In part 2 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when he left Camp Lewis in Washington until he arrived in Colombey-les-Belles, France. Until this point, Clarence had been seeing the war from well behind the front lines. He had experienced bombs dropped from German airplanes and being shelled by German artillery, but he had not yet been in the front line trenches or gone “over the top” to charge towards the German front lines. Until now. In part 3, I’ll present Clarence’s journey from Colombey-les-Belles, France, through his hearing the last shots fired on Armistice Day, to his Christmas spent in Mayen, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation.
(Note: I’ve presented a map of Clarence’s travels across Europe at the bottom of this post.)
On August 16, 1918, Clarence’s battalion had just separated from the Fourth Army Corps and had relocated to Toul, France. They were stationed at Caserne Maréchal Ney, which according to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 44, “proved to be the finest living quarters ever occupied.” Below are two contemporaneous views of the Caserne Maréchal Ney:
On the very day (August 16, 1918) that Clarence and his battalion arrived at Caserne Maréchal Ney, he wrote this letter to his mother:
Aug 16, 1918
My Dearest Mother,
It has been quite a long time since I have written you but much longer since I have heard as our mail is very uncertain.
George is very close to me but still he is very far in war times a mile is as bad as ten and I think Geo is about ten miles away thus making him very far indeed.
We are at present stationed in a French garrison which was probably used in peace times as a training school. The barracks are large immense piles of stone and brick encircling a parade ground, because of the utter lack of vegetation they are very hot, the warm sun blisters down and reflects back from a thousand glistening surfaces. However our work requires that we are in the country most of the time so unless we are on special detail we miss a good deal of the heat.
We are in no immediate danger excepting from air marauders but as their aim is very inaccurate we are in practically no danger.
We are near a very interesting town. The remains of the medieval is that which makes it so interesting. It is entirely surrounded by a wall and moat. There are four entrances or gates to the town and each separate gate still has its old draw bridge across the moat. There are also several underground caverns so winding, intricate and large that it is a very simple matter to become lost in them. In olden times I suppose they were used by the besieged and in modern times they are still used for the same purpose they make a very good refuge for ones fleeing from air raids.
There is also in this town a very old and some what famous cathedral. This massive pile of Gothic architecture was started in 940 and finished in the year 1140. It has two twin towers each resplendent in the most intricate of hand carvings. The interior of the church while very, very old is still grand.
Massive stone blocks form the floor, immense stone pillars the support for the high arched ceilings. Here and there are little nooks with candles burning in them and at the far end of the hall is the great altar with a splendid stained glass window for a gorgeous [purple] back ground.
While I was standing there drinking in the splendor of the edifice, the old keeper asked if I wished to ascend the tower and of course I eagerly grasped the opportunity.
This tower is 75 meters high and has 327 steps in it. These steps are large stone affairs every one of which has a large groove worn in it from constant climbing and some were even worn clean thru.
I don’t know if you have ever climbed 327 steps at one time but believe me it is no easy task and leaves one weak and trembling at the end. But is was well worth the effort, for once on top one could obtain the most wonderful view. Far below were the red tiled roofs of the dwellings below. Far to the north and east extends a fairly level plain which goes clear to Bosch land to the right and left, front and back were numerous barracks and hospitals. High on this tower in little nooks and corners were curious little carvings. Here a little wise old owl there an ape and between the two a jovial monk.
I do not know mother if I am temperamental but while standing there in the peace and quietness high in the air, I quite forgot the war and turmoil. I forgot strife and worry and mentally I was alone. I could see beautiful winding, laughing streams, artist dreamed trees, far reaching meadows filled with peaceful browsing cattle and my heart was filled with lonesome longing for the pine clad hills and the golden pebbled streams of my own my native land,
But soon, very soon I know that I will once again be in that paradise and the yearnings of many home hungry boys will be satisfied.
Dearest mother it is quite dark and writing is a strain. Good night.
Much Love to you and to all.
Chr. C. H. Bailey
Co D. 405 Tel Bn
In this letter we again see Clarence quote a poem by Sir Walter Scott entitled “Breathes there the man” (“of my own, my native land”). More indication that poetry played a considerable role in Clarence’s life.
We can also infer from the “Chr” in his signature that he has now been promoted to Chauffeur, a position that he held until the end of the war.
In his letter, Clarence could not name the city where he was stationed or the medieval city nearby, but it is now clear that he was staying in Caserne Maréchal Ney and was referring to the medieval walled town of Toul. Interestingly, he’s off on many of the specifics he mentions. It’s not clear whether this is intentional or not, but he may have purposely muddled the details to ensure his letter made it by the censor without any portions of the letter being cut out. For instance, He says the cathedral was built between 940 and 1140 AD, but Toul cathedral was built between 1221 and 1496 AD (although earlier churches on the site reach back to 365 AD). He says the towers are 75 meters tall, but they’re only 65 meters tall. He also says there are 360 steps to the top of the tower, but there are only 327 steps to the top. Any of these specific numbers could have helped identify the cathedral and town if the letter were intercepted, so perhaps these were all intentional mistakes.
On August 24, 1918, Clarence’s battalion put on another show for themselves. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 44–45:
…a program was held on the evening of August 24th, 1918. A piano was secured from the “Y,” and this, combined with songs, stories and recitations by members of the outfit, filled an evening to the brim with wholesome, good-natured entertainment and association. The major, as usual, made one of the talks for which he will always be remembered, handing out a number of bouquets for the work accomplished and outlining the more important work to be done. The piano was left in the barracks, and every evening during the stay at Marechal Ney many of the men exercised their vocal cords and listened to the music furnished by several pianists.
According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 45:
The latter part of August and the first of September every man felt that something big was coming off, and almost every night the trucks of the outfit were busy hauling signal corps material and supplies up to the front, and the drivers had many a thrilling experience bucking the crowded traffic, muddy roads, darkness, heavy shelling and shell-torn areas. The spare hours during the days were spent in squads “east and west” and gas-mask drill, which was now a most important item of training. Construction gangs were working on lines in the forward areas under adverse conditions. A huge dugout between Menil la Tour and Royaumiex had been chosen as the corps P. C. during the coming offensive, and the men were installing a modern switchboard large enough to handle the telephone and telegraph business incident to a large offensive.
