Arrow?

July 1, 1918. “He was most pleasant and I enjoyed the experience of meeting and riding with such a big bug”

July 1, 1918 to Mother. Monty reports a number of “home letters” and clippings received recently.  He hopes brother Kenly will “write more about what the Liberty motor[1]is doing as I haven’t been able to get much definite dope on that over here, and we are all naturally very much interested in the progress made on it.”

Promotions seem to be on his mind as friends and acquaintances are getting theirs: “Horton has got his Captaincy and also Hertz Brown.” He comments that “Promotions seem to be much more easy at home than with the A.E.F.” Nevertheless, “if things continue to break well for the next month or two, I am told by my chief there may be something doing.”

The weather has improved. “Along with the warm weather and moonlight nights we’ve also had the Gothas with us again.  They came down three nights last week and the alert was sounded again last night but they didn’t get to town that time.”

Had an interesting and pleasant experience yesterday afternoon.  Was having tea at this Country Club to which I go when possible with some French friends when we were joined by the British Ambassador, Lord Derby, whom they know well and I came back with him and them in his car.  He was most pleasant and I enjoyed the experience of riding with such a big bug—have found all the English I’ve met on this side an awfully good sort anyhow and want to see more of England some time if possible.

“Hope everything is going well with you at home….”

[1]Considered an important technological contribution to the war effort, it was a lightweight, mass produced engine that powered the DH4. More.

 

Letter verbatim:

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

July 1, 1918

Dear Mother: –

Had several home letters last week, yours of May 31stand one from Frank of June 4thtogether with two or three others of yours the dates of which I don’t know as I haven’t them with me at the moment. Enjoyed the enclosed letters of Judge Woods, John and Lee as well as the clippings. Suppose from Kenly‘s letter that he is probably at home by this time on the leave he was expecting to get. Wish he would write me more about what the Liberty motor is doing as I haven’t been able to get much definite dope on that over here, and we are all naturally very much interested in the progress made with it.

Was pleasantly surprised Saturday afternoon when Bert France called me up. He is in town for two or three days on his way back to the States as an instructor and perhaps he’ll see some of you if he gets any leave in South Carolina. If so he can give you a better idea I suppose of how things are going over here then any letters I might write. He is still in town and expect to see him again tonight. He told me something I didn’t know – that Horton has got his Captaincy and also Hertz Brown. He also said that he had had a letter from Spartanburg saying that I had the same thing but no such good luck as yet; his correspondent was quite mistaken about it though, if things continue to break well for the next month or two, I am told by my chief there may be something doing. However, I shan’t believe anything of that kind until I see it. Promotions seem to be much more easy at home then with the A.E.F.

Along that line noticed from one of your clippings that both Monroe and Dick Johnson had gone up a grade. Didn’t know it before though Dick told me at Xmas that that would probably occur in the next few months.

Am glad to say the weather has gone back to summertime within the past week and it is now reasonably warm again. Along with the warm weather and moonlight nights we’ve also had the Gothas with us again. They came down three nights last week and the alert was sounded again last night but they didn’t get to town that time.

Had an interesting and pleasant experience yesterday afternoon. Was having tea at this Country Club to which I go when possible with some French friends when we were joined by the British ambassador, Lord Derby, whom they know well and I came back with them and him in his car. He was most pleasant and I enjoyed the experience of meeting and riding with such a big bug – have found all the English I’ve met on this side an awfully good sort anyhow and want to see more of England sometime if possible.

Hope everything is going well with you at home,

Love to all, Carl

 

Thomas C. Montgomery

2ndLt. Inf. R.C.

June 19 1918. “The Gothas were with us Saturday night after leaving us alone for a week….”

June 19, 1918 to Mother.

Monty confesses to being a “little late with this week’s letter” as a result of being “too tired Sunday night after a days golf and have been too busy since….”

He reports on last week’s trip “down into the Touraine.” He was happy to have a “change of scene” and “this country is beautiful, particularly at this time of year.”

From the train along the river Loire every mile or two you can see a chateau sitting back on the hills above the river with its little village always grouped around it and on every side the fields of wheat and grain. They certainly know a lot more about intensive cultivation over here than in our own South—no ground at all goes to waste. Yesterday, I ran out about 25 miles in a machine and was impressed with the same thing, both the way they cultivate the soil and the beauty of the country not to speak of the good roads.

Back to the “front” in Paris. “The Gothas were with us Saturday night after leaving us alone for a week but as usual of late only one or two machines reached the city.” He refers his mother to an article in a recent issue of Colliers in which James Hopper writes about the first day “Big Bertha,” as he calls the Paris Gun, dropped projectiles on Paris. He notes that American magazines arrive in Paris up to a month late; he is the designated buyer for his apartment and will “drop by Brentano’s nearly every day and pick up something for the bunch.”

