This is the fourth and final post of this series. In part 3 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when he left Colombey-les-Belles, France, through his hearing the last shots fired before the Armistice, until he celebrated Christmas in Mayen, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation. In this, the conclusion of Clarence’s World War I story, I’ll present his journey from Mayen back to the United States.
(Note: I’ve presented a map of Clarence’s travels across Europe at the bottom of this post.)
On January 1, 1919, Clarence was ostensibly still based in Mayen, Germany, but sent this photo postcard of the 13th century ruins of Winneberg castle near Cochem, Germany, to his third cousin and future wife, Dorothy M. Bailey.
Jan 1, 1919.
How do you like our future home? Some shack. I haven’t figured out how to get it across the sea to Seattle
This postcard from Cochem may indicate that he was part of a detachment that relocated to Cochem, that he took leave to see the castle, or that he just found a postcard of it in a shop in Mayen. As you’ll see from the next few letters, Clarence was in Cochem eight days later, ten days later, and nearly a month later, making this seem more like an assignment than a short sightseeing trip. Cochem is located 13 miles south-southwest of Mayen. The Mayen schoolhouse that the battalion was housed in had to be vacated on January 3rd to get ready for the school children’s return, and the soldiers of the unit were billeted with private families. It’s possible that Clarence was billeted with a private family in the Cochem area. As he was a chaffeur, commuting to this relatively remote location would have been relatively straightforward if he was allowed to take a unit vehicle. Furthermore, while Cochem was a small town, it served as the headquarters of the Fourth Army Corps. so it was bustling with members of the American Expeditionary Forces in 1919. Here are a few photos of Cochem from the very weeks that Clarence was there:
On January 9, 1919, Clarence was in Cochem, Germany, where he wrote this letter to his mother:
Jan. 9, 1919.
George wrote me yesterday and I presume he will beat this letter home. The pictures which H.B. made came with your letter today. I am pleased that she is doing well.
Don’t save the house dress too long, for if I am home within a year I will feel that I am exceedingly fortunate. I do not mind it much tho’ all I do is eat, sleep and read. I am reading King Lear, I just finished Romeo. I am also reading Hypatia by Kingsley and “Our Mutual Friend” by Dickens. I am becoming quite a checker player too. I have only one complaint to make my hair is falling out more every day and I am very nervous.
But I feel fine. I am salting away $28 every month besides my insurance so, financially I am doing better than if I were at home. I think I must have nearly $1,000.00 besides my insurance’s. I have a fine place to stay, gas light, stove and very good moral companions. None of the boys do anything worse than smoke and swear and one of the boys does niether. There are only four of us. We have no guard or fatigue duties, no revely or retreat, in fact there are days pass when I never see an officer.
We are fed good too, have shows or something every night. It is all right considering everything, but there is something missing and I will not be sorry when it is all over. But the Good Lord only knows what I will do.
Co. D. 405 Tel.Bn.
On January 11, 1919, Clarence was in Cochem, Germany, where he wrote this puzzling letter to a woman named Mrs. Moore:
Jan. 11, 1919.
My Dear Mrs. Moore,
Your little card arrived a trifle late, but nevertheless welcome.
It struck a responsive chord.
My appetite may be impaired and it may not.
I have had few opportunities to test it out.
“Kille ye, a fatted kitten”
I’ll do my part.
You need not fear on that account.
And if I do not.
Your heart may rest content.
For then you will know.
That for ever more.
I’ll leave your house filled.
Even tho’ the fare.
Corned Willie ? !
Gold Fish ! ?
Monkey Meat ! ? !
Or anything _ . _ .
Be a part,.
Of the menu . . .
For if you do I’ll not eat a bit never come again refuse to speak to you make faces at your back slander libel do everything that I shouldnt and I know that there will be “no health in me, miserable sinner”
C. H. B.
C. H. Bailey
Co.D. 405 Tel. Bn.
American E. F.