On August 30, 1918, Clarence was still based in the Caserne Maréchal Ney in Toul, and he wrote a letter to his mother. Clarence may have known he was soon to be shipped out, either to the front or closer to it, but he played it cool with his mother:
Aug 30, 1918
Have not heard from you since June 19 but trust you are writing still and are feeling well. I am about 10 miles from Geo. but cant see him. I received a very interresting letter from Geo. The Base censor had cut out nearly all.
I have lots to tell you but nearly all is of a military nature; I am tired of describing land scapes and people and there is nothing else left to talk about excepting the weather. I am feeling fine but once in a while feel rather lonesome for the U.S. especially since my mail has gone away.
I went to the Dentist today and he found three cavities. If I ever get time to go again I will have them filled. Am still staying nice and thin and getting a little balder each day. I also have what will eventually be a nice red “Hirsute adornement.” This letter is written on top of my mess kit and I am impatiently waiting for the “Call.”
Don’t interpret necessity from the fact I am writing on my mess kit however [?] I am located in a very nice barracks.
Well there is the call
Cffr. C.. H. Bailey
CoD405 Tel Bn
From page 6 of the September 1918 edition of The Mountain States Monitor, Clarence had a portion of his letter to his civilian boss, Mr. O. F. Teschner, published in the “News From the Front” feature of the newsletter (highlighted in yellow below). It is undated, but was presumably written by Clarence sometime in the previous two months (July or August 1918):
…When one is hot, dusty and tired; when one feels as though the world is upside down and topsy-turvy, there is nothing quite so refreshing and stimulating as a kind, unexpected letter from a friend. When we reached France we did not go into training as was expected, but went immediately to work. Our first job was in an engineering camp, and I had the pleasure of helping to excavate a road built by Caesar. Our next job was near Paris. It is a veritable garden spot—wonderful trees, wonderful road, wonderful flowers and royal people. Here we also had our first firing experience, as we could see the bursting of shells used in aerial battles. From there we took another trip to the place we are now located in. Here we are doing work according to ‘specs.’ There is no excitement here with the exception of anticipated air raids. As I said before, we had one last night, but it was a fizzle, the bombs falling in an open field and 75 per cent failing to explode. All of our boys are well and fat. Dalton is driving the captain’s car, Harry Lake is sweating over post holes, Hamilton is on detached service, Little Porter is ‘kitchen police,’ and McFarland keeps the home fires burning while the boys go out and work. I am doing everything—line work, digging holes, setting poles and cussing the heat. I am also supposed to be a chauffeur, but as yet haven’t found anything to drive except nails. If you were to see the fine food and treatment we are receiving from Uncle Sam, you would realize how much good you people are doing, and I will frankly say we feel that we owe you at home a personal debt for making a disagreeable job pleasant.
If this passes the censor and you receive it all right, I hope to be able to write of the actual front. Remember me to Murph, and if you see Earl Drew tell him that it has been a long while since I heard from him.
On September 1, 1918, Clarence’s battalion was still in based in the Caserne Maréchal Ney in Toul, where he wrote a letter to his mother:
Sept. 1st 1918
Yesterday was a “Red Letter” day for your two sons. While walking thru some woods in pursuit of an elusive telephone line I came upon a young lad who was able to direct me to George. I was not entirely surprised upon finding him because I had been keeping account of his where abouts but I wish you could have seen the look of surprised astonishment with which he views the “Kid.” He had just come out of the trenches where he had been for ten days. He will have to make these trips at different intervals so do not be worried if his letter are rather broken in their sequence.
Because of his position in the company he is as safe as if he were in church so do not let the fact of his being in the trenches worry you. In appearance he is about the same as when I last saw him some time ago. I do not blame him for not wishing to enter the “O.T.C” as he has it much better where he is. There is not one of them, I mean the officers, whom he did not have the advantage of in civilian life and they realize it. He is also much older than the boys whom he is thrown in with and they look up to him with much respect none of whom address him except in a manner which show their respect.
He has the run of everything and gets anything he asks for. I think he would be foolish to try to get into the “O.T.C.” for really when you once get into this new life the mere fact of your being an officer especially a “Tailor Made” does not mean that you are superior in any way, just the victim of circumstance and in some cases they are sad victims and in many cases the inferiority of the Officers is very noticeable and they are looked upon with easy tolerance by the men. This of course is not true in all cases, but in civilian life the mere fact that you were an Officer will not amount to a “Tinkers Dam” and it dont seem to make much difference in the army.
I know that personally I haven’t carried on with such levity in a long while and have had less responsibility that I have had for a longer while and I believe Geo. is doing the same way and if he is and feels the same as I do, he is as far as he will ever get. Dont let the future of your boys worry you we are both sober and fairly industrious and if the good Lord will let you live long enough one of us, I am sure, will be in such a position that you will be glad that it was your hand which gave him guidance over the rocks and pitfalls of his youthful career.
I guess this will be enough of personal talk, really more than I intended to do at the start.
The weather now is beginning to be rather disagreeable the days being damp, cold and clammy not at all like our own beautiful full weather at home. Also because of our proximity to the “Big doings” the work is more arduous and the way of living slightly more disagreeable, longer hours and picnic? lunches, but it is going to be a lot worse and if the only sacrifice I am called upon to make in the fight against such a formidable foe is to be only one of personal discomfort, I will feel that I am getting off easy and will do it gladly.
These people will never cease being a source of curiosity. Every day some new trait some new characteristic is brought forth. They are very childish and are such lovers of comfort that they are both amusing and disgusting. In their work instead of expending a little energy and accomplishing much in a short time they fritter around trying to find an easy way and as a result use up much more energy and accomplish a great deal less. In regards to the comfort it makes no difference to them how pressing the situation may be they always take two hours at noon and in one case one of the many safety devices used is of not particular comfortableness if it is absolutely safe but the French overcome this, they minimize the safety of the device fifty per cent and add to their personal comfort twenty five percent.
