April 3, 1918. [from Kenly] “It looks like a whale with wings….”

[April 3, 1918]

Pensacola Fla.

Sunday.

 

Dear mother:

Still enjoying the rest down here and gaining flash. Think that pretty soon will be back up to normal again. Got my first flying last week and it is fine. Understand from the new regulations published last week that we are to do most of our flying as pilots of these wonderful flying boats that I wrote about last week and that it will consist almost entirely of submarine patrol. Surely hope so as these machines are marvelous. Two English officers came down last week and the boat was put thru its stunts for them and understood that they said it was far superior to anything across the pond and the Liberty Motor was a wonder. Everybody down here is tickled to death [about] it. It looks like a whale with wings and it did 105 miles an hour at some times on Tuesday. It makes these little Curtiss planes that we are learning on seem and sound like a Ford by a Pierce-Arrow.

Please tell sis to my remembrance of the wheels was they were to be returned and $18.75 credit allowed on them.

Please try to send me some chocolate fudge in quantity once a week and a chocolate cake occasionally as have before remarked the food is rotten. Eat dinner and support the YWCA cafeteria but have to go to breakfast at the mess hall. Also don’t forget to send me a “State” sometimes as they can’t be bought down here.

Love to all, John

I’m enclosing a little service pin that that you might like. Also please tell Bill that she can send me any more of Horace’s plain white shirts that he doesn’t need.

 

 

March 25, 1918. [from Kenly] “Have been sent up here to the detention camp with the rest of my company….”

Transcription of letter from John Kenly Montgomery to Mother:

Friday

[Original header crossed out. Following written in:]

Naval Air Station

Squadron I

Pensacola, Fla.

 

Dear Mother:

Have been sent up here to the detention camp with the rest of my company because one of the boys in the previous flights brought measles in. Understand that we are to be kept here three weeks. It is a swell location about a half a mile from the rest of the yard up on a little hill in a grove and there is a good breeze all the time. All we have to do is drill raw recruits I mean regular sailor who sent up here for three weeks upon arriving. We are living in tents two men to a tent and the food is very good. The only drawback is that we all had to have our heads clipped close so that we look like a bunch of shorn lambs. Never saw such a ridiculous looking aggregation in all my life. We took some pictures of each other this morning and will send some prints home as soon as possible. Am enclosing a picture of our company taken at Tech two days before we left. I am second from the end on the left and really my face was not as soiled as it looks in the picture. [no photos in the envelope].

Was mighty sorry that couldn’t come by at home, but the Navy gives no leave coming from ground school here and so my request was turned down as were numerous others. Furthermore we didn’t know until Monday morning where and when we were going, whether to Key West, here, Miami, or San Diego. We finally got our orders that morning to leave that afternoon. Came on Southern by Spartanburg and Greenville. Surely have enjoyed the coming South again as was tired of the north, both weather and people.

Ran into Jason [?] Roberts from Zion yesterday on arriving. He is down here in the machinists school but has an application in for transfer to the aviation in hopes to go up to Tech about the middle of April.

Please send me that pair of khaki pants of Carl’s old uniform as can wear them around the Navy Yard as we don’t have to wear jackets except at inspections and when going on liberty. Also send me that pair of gray baseball trousers, they are the ones without any padding of any sort, the old gold and black stockings, the pair of baseball shoes with iron spikes on them, and my black baseball glove, as they have a baseball team down here and will have considerable time to practice up here at the camp.

Tell Sis [Mabel] that I wrote that I tho’t best to send those wood wheels back and get the allowance on them. I said that sometime since.

[single sheet follows; two numbered sides, 1 and 3. Hints at a missing page.]

  1. That money I wired for was to get a khaki uniform up in Boston as we have to wear them down here entirely and they are cheaper in Boston than here. I got one in Boston with two pairs of pants for $30.00 and down here the same suit is $39.00. Had to buy a monkey suit [….]
  2. [….] ready made army Kaki for $20.00 apiece here. It is cheap stuff and not regulation naval uniform, but can get away with it around the yard and use the good uniform from Boston for dress. So if you can send me $40.00 more think that will be all I will need as when get my commission [….]