On February 1, 1919, Clarence was still in the Mayen area, where he wrote this postcard to his mother:
Feb. 1, 1919
This little card is self explanatory. I am also asked to give a few words as to my health etc. I do not believe the Doc. could find very much wrong with me. And I hope I will never have to ask him to.
Co. D. 405 Tel Bn
On February 4, 1919, Clarence was still in Cochem, Germany, where he wrote this letter to his mother:
Feb. 4, 1919
Writing a letter is more or less of a bore unless you are disposed, even to ones mother. Unfortunately for you, I have been indisposed for quite awhile. I think I am indisposed now, mentally, but, duty dis- or perhaps I better say, um, in-disposes me so now I find myself disposed to write by unpossessed with any ideas and again, duty dis-un-posses me and I find myself possessed. Which is all rather queer and hard to understand.
But what is the use of understanding? If we did we would be unhappy and unoccupied and rather disinteresting.
I am or rather have been inviting my soul or something the past month by my invitation is colorless and I still find myself vacant in spots.
Sometimes I wish to live like this this forever, others, I wish to take the world by the tail (maybe it has none) well that is what worries me, I am afraid I would get all prepared to shake it like a terrier does a rat and then find it didn’t have any tail. And then again I want to go home get married and live a regular old [Dobbin] home style of life. I feel all mixed up and haven’t got any thing to separate me.
I am still by, for, with, be, am it, all, so, hedonistic, calesthenic hyperbollically, fink, tundra Bolshevik, crevically spinaculary [cubuacerous] diganticraceous un- po-, con- pro- dispossessed and will impart the astounding information that I am well and love you.
C. H. Bailey
Co D. 405 Tel Bn
In early March, the battalion was once again brought together to live in a single location, this time in an old theatre building in Mayen.
On March 18th, 1919, the Fourth Army Corps was reviewed by General Pershing in Kaiseresch, Germany, and the 405th Telegraph Battalion stood reveille at 4:00 am and then drove to Kaiseresch where they waited in the snow for a few hours before General Pershing arrived, inspected the troops, and delivered a speech to the troops.
By March 25, 1919, Clarence has apparently left his dwindling unit in Mayen to take classes in Paris, where he wrote this letter to his mother:
March 25 1919
Every letter of yours for the month of February came today. As most of them treated with the “Blues” and the return of George I hardly know how to answer them, for I know that by the time this reaches you George will be home and you will be happy.
George undoubtedly will tell you of Rain Rain rain rain rain. Tell him for me that I have seen Washington rain, German rain, and French rain but that the rains at Beaume, France [h]as anything in the rain line bested by an easy margin and that he dont know what rain is. Every blot on here is caused by rain leaking through the roof.
The course in journalism is progressing very nicely and I believe will be quite enjoyable.
I received a very nice letter from L.C.M. also a dictionary which I had requested.
I dont believe that you need worry about me not remaining at home. I don’t want to starve and my opinion of my personal powers is not very high.
Mrs. Dale is wrong I do not dislike to write letters but I write to you, L.C.M. three gentlemen friends and two ladies. Someday I believe I will be dependent to some extent on the gentlemen and of course I have to do my best to my Arizona fairy and the other lady. It is quite a task to find something of interest to write to each one.
Have you saved my letters, if so, let George read them and tell him what [he-uninbar] in regards to our talk last September. Tell him I want an honest opinion.
But I hate press agent stuff and for that reason do not like to have every Tom, Dick and Harry reading my letters.
I and every good man dislike the person who writes letters which he wants published. For instance Wayne Hatchett having a razor shot from his hand and the Iron Cross which he plucked from the bosom of a captive General. People who write such tales are “Liars” and the letters I have seen published in the Express are “Lies.” It is only “Liars” who exploit themselves. I love the truth and a lie is to good a thing to be wasted, so please do not make wholesale publication of my letters. Mr. Moore and Mrs. Dale are always welcome to read anything I may write I like to consider them as part of the family but others—well use your own judgement.
I hope that by the time this reaches you that Harriette will have decided that a hired girl is a luxury. It must be very hard to make both ends meet and have a hired girl in these times.
