Clarence H. Bailey in World War I, part 2

In part 1 of this series of posts, I covered Clarence Humphrey Bailey’s time in World War I from when the U.S. entered the war until the end of his training at Camp Lewis, Washington. In part 2, I’ll be presenting his cross-country rail journey to Camp Merritt, his transatlantic voyage to France, and his journey east across France to Colombey-les-Belles.

(Note: I’ve presented a map of this part of Clarence’s travels across France at the bottom of this post.)

According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 17,

March 31st, 1918, found the battalion loaded on a special train, which was made up of six standard Pullman sleepers for the officers and men, baggage car, kitchen car, three side-door Pullmans and a caboose. After spending the better part of six months in Camp Lewis the men had made many friends among the troops, and early in the morning these men from various outfits, especially the 316th Field Signal Battalion and the 322nd Field Signal Battalion, began to assemble to see the more fortunate fellow soldiers start on the long trip across the continent. Having everything in first-class shape, without any fuss or confusion attending the entrainment, the train quietly started on the first lap of the journey, with its final objective Berlin.

According to the same source, on page 131:

March 31. Battalion departed from Camp Lewis for an Eastern embarkation camp at 11 a. m. on the O. W. R. R. & N. Ry. Composition of train as follows: One baggage car, five coaches, one pullman, one kitchen car, three box cars and one caboose. Stopped at “The Dalles” at 6 p. m. for first exercise of fifteen minutes.

By April 1, 1918, the train had already reached Glenns Ferry, Idaho, where Clarence purchased, wrote, and sent this postcard to his mother:

April 1, 1918

We are on our way at last. Am sorry that I cant let you know where we are going for I could see you.

Will write later,


From Clarence’s postcard, cities and other clues mentioned in From Puget Sound to the Rhine, this 1918 railroad map of the United States, and historical topographic maps from ca. 1918 available at topoView, I’ve been able to reconstruct the exact route that Clarence’s train took from Camp Lewis in Washington to Camp Merritt in New Jersey. Significant portions of the route have been abandoned and are no longer railroad right-of-ways, so unfortunately you can’t travel this route today unless you do so virtually. Below is a small-scale map of the entire route (click to view the image at higher resolution).

I’ve mapped out his entire route in detail, so let me know in the comments if you’d like to see his cross-country trip in greater detail.

According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, the specifics of the train journey were to be kept secret, but some of the men let word leak that they’d be passing through Cheyenne, Wyoming, which was reasonably close to Denver, where many of the men had family. According to pages 15–16 of the May 1918 edition of The Mountain States Monitor:

Fort Collins is much closer to Cheyenne than Denver, but Clarence was dutiful and did not tell his mother where he would be when he’d be passing so close to home (as he pointed out in his April 1st postcard).

On April 9, 1918, while temporarily stationed at Camp Merritt in New Jersey, Clarence wrote a letter to his mother:

April 9, 1918

Dearest Mother,

Well I have been to New York. It is such a large place however that it is impossible to see any of it in the short time I was there. I took a trip to China town and was disappointed. Saw Broadway and was again dissapointed. Curtis street in Denver is far better lighted and as far as I could tell just as crowded. The streets are dirty and so torn up that traffic is impossible. The buildings are dingy and look like pawn shops. Every fiftieth person you pass is Swede or Irish or Dane or some other nationality the others are New Yorkers or in other words Yiddishers. I must contradict that statement for it is hyperbolical. I should have said that one out of every fifty thousand was of some other nationality.

I will give New York credit for one thing however, they have wonderful shows. The best show I ever seen previous to coming here was very mediocre, the shows are wonderful. I will also give the people credit for being very kind to the soldiers and I believe that I has as good a time as possible and spent as little money on a good time as I have ever done. My little trip cost less than $5.00 and it was impossible to spend more. For instance I purchased a ticket for a show. The ticket seller insisted that I buy a 50¢ seat. When I went in the head usher said “say you must be flush. Very few soldiers can afford $2.50 seats.” Then he escorted us to the best seats in the house. The bell boys would not accept tips in fact I was treated royally.

Perhaps however it was my winning smile for some of the boys said that they were held up right and left. I believe that when I come back I will work here for a little while at least. I will tell you nothing of this camp or the life here. I was disgusted when I was put into the National Army instead of the U.S. but now I am proud to be a U.S.N.A. for the regulars I have seen are just a trifle less respected than a bunch of jail birds. That is the vast majority of course there are some very fine chaps among them. I believe that one reason is that the regulars are composed mostly of chaps under 21 yrs of age while the other is made of men.

You should see the barracks here that we have moved into. They were so filthy that the major would not move us into them until the camp officers had them cleaned then we had to clean them right after we got in them. Our barracks at home were never ? th as dirty. But we are making a record in camp however.

I am rather peeved right at present. This is a rest camp and when I am resting I have to cook for fun. I am sorry I ever learned how to boil water.

There are amusements galore here and every thing in the discipline line is very lax. I presume that they want to let the boys have one last fling before they go across.

We are fully equipped now and I have so much that I don’t know what to do with it. I weighed myself and equipment and the [bulk] came up to 325#. We have to carry all of this junk with us when we move. We have moved twice some of us larger boys had to carry extra. My bunk mate is only 5 ft 3″ tall after I had loaded him up he couldn’t move so I had to unpack him and have him load me. After we got everything hung on me that would hang I was unable to do anything but walk or stand. I couldn’t sit down as a result I was [sure] all in when I got to out new home.

It is impossible to tell when we are going to leave by any day would not surprise me in the least. We receive three days notice and in those three days we are confined to our barracks and are unable to write or communicate with any one.

Well I must go home. Will write every day until we go.

On April 17, 1918, Clarence visited New York City and went to the tallest building in the world at the time (The Woolworth Building), where he wrote a postcard to his mother:

April 17, 1918

I rose to quite an elevated position. Wonderful. Wish you were with me. Visited the zoo. Also wonderful and the Hippodrome marvelous.

This place is beginning to fascinate, better leave soon. It is warmer now than it ever was in El Paso. God pity them in August.

Much Love,


On April 19, 1918, Clarence was still at Camp Merritt in New Jersey, and he wrote another letter to his mother:

April 19,

Dearest Mother,

We will be leaving soon for points unknown.

I received your letter and one paper today. I think there must have been more in the paper pckg. as it had a string around it. I did not or will not get to see the Museum as we will be in semi confinement until we leave, all mail will be censored etc. etc.

I do not feel the least regretful about having to go but deem it considerably unfortunate that I did not get at least one little look at you before I left.

I have quite a few stamps which I will send to you after leaving.

Well mother I have to go on guard now will write as often as I can and will try to let you know the exact date of our departure.

Be a good girl

Much Love


According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 20-21:

On April 22nd, 1918, reveille peremptorily roused the men to action at 3 a. m. The morning was damp, cold and cheerless, with a drizzly fog drifting landward from New York harbor, and appetites were appeased with bacon, potatoes, syrup, bread and piping-hot coffee. Breakfast in the army is usually the heaviest meal of the day, because of the vast amount of calories consumed in the strenuous army life. “Everybody out to police up,” and the battalion formed and marched to Dumont, there boarding a train and proceeding to Hoboken. At Hoboken railroad yards the battalion detrained and marched across town to the pier, a distance of about a mile.