His enthusiasm for apartment life continues. “I am always praising the cook about her desserts and it surely pleases her. The other night was going out for dinner and stuck my head in to tell her I wouldn’t be there when she told me, ‘Ah, Monsieur Montgomery, I am desolated for I have a beautiful dessert this evening.’ She is a typical French woman, short and plump and about 45 years old and wonderfully capable.”

Transliterated letter:

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

June 19, 1918

Dear Mother: –

Am a little late with this week’s letter as was too tired Sunday night after a days golf and have been too busy since, but at that you are likely to receive this with my last or my next week’s letter.

Had a brief trip last week down into the Touraine, the château country better known by the French as “le jardin de France”, and enjoyed getting out of Paris for a couple of days, not that I don’t like Paris but that a change of scene is welcome. This country is beautiful particularly at this time of year. From the train along the river Loire every mile or two you can see a château sitting back on the hills above the river with its little village always grouped around it and on every side the fields of wheat and grain. They certainly know a lot more about intensive cultivation over here than in our own South – no ground that all goes to waste. Yesterday I ran out about 25 miles in a machine and was impressed with the same thing, both the way they cultivate the soil and the beauty of the country not to speak of the good roads. Expect from now on to have to get out in the country more and more and find it quite agreeable these summer days although it may be a different thing next winter. Speaking of summer days, they’ve surely been cool ones lately. I’ve worn a light topcoat most of the time in the machine and at night an extra blanket has gone very well.

The Gothas were with us Saturday night after leaving us alone for a week but as usual of late only one or two machines reached the city. By the way was reading an article yesterday in Colliers of, I think, May 22 by James Hopper about the first day “Big Bertha” fired on the city. If you haven’t read it you will find it most interesting and it’s quite true to life. We get most of the American magazines two or three weeks or a month late but they are much enjoyed all the sameB. Our apartment crowd has a magazine fund and I’m the buyer so drop by Brentano’s nearly every day and pick up something for the bunch.

Our apartment continues to be most satisfactory – I realized it particularly last week when I had to take several meals away from it. I am always praising the cook about her desserts and it surely pleases her. The other night was going out for dinner and stuck my head in to tell her I wouldn’t be there when she told me, “Ah Monsieur Montgomery, I am a desolated [sic] for I have a beautiful desert this evening.” She is a typical French woman, short and plump and about 45 years old and wonderfully capable.

But I must be getting out so “Au ‘voir et a biéntot” [sic],

Carl

O.K. Thomas C. Montgomery 2nd Lt. Inf. R.C.

June 10, 1918. [to Mabel] “Her desserts in particular are excellent and, if there is any left over, we match for it….”

His letter of June 10 goes to Mabel. He comments on the political season back home and “the number I see have announced for Governor.” He contends there is no news from Paris “for you know as much from the papers about what is going on at the front as I could write you…. Everybody seems much pleased with the way our men have been fighting where they’ve been into it and quite cheerful over the prospects.” U.S. Marines recently resisted a German advance at Belleau Wood to great media fanfare, though the second battle of the Marne is still underway.

“You would be quite amused I suppose to view our housekeeping management though as a matter of fact about all we do is tell the cook how much money we expect to spend for food and give it to her. So far the results of this system have been quite satisfactory, Eugenie being an able manager and I think absolutely honest. Her desserts in particular are excellent and, if there is any left over we match for it to the great delight of all three of our servants. They usually stick their heads in while this ceremony is going on. One of the two maids is an excellent seamstress and keeps our socks darned and buttons sewed on so we are well taken care of in every way….”

Monty found his three employees “through a friend, an American woman who has lived over here a large part of her life.” Apparently this gives him “drag” with the three servants who regard his words as “law and gospel.”

An instance of the “drag” was the other night when a French Major of the Chasseurs Alpin[s] whom I see a good deal of was coming to dinner with me. I told Eugenie about it and that I wanted a “tres bon diner” and she surely came across with one.

But her culinary talent seems otherwise spread rather evenly. “She makes wonderful hot cakes and we make our breakfast off them every Sunday morning.”

He relates the story of a recent acquaintance, “an American who has practiced law over here for nearly thirty years but is now retired.” The American is “President of this St. Cloud Country Club where I spend my Sundays.” They often eat together and he has learned a bit about the clientele of the country club—“there are quire a few celebrities among them”—and Monty has gotten “good advice on French law and leases in particular.”

“There is a prohibition on any packages at all coming this way.” There was some misinterpretation of the policy regarding signatures required. “As to the cigars guess it was a good thing they were turned back as I’ve never received a single one of the box at a time shipments.” We finally have an explanation for the missing cigars.

Had both the Gothas and “Big Bertha” with us during the past week but very little damage and they both increase the fighting spirit of the French rather than having any tendency to get their goat as the Kaiser seems to think. The communiqué yesterday P.M. spoke of a new push by the Hun between Montdidier & Noyan. Today it is raining so guess that will help stop him by impeding the movement of his artillery.

