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

February 3, 1919 to Mother.

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Hôtel du Prince Murat, 28 rue de Monceau, where Woodrow Wilson resided during his stay in Paris, 1918-1919.

 

Transcribed letter

[Letterhead: AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES]

Hq. District of Paris

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

[no date; envelope February 3, 1919]

Dear Mother:-

Your letter of Jan. 5th reached me during the week and was much enjoyed as usual. Hope you and Mabel are both in Florida by this time as you both surely deserve a rest in a warmer climate. It has been very cold here for the past two weeks after a mild winter up to that time and I’ve been thinking of how pleasant is a South Carolina winter compared to this damp cold. Am hoping to get away myself in the next week or two for a leave down on the Riviera. A new travel order is just out giving 14 days instead of the seven as heretofore though the 14 includes time of travel. However, it takes only a day each way to get down to Cannes or Nice so that gives me twelve days there and I’m planning to play golf most of the time as am badly in need of outdoor exercise. Shall probably run over to Monte Carlo and Menton for a day or two but expect to spend most of my time very quietly at Cannes which is said not to be so full of Americans as the other places and also more quiet. When I went down before stayed at Nice and I only passed through Cannes but remember well how beautiful it was. Don’t know exactly what day I’ll get away as I’m waiting on Burton France to report for duty with me and to get him broken in before I leave. Have one Lieut. who is rather familiar with the work, having been with me nearly three months but just released one to the Peace Conference so it leaves me short for the moment. Have another who spends most of his time on the road in the districts north of Paris settling up claims where our divisions were last summer. And then have another Captain and 2 Lieuts. who do nothing but automobile accident investigation and settlement of these claims. By the way there is in the Sat. Evening Post of Jan. 4th a write up of the R.R. & C. in connection with several other services of the “S.O.S.” A.E.F. which you may find interesting[1] if you have not yet read it. As heretofore explained to you, my job is known as Section Officer for the District of Paris which places me on the staff of the Commanding General of this District but my nearest boss in R.R.&C. work is the Director of the Service at Hq. S.O.S. Have been much interested in this series of articles by Marcosson in the Post on the S.O.S. as I know personally a great many of the officers of whom he speaks.

Had a more or less of a quiet week socially compared with the way things have been going lately but went to one mighty good dance on Monday night at the home of the Baron de Leonino, the wife of said Baron being one of the Rothschilds[2], and their home is some little cottage to call home. Think it is the most beautiful place I have been in Paris, not excluding the villa Murat[3] where the President is staying. As usual at these dances, I found people of any number of nationalities, this time meeting a couple of Rumanian girls who surely could dance. Sorry John couldn’t take in some of these dances as he would get a lot of enjoyment out of them.

As to what Mr. Wilcox had to say about studying international law, I don’t know so much about the advisability of that but am keeping my eye open for opportunities though haven’t yet much idea what will develop. Think there is going to be much American business with France and I might find something desirable with an American concern over here or vice versa.

Sorry to hear your rheumatism continues to trouble you. Know the taking out of your tonsils will be very painful but, if it will do away with your rheumatism, think it would be well worth while.

Love to all,

[signed] Carl

[signed] Thomas C. Montgomery

Capt. A.S.C.

 

 

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

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

[3] Hôtel du Prince Murat, 28 rue de Monceau, where Woodrow Wilson resided during his stay in Paris, 1918-1919.

February 3, 1918. “The big event of the past week was the Bosche air raid.”

[Feb 3, 1918 to Mabel] Monty’s letter to Mabel is more open and revealing than the content of the letters to his mother, an apparent greater honesty between siblings and maybe trying to protect mother from details, though since both Mabel and her mother live in the same household, there is no doubt mother will expect to read the letter.

Monty starts with thanks to the Marion Service League for their Christmas package which contained candy for which he asks Mabel to convey his thanks. He is responding to her “long letter with family news.”

Apparently she has asked for detail. Rather than giving the earlier censorship excuse—while nevertheless explaining that he erred on the side of caution when he didn’t know how much one could say and get away with it—he launches into detail describing his first stop as “an old French military school” where the one story stone barracks “were usually cold particularly in the morning when reveille sounded.” He then goes into detail about his three day trip in November 1917 when he was “at Marseilles overnight and part of one morning and at Nice two days.” On the first day, “five of us took a machine and went over to Monte Carlo and Menton, driving in half a mile of the Italian border, stopped at Monte Carlo for lunch and had a look at the Casino.”

He then describes “the big event of the past week” which was “the Bosche air raid.” He supposes she has gotten details from the papers but he goes on to tell his tale: It was a beautiful moonlight night and I was returning from a call on some friends about 11:15 when the alarm was sounded.

Walked on to the Place de l’Opera and stopped there with quite a crowd to watch the French defending planes which were up all over the city. You could see them only when they showed their signal lights. After watching them for some ten or fifteen minutes, I began to think it was another false alarm—there was such a one just before Xmas—and walked over a couple of blocks down the Boulevard des Italiens toward my hotel. Stopped again on the corner of my street to have another look and then heard for the first time the anti-aircraft guns going on the outskirts of the city. Still didn’t think much about it until that time the first bomb dropped in about 200 yards of where I was standing, luckily around a corner. A second later another one dropped about a quarter of a mile the other side and I heard others in other parts of the city. About this time I decided along with the rest of the crowd that a house was a better place than the street and went on to my hotel.