A long, tedious wait ensued at the clock, which was made more tiresome by the desire of the men to get aboard. The tedium was relieved by the now immensely popular Red Cross ladies, who supplied the men with coffee and sandwiches. The men had had a great amount of singing practice, and started to work some of the chestnuts over, when the skipper, in order to hear a rival outfit close by sing, dashed any fond hopes toward vocal supremacy with a loud, hoarse “Hush!” Moored close by, the great black-and-white camouflaged hulk of the Leviathan was a source of interest to all the men. The rumor had gotten out that the trip overseas would be made in this grand boat, which made all other craft in the harbor look insignificant, with the towering height and three immense funnels belching smoke while getting up steam for immediate sailing. This rumor, as all rumors were wont to do, proved to be “all wrong.” The docks of Hoboken were teeming with men clad in O. D. and presented a sight that will never be equalled, for all this was a vanguard of the greatest army ever sent across any ocean.

During the early afternoon the battalion boarded the ship Huron, formerly the German liner Frederick der Grosse. This ship had, in its day, been a good boat, but at the time of its conversion into a transport it was on the decline, with the result that a medley of odors and sights of decay assailed the nose and met the eyes. The “gobs” took time to tell all the men that the old bus was a “Jonah” and that among seafaring men it had the reputation of being rather erratic in its conduct. This reputation was well earned, as was later learned.

The Huron set sail the next afternoon (ibid., page 25):

About 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23rd, the Huron hauled anchor and swung into the current of the East River. There was no demonstration of any kind, and the men were commanded to remain below decks until the boat put out to sea; just a few of the lucky ones near the portholes had a last look at the Statue of Liberty, and the greatest adventure of the age was under way. Just off Sandy Hook, where the rest of the convoy of seven ships, including one cruiser, assembled, the men will all remember the large Danish ship that passed the convoy under full sail.

The convoy was complete, and the following afternoon all turned their prows toward the east and proceeded quietly and majestically, like a flock of immense ducks, in orderly formation.

On the night of April 25, 1917, when the convoy was a little over two days at sea, disaster struck (ibid., pages 25–26):

Thursday night the men took a turn around the deck before going below and enjoyed the beauty of the scene presented. A glorious full moon rose high in a clear, starlit sky, and the smooth bosom of the tranquil sea reflected myriad moonbeams that instilled in the mind a spirit of quiet solitude and contentment. Most of the men had retired, when the air was suddenly torn with the terrific clash of steel meeting steel. The sirens commenced to screech and scream persistently; the actual odor of burning metal and wood permeated the air. Through the lifeboat drill the men had learned just what to do when the sirens blew and proceeded to carry out instructions with calmness and coolness, with the result that all were soon found on deck near the lifeboats assigned them. They were equipped with life preservers and were ready to. further obey orders and effect instructions that meant safety and order.

Having awakened from a sound sleep, no one could imagine what had happened, and such thoughts as submarines, torpedoes, explosions or broken machinery passed through most minds. The sight that greeted the eye upon coming on deck was the dark hull of another ship that seemed trying to come aboard amidships; the two ships would come apart a little and then come together again with a tremendous crash. Through some unknown cause the sister ship Aeolus had struck with her prow the Huron full amidships, causing the prow of the Aeolus to collapse and rending a deep gash in the side of the Huron, tearing away a great part of the rail on the main deck and officers’ deck and wrecking two lifeboats. For a time conditions looked perilous, and it was thought necessary to take to the boats, but, as the situation cleared, it was decided to attempt a return trip, as both boats were too badly damaged to proceed through the danger zone.

The convoy proceeded on its way and the two cripples started to limp their way back Hoboken. The great glow of strong searchlights, the screeching of sirens, the crackle of wireless sending out the S. O. S., the courageous conduct of the men, and innumerable signal lights flashing out their messages will be a picture not soon to be forgotten by those who went through this experience. In commendation of the splendid spirit and conduct displayed by the men, a letter was received from the ship’s commander in which he expressed his appreciation and admiration. An hour after the accident most of the men were back in their bunks, indulging in the most profound “shut-eye,” as though nothing unusual had happened.

The Huron made it back to port on Sunday, April 28th. News of the collision had been telegraphed back to port on the 25th, and crews worked around the clock to finish preparing a ship (the USS Manchuria) that was still a month from being ready for use as a troop transport. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 25), the Manchuria “was far from complete at the time she was loaded with the Huron’s troops.”

The 405th Telegraph Battalion helped repair and upgrade the Manchuria once they were aboard (ibid., page 25):

The superiority of this boat over the Huron was noticeable even in her unfinished condition, and this need of finishing touches provided work for most of the men of the battalion trained in technical work. A great amount of electrical wiring and installation had to be done, and the battalion took over this big job. With no outside aid they did everything in first-class order, which brought forth praise from the ship’s commander.

Two days later, on April 30, 1918, Clarence’s battalion resumed their voyage to Europe aboard the steam ship Manchuria, as documented by this declassified US Army Transport Service passenger list (see line 14):

The SS Manchuria had been launched in 1903 for passenger and mail service between San Francisco, Hawaii, Japan, China, and the Philippines. In the Fall of 1915, she was sold and put into Atlantic service, and on April 25, 1918, she was commissioned by the US Navy as the USS Manchuria. April 30, 1918, marked her first assignment ferrying US Army troops between the US and Europe, and Clarence sailed on her maiden voyage as a troop transport. Clarence sailed with about 5,000 other soldiers on this maiden voyage to Saint-Nazaire, in western France. He debarked there on May 13, 1919.

The USS Manchuria arriving in New York with US troops in 1919.

Once underway, the transatlantic journey was mercifully uneventful. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 133:

April 30. Transferred to U. S. S. Manchuria, Transport No. 73, at Pier No. 4, 10 a. m. Sailed at 2 p. m.
May 1. At sea. Slight fog; cleared at 10 a. m.
May 2. At sea. Bright and warm; five other transports and one cruiser.
May 3. At sea. Target practice by ships of convoy. Motion pictures after evening mess in officers’ mess hall.
May 4. At sea. Lieut. Seidenfeld, while reading Army and Navy Journal, learns of his promotion to captain.
May 5. At sea. Weather stormy; slight rain.
May 6. At sea. Sighted ship which refused to divulge identity. Cruiser took chase but returned few hours later.
May 7. At sea. Entered danger zone at 8 a. m. All members required to wear life belts and sleep in their clothing.
May 8. At sea. Reveille at 4 a. m. All on deck watch for submarines, as this hour is considered to be the most dangerous of the day.
May 9. At sea. Physical inspection by Lieut. Seidenfeld.
May 10. At sea.
May 11. At sea.
May 12. At sea. Sighted land, 10 a. m.