“But it’s time to start my afternoon round in my ‘jitney,’ so more next week.”

 

Transliterated letter:

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

June 10 1918

Dear Mabel –

Your letter of May 15th and mother’s of May 7th reached me in the same mail last week and enjoyed both as usual – also the clippings. The war seems to have increased political activity from the number I see have announced for governor – everybody whoever thought of running seems to have come out this time.

Nothing of great interest to relate here for you know as much from the papers about what is going on at the front as I could write you and I don’t know much more than that myself. Everybody seems much pleased with the way our men have been fighting where they’ve been into it and quite cheerful over the prospects.

Bob Cates, John‘s friend from Spartanburg, was in my office the afternoon. Got these last letters and was much interested in John‘s account of his flying, Bob being an amateur himself. Also enjoyed John’s letter and hope you will send me on a copy of each of them.

You would be quite amused I supposed to view our housekeeping management though as a matter of fact about all we do is tell the cook how much money we expect to spend for food and give it to her. So far the results of this system have been quite satisfactory, Eugenie being an able manager and I think absolutely honest. Her desserts in particular are excellent and, if there is any left over, we match for it to the great delight of all three of our servants. They usually stick their heads in a while this ceremony is going on. One of the two maids is an excellent seamstress and keeps our socks darned and buttons sewn on so we are well taken care of in every way and all of our guests who come in are quite envious. I was the one who engaged them through a friend, an American woman who has lived over here a large part of her life, and consequently they regard my remarks as “law and gospel”. The rest of the crowd accuse me of having a “drag” with them and it is partly true for the above reason so I have to be very careful what I tell ‘em. An instance of the “drag” was the other night when a French major of the Chasseurs Alpin[s] whom I see a good deal of was coming to dinner with me. I told Eugenie about it and that I wanted a “tres bon diner” and she surely came across with one. She makes wonderful hot cakes and we make our breakfast off them every Sunday morning.

One interesting man I’ve come to know in the last couple of months is an American who has practiced law over here for thirty years but is now retired. He is president of this St. Cloud Country Club where I spend my Sundays usually and fairly often I have lunch with him there. Naturally he knows everybody who comes out and there are quite a few celebrities among them whom he has told me about. Being a lawyer, he has also given me some good advice on French law and leases in particular.

Sorry now you got my khaki back from Kinley as there is a prohibition on any packages at all coming this way. The post office people at home were wrong in their interpretation of the order about packages before that. Getting the signature of your commanding officer applied only to soldiers, not to officers. As an instance of the absurdity of the way they applied it, I could have got any one of several Majors, Lt. Colonels or higher officers I know to sign for me and the post office at home wouldn’t have known whether they were my commanding officers or not. As to the cigars, guess it was a good thing they were turned back as I’ve never received a single one of the one box at a time shipments.

Had both the Gothas and “Big Bertha” with us during the past week but very little damage and they both increase the fighting spirit of the French rather than having any tendency to get their goat as the Kaiser seems to think. The communiqué and yesterday P.M. spoke of a new push by the Hun between Montdidier & Noyan. Today it is raining so guess that will help stop him by impeding the movement of his artillery. Anyhow the rain is quite welcome for a change as it has been quite dry for the past month or more. We had one week when it was pretty hot during the day but most of the time it has been just right. Even during this warm spell I slept under blankets every night. Guess it’s pretty warm now in “Caroline du Sud” as the French call South Carolina.

But it’s time to start my afternoon round in my “jitney” so more next week.

Love to all. Carl.

O.K. Thomas C. Montgomery 2nd Lt. Inf. R.C.

 

 

 

 

May 25, 1918. “Surely would like to get some real Southern cooking again….”

May 25, 1918. Monty drops a few lines in his “half hour before lunch” because he’s got to go out about 30 kilometers and will be late getting back. “Speaking of rides, had a beautiful one on Wednesday…the route being along the Seine…just one picture after another. The weather has been great and this particular afternoon it was just right for automobile riding so enjoyed my outing all round.”

Along with this good weather and moonlight nights one expects the Bosche and he didn’t disappoint us. Wednesday night the alert sounded about 11 o’clock and the balcony outside our apartment was soon lined with pajama clad figures, rather a funny sight in the moonlight. The barrage was on for a while but it was soon finished and we had the “All clear” bugle. However, about three o’clock I was waked by a violent barrage which continued for about an hour. It seems to have been pretty effective for, from the official communiqué, only one Gotha out of forty got into the city and this did very little damage. Our crowd has been deliberating on visiting the official “abris” in the neighborhood during the next alert to see what kind of neighbors we have but so far the alerts have come about bedtime or after and we’ve been too lazy to dress and go down.