But that is a delicate subject to talk of. My opinion in regards to the matter I think is well understood by all.
Give H.B. a kiss for me and my love to Ike and George if he is home.
Co D 9th Prov. Reg.
A. E. F. Paris
On April 2, 1919, Clarence was presumably still in Paris, where he wrote this letter to his mother:
April 2 1919
Well how are you and Geo. getting along. I am in a dizzy world at present. Study, Study, but I like it. I do not know whether I am learning anything or not but I am trying.
I don’t know when I will get home. You get dependent then I can come home toot sweet otherwise I will have to stay here for ever I guess. George was sure lucky. I’ve been in the army 18 months and he only had 6 months of it. Gee I never tho’t I would soldier that long.
I read your little lecture on saving money. But it fell on rather barren ground. I haven’t seen any money for so long that I don’t see how I can save it, and it dont look like I will see any for a month or two, my service record is lost. I am slated as being in the Q.M.C. but I don’t know anything about it.
You were mistaken about my using the dictionary when I wrote that letter. All of those words either belonged to my vocabulary or was my own invention. I dont know what letter you referred to but I do know that I have only had the dictionary two days so I must have either known the words or invented them.
I cant think and am tired.
Co. D. 405 Tel Bn
On April 11, 1919, Clarence was presumably still in Paris, where he wrote this letter to his mother:
April 11, 1919
We were reviewed by General Petain today, he is a little dumpy Frenchman with a lot of gold braid on his hat. I have seen many famous men since being here and the more famous they are the more impossible it seems that they should be so. I am up in the air absolutely when it comes to a decision about what a man should do to gain the respect of his fellows. I met a young man last night with whom I attended school. He highly flattered me by the fact that he had kept in touch with my activities since I last saw him even knowing of Geo’s return to the States, even tho’ he had never seen George.
I presume that George will have decided by the time this letter arrives, as to his future course. In case he hasn’t, however, I wish to say that personally I would be highly pleased if he should decide to remain in Fort Collins. I believe he has sounded to the depths of North Park society and has by this time reached the state of maturity which entitles a man to broaden his horizon. North Park was an excellent training ground not enough apparition to entirely dishearten a young man, but, on the other hand, enough to keep him up to standard. However, I do not think that it will ever be big enough to make a big man, being too remotely situated and inaccessible and having too rigorous a climate. I really can see no reason on earth why George should go back there and I hope from the bottom of my heart that we went. Whatever his decision maybe, however, I hope he knows that he will always hold the same position of high esteem which is alloted to him by all with whom he has ever been associated.
This week was a one of examinations, already three have gone beyond the boards and tomorrow brings another. Two of the three have been corrected and returned, and I was fortunate enough to be given the grade of “Very Good” in both. I do not know what system is followed by the educators in their markings but I presume “Very Good” is a fair grade, insomuch, as the only correction appearing in one paper was the spelling of “climacteric”, I carelessly omited the “t”.
The examinations as a rule are quite severe and one has to be well acquainted with the subject as it is treated in class, for the questions are asked in such a manner as to make it impossible to draw upon ones fund of knowledge previously gained. All of the classes are extremely interesting with the exception of the French. In this course one is fortunate if he receive one instruction period within a week and as there are no text books it is an impossibility to study between periods. We are permitted in town only Saturday’s and Sundays so association with the natives is hard. I presume I will have to return to the U.S. with out a knowledge of French.
Unless conditions here change decidedly, I will try to remain here for the next term, providing that I dont get orders to go home before that time.
I certainly wish that I could get home. This state of inactivity is very tedious. Of course the school offers some diversions but after three or four years of work it is hardly exciting enough.
Then, too, I am afraid that the temptation to degenerate might have some effect. I will truly be glad when I sail for home.
I must write a few lines to my B. Y. G. (Beautiful Young Girl) and then return to my studies.
Much Love to all.