They also like the artistic. No matter how useful a thing may be if there is not a certain degree of quips and frills about it, to them it is no good, but if it has much shining brass about it and lots of curly cues it is a fine article. But then taking them all in all, their faults and their good qualities, I am rather fond of them.
I received another letter from you today and two yesterday. You complain about no mail from me. I admit that I write rather spontaneously, sometimes every day and sometimes every week, more often the latter, but be patient you will get them sometime that is if they dont go to the bottom of the sea. I also marked what you said about your raspberry spree. I am very sorry indeed that your financial status is getting so low that you have to pick raspberries for a living, but keep it up it will do you good, just think, if you were in a place where you could pick raspberries every day in a year you could buy a Ford and in a million days you would be a millionaire. Lord, but I am glad I have such an industrious mother when I get home I am going to put my feet under the table and let you work, a dollar and twenty cents is an awful lot of money, but then you must promise to collect it and not go to Denver and spend it on a spree before you ever get it, in fact I dont believe you ever will get it us laboring men sure do get the dirty end of it from the bloated capatalists.
If you see Mr. Moore tell him I am “Indigo Blue” now as my “Red Headed Wind Mill” has ceased blowing her gentle zephers in my direction. I always knew thus as soon as she quit basking in the radiance of this shining star that would let some slacker step in and charm her away. But I should worry I always wanted to be a “Mr. Batch” anyway.
Well mother I hope you continue to feel in the same exuberant way that you do now and that you will soon have the same pleasure that was George’s yesterday, of again welcoming your “Prodigal Son”
with the same blue xxx xxxxxxx<–censored.
Much Love to H.B. and her family and lots for yourself.
Chfr. C.H. Bailey
Co. D. 405 Tel. Bn
According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 45:
On September 6th, 1918, the battalion, with the exception of ten men, left on D. S. at Toul, moved to Royaumiex, a small village about ten kilos back of the lines. The outfit was distributed around in ramshackle huts, barracks and other out-houses, and this marked the beginning of a battle with rats and “cooties,” which were partly eliminated in most cases. Every move and activity pointed to a large offensive at this time.
On September 8, 1918, Clarence was in Royaumeix, France, where he wrote a letter to his mother:
Sept 8, 1918
My Dear Mother,
Today is Sunday and there is not much for me to do.
I was going to see George again but I learned last night that he had moved into the trenches again so of course I had to forego that pleasure.
I had a detail last night that was rather interesting as it showed me the night phase of the war rather vividly. I had to go with a truck train up to a place where it is perfectly safe at night but rather dangerous in the daytime so necessarily all of the work is carried on at night. Just as soon as it grows dark the parade starts and as long as it remains so the road is alive with every movable vehicle used in the army. Heavy tractors, motor trucks, six and eight horse drawn wagons, automobiles and motorcycles. The speed of travel is regulated by the speed of your carriage. There are no road rules with the exception of one and that is that generally it is so dark that you can scarcely see your hand before your face.
It was surely a mad ride, hurtling and jostling we went careening down the road passing those whose speed was slower than ours only to be passed in turn by others. At many times the road was filled three deep in. At all times the air was filled with harsh curses from rough throated troopers. Escapes from accidents were so numerous that my heart grew tired of jumping to my throat and finally stayed there. If before the war some person had pointed at Fifth Avenue New York and said, “I want you to take all of the traffic you see there, put it on a road about one third as wide and turn it loose at a time when the darkness is so black that it can be felt.” If as I say a person with supreme command had ordered this it would have been deemed impossible but that is actually what is happening here every night with the exception of the pedestrian traffic which on our road is sandwiched in, in the form of regiments etc.
But then War is War and causes strange happenings which are at times emphasized by the pall of darkness.
I am feeling very well for instance I absorbed eight flap jacks and a big dish of prunes for breakfast. How does that compare with my breakfasts of two years ago?
Give my love to H.B and family and keep lots for yourself.
Chfr. C. H. Bailey
Co. D 405 Tel Bn
Between this last letter to his mother and the next, Clarence’s battalion was involved in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel (September 12–15). This battle, also referred to as the reduction of Saint-Mihiel salient, was the first American-led offensive of World War I, and was the that his battalion saw their first casualties
According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 45–46:
…on the 9th of September details of men were stationed in “pup” tents at regular intervals along every line that radiated from the Corps P. C. to the Division P. C.’s in anticipation of a heavy concentration of shell fire. Sleeping and eating (sometimes) in “pup” tents in the mud and rain that fell almost continually did not affect the spirits of those who were “rarin’ to go” at all times. It was 1 a. m. on the morning of September 12th, 1918, that every detail was awakened by the terrific din of exploding guns and bursting shells, which signified the beginning of the St. Mihiel offensive, first all American offensive by the first American army. As far as the eye could see to the right and left was a solid wall of fire, marking the most intensive and lavish expenditure of ammunition and forming the deadliest and most perfect barrage ever laid down in the history of the world. The men waited throughout the rainy, dark night with expectancy, but the Hun seemed to have been overwhelmed and surprised, for little resistance was forthcoming. At 5 o’clock the “doughboys” went over the top, and with the “third wave” were men of the 405th, carrying on their backs coils of wire over shell-torn fields, through barb-wire entanglements, across trenches and over every conceivable obstacle, finally to arrive on time and ready to connect up newly-established P. C.’s and maintain communication that is so very necessary to successful combat operations. As dawn broke on this memorable morning the rain ceased falling, the sun broke through the clouds, cheering the tired, hungry, wet but happy soldiers on their victorious way, and in the east appeared a perfect and brilliant rainbow that seemed to be a good omen and benediction for the success of the American army that didn’t know the meaning of “It can’t be done.” The St. Mihiel salient being reduced, telephone exchanges, were established throughout the recovered territory, in a town which had been under the heavy hand of the Prussians for four years. Telephone exchanges were installed at Flirey, Essey, Nonsard and Euvezin, which at first were directly back of the first lines and were almost daily under bombardment from the Hun artillery. During the drive the big dugout at Menil la Tour was an interesting and busy spot, as the corps operations were directed wholly from there, and the construction and installations made by the outfit proved to be highly efficient and adequate. General Pershing called at the dugout during the day of the drive.