His French architect M. Veber is promising “le beautemps” tomorrow after a chilly day and he notes that dusk comes around “nine o’clock or after though that is partly due to the daylight saving hour. How are you liking it back home?”[2] He also notes that the French have some of the monuments “sandbagged against the air raids” including the Arc de Triomphe. “The French took care of their best loved monuments and relics first but they have most of them pretty well sandbagged now.”

Apartment life continues agreeable and guests “envy us both our apartment and our cuisine.” He seems ambivalent about his weight: “I’m already as heavy as I have ever been, having picked up about ten pounds since I came to France.” He thinks this will persist “if Eugenie, our cook, continues to feed us the way she is doing.” He reflects that cantaloupe season has arrived at home. “I surely would like to try some real Southern cooking again though, as aforesaid, I seem to be thriving on the French variety.”

[2] Congress first established Daylight Savings Time in 1918 presumably to support the war effort through energy savings. It was generally unpopular and was rescinded the following year.

 

Transcribed Letter:

c/o Q.M.U.S. Troops,

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

May 25, 1918

Dear Mother: –

Having a half hour before lunch thought I’d drop you a few lines as don’t expect to have the time tomorrow. This afternoon I’ve got to go out about 30 kilometers and will be fairly late getting back in. Speaking of rides had a beautiful one on Wednesday when I went out 50 kilometers most of the route being along the Seine. With everything green it was wonderfully beautiful, just one picture after another. The weather has been great and this particular afternoon it was just right for automobile riding so enjoyed my outing all round.

Along with this good weather and moonlight nights one expects the Bosche and he didn’t disappoint us. Wednesday night the alert sounded around 11 o’clock and the balcony outside our apartment was soon aligned with pajama clad figures, rather a funny sight in the moonlight. The barrage was on for a while but it was soon finished and we had the “All Clear” bugle. However, about 3 o’clock I was waked by a violent barrage which continued for about an hour. It seems to have been pretty effective for, from the official communiqué, only one Gotha out of 40 got into the city and this did very little damage. Our crowd has been deliberating on visiting the official “abris” in the neighborhood during the next alert to see what kind of neighbors we have but so far the alerts have come about bedtime or after and we’ve been too lazy to dress and go down.

After a week of excellent weather it has been a bit cool and cloudy yesterday and today but my friend, M. Veber, assures me that this is very temporary and we will have “le beautemps” again tomorrow. You know it isn’t dark these days until about 9 o’clock or after though of course that is partly due to the daylight saving hour. How are you liking it back home?

Noticed in the new “Colliers“ this week some pictures of how they have some of the monuments here sandbagged against the air raids. One of them was the Arch de Triomphe which I pass every day. The French took care of their best loved monuments and relics first but they have most of them pretty well sandbagged now.

Our apartment continues to go satisfactorily and all of the guests we have in seem to envy us both our apartment and our cuisine. I shall be picking up flesh if Eugenie, our cook, continues to feed us the way she is doing and I’m already as heavy as I’ve ever been, having picked up about 10 pounds since I came to France.

Met a medical officer last night named Allison from Yorkville who knew Bedford Moore and quite a few other people of my acquaintance back home. He told me incidentally that he understood Moore was coming over in Y.M.C.A. work or perhaps he may already be over here.

I guess it’s beginning to be pretty warm at home now and you’re commencing to have cantaloupes and such. Surely would like to get some real Southern cooking again though, as aforesaid, I seem to be thriving on the French variety.

No mail this week but understand a big one is due in today and so hope to find something from you Monday. My mail is getting through a good deal more regularly now and hope it so continues.

Love to all,

Carl

 

O.K. Thomas C. Montgomery [signature]

2nd Lt. Inf. R.C.

 

May 11, 1918, [from Kenly]. “Have been putting off writing until I had soloed.”

Tuesday [May 11, 1918]

Dear Mother:

Have been putting off writing until I had soloed. Expected to do so two weeks ago, but bad weather interfered and delayed me. However, finally got away with my tryout last Friday, passed it and then took to the air alone for my first solo flight. Got off the water all right and then completed the two fifteen mile rounds of the bay. Was up 40 minutes. Got along fine but I surely did have a sort of feeling of, “oh, why did they let me go up”, when I hit the first air bumps. Have been going fine since then and have in 10.20 hrs in the air alone now. My first few rounds of the bay rather resembled a snake’s path, but am getting better now. I have been up 3100 feet by myself tho went up 6300 once with an instructor. Will get in 3 and a half hrs a day from now on as have passed my 10 hrs of solo. Up to 10 you’re only allowed an hour and a half. Wish that Horace could come down here and see the planes and flying boats we have. All the big boats are equipped with Liberty motors and they are all performing marvelously. Don’t think that he would say that the Navy wasn’t well-equipped. There seems to be no scarcity of the Liberty motors as far as our needs are concerned. We have an English captain from the Royal Naval Air Corps attached to the station now to assist in instruction on the big boats.