According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 27–28:

Land was sighted Sunday morning, May 12th, 1918, and it was a welcome sight to the men who had been confined in the crowded ship with nothing but a waste of sea to look at for three weeks. The weather was clear; not a cloud was to be seen in the sky. The warmth of the sun shining over the sea and bringing the green of the land into bold relief charged everything with new life and gave the weary men a new grip on a fast disappearing morale. Overhead hovered a French airplane, which seemed to be swooping and dipping for the pure joy of living, the observer standing in the fusilage of the machine semaphoring messages of welcome, which were greeted with vociferous cheers from all on board. A large crowd of French civilians, soldiers, sailors and a goodly portion of American soldiers lined each side of the locks during our passage through the various stages of reaching the land-locked harbor of St. Nazaire, where the good ship dropped anchor, no doubt with a sigh of relief in her great mechanical heart.

The anchor had hardly been let go when an army of stevedores swarmed aboard and commenced to unload the ship. The noise incident to unloading was deafening with the shouts of negro stevedores, groaning and grunting of hoists and engines and the incessant clank of the huge chains and derricks as they would dip into the hold of the vessel and come up loaded with a ton or so of supplies for the American Expeditionary Forces.

All remained aboard that night, and immediately after breakfast the following morning the battalion disembarked and stood upon the shores of La Belle France as members of the heralded and strangely attractive American Expeditionary Forces. The only thing suggestive of the Great War was the prevalence of mourning in the dress of the women and of the uniforms of the young men of France. The minds of everyone were kept busy registering all the strange sights, such as wooden shoes, lady bicyclists, the peculiar kimono effect of the old men’s and children’s dress and the large baggy trousers of all male civilians caught closely about the ankles. Little time was allowed for observing these things, as the battalion was soon marching toward Rest Camp No. 1, about two miles inland.

The route to the rest camp was lined with neat, well-kept little stone houses, flower gardens, trees and vines, and all seemed to breathe the great spring spirit that predominated this, our first day in France. Upon arriving at the camp the battalion was assigned two barrack buildings with well-packed dirt floors, and, upon first impression, the men commenced to “moo” and “neigh” like denizens of the barnyard. Along each side of the barracks ran a row of double-decked wooden bunks. Shortly after arriving at the barracks the weather changed and a heavy rain began to fall. It then developed that the roof contained holes through which a cat could be thrown, and the men proceeded to pitch their shelter halves over their bunks. In this way they succeeded in keeping the rain off of the beds, but the floor in the immediate vicinity was a sea of mud. A detail reported early in the afternoon with a quantity of straw, which was placed in the bed sacks, thus giving additional comfort to the quarters.

The following photo of the barracks at Saint-Nazaire is from page 22 of From Puget Sound to the Rhine:

On May 15, 1918, after just two days at Saint Nazaire Camp No. 1, Clarence’s battalion marched to the Saint Nazaire train station and boarded a passenger train to head east. They arrived at Nantes at dusk, and after a short stop continued east to St. Pierre de Corps. A brief stop there “enabled a great number of the men to get their initial introduction to the now famous Vin sisters, Blanc and Rouge” (ibid., page 29).

On May 19, 1918, Clarence had traveled by rail inland for two days and was now stationed at Camp Marmagne, outside Mehun-sur-Yèvre, France. He wrote this letter to his mother:

Somewhere in France

May, 19, 1918

My Dearest Mother,

I presume you know by this time that I have reached France safely. We were 21 days on the water, having a wreck 700 miles out causing us to turn back to the good old U.S. I got pretty frightened and shook like a leaf, but everything turned out alright eventually. We have travelled over about one half of France since being here. France is certainly a beautiful country.

Elitches Gardens, Denver is a very good imitation of France, just imagine mile after mile of such landscape. The trains here are much like toy trains, little cars, and peculiar little engines. I do not believe that I will mix much with the French, they are too particular and so funny. A good Yankee kid is good enough for me. I hope I am able to find Frank Munro over here, I have had news of him and he is still alive and kicking but has had a hot time of it.

I do not know when this letter will reach you, I do know that I haven’t received any mail as yet, but keep on writing maybe I will get them someday.

You should see the mud here, blue and sticky and the rain is very wet.

I can not tell you anything of our activities but if you read the articles of the war which appear in the Saturday Evening Post you will have a better knowledge of what is going on that we have. For every experience I have passed thru has been only a living illustration of what I have read.

It does not look like we are ever going to want for anything for I believe that there is more of everything here for the soldiers than in the states, the organization seems perfect.

Well my dear mother, I hope this reaches you O.K. I will write as often as possible and hope to be always able to same I feel as well as I do now.

Much Love to you and to all

Your Son

Pvt Clarence H Bailey

Co. D. 405 Tel. Bn. S. C.

American E. F. via New York

On May 23, 1918, the battalion received their first mail since leaving Camp Merritt.

On May 27, 1918, Clarence was still outside Paris at Camp Marmagne, France, where he wrote this letter to his mother:

May 27, 1918

Dearest Mother,

Rec’d five letters from you OK. Do not worry about me taking any chances for at present I am shovelling dirt. Soon I will being telephone work just like in the “States”. We are at a fine camp now, it is a work camp. We have a fine swimming hole and are in a pretty country. France is just like [Elitches] Gardens or City Ponds only [more] of it. Of course the people are very queer but alright I guess. I have been in a church built in the 6th century, have been in a castle in which Joan D’Arc was captive, and at present am unearthing a road built by Ceasar. I do not see why anybody would want to live here steady for though.

I judge by the tone of your letter that I might have said something or other that caused you to judge that I might be seeming to think I was being treated rather harshly by you. I am sorry that I could have said anything to cause you to assume that. I know that your best tho’ts are for me always and I think as much of you as any living son can think of a mother. But I hate sentamalism and for that reason may have appeared harsh. I will try to write more often in the future just to let you know I am well.

Be good and don’t worry. Give my love to Mr. M. and H. B. and keep lots for yourself.

Pvt. Clarence H. Bailey

Co. D 405 Tel. Bn

American E.F.

Via New York

According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 29–32:

Marmagne was found to be a large ordnance camp, with a great amount of contemplated construction under way by several companies of engineers and ordnance detachments. Common labor was represented by swarms of Chinese, who were known to us as “coolies,” and who furnished no end of amusement by their peculiar customs, language, lice and filth. Each one possessed an umbrella, of every shape, size and kind, the retention of which was nothing short of a mania. The language they used consisted of a mixture of French, Chinese and English, the English being mostly profane. They presented the most nondescript collection of clothing, and the headgear ranged from a Mexican sombrero down through the list to the Turkish turban.

Sunday following the day of arrival, most of the time was spent getting located and ready for anything that was to come. The camp sported the luxury of a good bath house, excellent sanitary features and a Y. M. C. A. canteen and movie house. Good barracks of the collapsible type were provided and, unlike others slept in, turned the rain and kept the dirt floor comparatively dry. Sunday afternoon delightful diversion was discovered in the shape of an old swimming hole in a nearby stream, and all the men availed themselves of the opportunity of disporting in the invigorating water. Brigadier General Russell, chief signal officer, American Expeditionary Forces, called on the battalion skipper and gave him an outline of the work the battalion was to perform during the next few weeks.