In fact, Clarence’s battalion saw its first major casualties at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel (aka the reduction of Saint-Mihiel salient), all on September 16—one day after the main battle. Corporal Harry C. Tucker was killed in action, Sergeant First Class William E. Bishop and Private James F. Walton were wounded in action, and Private First Class Gilbert W. Cox died of wounds he received in this battle. All of these casualties occurred in the village of Nonsard, France.
According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 47–48:
At the little town of Nonsard the battalion suffered the first casualties since coming overseas. A crowd of men had gathered around a terminal pole near the telephone office in Nonsard. “Dixie” Bishop was working on the pole, when a large shell fell in their midst and exploded, instantly killing Corporal Harry C. Tucker; mortally wounding Private Gilbert W. Cox, who died a few hours later in a hospital; seriously wounding Private James F. Walton, who recovered and returned home; slightly wounding Sergeant William E. Bishop, and causing several casualties among men from other outfits. Corporal Tucker was buried on the spot, and Private Cox was laid to rest in grave No. 22. A sad feature in connection with the death of Corporal Tucker was that his brother, while walking along the road, discovered his grave. Corporal Tucker’s brother was a member of the Second Field Signal Battalion, and the discovery of the grave was the first intimation he had that his brother Harry was in France.
On September 16, 1918, while presumably still in the vicinity of Nonsard, Clarence wrote a letter to his mother, and on the back side of the first two pages he included a letter to his older brother Ike Bailey and to his niece Harriette Belle Bailey:
Sept. 16, 1918
You have been shocked I presume by the news of our first Big Drive. I understand it “Electrified the World.” I and several million other people were fortunate enough to do our little bit. Our part of the work was nothing but bitter hard work. Day and night, of course we saw many dead, mostly Germans and much devastation but actual fighting was not for us. We were at all times within gun fire and once had the pleasure of hearing big bullets going over our head. As there were always aimed at some certain object bridges, etc., and as we were always safe and as long as we remain at our present work always will be.
George was, from our point of view, extremely fortunate, from his own extremely unfortunate. It is my understanding that he wrenched his leg sufficiently to keep him out of the drive. I was within 50 feet of him but did not know it. But I was very much relieved when Billy Brohl told me of him.
I have met Limbocker and also Mrs. Secords boy. He was very small the last time I saw him but recognition was instantaneous and mutual he did not remember my name by did my face.
All I wish to see now is “Sox” Olson and Munro if you will send me “Sox’s” address I will endeavor to find him.
This is the first opportunity I have had to write you for some time and I do not know when my next will come. But as long as you do not hear from me, rest assured that I am safe for in case of trouble you will be notified instantly. I just observed that I wasted a sheet of paper in writing this and am sure sore.
Well Good By Mother
Chfr. C. H. Bailey
CoD. 405 Tel Bn
Noticed your stamp on last letter was sure glad to hear from you. Do not feel neglected if I fail to write as I am so busy that sometimes writing to mother assumes the proportions of a Herculanean task and seems more of a duty that the pleasure which it always is when I am at more leisure.
Dear H. Belle,
Your uncle has not forgotten you and would appreciate a letter from his little girl. Your uncle George tells me many nice things of you and I would sure like to see you. Give your mama and Papa my love and keep lots for my little sweetheart
On September 18, 1918, Clarence was probably stationed in the town of Menil la Tour, just south of Royaumeix, France. He wrote this letter to his mother:
Sept —18, 1918
Rc’d your most charming letter of Aug. 20, Yes, I took out my Insurance at two different periods.
I too have often thot of the body as nothing but a vehicle for which the mind was a propelling force and which needs constant improvement to accomplish its set duties.
But how to improve these defects in the instrument and propelling force and where to use them is the great question.
For instance, likening the body to an ax, to use your own illustration, and the mind as the chopper, would it not be useless to sharpen and temper the tool and then turn loose in a petrified forest? Instead we would look for a forest of fine timber in which to do our work.
So, a man is equipped with a mind which has a special leaning towards some certain track or profession, if he is properly directed he will work in that particular field, if not he becomes nothing but a small pawn in the game. This is particularly evidenced in the army. Here there are some who were nothing but clerks in civil life and to whom it is about as interesting to talk to as a wooden stump, but now they are [you? cjars?] and making wonderful successes. They have found the proper field in which to use their instruments.
Then there are others who, when the scope of endeavor was larger where the intellect had great play, were leaning strongly towards success find themselves stifled and choked and they are now the pawns.
The army is just one profession. Civil life is [crowded] with many. Can a natural born blacksmith become an accomplished pianist or can a farmer such as Mr. Glick become a society beau or a minister. Each man must place himself in his separate field if he wishes the [tools] with which he is equipped to reap their full harvest. Some of us have been turned loose in the army game, because of hereditary traits or special training or peculiar twists of the [mind] we are in [oven] wrong field and if our carrer is not marked with brilliant success we are to be pitied rather than criticized.
I do not know whether I am clear on this subject or not or whether you catch my meaning. I do know that probably the censor considers me a burden to mankind for taking his time. But I believe that if you and I could get together once again we could replan the universe to perfection as we once used to do.
I met Geo. yesterday. He was overjoyed to see me. He has a badly sprained ankle and I believe he is very lonesome, otherwise he looked alright.
———-[NB: I have not yet found the rest of this letter]——–—
On October 3, 1918, Clarence was still based somewhere near Royaumeix. He wrote this letter to his mother:
By the “Great Disease,” I believe Clarence was referring to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.
Oct 3 1918
R’cd your letter today in which you say to breath and say “I am so and so now” I have been doing it thus. Deep breath, exhalation, Deep breath exhalation and slow muttering, “I am a General now.” I have done this four times but as yet can not see any wonderful transformation.
George came down and visited me the other day. We had a wonderful visit. You will have to be content with very few letters from him as he as great difficulties to overcome before he can write you.