He is some flyer, has two German planes and one submarine to his credit. Hope and expect that I should qualify and get my commission by the last of July. We have besides the elementary flying, to qualify in the big boats now before we are thru. Will get a two weeks furlough when I finish and then will probably be sent to one of the elementary training stations for a couple of months training in executive work. The hope is to train us so that we will be able to handle any sort of job when we go across. Don’t think that there’s any chance of any of our company going across until late in the fall so there’s no need to worry about my being rushed across.

We are working pretty steadily now from 6 a.m. till 8:30 p.m. as we have classes and then we clean the planes up at night. Am getting so brown that don’t think you will know me. You all never did say whether you received that company picture of us at Tech. Will send Carl‘s uniform this weekend as had to have the coat realtered first. I had the bottom pockets taken off for my use as we only have two on our uniform and then when I got your letter had to have them put back on which was some job.

In regard to the matter with Mr. Hughes have written him and will take care of that myself so don’t bother about it.

 

Tell Bell enjoyed her letter lots.

Love to all, John.

P.S. don’t let the fudge and chocolate cake stop. I need them.

 

 

 

May 11, 1918. “Meanwhile, on this ‘Mother’s Day Eve’, just want you to know that the older I grow in years and wisdom, the more I appreciate all you’ve done for and been to me and being at this distance brings it home to me more than ever.”

May 11, 1918. This is his “Mother’s Day” letter. The number of apartment dwellers is up to eleven, but the apartment is still a success.

Tonight for instance we had a nice dinner and then adjourned to the sitting room—after getting out of “Sam Browns” and blouses and into sweaters and slippers—where some have been chatting and some reading. Now I’m in the “petit salon” next to the “grand salon” or sitting room where quiet must be maintained, while some of the bunch are beginning to get “the Saturday night bath.” This latter is an institution here perforce as, owing to scarcity and high price of coal, most landlords and hotels will give you from May 1st to November 1st only on Saturdays and Sundays. Our apartment is located just off the “Étoile” where the Arch of Triumph is, in a very nice quarter….

Monty describes more of his daily routine either because his direct discussion with the Censor has loosened his pen, or because he is seeing it for the first time in the good weather and putting pieces together leading to the juxtaposition of this work and the situation of the men in the trenches along a front sometimes less than sixty miles away.

Yesterday I got away from my office a bit earlier than usual so walked out [along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées] and, except for the preponderance of men in uniform and army automobiles passing up and down, it was hard to realize that the trenches were only sixty miles away. I have grown so used to seeing the officers of the different allied armies that I think little of it but suppose you would find it most interesting and, after these months, I even am struck by it once in a while. First perhaps you’ll see a British staff car with the officers having the crimson band and gold visor on their caps which gives their staff officers the slang name of “brass hats”. Then you’ll see the blue of the French, the field green of the Italians, our own khaki and occasional Belgians and Portuguese—a most interesting picture when one stops to think of it.

Or maybe he has gotten into the mind of his “chauffeur of the past several weeks” who is “fresh from the States and frankly interested in all he saw. I’ve had much amusement from watching him looking around as he drove and taking in all the sights—and he surely has many amusing questions.”

He reports a letter from Kate that arrived in “only 18 days from Columbia here, which was pretty good I think.”

He dwells for a moment on Marion, which “must be pretty now and would surely like to see it.” His mother and sister Mabel have been “keeping busy” and are involved in undefined “war activities.” He regrets that “being so far away” means that “I can’t help in any way.”

However, some one of these days when the Bosche has been put where “this won’t happen again”, I hope to be back and take these cares off your shoulders. Meanwhile, on this “Mother’s Day Eve”, just want you to know that the older I grow in years and wisdom, the more I appreciate all you’ve done for and been to me and being at this distance brings it home to me more than ever. So with lots of love and hoping to be with you again when the next Mother’s Day comes,

“Your red headed Son.”

 

Transcribed Letter:

c/o Q.M.U.S. Troops,

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

May 11, 1918

Dear Mother –

It’s Saturday night and as I probably shan’t have time to write tomorrow, shall write my regular letter and my “Mother’s Day” letter at one and the same time.

Have surely been getting lots of enjoyment out of our apartment – as I think the whole crowd has. Tonight for instance we had a nice dinner and then adjourned to the sitting room – after getting out of “Sam Browns” and blouses and into sweaters and slippers – where some have been chatting and some reading. Now I am in the “petit salon” next to the “grand salon”, or sitting room, the former being reserved as a writing room where quiet must be maintained, while some of the bunch are beginning to get “the Saturday night bath”. This latter is an institution here perforce as, owing to scarcity and high price of coal, most landlords in hotels will give you hot water from May 1st to November 1st only on Saturdays and Sundays.