Monday morning will always be remembered, at least by the non-commissioned personnel of the outfit, for the morning sun was still casting lengthy shadows on the earth when every available man was placed on fatigue duty. This duty consisted of structural iron work, railway section labor, excavation and sewer digging, and, as the day wore on, men of the outfit could be seen high upon the steel skeleton of a great warehouse or bending laboriously with pick and shovel, making good attempts at jobs meant for artisans and doing that work which was little thought of as being part of the job of soldiering.

Though distasteful, these duties were performed with good cheer and thoroughness, which at all times marked the activities of the battalion. This work lasted during the entire stay at Camp Marmagne, and it was unanimously voted that it was decidedly old stuff. The old swimming hole was the haven of refuge to the men with tired muscles and aching bones. A French aviator from a nearby aviation field came at frequent intervals, and after doing all kinds of stunts in the air would land and extend an invitation to the officers and men to ride with him. Most of the officers took advantage of this chance, and a number of the men were fortunate enough to get a ride.

Mehun was a historical old town and contained the ruins of the castle of Charles VII. A great many of the men visited this city during their leisure hours. About this time it was noticeable that quite a number of French words appeared in the vocabularies of the men, and a pocket of each one held a French-English dictionary, which was consulted more frequently as the acquaintances of the men broadened. At this camp efforts were being made to secure the full complement of signal corps equipment. Details were sent to Nevers, Bordeaux and other points for motor transportation as well as signal corps equipment, and, as the time wore on, a working nucleus was gradually established. In making preparations for active work a number of changes were made in the personnel of the officers as well as the enlisted men. Toward the latter part of May orders were received assigning Company “E” to construction work between Blois and Tour, and the trip was made by rail and motor. Company “D” and detachments remained at Camp Marmagne for a few days after the departure of Company “E.” On May 30th Company “D” and detachments left for Paliseau, this journey also being made partly by truck and partly by train.

Two days later, on May 29, 1918, at the end of his time at Camp Marmagne, Clarence wrote this letter to his mother:

May 29, 1918

Dearest Mother,

Rc’d my second mail from you today, some of it quite ancient. I am forced to ask a few questions. Who did Mr. Glick marry? What is the matter with L.C.’s foot? and how is your good health? No, we are treated fine, much better than the states. I have not been under the R.C. care yet but from all reports they are wonderful. The Germans are past masters in the Art of dying and you for one take it upon yourself to correct all who knock Uncle Sam’s E.F. for we are organized to the last minute over here. Of course this war is not a play party, but wherever conditions can be made good they are good. I knew the gentleman in El Paso that your school [marm] talked of. But am passing out no information to any school teacher. I never cared much for that particular breed of [sort? rat? gal?] any way. I’ve been to Paree spent 5 days there. Wonderful days.

Well a bunch are going to be picked to go to the front this afternoon. I must go and see if I am one of the lucky.

If I remain here I will try to keep up my correspondence more regular, if I go on up heaven only knows when you will hear from me.

Am feeling fine.

Much Love

C. H. Bailey

Co D 405 Tel Bn

Am. E. F.

On May 30, 1918 (Decoration Day in 1918), Company D of the 405th Telegraph Battalion traveled to the outskirts of Paris by truck and railroad. They arrived in a small town called Paliseau late in the afternoon. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 33–37:

Paliseau, where Company “D” arrived late in the afternoon of Decoration Day, after traveling by truck and train, proved to be a small town of 2,000 inhabitants and was situated on the outskirts of Paris. Its population consisted of a great number of commuters, and at this time many people had moved there to escape the nightly air raids that the Boches were directing against Paris. “D” Company was the first of American troops ever stationed in Paliseau and many had never seen the O. D.­ clad soldiers before. As the men arrived every window, door and street held Frenchmen, who gazed upon the new arrivals with the utmost curiosity, which lasted for several days. The people were the soul of gracious hospitality and the sociability and cordiality accorded very officer and man has never been exceeded before or since. It was a common sight to see one of the men going down the street with a flock of “garcons” and “petite filles” at his heels shouting for “Souvenir Americane,” “Sin sin goom” and “Cigaret,” which immediately became very desirable to them. The men were billeted in three large Chateaux, and after two or three days made themselves comfortable with French beds, which were provided, and no extra charge was made for a few bedbugs and other vermin which had to be eliminated. The officers were quartered in a palatial chateau which was set in the midst of a large estate, which embraced a garden with a profusion of bright, fragrant flowers and shrubbery, with a fountain playing in front of the building. Headquarters were established in a hot-house with large glass windows, which allowed plenty of the spring sunshine to enter, and through the open door came the perfume of a rose garden close by. The estate was heavily wooded and cool aisle-ways wound beneath the vine-covered trees. Hidden away in the depths of these dense woods could be found two small lakes, reflecting clear-cut shadows of the surrounding verdure, and encircling all this natural beauty was a large stone wall.

The strawberry season was at its height, and the old men, women, girls and children, in their quaint garb, could be seen gathering the luscious crop. Overseas caps, which had replaced the discarded campaign hat, proved to be an oft-used receptacle for the red berries that the natives were at all times giving to the men as they passed along the streets. The monotony of army “chow” was frequently broken by strawberry shortcake, as the mess sergeant bought great quantities of the fruit and found a warm spot in every heart via the stomach. It was not long before every evening found many of the men paying particular attention to personal. appearance, and with pressed clothes, brightly-shined shoes, satisfied air and a dictionary they could be found wending their ways toward the home of some fair mademoiselle. It is with great pride that the men of the outfit will look back upon their days in Paliseau, as all conducted themselves in accordance with the best traditions of the American Army, and a number of friendships grew into something more than casual acquaintances, as the mail received months after leaving will testify. From the first night spent in Paliseau, which marked the most intense air raid ever experienced, to the very end of the stay here, nightly air raids were directed against Paris, from which Paliseau also suffered. The booming of the famous “Big Bertha” could be heard at frequent intervals throughout the day and night. At Paliseau a number of the men left in the States joined the battalion in time to participate in the many activities that were contemplated for the battalion’s work.