C. H. Bailey
Co.D 405 Ten Bn
On April 18, 1919, Clarence was presumably still in Paris, where he wrote this letter to Mrs. Moore:
April 18, 1919
My Dear Mrs. Moore,
To be sure George should have enjoyed the spare-ribs & the ice cream and I know that if he had gone one whole year without either, as I have, he surely would have. We did have fresh pork once while in Germany and when in Paris I had some ice? Cream? at fifty cents a dish. If all ice cream tastes as that did I do not understand why Mr. Moor wishes it so often, but if my memory serves me right the genuine article should be served at all Sunday meals and every other meal which is in the least a departure from the ordinary. I hardly think it was fair however to chock that foolish “Raisin pie” down the guests unsuspecting throats and don’t take the Raisin pie as a hint. I don’t like to throw forth any suggestions or anything like that, but if you ever have occasion to feed me pie you would receive a lot more pleasure watching me eat cream pie than any other kind. But enough of this, even tho’ eating seems to be the only thing we live for it is, perhaps, not the most gentlemanly thing to fill a letter with.
Great credit is deserving by instructing personel of the University here. I should think that the most discouraging task in the world would be to try to interest a bunch of lads, crazy to go home, in text books. Yet it is being done so successfully that some boys are waiving the right to go home with their organization in order to finish the term here. I have hardly reached that stage of enthusiasm but I do enjoy it very much and am doing fairly well. In the interesting? subject of U.S. History I had the honor of leading the class in a recent examination, We are “Permitted as many priviledges as is possible in the management of a military post.” This means that we are to have only one formation “Reveilie”, that we are permitted to come + go with out the formality of passes, and that on Saturday and Sunday we may visit any city in France excepting Paris, providing we are back by 8 pm Sunday evening. The weather has promises of sunshine but I wish that Colorado could have some of our rain. You spoke of the Italian weather Colorado was having.
If Sunny Italy’s weather is any thing like that of sunny France I do not believe that beautiful would be the proper descriptive adjective. I will not offer a more suitable one or you would have to have at least a year in the army before you could appreciate it.
But I dont believe that I would (^ try to) enhance the beauty of
ItalyColorado by comparing ColoradoItaly with it.
That brings me to a subject of patriotism. I do not believe that the United States has to patronize the old country in any manner.
I want the people to visit the Hudson and not the American Rhine. I intend to go to New Orleans and not the New Paris. If we only knew we would not detract from our country by naming its wonders and its cities after the mediocre European articles. We would not ruin our architecture, beautiful in its plainess and its solidity by imitation of the Gothic. We would not spoil the sturdiness and the moral firmness of our character by setting up feverish Bohemian societies.
We would label and make every thing American and we would hold up our heads in pride over the example we had established.
Co D 405 Tel Bn
I presume that Clarence returned to his unit in mid-May when his semester ended.
On May 19, 1919, while Clarence’s unit was hoping for an early departure back to the states, they received some bad news. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 61:
On the 19th a damper was put on the enthusiasm of the men when orders were received to cease preparations for return to the United States and the “cognac” suffered severely. However, a like proportion of the “joy” beverage was disposed of the following day when the joy-killing order was revoked and the preparations resumed.
On May 21, 1919, the unit turned in its gear (ibid., page 61):
All quartermaster, signal corps and ordnance property was turned in on the twenty-first, and the cute little “8 cheveaux—40 hommes” Pullman cars were ready for the “hommes.”
On May 26, 1919, Clarence’s unit started the journey back home. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 61–62:
The battalion entrained May 26th, at 6:35 p. m., and for the first time while in Europe, the men rode in box cars. However, these cars were fitted up so that they were made quite comfortable and a very enjoyable trip through the territory in which the battalion did so much work was made without incident, except that Sergeant Kennedy dropped a large can of coffee on his foot, breaking a toe.
Upon arrival at St. Nazaire, the battalion hiked to Camp No. 1, where they were assigned to the same barracks as were occupied by the men upon their arrival from the United States, more then a year previous. While at St. Nazaire the usual inspection and “cootie” baths were indulged in. On June 2nd, orders were received to board the U. S. S. Henderson, which orders were fulfilled at 4:00 p. m. At 7:30 the following morning the Henderson was under way and at last we were sure we were homeward bound.