Our apartment is located just off the “Etoile” where the Arch of Triumph is, in a very nice quarter and only five minutes walk from the Bois de Boulogne. Going to and from work now I take the Avenue des Champs Elysees, the most beautiful Street in Paris and one of the most beautiful there is. Yesterday I got away from my office a bit earlier than usual so walked out this street and, except for the preponderance of men in uniform and army automobiles passing up and down, it was hard to realize that the trenches were only 60 miles away. I have grown so used to seeing the officers of the different allied armies that I think little of it but suppose you would find it most interesting and, after these months, I even am struck by it once in a while. First perhaps you’ll see a British staff car with staff officers having the crimson band and gold visor on their caps which gives their staff officers the slang name of “brass hats”. Then you’ll see the blue of the French, the field green of the Italians, our own khaki and occasional Belgians and Portuguese – a most interesting picture when one stops to think of it. My chauffeur for the past several weeks was fresh from the states and frankly interested in all he saw. I’ve had much amusement from watching him looking around as he drove and taking in all the sights – and he surely has many amusing questions.

Had a letter from Kate this week of April 20th only 18 days from Columbia here which was pretty good I think. Enjoyed it very much and will write her direct when I get a little more time. Also had a letter from Horton – have rather a hunch his he’s either over here or on his way by now and hope I’ll run into him some of these times. Just yesterday I saw one of my law school classmates and one is continually meeting somebody you knew or whose friends you knew back home.

Know Marion must be pretty now and would surely like to see it. you and Mabel seem to be keeping busy as usual from your letters but I don’t want you to work too hard on these war activities for you have enough worries of your own besides them. One of the hard things of about being so far away is that I can’t help you in any way with your affairs. However some one of these days when the Bosche has been put where “this won’t happen again”, I hope to be back and take those cares off your shoulders. Meanwhile, on this “Mother’s Day Eve”, just want you to know that the older I grow in years and wisdom, the more I appreciate all you’ve done for and been to me and being at this distance brings it home to me more than ever. So with lots of love and hoping to be with you again when the next Mother’s Day comes,

Your redheaded Son

 

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lt Inf. R.C.

 

 

 

May 4, 1918. “Well I guess the Bosche will be over tonight”.

May 4th, 1918. His letter shows frustration with the mails. Though letters are now getting through, “I’ve about lost all hope on the package proposition for have never yet received any cigars beyond those shipped in November and December.” He’s now proposing to “discontinue” the service he has so meticulously detailed in his letters “as so many are lost and there is a fairly regular supply at the commissary these days.” There seems to be a bit of routine settling on his life in Paris.

Apartment life is suiting him after four days—“it’s much better than hotel life.” The first challenge has been to keep the cook “from doing things too well.” His concern is the cost since the apartment is cheaper than the hotel as long as the cook doesn’t feed them too well.

“(Continued May 6th)”

“Yesterday I spent most of the day out at the St. Cloud Country Club,” which he describes as being “close to Mount Valérien, one of the famous Paris forts at the time of the Franco-Prussian war.” He is making plans to see Versailles;he has been “saving it up until spring.”

He reports “a quiet time with regard to air raids and the big gun lately but guess I’d better knock on wood.”

It seems rather strange to associate a beautiful night with the idea of death and destruction but now when it is a clear night, one’s first thought and remark to your friends is “Well I guess the Bosche will be over tonight”. However, they’ve really reached the city only four times since I’ve been here.

That ends the letter.

 

Transcribed Letter:

c/o Q.M.U.S. Troops,

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

May 4, 1918

Dear Mother: –

Had several other home letters this week, some as late as April 6 but none from you home folks. Guess some from Marion will be getting through to me this next week. However, I’ve about lost hope on the package proposition for have never yet received any cigars beyond those shipped in November and December of two boxes and some pipe tobacco each. Guess you might as well discontinue trying to send them as so many are lost and there is a fairly regular supply at the commissary these days. Was talking this week to one of the chief men in the Postal Service over here and he told me that besides the packages stolen and rifled after they reach this side that on one transport recently 40 bags of packages had been opened and rifled.

We moved into our apartment this week and it’s much better than hotel life. There are eleven of us with a cook and two maids to take care of us so we are pretty comfortably fixed – and the cook is some cook. Shouldn’t wonder now that I am nicely located I may get transferred some other place – you can’t tell in the army where you’ll be next. Our only trouble with this cook is to keep her from doing things too well. She wants to feed us so well that to allow her to do so would make it more instead of less expensive than hotel life. However, after several interviews in which much French was passed think we’ve finally got her to understand our point of view on the matter.

(Continued May 6) Had our first thunderstorms Saturday night but it was followed by two wonderful spring days yesterday and today. Yesterday I spent most of the day out at the St. Cloud Country Club which is beautifully situated on the heights just outside the city and close to Mount Valerian, one of the famous forts at the time of the Franco-Prussian war. Now that the weather is good, think I shall spend some Sunday soon out there at Versailles which is, of course, one of the show places around Paris. Have been saving it up until the spring as it is said to be most beautiful at this time of year.