These were grave days, in early June, 1918, for the field gray hordes of Boches were hammering at the very gates of the wonder city of the world. Only the youth and courage of France, with a few American troops to strengthen their morale, stood between disaster for France and victory for the world. It was the important duty of “D” Company to construct “tout de suite” lines of communication that would insure uninterrupted and efficient service in the event of the fall of Paris. A lead was being constructed from Versailles to La Belle Epine, encircling Paris and connecting with the balance of a lead that extended from the front to important cities on the coast of France. Everybody got into the harness here, and every man assisted in digging enough post-holes that, they swore if joined together, would make a shaft through the globe. It is painful to comment on the French digging spoons, shovels and other tools that were used in this work, and no less painful to the men, especially the “long boys” who had to punch a six-foot hole in the rocky ground of France with tools meant for holes of the four-foot variety. Clad in the blue denim fatigue clothes, the men loaded on motor trucks each morning and with much singing, waving to the natives and kidding of the mademoiselles, were hauled to the scene of the work. Every available man was used in any capacity, regardless of rank, and good-natured rivalry existed between the men in executing their orders. All the daylight hours, except those for mess and policing up, were work hours, and a vast amount of work was accomplished. Sundays were allowed free whenever possible, but at times it was necessary for the men to work. The French authorities worked in accordance with the wishes of the battalion commander, but, owing to the American methods and “jazz” used in putting over any project, the objective was usually accomplished and permission obtained when the slow-moving French routine got around to it. Poles were secured in various ways and places, and sometimes a haul of 40 or 50 kilos had to be made in order to get the material on the job. The methods and speed with which Company “D’s” construction men installed the lead seemed marvelous to the French telephone men. It was amusing, after watching an American lineman “hike a stick” with U. S. A. hooks, to watch the French linemen mount a pole with their slow crab-like climbers.

Near the job was a large estate which the Red Cross had requisitioned for taking care of the poor French refugees. The Red Cross people each day would invite all the men over to have hot coffee and sweetmeats that were a welcome addition to the large cans of “slum” sent out from the company kitchen. The Red Cross ladies were of the real American type and applied their gracious hospitality through a number of “conscientious objectors” who were assisting them in the work. The members of “D” Company will long remember the numerous little cafes to be found here and there along the highways, and many a cool drink of light wine, cognac or “biere” was inhaled after some arduous labor in the hot sun. There was an aviator who would mount into the blue sky each day at noon and perform the most hair-raising stunts. In Paliseau the “bugaboo” of the daily shave lost some of its monotony, as the town supported a barber shop (coiffeur), where for the equivalent of four and six cents a shave and haircut could be obtained. During the stay in this city most of the boys would come home in the evening smelling like a “Chinese joss house,” for a shave included a spray from a bottle containing a violet-smelling toilet water, and a haircut included great quantities of highly-perfumed tonic. A still hunt had been going on for a place to bathe, but, as it seemed that the people used water for the gold fish only, all efforts were a failure. However, the men flew into the face of precedent and performed their ablutions behind the shelter of some convenient shrubbery with the only implements at hand—a waterpail filled with cold water from an available slow-running spring.

It is well to mention here how horrified the Frenchmen were when they discovered that the incomprehensible Americans drank water; also that the men were soon able to dispense with it and go the French “one better” in their own game of drinking vin exclusively and champagne at hours of the day considered an absolute “faux pas.” The officers were a busy bunch these days, and the battalion skipper “pounded everybody on the tail” with his customary zeal and thoroughness. Several week-end trips to Paris allowed every man an opportunity of visiting the city at least once, and many who were lucky in not being on detail during any of the periods went two or three times. Many were the experiences heard in the bunk rooms after a leave, what with missing of trains, crossing up with M. P.’s, visiting the Cathedral Notre Dame, Madelaine, Eiffel Tower, Tuilleries, Hotel de Ville, Napoleon’s tomb, art exhibits in the Petite and Grand Palais, Place de la Concorde, Champs de Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Place de l’Opera, Boulevard de Italiens, many cafes (including Maxim’s) and riding over the city with one of the daredevil Paris taxicab bandits, Bont de la Alexander Trocadero, etc., etc. The men were always glad to return to Paliseau after a day spent in the capital city, for the quiet simplicity of the little village was an antidote after a busy day of sightseeing in the big town. Among the many places in Paliseau which will always hold a tender spot in the hearts of the boys might be mentioned “Mother’s Place.” This was a small cafe and was presided over by a stout, motherly Frenchwoman, who took a keen interest in all the boys and made them feel at home in her modest little place of business. She was of the jolly, good-natured sort, and many were the hours spent in partaking of refreshments with her. Another interesting place was a large cafe known as “The White Elephant.” This establishment was typically French, with long tables inside and numerous small tables in front. Here one could get excellent meals as well as any form of liquid refreshments, and this spot was a favorite rendevous for both officers and men, who would spend many pleasant hours there during the long summer evenings. Among other attractions was a very pretty little mademoiselle, who acted as waitress and who was popular with all because of her ever-present smile and congenial disposition. “The White Elephant” was a gathering place for the best people of the town, and almost any evening small groups and parties could be seen, consisting mostly of the fair sex, with here and there a khaki uniform observable in their midst. It was during these “tete a tetes” that many of the men as well as officers improved their knowledge of French considerably.

On June 4, 1918, Clarence was stationed in Paliseau, France, where he wrote this letter to his mother:

June 4, 1918

Dearest Mother,

Read a story about a tramp. Dont like to read about tramps. Been travelling all over this toy country. Been every place but Paris. Cant go to Paris. Too tough. Saw aviator to day do the jelly wobble. Boys said he had perfect control over machine. Didn’t act like it. Censor says cant say where I am or what it looks like. What I am doing or what I see. Lots of fun writing letters, so much to talk about. Just as much fun as picking pebbles out of the Old Roman Road. Which I did.

We are in a very beautiful place now and are the only troops near here. The people treat us very kindly. I am located under a very nice shade tree and nearly every night can look up and see the shrapnel bursting in the air. We are out of range however and expect to be so for the next three or four months, our present job will probably last that long. I have seen the Eifel Tower in the distance but have not got in to Paris as yet.

I am not like the other boys anxious to get home. Of course I would rather live in the U.S. than I would here and I would rather live in the part of France that I am in than were I came from.

But army life is about the same wherever you are. Kind of a worthless sort of an existence. I believe I am becoming more moral and temperate. I never was exactly bad but I now am beginning to be able to resist temptation. Before I never had any to resist.

I am getting self discipline. At least I can stand and let a man cuss me out and not say anything back. But to offset that I am getting very lazy. I do not believe I could get out and do a days work like I used to when I was working for Mr. Wayrott. Maybe it is the sultry weather, maybe the surroundings. But I am certainly unlike Ceasar and am following the advice of Wolesy. I have “Flinged away ambition.” But then I do not believe I am alone and perhaps when I get into a [line] country I will have new pep. I should worry. Like I used to in Prescott when my landlady would say “Only one dish of prunes tonight I want enough for tomorrow dinner.[“] Rec’d letter from Geo. Will write him.

Much Love to All

C.H. Bailey

Co D 405 Tel.Bn

American E F.

It’s puzzling that he states that he hasn’t been to Paris yet, as his May 29th letter he wrote “I’ve been to Paree spent 5 days there. Wonderful days.”