March 24, 1918. “…the new gun… bombarding Paris from a distance of 75 miles….”

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.

March 17, 1918. To Kate: “It broke quite a bit of glass all through the city.”

“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.

March 13, 1918. “Friday night one bomb hit about 400 yards down from my hotel….”

On March 13, 1918 he writes his mother that he didn’t get around to a letter “Sunday as was busy all morning—my usual time for writing.”

He reports on “several things of interest in the last week, chiefly the two Bosche air raids, one Friday and one Monday night, the latter coming on Secretary [of War, Newton] Baker’s first night in Paris, perhaps to show him what they could do.” The air raids occurred about 9:00 pm in contrast to the recent midnight raids. Monty “had just settled down with a cigar and a book in an old sweater, when the alert was sounded.”

I room on the fifth floor and that isn’t considered very healthy in such times—the cellar being preferred—so…I sauntered down to the cellar after a while there with all the other occupants of the hotel. I decided it wasn’t much place to stay so got my book again and came over here to the Y.M.C.A. Officer’s hotel across the street where I read in more or less peace until eleven o’clock when I went on to bed being very sleepy, though the anti-aircraft barrage was still going and an occasional bomb coming down.

“Friday night one bomb hit about 400 yards down from my hotel and it was some bomb. I was down there about half an hour afterwards and there was a taxi down in the bottom of it (the hole), having run in shortly after the hole was made. Both times the raid ran on until a little after midnight which interferes a bit with one’s time of going to bed.”

“it was quite a surprise to find Mr. Baker was over here but am glad he came as there’s nothing like seeing the situation over here in order to really understand it.”

He describes a newsy letter from Kate postmarked January 27, received within the past week, and a note from Annie Covington who sent him a muffler and there was his mother’s letter of January 16. “Am looking for a letter any day addressed direct to me” since everything up to this point has been forwarded from elsewhere. “[L]etters so addressed should reach me in a shorter time….”

Monty then addresses the increasingly spring like weather noting “tonight the air had the first real softness of spring” and he thinks Paris will be “even more worth seeing than usual in a month or six weeks when all of the trees are in leaf. At that I’d swap it any time to see South Carolina again about this time.”

Transcription:

 

March 13, 1918

A.P.O. 702

Dear Mother –

Didn’t get to write my usual letter Sunday as was busy all morning in my office – my usual time for writing – and the afternoon was so fine that I spent it in the open – Sunday afternoon being the only one when I have any chance to get around for some exercise.

We’ve had several things of interest in the last week, chiefly the two Bosche air raids, one Friday [March 8] and one Monday night [March 11] the latter coming on Secretary [of War Newton D.] Baker‘s first night in Paris, perhaps to show him what they could do. Both times they came early, about 9 o’clock, as against 12 [o’clock] Jan. 30th. Monday they interfered seriously with my intention of spending a quiet evening in my room. Had just settled down with a cigar and a book in an old sweater, when the alert was sounded. I room on the fifth floor and that isn’t considered very healthy in such times – the cellar being preferred – so I put on my blouse and sauntered down to the cellar. After a while there with all the other occupants of the hotel I decided it wasn’t much place to stay so got my book again and came over here to the YMCA Officer’s hotel across the street where I read in more or less peace until 11 o’clock when I went on to bed being very sleepy, though the anti-aircraft barrage was still going and occasional bombs coming down. By the time I write you’ve probably read an account of both in the papers at home so there’s nothing to add to these reports about the small damage done. Friday night one bomb hit about 400 yards down from my hotel and it was some bomb. I was down there about half an hour afterwards and there was a taxi down in the bottom of it (the hole) having run in shortly after the hole was made. Both times the raid ran on until a little after midnight which interferes a bit with one’s time of going to bed.

It was quite a surprise to find Mr. Baker was over here but am glad he came as there’s nothing like seeing the situation over here in order to really understand it.

Last week I had a very newsy letter from Kate of Jan. 27th and also one from you about Jan. 16th enclosing a note from Annie Covington. My regards again to Annie for both the muffler and the note. Am looking for a letter any day addressed direct to me at A.P.O. 702 and any letters so addressed should reach me in a shorter time than heretofore.