The war situation is looking very favorable to a quick home coming. I can hardly wait until it is time to get there.
I think George has reached a full appreciation of his wonderful mother and I fully believe that you will not have to spend your declining years in lonesomeness.
I of course have wild fanciful ambitions and I suppose will have to go thru a series of hard knocks before I am ready to turn home and lead a dutiful life.
I am sensible, however, and I don’t believe that I will buck adversity very long.
I am sorry but I do not believe that you will have all the hard weather as we have already experienced some cold weather.
Life is still going on in its monotonous trend even excitement if unvaried becomes dull.
Often I wonder what after effect this life of privation and hardship is going to have upon men. Is is going to make them stronger? Or is it going to weaken them? I wish I knew.
I am making many interesting studies of human nature. How I wish I had the leisure to do it comprehensively and to write down my impressions. Also I wish I could obtain many good books and have the time when fancy impelled to browse among them.
I probably will not be called upon to sacrifice my life, I can stand very easily the privations and hardships enforced upon me. But I believe I will be called upon to make one very, very great sacrifice. Because of weakness of disposition or some other reason I allow myself to drift with the stream.
When in Prescott I chose very good comrades and you do not know what a refined, elegant young man I was growing to be.
Here the life is rough and I have degenerated to an alarming degree. Will I be able to reconquer myself? I dont know.
I have this in my favor however. I have not yet contracted the “Great Disease” and as long as I remain uncontaminated from that source I can live in hopes.
I am well and at the present time not working particularly hard, just putting in the time.
Lord I surer want to get home.
Well my dearest and only sweetheart I must go to bed.
Much Love, Mai Ami
Cffr. C. H. Bailey
Co. D. 405 Tel. Bn
P.S. [Mr. E. E?] C.H.B.
P.S.2 Don’t let this letter worry you for I am in the Depths tonight.
An open letter dated October 5, 1918, was published In the December 1918 edition of The Mountain States Monitor. The letter was written by enlisted employees of The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company, and it reveals that the company paid them each an entire year’s salary while they were serving in Europe (Clarence’s name is sixth from the bottom in the center column):
On October 9, 1918, Clarence was still positioned somewhere in the Saint-Mihiel region, perhaps Royaumeix. He wrote this letter to his mother:
Oct. 9, 1918
Enclosed find Red X coupon for one Christmas pckg. This will have to be attended to promptly.
I presume that you would like a suggestion or two as to what I might wish for a present. Because of the numerous social functions which I am called upon to attend I might suggest that you put in some solid gold cuff studs, tie pins and a manicuring set. Then if you have any room left you might add a necktie of gorgeous hue.
If this does not meet with your approval you might fill the pckg with $10.00 bills but better yet a passage home.
We have an abundance of the necessities of life, of course in living, the way we are called upon to do, many necessities are not necessary. The Red X, Salvation Army etc., supply very amply, for a Franc or two, the little luxuries, so much enjoyed by the American lad.
I can think of and have no suggestion to make. But, if you do send something, go to no great expense, make it as remindful of home as you can, entirely unuseful, except maybe as a belly filler and perfectly foolish.
If you can send something eatable or non, which meet these requirements, do so, if you cant never mind, I guess I will live through it anyway and I can put up the front that it was lost in the mail and give vent to much of the spleen which I am storing up.
The weather here is beginning to become rather chilly and very damp. After six months of rainy, foggy Camp Lewis and now nearly six months of the same stuff in France, I know that I am gradually degenerating to the amphibious type and soon I will be waddling around on web feet, preening my feathers and waggling my tail with much gusto as I give vent to harsh, throaty quacks. I will be a bird of a person soon.
The “Idol of Me Heart” is hibernating at Santa Monica Beach, California. If we are released from this war this winter I am afraid that I will be torn by conflicting desires. Whether to bear the brunt of a hard Colorado winter and return home, or to go and bask in the smiles of a gentle California sun. At present I have the feeling that if I ever become thawed, I will never risk myself again to a death by freezing. I am afraid that my brief stay in the southwest has poisoned me against cold Colorado for ever.
Well my dear mother, do as you wish concerning the pckg.
Much, Much Love,
Chfr. C. H. Bailey
Co D 405 Tel. Bn
American E. F.
On October 11, 1918, Clarence was still positioned somewhere in the Saint-Mihiel region, perhaps Royaumeix. He wrote this letter to his mother:
Oct. 11, 1918
Today was a “Red Letter” day as I received remembrances from El Paso, Prescott, Los Angeles and Tacoma. In addition to this I received a welcome letter from you.
Such kind remembrances moved me deeply and has given me cause for much pleasant retrospection.
I composed two toasts which I think are rather good. I hope you will enjoy them too
To the most priceless possession of man. Worth far more than gaudy gold, [hard] for Midas. More precious than the jewels of crowned heads. Easy to attain, easier to hold; yet valued by few of its true worth. A good impression branded upon the hearts of friends.”
Here’s To that beautiful Arcadia. The land of dreams. Sought for by adventurers since the beginning of time. Longed for by countless restless souls. The Will O the Wisp of the ages. An elusive, ethereal land, found, after departure from it. The memory of which is guarded jealously. The honor of which was fought and [killed] for. The good old U.S.A. May we soon return to it.”
This of course sounds rather bombastic but I feel so good, that for once I am going to give fancy free reign. So please pardon whatever ravings this letter may contain.
Because of the great activity of our boys and because of the nature of my work I am again far in the rear of the fighting units.
The guns which formerly barked savage death from my very door are now muffled and dull.
The aeroplanes which manouvered in and out among intense barrages or played viciously with the enemy are now only to be seen winging their way to the active line.
Even the big “Sausage Balloons”, which gave cause for much speculation as to what they could see and also caused much excitement when the enemy plane would set fire to them, have gone.
No more can I hear the countless supply trains as they hurried in the night, to the entrenched boys.
The only reminder I have of the grim struggle going on around me are the little towns and villages so long laid to waste by the ruthless foe.