In the safety of his hotel, he describes “nearly everybody in the lobby in various states of deshabille.” Apparently the lobby was considered the safest place during an air raid though curiosity provoked “occasional excursions into the street to see how things were going.” The excitement was over by 1:15. “Went over next morning to look at this place where the bomb had dropped so close and was surprised it didn’t make a bigger hole. The hole was only about four feet across and 18 inches deep. It certainly took out all the glass in the neighborhood, however, and twisted up to a considerable extent the iron shutters of a bank building opposite where it hit. Saw another place where a bomb just took off clean the fifth and sixth stories of a house.”

His interest then turns to tobacco. “Was glad to hear that more cigars have been on their way since the first of December and hope they’ll come in soon as have been out for several days and a decent cigar here costs a franc to a franc and a half.” The commissary carries them “at a reasonable price” but the supply is unreliable. “Now they’ve had none for three weeks.” He’s still expecting his mother’s shipment of pecans to show up, probably a Christmas gift from her own orchard.

As he closes he slips in a social note: “Met a whole flock of Counts and Countesses at a reception this past week.” He is looking forward to “two more such affairs this week.” The “affairs” are a “pleasant diversion” though there is no dancing, “the amusement being conversation, music and sometimes bridge.” His entrée into this world of royalty is through “an American lady who has lived over here for thirty years, knows the real French people and is very interested in having American officers meet these people.”

 

Transcribed Letter:

[first typed letter from TCM]

APO 702 AEF February 3, 1918 Dear Mabel:- Got some more mail from home the early part of this week, the last letter being, I believe, about Dec. 10th. Also received a small package of candy from the Marion Service League. Don’t know who was responsible for the latter but wish you would convey my thanks for same; it was promptly eaten with a great deal of pleasure. Particularly enjoyed your long letter with all the family news.

As to my not telling enough about what I am doing, hope you’ve found my letters more interesting since I came here. I didn’t know when I first came over exactly how much one could say and get by with it and preferred to err on the side of safety. As a matter of fact I was at an infantry camp which was an old French military school and we were quartered in the French barracks, one story stone buildings which were usually cold particularly in the morning when reveille sounded. Believe I wrote you in one of my letters from there about the trip and made to Marseilles, Nice and Monte Carlo in the middle of November. It was most pleasant but of course hurried as I had only three and a half days leave. was in Marseilles overnight and part of one morning and at Nice two days. The first day five of us took a machine and went over to Monte Carlo and Menton, driving in half a mile of the Italian border, stopped at Monte Carlo for lunch and had a look at the Casino. It’s the prettiest country I ever saw, I imagine a good deal like Southern California. That was my only trip of any interest while at this camp and, as you should have known a month ago, I have now been at the same station for a little over two months.

The big event of the past week was the Bosche air raid. Suppose you got the particulars the next day in the home papers. It was a beautiful moonlight night and I was returning from a call on some friends about 11:15 when the alarm was sounded. Walked onto the Place de l’Opera and stopped there with quite a crowd to watch the French defending planes which were up all over the city. You could see them only when they show their signal lights. After watching them for some ten or fifteen minutes I begin to think it was another false alarm – there was such a one just before Xmas – and walked on over a couple of blocks down the Boulevard des Italiens toward my hotel. Stopped again on the corner of my street to have another look and then I heard for the first time the anti-aircraft guns going on the outskirts of the city. Still didn’t think much of it until about that time the first bomb dropped in about 200 yards of where I was standing, luckily around the corner. A second later another one dropped about a quarter of a mile the other side and I heard others in other parts of the city. About this time I decided along with all the rest of the crowd that a house was a better place than the street and went on to my hotel. It was funny in a way to see how the crowd cleared off the Boulevard just to soon as those two bombs dropped. In my hotel I found a nearly everybody in the lobby in various states of deshabille, it being considered healthier around the ground floor, and there we remained with occasional excursions into the street to see how things were going until things quieted down about 1:15. I hadn’t heard enough to think there was near as much damage as there was as shown by the official communiqe [sic] and was surprised to learn the whole story. Went over next morning to look at the place where this bomb had dropped so close and was surprised it didn’t make a bigger hole. The hole was only about four feet across and 18 inches deep. It certainly took out all the glass in the neighborhood, however, and twisted up to a considerable extent the iron shutters of a bank building just opposite where it hit. Saw another place where a bomb just took off clean the fifth and six stories of a house.

The weather here has been great for the last three weeks, an overcoat being comfortable during the morning and at night but usually unnecessary doing the middle of the day.

Was glad to hear more cigars have been on their way since the first of December and hope they’ll come in soon as have been out several days and a decent cigar here costs a franc to a franc and a half. The commissary has them at a reasonable price occasionally but they can’t be depended on at all. Now they’ve had none for three weeks. Also am watching the mail for those pecans mother says she sent me – they too should be showing up by this time.

Went to a reception this past week that you would have been interested in where I met a whole flock of Counts and Countesses and such. Got my invitation through an American lady who has been living over here for 30 years, knows the real French people and is very interested in having American officers meet these people. Was quite interested in coming in contact with these people and found them very pleasant on the whole. Am to take two more such affairs this week and they form a pleasant diversion though there is no dancing , the amusement being conversation, music and sometimes bridge.

Love to all the family,

Carl

O.K.

Thomas C Montgomery

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