The weather has been great the past week, fine every day though an overcast continues to feel good in my migrations around in a machine. Have seen bits of green showing on the trees in the several places and, as I came it up from the office tonight the air had the first real softness of spring. Imagine this Paris is going to be more worth seeing than usual in a month or six weeks when all the trees are in leaf. At that I’d swap it any time to see South Carolina again about this time.

Hope you are all continuing well and that Kenley is progressing with his work. Wish you’d send me his letters or a copy of them.

 

Love to all,

Carl

 

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lt Inf. U.S.R.

 

March 3, 1918.

On March 1, 1918, Senator Ed Smith’s office forwards a letter from the War Department telling Mrs. Annie S. Montgomery “There is no reason apparent to this office why Lieutenant Montgomery should not receive and answer mail addressed as above.” By now, though, mail is apparently flowing again though the War Department would have misled Mrs. Montgomery since they say her son is reachable as infantry, unassigned at General Headquarters. It has been three months now since he reached Paris and sits behind a desk.

On March 3rd, Monty is responding to sister Bell’s “long and interesting letter of Jan. 17th” that he had received the previous day. His first letter to her, he goes through the censorship issue: “though I don’t think telling you what I am doing would give any military information, I don’t care to take a chance on it.”

“…guess you know by now that I’ve seen Aubrey Wheeler and Dick Johnson.”

Despite earlier assurances: “It snowed all day yesterday and this morning there is slush and mud everywhere and the skies are still gray.”

He enjoys the city. “I never get tired of the views one gets around this city.” He’s often out there on foot or by car: “I’ve seen many parts and come in contact with many people that a tourist wouldn’t have seen in a thousand years.” He describes the views and the grayish uniformity of the buildings but notes Sacré Coeur as the exception. It is built of “nearly white stone. The other afternoon I was coming in from St. Ouen (one of the suburbs) when I got a wonderful view of it with the sun behind it—it seemed more like some dream than something actual.”

“Am now figuring with several other officers on getting an apartment. We can buy most of our staple groceries from the commissary and so, even after hiring a cook and another servant can live much cheaper than at a hotel.” He worries though that the step towards permanence will jinx the effort—“about the time we get comfortably settled some of us will be transferred elsewhere but will have to take a chance on that.”

He closes with the hope that neither her husband nor daughter will be too distracting so she can write him again soon.

Transcription:

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

March 3rd, 1918

 

Dear Bell: –

Your long and interesting letter of Jan. 17th reached me yesterday afternoon and also during the week received a muffler from Annie Covington–please pass on to her my grateful thanks for saying

As to my not giving you any facts about what I’m doing, suppose by this time you have received several letters which gave you much more of an idea than previously. As to mentioning your work, that is absolutely “defendu” by the censor. Of course, only a small percentage of mail which bears an officers O.K. is opened and that is why some of the news you speak of went through but, though I don’t think telling you what I’m doing would give any military information, I don’t care to take a chance on it.

As to news about the other boys from home, guess you know by this time that I’ve seen Aubrey Wheeler and Dick Johnson. Aubrey wasn’t here Xmas as you think but some two weeks before that. When I got Dick’s wire that he was coming up for Xmas I wired Aubrey but he couldn’t make it and has since written me that he now has as much chance of getting to Paris on leave as he has of getting to Berlin for a week end. Munroe Johnson has also been in Paris since I’ve been here but it was in December when he didn’t know I was here so I didn’t get to see him. Dick was here three days at Xmas and was with me at my hotel which made it much more pleasant for both of us at that season. I’ve also seen John David and Leslie Lane from Dillon a time or two since coming to France.