But even they seem to be more the remains of some forgotten civilization rather than the outrages of modern mankind. Already the grass has partially covered the mass of wreckage and here and there little field flowers nod their pretty heads to the gentle wind or tilt the heads to be kissed by that lover whose heart is so warm.
Old mother nature seems to be trying to blot out all traces of the red blood which was so shamelessly shed by his infamous brood.
While I was kicking thru the dust and debris of one of these once humble homes, which for such a long while had been in the possession of the Boche, I unearthed a little doll, fully clothed.
As I stood there holding it in my hands my tho’ts reverted to its owner. She must have been very young when the invader entered her home. Perchance she was one of their offspring.
Were they kind to her? Was she allowed to play with the doll uninterrupted? Had they given it to her?
———-[NB: I have not located the rest of this letter]———-
On October 23, 1918, Clarence’s battalion was in its second week of being detached to the Second American Army, and was probably still positioned somewhere in the Saint-Mihiel region, perhaps Royaumeix. He wrote this letter to his mother:
Oct. 23, 1918
R’cd a letter from you today without much in it. You do not need to tell me anything of your rain, for, in the past year it has been my experience to be soaked by more different kinds of rain than you ever knew existed; and still it comes. Your surmise as to where I might be was incorrect. I have been in the town but was never stationed there, so you will have to guess again.
I have been on a detail for the past two months which is mostly routine work. I am very comfortably located and the work is light so I am fairly happy. The only fly in the ointment is an old worn out motorcycle. I am a regular motorcycle Mike.
I have not heard from George for quite awhile but presume he is all right.
You must pardon the passionate ink; but, this is a passionate country and I love to conform to my surroundings.
I presume that you are still participating in patriotic work. I felt much elated a while back and thot that the war would be over soon but it does not look so favorable now.
I have been nursing a clever little hirsute adornment as red as this ink; but, I am afraid that the dear little thing has been over nursed as it does not seem to flourish as it should. I am quite discouraged about it. It has come to stay I believe, it is my own, reared by my own hands and I cannot bear to part with it. I have tried it several time but the operation was too painful and bro’t tears to my very eyes when attempted.
Do you know where Santa Monica, Cal. is? That’s where “She” lives when at home.
The boys are telling me about their experiences at the front. Those experiences sure get [some] terrible and blood thirsty after they have been told and retold.
One boy just said, “they busted right over our heads. Didn’t they Bailey?” I of course assented. I don’t know when it was or where byt I don’t want to spoil a good story.
I hope when this reaches you that you are dry. I know I wont be. Give my love to Mr. Moore and H.B. and family
Chf. C. H. Bailey
Co. D. 405 Tel. Bn
Am. E. F.
On October 28, 1918, Clarence’s battalion was in its third week of being detached to the Second American Army, and was probably still positioned somewhere in the Saint-Mihiel region, perhaps Royaumeix. He wrote this letter to his mother:
Oct. 28, 1918
Your letter referring to Christmas and the one with the clippings of Helen H. and George and myself arrived today.
I am glad that Helen is married and I presume that with the assistance she can give her husband that he will some time make quite a mark in the world.
As for the people who were so interested in me tell them to keep up the good work and someday when I blow into town dead broke I might get a hand out when I hit the back door.
The weather here is very good for amphibious creatures but for us poor dry climate birds it is rather disagreeable. If my feet ever get warm again I will sure keep them that way.
Life is not overexciting now nothing but hard work. with no seeming end to it. Telephone work is about the same the world over.
I received a very nice letter from Mr. Moore also several papers from you.
I am glad that you have the boys with you and if they are not unusually odd boys you will make friends which will remember you for many years to come. I, personally, remember my older friends far more vividly than the younger. I hope you will try to keep some nice young men after this as they will be much company for you.
When I get through and if I have to board I am not going to hit the hotels and restaurants again for it is no good.
I don’t know when I have been as disinterested in anything in all my life as I am in this blooming war. All I want to do is get back on the west side of old Miss Liberty and then make faces across the sea to all of Europe the whole caboodle of it. Then I am going to get as far from newspapers as I can so if there is any war I will never hear of it.
We have some heavy thinkers in our outfit. One is now discoursing on how President Wilson acquired his wonderful executive ability. I cannot take the conversation in detail, but suffice to say that if he had followed out the course these boys imagined he did, he sure must of had a weird education.
I must go to bed now as it is quite late.
Much Love to all.
C. H. Bailey
Co. D. 405 Tel. Bn
American E. F.
U. S. Army
On November 11, 1918—the day of the Armistice ending World War I—Clarence was in Creue, France, having relocated there from Woinville, France. He wrote a letter to his mother that day about the end of the war. In the excitement he dated it October 11, 1918, but it is clear from the letter that it was written after 11:00am on November 11, 1918:
Oct. 11, 1918 [NB: it was actually Nov. 11, 1918]
My Dearest Mother,
On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month 1918 etc; etc; but now when you read this it will all be old news. According to orders hostilities kept up until the last minute. We all knew hours beforehand at just what time the biggest show of all was to draw to an end, and were somewhat surprised to find upon awakening the old familiar booming of the guns. It sounded as though it were quite a barrage. Keeping up all morning without diminution caused some fears to be expressed as to whether plans had fallen through, or not. At five minutes to eleven it increased instead of diminishing until at last the air was filled with a constant roar so that no one report could be distinguished. The ground fairly shook so stupendous was the discharge; and then at precisely eleven oclock the air was magically stilled, the sun broke thru the clouds which had obscured it for the past week, a wood bird filled the air with its sweet music and “Finish La Guerre.”
It was a magnificent ending for such a stupendous struggle the only blot to the day being the tho’ts of the poor devils who had survived until the last minute only to be bumped off when peace was so near.
We are to rejoice, however, Geo. and I, both are safe and subject now to attacks from nature only, which are more easily warded off.
The end, however, did not change materially anything for us. We are in a land of war, far into the territory which was Germany for so long. Here there are no civilians, no bands, no women, nothing but soldiers, thirsty, muddy, hardworking soldiers, occasionaly one would stop for a few brief moments of “Boy! Its unbelievable.” but in the main the work kept on.