The “Wolesy” that Clarence refers to is Cardinal Wolsey from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. Wolsey’s advice can be paraphrased as “be humble and honorable, and you can do no wrong.” This is Wolsey’s parting advice to Thomas Cromwell (emphasis mine to point out Clarence’s quote from Shakespeare):

Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition:
By that sin fell the angels; how can man, then,
The image of his Maker, hope to win by it?
Love thyself last: cherish those hearts that hate thee;
Corruption wins not more than honesty.
Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace,
To silence envious tongues. Be just, and fear not:
Let all the ends thou aim’st at be thy country’s,
Thy God’s, and truth’s; then if thou fall’st,
O Cromwell,
Thou fall’st a blessed martyr! Serve the king;
And,—prithee, lead me in:
There take an inventory of all I have,
To the last penny; ’tis the king’s: my robe,
And my integrity to heaven, is all
I dare now call mine own. O Cromwell, Cromwell!
Had I but served my God with half the zeal
I served my king, he would not in mine age
Have left me naked to mine enemies.

On page 39 of the July 1918 edition of The Mountain States Monitor, we see evidence that Clarence corresponded with his old coworkers at The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company, in Prescott, Arizona, and told them that he’d been to Paris:

On June 27th, 1918, the 405th Telegraph Battalion was assigned to the Fourth Army Corps of the American Expeditionary Forces, which itself had only been formed a week earlier, on June 20, 1918. They were ordered to report for duty at Neufchâteau, France, where they were housed in barracks built on the summit of a hill with commanding views of the countryside. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, pages 39–40:

On the summit of the hill on which our barracks perched an adjacent orchard was stripped of the fruit that was ripe at this time, and, in the peaceful quiet of the old twilight evenings, the men would gather under the trees and put on extemporaneous programs filled with good music and wit supplied by the musical members of “D” Company. The many little French cafes housed more than one jolly party, and this especially during a certain period of the month that the “ghost” has a habit of walking. French bathing facilities ran true to form, but the major, in an endeavor to overcome this lack of luxury, started the construction of a shower bath. In an old stone building about ten feet square, two stories high, which was in a state of dilapidation, a wooden tank was to be placed on the second floor. The water would flow through a series of pipe coils, which were to be heated by a small fireplace in one corner. If the pipe, lumber, poles and other material which was always a misfit had held out, it would probably have been a success, but, outside of providing an object for a certain number of men to direct their wrath at, and always being available as a detail for the men fortunate (.9) in escaping other work, it was voted “pas bon.”

Several weeks after Company “D” arrived at Neufchateau the personnel put up a minstrel show at the splendid Y. M. C. A., and it was conducted by “Billy,” the originator of “Billy’s Bug Juice” and not a few stomachaches. The show was a success and the cast appeared before the patients of Base Hospital 66, Bazoilles, the Y. M. C. A. at Colombey les Belles and Gondrecourt.

While he was not explicitly named as one of the singers, musicians, minstrels, or other performers, from what I’ve read I expect that Clarence did indeed contribute to at least some of these performances. He was an outgoing man who was apparently skilled at yodeling, singing, and story telling. According to his biography on page 86 of From Puget Sound to the Rhine:

“When Old Bill Bailey Plays the Ukalele” was a popular song from 1916 sung by Billy Murray. You can listen to it here.

We know from a letter that Clarence wrote to his mother in November that he visited Nancy, France, at some point during his stay in France. It may well have been on July 4, 1918. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 41:

On July 4th the C. O. gave every man possible a pass to Nancy and furnished trucks to haul them to the city. Nancy is known as the “second Paree” of France, and the men spent the holiday roaming about the brightly-decorated streets, sightseeing and patronizing the cool inviting cafes. Frequent evidence of Boche frightfulness was to be seen, as Nancy presented a splendid target within a short distance of the German aerial bases. Late in the afternoon all loaded on the trucks, and the return trip was enlivened by races between the truckloads of exhilarated soldiers. The cold, gray dawn of the morning after furnished food for thought about the night before, as some vin was transported to the billets, and it was a wild night.

On July 12, 1918, Clarence was still based in Neufchâteau, France, where he wrote a letter to his mother:

July 12, 1918

My Dearest Mother,

Having received no mail for the longest while but a little card from Geo. I have had not much incentive to write. But knowing that you must be worrying will write to let you know I am OK. I have received a slight raise and am now receiving $44.00 a month this coupled with overseas increase will make my wage about $50.00. This is about as far as I will get. It is equal to a Sgts. pay but does not have the title. I am sorry in a way that I am in a technical organization for our work is mostly behind the lines and is very hard. I want to be a Hero but I guess my only chance at heroics is to fall off a telephone pole. Wouldn’t that be great to see “Wounded in action. Pvt. C. H. Bailey wounded in action, falling off of a pole while bravely carrying wire up, forty miles behind the line.

One thing however I am sure touring France. Having seen lots of historic places. The last place I visited was Jean D’Arc’s birth place. It was rather inspiring just to stand in the place where that illustrious girl worked and played.

I am beginning to have a real fondness for this country and know that I will feel homesick for it when I have to return to the states.

Well lights are going out.

Much Love

Pvt. C. H. Bailey

Co. D. 405 Tel Bn

American E. F.

Jean D’Arc’s birthplace was Domrémy-la-Pucelle, France, about 6 miles north of Neufchâteau, where Clarence’s battalion reported for duty with the Fourth Corps of the First American Army on June 27th. According to From Puget Sound to the Rhine, page 40:

Domremy was a holiday mecca for the men of both companies, as it was here Jeanne de Arc first saw the light of day, and the humble little cottage was crowded with soldiers and civilians from morning till night. Situated among the rolling hills over which she grazed her flocks, and where she was supposed to have had her vision, has been erected a beautiful cathedral, and on the walls beneath the nave are six beautiful large oil paintings depicting the important epochs of the nineteen years of her glorious romantic career.

On July 15, 1918, Clarence was still stationed at Neufchâteau, France, where he wrote a letter to his mother:

July 15, 1918

Dearest Mother,

“Oh where, Oh Where, is my letters? Oh Where are my mail? Dear mother I do not know. I, too, am making the same wail. I last heard from you in a letter dated June 5. Please resend Geo. addresses. I either mislaid or destroyed it. I have received a card from him but he was evidently afraid that the Germans would find where he was and failed to place his address in it. I will keep shooting em to you however and trust that you will receive a few of them. Ask Mr. M. if he received a letter in regards to my finances. I am beginning to take an interest in money for some peculiar reason and am naturally interested in my own.

I am still doing my share in the Pursuit of the Vicious Hun miles away from him. It is hard to realize this blame war anyway. Here I am in a seeming prosperous country working hard and getting three squares a day. The environments do not differ in any great respect to those at home and I seem not further away than I did at Prescott.

I wish you would go to Los Angeles and look up my girl. I believe she has forgotten me. I am worrying not a little about her.

How is H.B. I don’t believe I have heard from her for a long while. You tell her that uncle thinks of her and brags about her even if he dont evidence it much.

I hate to make a fuss over anything or anybody and am therefore misunderstood anyway when I do try. So you might tell Ike that I want to here from him but not to be hurt if I fail to reply for I save my letters for just three, you, and “me”, and Mr. Moore.