March has surely “come in like a lion” here after a mild and pleasant February. It snowed all day yesterday and this morning there is slush and mud everywhere and the skies are still grey. However a Parisian with whom I am closely associated in my work tells me that this is the last cold weather we’ll have and spring will really be coming on in the very few days now. Have noticed a few of the trees trying to bud during this past week. I never get tired of the views one gets around the city. My work takes me all over it and consequently I’ve seen many parts and come in contact with many people that a tourist wouldn’t have seen in a thousand years. All of the buildings, unless quite new, have a greyish color and are generally of the same or very nearly the same height, all of which gives a uniformity you never see back home. One notable exception is the Cathedral de Sacré Coeur on the heights of Montmartre which is built of nearly white stone. The other afternoon I was coming in from St. Ouen (one of the suburbs) when I got a wonderful view of it with the sun behind it–it seemed more like some dream then something actual.

I note that you speak of Kenly’s finally being in training and suppose there must be a letter or letters in between which tell me about it but which have not yet come to hand. You must have received some of my letters giving my new address as A.P.O. 702 by the first or second week in February and probably this next week some home letters should begin to come through with that address. Probably when that happens other letters addressed to me Hq. L. of C. and otherwise will attach themselves and finally reach me. My address when I cabled in December was Hq. L. of C. and also A.P.O. 702 but when Hq. left I remained and therefore it was necessary to change my address with you. As it is now, anything addressed Hq. L. of C. goes there first and is forwarded to me which delays it anywhere from a day or two to a week or more. Anything you send me addressed to 702 should however come straight through without any delays, and that will be my address until further notice.

Am now figuring with several other officers on getting an apartment. We can buy most of our staple groceries from the commissary and so, even after hiring a cook another servant, can live much cheaper than at a hotel. It will also be much more comfortable and homelike. Am afraid that about the time we get comfortably settled some of us will be transferred elsewhere but will have to take a chance on that.

Hope you’ll find time from the distractions of a husband and daughter to write again soon as enjoyed your letter thoroughly.

Love to all,

Carl

 

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

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

 

 

February 25, 1918. “Am glad to see that an investigation is now being made in Congress.”

By February 25, he’s been tracking the mail. He’s recently gotten his moher’s letter of December 3 and one from Spartanburg dated December 31. “Have nothing from you as yet later than December 29th,” though he knows of “other officers who have received letters dated as late as Feb.8th.” So, he has one letter from home that’s about three months old, and he is in a mail drought that’s of about two months duration. Others are getting mail in about two weeks. “Am glad to see that an investigation is now being made in Congress.”

He addresses the weather—“springlike” after having been “pretty snappy the first day or two of the week.”

Had lunch one day last week with some of these Americans…who’ve been living over here a good many years. There were present a Countess, a Duchess, an English Naval commander, a French government official and myself. Quite some company I was with and the conversation was thoroughly interesting, mostly of the war, and with the other two big Allies represented, one got all the angles and points of view. At lunch I was sitting next to the Countess (an American by the way) and was sure keeping an eye out to see the proper manner of procedure with the table utensils.

And in closing: “Have never yet seen the box of pecans with sweater and suppose it has been ‘submarined’ by some mail handler en route.”

 

Transcribed Letter:

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

Feb. 25, 1918

Dear Mother: –

During the last week your letter mailed Dec. 3rd finally came straying in and also one from Spartanburg of Dec. 31st. Have nothing as yet from you later than Dec. 29th but suppose I’ll be getting another bunch of letters soon, probably covering the whole month of January. There seems to be no “rhyme nor reason” to the way one’s mail comes. As compared with my case, I know of other officers who have received letters dated as late as Feb. 8th. I am glad to see that an investigation is now being made in Congress.

Nothing much to say about the past week. As for weather, after being pretty snappy again the first day or two of the week, the rest of it was fine and Saturday the air was really springlike? Today we are having a regular spring rain but there has been comparatively little rain since Xmas as compared with the fall.

Had lunch one day last week with some of these Americans I’ve before mentioned as knowing who’ve been living over here a good many years. There were present a Countess, a Duchess, an English Naval Commander, a French government official and myself. Quite some company I was with and the conversation was thoroughly interesting, mostly of the war and naturally, with the other two big allies represented, one got all the angles and points of view. At lunch I was sitting next the countess (an American by the way) and was sure keeping an eye out to see the proper manner of procedure with the table implements.

Hope you all continue well at home and that John has been called into service by this time as suppose he got pretty restless during a long wait for his call.