Now that it is thru ones thirsts are filled with the future. Will it start again? What will the peace terms be? What will I do when I get home? But most of all, and a rather [plabtine] question it is, “How long? O Lord! How long must I stay? When may I greet home and loved ones?” That is the spirit but not the question it is w/ more tense tone, more soldierly, “I wonder how Hellishingly much longer do we stay in this damnable frog eaters Got Forsaken country?”
It is the last two which worry me. What will I do? I have such high ambitions, so much that I want and no little attainments and knowledge.
I want to be married and have a nice family; I want a few, very few of modern conveniences; I never want to be in the clutches of debt; but most of all I want to help some less fortunate than myself. But how to do it?
It seems an invaluable question. For nearly two year; In fact ever since I went to El Paso. Because of a great desire and fondness for writing and because of the flattering comments of friends who have been honored by my little letters; I have formed a great desire to become a writer.
In the Monitor for September is a portion of a letter that I wrote rather hastily. It looks good. Do you really think that I might have a future in that line? I have the passion. The desire has filled my breast for nearly two years. Honestly, give your opinion, not as a mother but as a critic do you sincerely believe that I might have some latent ability? Have my letters improved since the first you received from me? If you say the word the dye for my future will be cast.
Please answer these questions on receipt of this letter. I am going to number it one (1) so that when answering refer to my letter (no. 1).
But first understand what it will mean. I must be separated from you. I must go to a place where I must have an opportunity to make the acquaintance of some person who will be glad to teach me rhetoric and grammar. I must have easy access to good literature; I must have experience in writing but most of all I must be where I can see life, multitudinous life, in all its colors and phases.
How I enjoy it. Do you not remember how perfectly thrilling it was for me to sit on the bench at El Paso and watch the ebb and flow of humanity? How I wish you would realize and know the trend of your baby’s mind? And how seriously I am thinking of the future.
My happiest moment will be when I can see an utter strange[r] reading from a book or a paper my pictured tho’ts, the creation of my mind. I know of nothing better!
Now please do not laugh. I know the vagaries of a youthful mind are peculiar. But if you can give me some ray of hope, do. I talked to George. He does not seem to think me queer and when I told him that either he or I must go home he said, “It will be I. Go to it “Kid” I know that you will make good, for you have it in you.” He is a fine brother and a fine son much finer than I; and we are proud of him aren’t we?
C. H. Bailey
Co.D. 405 Tel. Bn
The book From Puget Sound to the Rhine (page 49) provides some additional details on the battalion’s reaction to the Armistice:
On November 11th, 1918, 11 a. m., news was received of the signing of the armistice, the regimental band at Creue played “Taps,” followed by “Reveille,” then the Star Spangled Banner, after which the allied “national anthems” were rendered. To the few French people who had remained in the war-ridden areas this news caused many pathetic and touching scenes, as it meant for them an end to nights filled with horror and days that seemed endless and full of bitterness. A few of the men still at Royaumiex will remember the “Town Crier,” a veteran of 1870, with medals adorning his chest, beating his drum to demand attention, and, with a quavering voice filled with tears and emotion, attempting to read the message he held in his palsied hand to the happy peasants who crowded around him, the O. D. clad soldiers forming an emotionless fringe to the crowd of gesticulating French. The bells of the village churches could be heard ringing throughout the country side, the first time in over four years.
Almost immediately following the signing of the armistice, the Fourth Army Corps was assigned to the Third Army, known as the Army of Occupation and the men hailed with delight the thought that they would be able to reach their final objective, the Rhine river.
On November 17th, 1918. Clarence’s battalion started heading north and east to enter Germany as part of the Army of Occupation. They were generously provisioned with motor vehicles, so no one had to march. On November 20th, his battalion entered Luxembourg. Clarence’s unit spent nearly two weeks in the Grand Duchy, first in Bettembourg, then in Schuttrange, and finally in Grevenmacher. They even planned their own Thanksgiving away from home. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 52:
November 22nd found the outfit passing through the prosperous, intensely-cultivated and wooded rolling hills of this beautiful little principality to arrive at the village of Schuttrange in time to have dinner. Several days were spent here and a schedule of training issued from corps headquarters was indulged in. The men were billeted throughout the town with the natives who seemed very willing to extend kind hospitality in exchange for the “Beaucoup” francs that the men exchanged for the mark and spent freely. Soap and candy were also splendid mediums of exchange, it was soon discovered. The Luxembourgers were having a three-day festival during the stay in Schuttrange, and the people came in from the country and enjoyed a period of feasting and drinking. Preparations were under way in the kitchen for a Thanksgiving dinner and eight little pigs were procured, along with other dainties. A large hall in a “Gastwirtschaft” was hired, tables erected and the place decorated with evergreens and flags. Most of the men visited the city of Luxembourg on the morning and early afternoon of Thanksgiving day, returning in time to enjoy the splendid dinner. The evening was spent in dancing and drinking of the variety of new beverages. All will remember the quaint costumes of the people who were present for their three-days’ celebration, especially those “Kliene Knabes” with the high white collar, long pants and huge watch and chain adorning coat and vest, topped by a man-sized hat, reminding one of a crowd of miniature farmers at the country fair. The headquarters, medical and supply detachments were located in a school presided over by three Catholic sisters, who afforded the men a splendid example of refined and perfect hospitality.
On November 24, 1918, Clarence wrote a letter to his mother and noted that he was writing it in Hesperange, Luxembourg. Hesperange is the midway point on the 10 mile trip from Bettembourg to Schuttrange, but according to the battalion history in From Puget Sound to the Rhine, his unit had already arrived in Schuttrange on November 22. So perhaps this letter is evidence that Clarence made a trip back to Hesperange from Schuttrange. Here is the letter he wrote to his mother:
Do not worry if you do not hear from me, for I am doing nothing by traveling. Our organization was fortunate enough to be assigned to the 3rd Army or Army of occupation. The rumor is that we will go into Germany and from there home, if this is true I should be home by January.
I am driving a truck now and have it fairly easy. We are seeing lots of country and are now in the province of Luxembourge. It is much like the U.S. here and is really better than France. It is very cold however. I am feeling very good with the exception of my teeth. I do not know when I will ever get them fixed. For the last five months I have been near Toul.