Member how I used to say “m–e–e.” (I call my girl “me”) and how you used to say “Um_Hum,” Good Lord I would give my interest in Germany to be able to say that once again. And if I am not mistaken you would give a little to hear it.

But it is not to be so, tonight any way so I will do the next best thing


“How Much?”

From me for you 1000000000 [Bou] and lots more.

Good Bye, Bood Bye e e

Dearest Mother

Good By,

Pvt. C. H. Bailey

CoD 405 Tel.Bn

American E.F.

On July 16, 1918, Clarence was probably still stationed at Neufchâteau, France, where he wrote a letter to his mother:

July 16, 1918

Dearest Mother.

Received two most welcome letters from you one dated the 11th and one the 17th. I too am suffering from the heat, very, very muggy, sticky heat. It may be the war and it may be the eclipse of the sun which you must evidently have had judging from your letter but whatever the cause it is sure warm.

The boys are exercising their lungs. The noise may be called a wail or harmony. Sometimes it sounds just heavenly but not tonight—well I don’t know if heavenly would be the proper adverb.

I received a letter from Mr. Moore and he was quite complimentary about your appearance. I sure think a lot of him and sure feel quite puffed up over the fact that he took the time to write me a three page letter in his own hand.

Thank God I did not kid him about his foot. I hardly thot that it would be right to, so I told him that I was very sorry to here that he was disabled and hoped for a speedy recovery.

Believe me I am well blessed in my correspondence. I write to three of the finest people in the world and receive letters from three of the finest every one of which is an inspiration and a cure for those creeping, crawling French Blues which get under the hide and dig and dig.

Last night I was treated to lots of booming and fireworks it was surely a gorgeous display and one could hardly believe that it was a death song and dance I was seeing and hearing.

But don’t worry I am far behind and am surer that I cant get hurt by just looking. For you, I would stay behind forever, for myself I would be up there tomorrow. But unfortunately for both of us the guiding of my destinies are in other hands and I for one am not desirous, at present to interfere.

I wrote to Geo. as soon as I got his address. I gave him my P.O. address and if he will do likewise I might look him up as I have quite a lot of freedom and if he were close could surely find him.

Well be good and keep well.

Much Love to all

C. H. Bailey

Co D. 405 Tel Bn

American E. F.

On July 19, 1918, Clarence was either still at Neufchâteau or had moved to Colombey-les-Belles (a little over 15 miles to the northeast of Neufchâteau), where he wrote a letter to his mother:

July 19, 1918

Dearest Mother,

Lots to write about this time, We are sure giving the Dutch —— today. But I suppose and hope that by the time this letter reaches you, the attacks of today will be overshadowed by far greater efforts on the part of our troops.

I am still within seeing and hearing distance of the big guns but that is all. Every day I am hoping for orders to go up closer and I think in time they will be realized.

I sure wished I had been with the boys who chased them yesterday.

I notice that you think it is hot. Well I don’t think Colorado has changed very much and I thought Ariz was hot. But I didn’t know what heat was. Probably the thermometer does not register very high here but the air is so humid it is the stickiest most oppressive heat imaginable. But even at that I like it better than I do winter.

Received a letter from Geo. He seemed to like the French much better than the English and take it from me the French are fine people kind and jolly.

I am learning to be a better telephone man each day am getting experience that I never had before. But I don’t want Tel. experience I want to fight.

I am feeling fine. Had a picture taken but did not order any as I am getting so thin that you wouldn’t know me and in a short time I will be bald as a bat I believe I have less hair on top than Geo. Of course the baldness don’t show much yet but it is going to and I sure hate it.

But then even with my thinness and baldness I am feeling fine.

Mr. Moore says you are looking fine.

Geo. said you were quite sad and lonely. I can hardly blame you and sympathize with you. But for heavens sake don’t let your heart bleed on our account for I am having a royal good time and am having excellent care and I know Geo is doing the same by the tone of the letter. So if you have any sympathy for us dont waste it now wait until one of us gets an ear or something blown off and not Dutchman in the world can do that to me.

Well Dear be good

Write often

Much Love

C. H. Bailey

Co.D. 405 Tel Bn

American E.F.


[NB: the following pages appear to have been included with this letter.]

I, too, have been bemused and blue and in a fit of moroseness composed the following poor poem may it prove not to be boorsome to the poor censer.


Yesterday I wandered among meadows green.

I listened with delight to the brown larks song.

I watched the clouds drifting in heavens serene

Over a world in which nothing was wrong.

Beautiful flowers nodded their heads.

In the swaying gentle winds.

Peaceful shepherds tended their flocks

With nothing but peace ruling their minds.

Yesterday I was young, happy and gay

Living my life full every fleeting day.

Wishing for nothing, finding more

Than was capable for my poor body to [store]

Today sorrow is mine

Tribulation is written in every line.

The once happy gay life

is [choffed] and [styled]

by unending strife

Mournfully I wander over fields shattered and torn

By the relentless fury of raging [mankind]

Sadly I look upon the shepherd now forlorn

Seeking happiness

Where there is [more] to find

No more does the lark fill the air with song.

Instead is heard the nasal whine

Of [swishing] bullets as they rush along

Out of nowhere to the living [time? tine?]

Where [sweating] [maked] me await

Their sad and terrible bloody fate

No more are the heavens

flecked with beautiful clouds.

Where once were flowers now are shrouds

Today is a sad and unceasing strife

Sans song, sans [happen]

Sans even life

But here’s to today may it pass quickly by

Asking with every heart rendering sigh

When this is done and again we will be

Happy, gay, joyous, carefree

And towards this end let us all quietly pray

And soon will we have our sweet yesterday.

On July 21, 1918, Clarence was probably now stationed at Colombey-les-Belles, where he wrote a letter to his mother:

July 21, 1918

My Dearest Mother,

Just a little line to let you know I am alright

I am unable to get any satisfaction concerning my Life Insurance but I think it very necessary that you have a policy of some sort. As it is very difficult for me to get any information regarding it perhaps it would be best for you to either have Mr. Moore or Mr. Fleming look the matter up. I am much concerned about it. Our officers like many men do not seem to worry much about such things and it is just like butting my head against a stonewall trying to do anything. Please do this right away as in my opinion you should have a policy. I took $10,000 insurance.

I am waiting to see what the morning will bring forth. We have finished a job and will have to move to another location. I hope it is to the front.

I received a fine letter from Mr. Teschner in El Paso. If you remember he was the big boss. I had written to him previously from Camp Merritt. He started out “My Dear Lad” and “I remember you very well indeed.” He finished “Again assuring that I certainly wish to hear from you ‘Over There'” and that I will surely make room for you when you return. I am etc.” You cannot know how gratified and puffed up I felt over it. He treated me very well as you remember the short time I worked for him and I feel now that he took a genuine interest in me. I believe that if I want to place the future in the hands of Mr. Telephone that he will be kind especially under the guidance of Mr. O. F. Terchner.

The boys are certainly proving to the world that Uncle Sam is the greatest father of men in the world and I feel that in a very short time we will be returning “To Our Own Our Native Land.” Wont it be fine?