Have never yet seen the box of pecans with sweater and suppose it has probably been “submarined” and buy some mail handler en route.

Regards to all the family, not forgetting Annie Covington

With love, Carl

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

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

February 14, 1918. “My work now takes me out in a machine nearly every afternoon….”

On February 14, Monty writes home that he has not found time for a real letter but “am therefore scratching a few lines anyhow.” He writes again that there has “been nothing of particular interest to record since my last letter except those things which are ‘defendu’ by the censor.” He has however unburdened his soul to Mabel ten days earlier on subjects that might also have been “defendu” though he may simply be sparing his mother the scary reports of his life in a battle zone. So he moves on to safer ground.

“Am glad to say a shipment of cigars and pipe tobacco came through to me Monday—two boxes of cigars and 12 packages of pipe tobacco.” The timing was right “as I had been out of cigars for over a week and the Commissary had none.” “The package of pecans with sweater…has never been received and am afraid has been lost or stolen…. Understand our Intelligence Service is looking into this matter of lost packages and hope they are able to stop it.”

“Took in another reception where the socially elect are found. ‘Among those present’ was an American grand opera singer [Emma Hayden Eames?][1] who has never sung in America. She sang very charmingly but [I] was amused at the grand mannier (?) she had acquired over here.”

Another highlight was “Last Sunday morning I had some real pancakes and syrup for breakfast with some American friends at their apartment and they were surely good.

This afternoon I was at the Pathé Frères[2] factory…modern throughout according to our American ideas. Rather strange to have seen this French “movie” manufactory before ever having seen an American one.”

Never a mention of Valentine’s Day.

[1] So far, unable to identify.

[2] Film production, responsible for popular Pauline in Peril series appearing in US in 1918. No clue why TCM is at the factory.

 

Transcription:

[YMCA letterhead preprinted with 1917 in the date line]

A.P.O. 702

Feb. 14, [1918]

 

Dear Mother –

Have run over my weekly time for writing expecting to find time to write a decent letter but am kept so busy these days that I never seem to find time enough. Am therefore scratching a few lines anyhow.

There’s been nothing of particular interest to record since my last letter except those things which are “defendu” by the censor. Am glad to say that a shipment of cigars and pipe tobacco came through to me Monday – two boxes of cigars and 12 packages of pipe tobacco. It was most welcome as I had been out of cigars for over a week and the commissary had none – nor do I know when they’ll have any there. The package of pecans with sweater which you mention has never been received and am afraid has been lost or stolen as so many packages have been. Understand our Intelligence Service is looking into this matter of lost packages and hope they are able to stop it.

Took in another reception this week where the socially elect are found. “Among those present” was an American grand opera singer who has never sung in America. She sang very charmingly but was amused at the grand mannir (?) [manière] she had acquired over here.

Last Sunday morning I had some real pancakes and syrup for breakfast with some American friends at their apartment and they were surely good. What around there Saturday night and they insisted on my spending the night and being there for pancakes in the morning – you may well believe that I didn’t hesitate long about accepting.

The weather has been fine most of the time for the past month – very little colder than at home at this season and, I understand, much milder than it has been the last two or three winters. I guess the weatherman is making up for the rotten fall we had over here. My work now takes me out in a machine nearly every afternoon and I have enjoyed getting a good look at this famous old City during the good weather. It’s usually cloudy and often foggy until about 9 or 10 o’clock but better after that. This afternoon I was at the Pathé Frères factory and it was a wonderfully interesting place – modern throughout according to our American ideas. Rather strange to have seen this French “movie” manufactory before ever having seen an American one.

Hope you are all continuing well. Will write again soon.

With love,

Carl

 

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lt Inf. U.S.R.

February 13, 1918. “I…have taken this matter up with the War Department.”

Meanwhile in the United States, Monty’s mother has been worried enough about not getting mail from her “son Lieut. T.C. Montgomery who is somewhere in France” that she has contacted US Senator Ellison Smith. In a letter dated February 13, 1918, Senator Smith assures Mrs. Annie S. Montgomery that he has referred the matter to the War Department. “As soon as I have definite information from it, I shall communicate further with you.”