I think that George is with this Army too, if so you will not hear from him either.
You do not know how anxious I am to come home.
While I was combing my hair this morning several boys commented upon the fact that the army had not been very good to me. No it is not all gone and there are no spots which are entirely bare, but it is very evident that someday where there was once plenty there will be nothing, it rather worries me as I do not think it will apply to my especial style of beauty.
But then I can say that on account of the great hardships endured during the war I lost all of my hair.
How are you feeling? O.K. I hope.
I am going to wish you a merry Xmas for you will probably receive this about that time. I wish you would ask Mr. Moore if he is receiving $28.00 monthly from the Gov. I am allotting that much and I hope he is getting it all right.
I am going for a little walk thru Luxembourg. By the way I was in Nancy, too.
Much Love to All.
C. H. Bailey
Co. D 405 Tel Bn
American E F
On December 1, 1918, Clarence’s Company D arrived in Grevenmacher, Luxembourg, less than a quarter mile from the German Border across the Moselle River. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 52–53:
On December 1st Company “D” made the jump to Grevenmacher, a city on the Moselle river and the border of Luxembourg and Germany. As the convoy approached the section of town the men were to occupy the opposite bank of the Moselle marked the first glimpse of German soil. The American flag at the head of a long column of troops, which stretched along the German side and across the bridge to the Luxembourg side of the river in close, orderly formation, gave every man a thrill, as he witnessed the historic passing of the American Army of Occupation into conquered territory without display and with efficient, businesslike aspect. Matt Bruchler, former resident of the United States and still a citizen, possessing a vocabulary full of good American cuss words and a wine cellar which he liberally refreshed the boys from, was the first and last person the men will remember during the stay in Grevenmacher.
It was with mixed feelings of wonder, anticipation and expectancy that the men gathered on the morning of December 1st, 1918, to bid goodby to friends and enter into the land of the “Squarehead.” Traveling through German territory was not exciting in the least. No demonstration of any kind; expected hostility was not forthcoming and complete indifference characterized the attitude of the inhabitants, with the exception of the fat, healthy-looking “Beaucoup Kinder,” who swarmed everywhere and lined the village streets with widened eyes of curiosity and later assured safety, as the American soldier likes a “kid” and will make friends regardless of nationality. On the outskirts of Trier a whole army of “Knabes” met the convoy with innumerable spiked helmets which they traded for candy, cigarettes and tobacco. It later developed they had salvaged this headgear from a raided German warehouse. After passing through the city of Trier, “D” Company stopped in Ruwer-Paulin, a small city on the outskirts. The entire outfit billeted in a large hotel run by a German wine merchant and were “Settin’ on the world.” The non-coms above grade I7 here slept on feather beds, thereby enjoying the privileges of their rank and attaching to themselves the name of “The Feather-Bed Recruits.” The second morning in this town the entire outfit made a trip to Trier, where it enjoyed a first-class bath within the confines of a German caserne.
December 6th, the Company moved on to Burg, a typical German town on the banks of the Moselle river. Reserved hospitality was extended and in most of the billets wine was always at hand without asking.
On December 8, 1918, Clarence was in Gonzerath, Germany, and was preparing to move out to Erbach, Germany, the next day.
On December 9, 1918, Clarence’s unit began driving into the German mountains. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 53:
December 9th was the beginning of the hardest jump of the trip into Germany; it carried the convoy over great ranges of mountains and along the Moselle river, and then inland from the river to the village of Beltheim. It was long into the night before beds had been found for the men, who slept in barns, schoolhouses and any place that would afford shelter. The light of morning presented a village tucked away in the rolling hills far from centres of activity, off the railroad, full of manure piles and other filth, no stores, one or two dingy “Gastwirtschafts,” and a population full of wine, distrust and ignorance. The “cooties” came into their own again and stayed with the men until the final soap barrage was put up on the River Rhine a few days later.
For the next week, Clarence’s battalion was based in Beltheim. On December 10, Company D relocated to Erbach (probably the Erbach that is adjacent to Eltville on the Rhine).
On December 15, 1918, after nearly a full week being based in Beltheim, Clarence’s battalion was on the move again. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 53–55:
December 15th was the beginning of the last lap in the journey to the Rhine. During the early hours of a beautiful, clear morning, the convoy left the valleys of the Moselle river and traveled over heavily-wooded mountains toward the Rhine. At noon the convoy arrived on top of the mountains above the city of Boppard; and a magnificent panorama of the historic Rhine river, the vineyards clinging to the steep mountainsides and an ancient castle perched on a commanding bluff back of the city, presented an incomparable picture. The route now lay along the banks of the Rhine from Boppard to Coblenz and the Third Division formed a continuous khaki-colored, snake-like column, impressive in its orderly and soldierly appearance. The river was resplendent under the clear winter sunshine, and at each bend in the road new wonders were unfolded; castles famous in song and story gave way to vineyards that seemed to have been painted by an artist, so regular and carefully groomed were they. The populace in Sunday dress stood along the whole route silent and wondering at these orderly invaders. Passing through Coblenz the giant statue of Wilhelm I could be seen at the point where Mother Moselle kisses Father Rhine. Late in the afternoon Mayen, Rhineland, Germany, the final objective, was reached and the men were billeted in a large school house.
On December 25, 1918, Clarence and the entire 405th Telegraph Battalion celebrated Christmas together in Nettetal, near Mayen, Germany. A special program for the occasion was printed up and Clarence kept his copy, which is presented below.
This article on pages 15–16 of the March 1919 edition of the Bell Telephone News gives many further details on how the Christmas dinner was planned, paid for, and kept a surprise (mostly) from the troops:
Below is a map of all of Clarence’s known movement in Europe during World War I, from his landing at Saint-Nazaire, France, to his Christmas party just outside of Mayen, Germany (click the map to see at higher resolution):
If you have more to add to this story, or just want to let me know what you think, please leave a comment below.
Continue to Part 4 of Clarence’s experiences in World War I.