We’ve had a quiet time with regard to air raids and the big gun lately but guess I better knock on wood for you can’t tell when they will commence again. It seems rather strange to associate a beautiful night with the idea of death and distraction but now when it is a clear night one’s first thought and remark to your friend is “Well I guess the Bosche will be over again tonight”. However, they’ve really reached the city only four times since I’ve been here. No other news at this time, Love to all, Carl

Thomas C. Montgomery,

2nd Lt. Inf. R.C.

 

May 1, 1918 [to Mabel]

On May 1, 1918, he writes Mabel. “Have given my stenographer all the work she can handle for an hour or two and, having nothing particular for an hour…shall try to get off a decent letter.” This probably explains the handwritten five pages that follow.

He refers to her letter of March 31st that reached him April 27th “which wasn’t so bad.” Her letter got through in less than a month.

He is surprised that anyone “back home” has the idea that he is “an interpreter” and decides “to clear the air on that” by giving a description of what he is doing. He recently had a conversation with the “Chief Censor in France” which results in his understanding that there is “no objection” to writing about what he is doing.

He then describes the evolution of his job beginning with the “Lease and Contracts Dept.” attached to the Chief Quartermaster. “When Hq. was ordered to leave here in late December…I was left in charge of that department for three weeks—some job too as it included the operation of all our Paris buildings.” After some further shuffling, he is “in charge of the making of all leases for Paris and vicinity and also in charge of some 25 buildings.” He enumerates a French architect “attached to my office” which also includes a stenographer and an interpreter. Plans are under way to extend his leasing duties to all of northern France and to diminish his role in building management. This suits him because he cares “little for the repairs and alterations and operation of buildings.” And he sees an opportunity “to get out of Paris from time to time and see something of other places.”

He is already getting out a lot within Paris. He and the architect “chase around the city” every afternoon “for one to three hours” in his designated and chauffeured automobile. This has given him a good sense of the city and he is “constantly in contact with the French.” He describes the architect as “one of the best in Paris.” “We get along beautifully together and he calls me his “élève,” or pupil, in French and it’s quite true that I’ve made most of my progress in French because of being forced to speak it with him.” Monty also conducts his business in French with the officers at the Ministry of War, “and you ought to see me ‘parle’ing with them in French. They are very forbearing of my bad French and we get along nicely.”

The weather is still grim—“a rotten April here, either rainy or cloudy nearly all the time and always cool.” Looking for “decent days,” he is forecasting that May will be the best month. “Practically all the trees are in full leaf and you get some beautiful views riding around the city, particularly along the Seine or the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, probably the most beautiful street in the world so it is said.” All he asks for is “a little sunshine.”

He closes with his apartment news. “Ten of us are moving today into an apartment, or rather two apartments.” He expects to gain proficiency with his French since the “cook and two maids” speak no English.

Transcribed Letter:

 

c/o Q.M.U.S. Troops,

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

May 1, 1918

 

Dear Mabel –

Have given my stenographer all the work she can handle for an hour or two and, having nothing particular for an hour until some of my French friends will be coming in, shall try to get off a decent letter.

Your letter of March 31 reached me last Saturday, Apl. 27, which wasn’t so bad. Enjoyed all your news and glad to get the pictures of Olivia and Bell. Sorry to have missed Charlie and Ernest but they must have gone to the wrong place or some “bonehead” soldier at the information desk in this building gave them bad information for have been in the same office & same building ever since I came to Paris Nov. 28th, nor have I been any further than the suburbs during that time. Don’t understand how anybody back home got the idea that I was an interpreter and, to clear the air on that will tell you what I am and have been doing – having talked to the Chief Censor in France recently and finding there is no objection to it. When I came to Paris I was attached to the Lease and Contracts Dept. of the office of the Chief Quartermaster, Lines of Communication. When Hq. was ordered to leave here in late December, my Chief in the department was ordered to the place where they were to move to lease the necessary buildings and I was left in charge of that department for three weeks – same job so it included the operation of all our Paris buildings then when Hq. left, my boss and I being the only ones who knew anything about Paris leases and buildings, I was left here in charge of the making of all leases for Paris and vicinity and also in charge of some 25 buildings and have so continued.

Have a French architect attached to my office – who speaks no English – a stenographer and an interpreter. My superiors are now planning now to divorce me from the management of these buildings, which includes repairs and alterations on all buildings occupied by our army in Paris, and use me all the time on leases and contracts, both in Paris and Northern France. May say this doesn’t peeve me at all as I like the lease and contract proposition all right and care little for the repairs and alterations and operation of buildings. Also it will give me a chance to get out of Paris from time to time and see something of other places.