I am making inquiries where-ever I go for Geo. but as yet have heard nothing of him. I do not know whether you received the letter in which I inquired as to who Mr. Glick married. If so you have failed to tell me.

I think that soon you will begin receiving my letters more frequent. For a while we were near no Y and writing was difficult but recently I have written nearly daily.

I am getting balder but am feeling fine.

Much Love

C. H. Bailey

Co. D. 405 Tel Bn

American E. F.

The line “To Our Own Our Native Land” is a reference to a poem by Sir Walter Scott entitled “Breathes there the man.” This is one of many hints that Clarence gives throughout these letters that he enjoyed reading poetry.

On July 25, 1918, Clarence was probably still stationed at Colombey-les-Belles, where he wrote a letter to his mother:

July 25, 1918

My Dearest Mother,

The Captain gave a talk cautioning us not to burden our home folks with petty complaining and I have been worrying lest I might have caused you some needless worry. I say needless for I am just as well and carefree as the ordinary mortal is allowed to be. In fact more so. The only thing that worries me is that I am afraid that it will be hard to settle down after all is over for it is such fun to go railing thru small towns, throwing kisses to the maidens, jollying your comrades and kidding the “Top Soap” when he tries to settle you down.

Last night we had a show. Every thing was quiet when one of the boys mentioned Gentry Bros. Circus. Soon one of the boys started to make a noise like an Indian or Egyptian or who ever it is that beat on the “Tom Toms” and I by dint of holding my nose and pounding on my adams apple and singing in high nasal voice got off the old favorite dancing song. Another boy began Bally hooing in much this manner “At this tent Ladies and Gentlemen we have the oriental dancing girls. This show is clean and respectable, fit for ladies and if any body is not pleased we will refund his or her money at this ticket office. But first gentlemen let me tell you immediately following this show, for gentlemen only we will hold another high class entertainment. Now the ladies will retire the music will commence and the show is on. Step right up, don’t crowd.”

I then started my music and right away two figurers most scantily clad jumped from their [bunks] put on their hobnailed shoes and the dance was on. You should have seen the contortions they pulled around a candle which was throwing out its meager beams on their squirming figures. You should have heard the “Refined?” line the “Bally Hoo Man” handed out. But most of all you should have heard those weird snaky strains that I produced. It made them all wiggle it was irresistable. All of this occurred after a long hard day, but it sure didn’t show much discouragement.

Then again we haven’t had any sickness since being in France. So if by any chance I should happen to let those creeping Bluey Blues crawl into my letters just know what they are and don’t ever believe that my row is very hard to hoe.

I told you that I had had a raise. I find today just how much it is. I am now receiving $51.20 against about $35 previous pay. I am going to have the extra sent to Mr. Moore. I have only been drawing $16.50 since being in France and did very nicely. So I am going to save the rest. $35 will be a nice little account to just put away each month.

Are you charging me any interest on that $25.00 I owe you? Do you need it? If so I will pay it. I have not forgotten it but Lordy I hate to have to remember it. But if you need it why of course I will have to pay you.

I am still lingering back of the the big fight. You don’t know how I want to get into it. Probably I would want to get out a whole lot faster but I crave to hear the bursting shell.

——-[NB: the preceding had no sign off, and the following had no first sheet, and judging from the paper and ink I believe that these two pages were originally part of the same letter]——-

I yearn to send the Hun hurtling to Hell.

I want to have the “cooties” traveling over my meat.

I want to get some good old trench feet.

I want to turn a hand spring and flip flop.

Right out of the trenches over the top.

I want to have the keen enjoyment

Of tearing my pants on a wire entanglement

I want to fight, I want to bite the Hun on the ear

And fill his stinking cowardly heart with good old Uncle Sam fear.

This is pretty poor but I guess you know how much I want to fight, but I guess I will have my chance. If you want something real bad and wish for it hard enough and wait sufficiently long you finally get it. Maybe I will, in the neck.

But don’t let my bellicose attitude worry you for I believe that if I ever get there that no bullet on earth can overtake me when I start back.

Well I received a letter from my girl last night. Good Lord but I wish she would get married or fall in a lake or something for she fills my mind with much unrest.

But us big men must be bothered by trivial things or life wouldn’t be worth living.

We had chicken pie tonight for dinner or rather supper or better yet mess and for once I got a gizzard that I didn’t have to split 50-50.

Well I will be run out of this joint pretty quick if I don’t get out.

Be a good girl and don’t get into any flirtations for you know after we put on our Hula Hula dance on “Unter Der Leiden” I will be coming back to you.

Here is a big round kiss for little H. B. from her brave? uncle. ? (Does this blame thing resemble a kiss it kind of looks like the north end of a cat facing our barn?) Give it to her and after taking lots of my love for yourself pass what is left around. You might give Old Miss Hughes some and tell Mrs. Dale that I do appreciate her regards very much.

Well Good By My Dearest

Much Very Much Love


C. H. Bailey

Co. D. 405 Tel. Bn.

American E. F.

I wish I knew who Clarence considered “his girl” at this point. I have not found any letters sent to him in Europe, and given his earlier comment about not wanting to be sentimental, I expect that they are long since lost. The “little H. B.” to whom Clarence sends a kiss is his 5-year-old niece Harriette Belle Bailey, the daughter of his older brother Isaiah (“Ike”) Loomis Bailey.

Below is a map of Clarence’s movement in France during World War I from his landing at Saint-Nazaire until his arrival at Colombey-les-Belles (click the map to see it 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 3 of Clarence’s experiences in World War I.

2 thoughts on “Clarence H. Bailey in World War I, part 2

  1. Michael- these blog posts are SO interesting. I currently have time on my hands and have read every word. How lucky you are to have all the letters and postcards. Question: were the newspaper pieces etc. included or is that your investigative research? Incredible! Thank you.

    • Hi Linda!

      Great to hear from you! Thank you so much for your comment. I spent the better part of two weeks working on this series and was worried every step of the way that it would be too long to interest anyone, even though I myself was fascinated with what I found. The letters and postcards are in my collection (but oddly, they came in two equal-sized bundles that I kept thinking were the same bundle until I started organizing everything for this post), but the news mentions and battalion histories are things I turned up in my research. I’m continually amazed by how much information is out there and increasingly available, and it’s just continuing to grow. I’m especially looking forward to seeing the military photographs of World War I held by the National Archives get digitized, especially those in NARA Record Group 111 (, which is currently less than 1/10th of 1 percent digitized (0.071% as of today).

      You can look forward to a lot more posts on the letters and postcards I’ve got, as this lockdown is giving me time to look back through materials I’ve already digitized but haven’t written up, as well as starting to organize large collections of materials that I haven’t had time to digitize yet.

      This series of posts was an experiment in how to write up some of these larger collections, and this ended up being four massive posts for a collection of about 30 letters. I have no idea how I’ll go about presenting my grandfather Vernon’s collection of about 200–300 letters home from Europe during World War II!


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