For some reason, however, Clarence did not sail on the USS Henderson. Clarence was scheduled to return to the United States (specifically to Camp Merritt in New Jersey) from Saint-Nazaire on June 2, 1919 aboard the USS Henderson, but a notation on the passenger list states “”DID NOT SAIL. Transfered 1st Rep.dep. May 31. 1919-pp2-SO 151-HQ. Emb.Camp No1. Base Soc.#1”. If any of my readers can decipher this milspeak, please let me know in the comments. It appears that Clarence didn’t sail because he had been transferred to another unit, having reported for duty there on May 31, 1919. You can see the original notes to this effect below, on the last line (number 30):
Clarence did return to the United States shortly after this, but I haven’t been able to find a record of the ship he sailed on. The USS Henderson sailed on June 2nd and arrived on June 13th, and from the next postcard we can see that Clarence’s ship arrived in the US just six days later on June 19th. If the ships were comparable in speed, it looks like Clarence spent an extra six days in Saint-Nazaire.
On June 19, 1919, Clarence was back at Camp Mills, where he wrote a letter to his mother:
Docking this morning am feeling fine.
Wonder if you could have pyjamas made for me when I get home. Am busted but sure tickled to death.
In about three minutes I will see the “Old Girl”
I believe that the “Old Girl” that Clarence refers to is the Statue of Liberty, as his ship would have passed it on its way to dock in Hoboken, New Jersey.
On June 20, 1919, Clarence was still at Camp Mills, where he wrote a letter to his mother:
June 20, 1919
On the 27th I will receive the little red service chevron that I have been looking for. I will be discharged at this camp and will have to come home all by my lonesome. I am feeling fine but right at this very moment I am starving to death and no place to get anything to eat.
I do not know whether I am glad to get home or not as this country here seems so much like France, that is the camp, the only difference is that it costs more money. Nothing is free as it was over there.
But then I guess I am glad I am home.
Yesterday I saw a boy get met by his mother. She threw her arms around him and cried from sheer joy. I guess mothers and boys are the same the world over as I saw the same in France and this was the same look in the mother’s face.
But I hope you wont cry for it will make me feel very badly instead of happy if I see my mother cry.
Well I’ll be home by the 4th of July I hope.
According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 63–64:
June 24th, 1919, marks the official mustering out of the 405th Telegraph Battalion and the disbanding of the organization as a tactical unit. The event was fittingly celebrated by a huge reception and dance at the Denver Auditorium under the auspices of the Mothers Auxiliary of the 405th Telegraph Battalion, assisted by the Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company.
Addresses of welcome were by President Ben S. Read and John F. Greenawalt. The national and battalion standards were presented to the Telephone Company by Major A. W. Young, and were accepted on behalf of the Company by Mr. J. E. Macdonald, secretary, who was chairman of the reception committee. The dance closed at midnight and those fortunate enough to be with the battalion to the very end enjoyed the closing event more than any other during its wonderful career. The Mothers Auxiliary and The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company will always be remembered for their many kindnesses, generosity and loyal support to the men while they were in the service.
Clarence didn’t get to join in these celebrations, but did shortly afterwards find his way home to Fort Collins, Colorado. He stayed there with his mother for at least six months, but at some point in the earliest 1920s romance sparked between Clarence and his (third) cousin Dorothy M. Bailey (the woman to whom he sent a postcard from Cochem, Germany). Dorothy was living in Tacoma, Washington, near Camp Lewis (where Clarence began his military training). They got married in Fort Collins, Colorado, but then started their life together in Seattle, Washington.
Finally, below is a map of all of Clarence’s known movement in Europe during World War I (click the map to see it at higher resolution):
If you have more to add to this story, can interpret any of the [square bracketed] writing I could not, or just want to let me know what you think, please leave a comment below.