Have had an automobile assigned to me and nearly every afternoon this architect and I chase around the city for 1 to 3 hours investigating buildings we are thinking of leasing interviewing proprietors of said buildings and booking our repairs and alterations in progress. Consequently I’ve come to know the city pretty well and also I am constantly in contact with the French. Usually have a stream of providers and contractors from 4:30 to 6:30 every afternoon, these being our hours for receiving such people. This architect is one of the best in Paris and particularly has business ideas more in accordance with ours than most of the French. We get along beautifully together and he calls me his “eleve”, or pupil, in French and it’s quite true that I’ve made most of my progress in French because of being forced to speak it with him. My work also brings me into contact with French officers at the Ministry of War from time to time, one of them pretty often, and you ought to see me “parle” ing with them in French. They are my very forbearing of my bad French and we get along nicely.

We’ve had a rotten April here, either rainy or cloudy nearly all the time and always coal [sic]. However, now that May has come I’m hoping to see some decent days for a change, this being the month when Paris is supposed to be at its best – and it is – but a little sunshine would be a great help. Particularly all the trees are in full leaf and you get some beautiful views riding around the city particularly along the Seine or the Avenue des Champs Elysees probably the most beautiful street in the world so it is said.

As stated in the previous letter ten of us are moving today into an apartment or rather two apartments on the same floor, where we shall be housekeeping for ourselves. We’ll get some exercise in French there too as, of our cook and two maids, not a one speaks any English. Will have more news of that in my next letter.

Love to all, Carl

Address mailing until further notice to c/o. Q.M.U.S. Troops, APO 702, and think maybe it’ll reach me more easily. Note also it is now “Inf.R.C.” meaning “Infantry Reserve Corps” instead of “Inf U.S.R.”.

O.K. Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lt Inf. R. C.

 

 

 

April 7, 1918. “The Bosche let us have two long distance shells yesterday….”

April 7, 1918. He opens with “nothing much to add” since he’s under the censor’s blade not to discuss anything of “real interest, such as the present offensive.” [note]

He spends a paragraph on spring, noting that one of the boulevards he frequents has a swath of elms followed by a similar row of sycamores: “it looks like spring where the elms are and still winter where are the sycamores.”

The Bosche let us have two long distance shells yesterday, his first in several days, but with no damage. Saturday and Sunday seem to be favorite days for dropping them in; haven’t heard any yet this morning but shouldn’t wonder he’ll favor us before the day is over.

He recounts feeling “pretty envious” over the departure of a friend who is “sailing for home tomorrow.” We haven’t heard much from Monty that suggests homesickness or feelings about his situation. Though he misses being in South Carolina during spring, he gives us a bit of insight into his own ambivalence as well as engagement with the excitement of the war. “As much as I’d like to get home for a while and see you all, guess I wouldn’t like to go if I couldn’t come back here again before the show is over.”

To the end of staying for the rest of the show perhaps, he asks his mother to send “the extra khaki uniform I sent back from New York and one extra pair of khaki trousers.”

 

Transcribed Letter:

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

April 7, 1918

Dear Mother: –

Don’t believe I have anything much to add to my letters of a day or two ago as one doesn’t discuss matters of real interest, such as the present offensive[1], in letters owing to certain rules and regulations promulgated by the Censor.

We’ve had a truly April week so far as weather is concerned, alternatively showers and sunshine. The trees are getting out their leaves in good shape, that is all except the sycamores of which there are a great many in Paris and which seem to be very late. One Boulevard I travel every day has sycamores about halfway in elms the rest; consequently it looks like spring where the elms are and still winter where are the sycamores. Was out through the Bois de Bologne a couple of Sundays ago and it looked really springlike there. Want to get out that way again this afternoon for it should be more beautiful every week now

The Bosche let us have two long distance shells yesterday, his first in several days, but with no damage. Saturday and Sunday seem to be favored days for dropping them in; haven’t heard any yet this morning but shouldn’t wonder if he’ll favor us before the day is over.

Saw a colonel I know yesterday who was sailing for home tomorrow which made me feel pretty envious. However, as much as I’d like to get home for a while and see you all, guess I wouldn’t like to go if I couldn’t come back here again before the show is over.

No more mail from home yet but was talking to a Post Office man yesterday who told me they were handling a big bunch now and guess something ought to show up soon.

Love to all,

Carl.

 

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

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

 

P.S. Wish you could send me the khaki uniform I sent back from New York and one extra pair of khaki trousers which think I left in my big trunk along with another blouse and pair of trousers. The uniform I wore to New York is my best khaki and there shouldn’t be any difficulty in distinguishing it from the others which I bought from the Q.M. . Guess they’ll reach me by June and think I may have some need for them this summer.

[1] Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff’s Spring Offensive (March 21, 1919, code named Michael) was an attempt to move victoriously before American troops were well integrated into the old battle lines. It was the first significant movement on the Western Front since 1914, a move emboldened by additional troops from the Eastern Front and the advent of the “Paris Gun” which began its “bombardment” on March 21, 1918. Frighteningly successful at the time—and Paris was an objective—the German “Spring Offensive” exhausted itself at great expense to both sides by the end of April, never reaching Paris.