February 4, 1918. “I think they rather prefer going in the ‘Sortie’ and going out the ‘Entrée’”

He is done with the typewritten letter that he pecked out at work, leaves his office and goes home where he decides to “add a little” to his earlier thoughts. He pens an addendum in his sepia handwriting. It begins with a food odyssey, reporting that the “food at the Officers Training Camp was not as good as it might have been though we paid 168 francs—or about $30—a month.”

 

transcription

[about February 4, 1918]

Dear Mabel –

Since writing you this A.M. at my office have been looking over your last letter here at my room and will add a little – probably to be enclosed in the same envelope. As you know, Dick Johnson was with me for Xmas and he told me all about their trip over – they did not to come on the Vaterland as Horace thought from the Pace boy’s letter.

You want to know about food. The food at this Officers Training Camp was not as good as it might have been though we paid 168 francs or about $30 a month . The hardest thing for a good many of us to get used to was the “petit dejeuner” of “cafe au lait”, bread, butter and jam or “confiture” as it is known over here. After our heavier breakfasts at home, we didn’t come to it very gracefully. However, got so used to it the seven weeks I was at this camp that I’ve stuck to it most of the time since I’ve been here where I can get a heavier breakfast if desired. Occasionally, when feeling hungrier than usual in the morning I have an omelette instead of “confiture” but really feel awfully full after a breakfast of that kind. And, speaking of all omelettes, they surely know how to cook one in France – I’ve eaten more omelettes here than in my whole previous career. As a matter of fact the French live up to their re-reputation for good cooking all along the line. I’ve eaten often and enjoy things that I never touched at home, macaroni for instance.

I can’t give you a much of a description of camp life now, having been a city dweller for the last two months but shouldn’t wonder I’ll be ordered to where your stove will be useful before warm weather comes. And, having been here this length of time, most of my first impressions of this town have worn off – after a time you know one takes things as a matter of fact. There are some things though which I continue to notice. For instance in the subway these people have the most cheerful disregard for “Entree” and “Sortie” or Way in and Way out. I think they rather prefer going in the “Sortie” and coming out the “Entree”. Also on the sidewalks right and left mean nothing in their young lives. They walk where it pleases them to walk regardless of whether it’s on the right or left and block up the sidewalk looking at shop windows, or stopping for conversation or a kissing match. Osculation in public is the custom rather than [the reverse?]. Then crossing the street, they are just as likely as not to cross looking the wrong way or with head over the shoulder talking to some one on the pavement with the apparent calm belief that nothing will hit them. My work now requires my being out over the city nearly every day in a machine and my chauffeur has had some amazingly narrowest escapes from hitting some one. Hope he doesn’t. It’s a mystery to me that no more of them get run over, particularly with the way these French taxi drivers go – they’ve got something on New York taxi drivers in recklessness and that’s going some.

As to seeing fellows I knew at home, I’m running into some one often, particularly of my Harvard acquaintances. Besides Dick Johnson, have seen Aubrey Wheeler but have never run into Eugene Munro since leaving Marion. Got word of him through a Captain Simons from Charleston who had run into him in at some village. Bert France, from Spartanburg, was here with me last night as well as for a day about New Years. Never have seen Charlie Anderson but hope to run into him some of these times.

Glad to hear niece Olivia is still progressing so well – I can well imagine that she’s going to be a rather spirited young lady one of these days. Was rather reminded of Olivia the other night when having dinner at the apartment of a fellow officer who is so lucky as to have his wife with him and also a two month old daughter who was duly produced for my benefit.

Regarding cigars again, think, as before suggested, it will be better to send a box every 10 days as then, if one has lost, it doesn’t amount to so much.

Also continue to address everything to me at A.P.O. 702 (which means Army Post Office) until otherwise notified. Even if I am moved to another place, I’ll get mail quicker by having it come here and be forwarded than if there is no other address than A.E.F.

With love,

Carl

P.S. – Feb. 4 – 10 A.M. Found Mother’s letter of Dec. 26 on coming down this A.M. and glad you know more about what I’m doing – the pictures of pictures of Olivia were fine.

O.K.

Thomas C Montgomery,

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