February 1919

Cap used the term "whining past" several times to describe the action of German artillery shells flying overhead. Something about it stuck with me—perhaps the poetry of it, perhaps the idea that it could also refer to the tyranny of history.

Cap used the term “whining past” several times to describe the action of German artillery shells flying overhead. Something about it stuck with me—perhaps the poetry of it, perhaps the idea that it could also refer to the tyranny of history.

February 3/19

All deloused and into clean camp. Can’t see much difference, all as muddy and dirty as usual. Rumors that we will move by train to Brest on the 5th. Also heard that the Vaterland is to sail on 7th so we may make it. Hope we hit a large boat, for a small one is anything but pleasant during months of Feb & Mar. Have been down to Le Mans several times. Rather attractive city and entirely taken over by the Americans.

February 7/19

Orders were received for our movement on the 4th. We left Le Mans on scheduled time on the 5th, arrived in Brest on the 6th. Coming down we had the idea we might possibly be loaded directly on the boats—but no such good luck. We marched out to Camp [Pontanegeu?] on afternoon of the 6th. Was surely surprised at the appearance of the place, enlarged about 3 times since I was here in June, terribly muddy and dirty but improvements are being made as rapidly as possible, and eventually they should have a mighty good camp. Outfit located in tents, had a hard time finding bed. My bedding roll couldn’t be located. Finally got some blankets, rolled up in them and called in a night’s rest.

SS Leviathan steaming out of New York Harbor, circa the mid-1920s.

The SS Vaterland was a German ocean liner that was seized by the U.S. government in 1917 and renamed “Leviathan.” It was used as a troop ship for the remainder of the war.

February 9/19

Outfit delouse again—takes a lot to get rid of these cooties. Had medical inspection today, reckon I got by OK.

Moved into barracks last night. Sweitzer & I quite comfortable in barracks where our HQ’s are located. Went down to Brest today, city entirely changed, almost completely Americanized now. Saw the George Washington in harbor ready to take the president home. Hope they move us out soon, but it’s a tremendous job checking records, the bulk of which falls upon me. Believe I will be ready however when the whistle blows.

February 12/19

The SS George Washington in service during World War I

The SS George Washington in service during World War I

Well the long looked for orders have been received—we sail on the Olympic on the 14th. Understand there will be about 6000 troops including our own outfit. Have not time to write much. I necessarily will have to be on my toes every minute from now on. Every record of every man in the outfit has to be checked.

Had a chance to remain in France about six months longer. Major Roberts, who used to be with us, is on duty here at Camp Pontanezen, on the General’s staff. He wants to remain as [entertainment?] officer for Base Section #5. I told him I would if he could put it across. He got it OK’d by everyone except my Regil Commander. He told me ‘nothing doing’ my job was the most important in regiment at present time and couldn’t see his way clear of letting me loose.

Anyway I am better satisfied as the old US and friends and folks at home will look mighty good to me.

February 14/19

Went down to Brest early this morning, to prepare the way for our embarkation. When I arrived at the port was informed that the Olympic has not arrived nor been heard from since she left Liverpool yesterday. Very encouraging especially when there were 3500 troops marching down from camp to embark.

Saw the George Washington in the harbor which is to sail tomorrow with the President, also the New Mexico. Understand the 5th Eng. will leave on the G.W. with President, who is expected tomorrow. Rather tho’t we might pull out with them but the Olympic maybe too much overdue.

“Slept on the docks last night, or rather sat up talking and trying to keep warm.”

February 16/19

Still here at the port, troops have been sleeping on docks for two nights now. Understand the Olympic is stalled in the fog off Liverpool and can’t get through. No telling when we will pull out. Men are most dead and someone should certainly be held accountable for the orders that brought them to the docks without definite information.

President came into the city yesterday morning but did not hesitate around the place very long. There was some celebration but for the most part a rather quiet send off, I tho’t. Slept on the docks last night myself, or rather sat up talking and trying to keep warm. Saw the passenger list of the Olympic today and noticed we will have an exceedingly distinguished number of passengers—among the number Charles M. Schwab, other notables whose names I do not recall just now. Schwab was down to the Red Cross club today here on the docks looking the place over. Also I noted there were about 150 Red Cross nurses booked for the voyage—so our trips should be somewhat interesting.

February 18/19

On board the Olympic, “one of the” finest and largest ships afloat and she sure is a perfect wonder. We loaded yesterday afternoon, the bulk of the work falling on me as it has ever since the orders for overseas have been received. I handled the loading and checking on of every man & officer in the regiment and went over myself on the last lighter. This boat is sure a wonder, over 800 feet long and 90 wide and a capacity of 66,000 tons. In peace time she has an accommodation of 2500 passengers with 860 crew. We have on board about 6000 soldiers and civilians in addition to the crew.

The old ship weighed anchor about noon and we all took one last look at the shores of old France. I can’t seem to work up much regret at leaving as I have seen enough of the country, the big show and all. Am located in swell old stateroom with Capt. Sweitzer and McCarty. Understand it would cost about 1000 iron ones in peace times. Am looking forward to an enjoyable trip if I am not too sick and if I am fortunate enough not to get detailed on some special work.

In 1917, the RMS Olympic was painted with a "dazzle" camouflage to make it more difficult for observers to estimate its speed and heading.

In 1917, the RMS Olympic was painted with a “dazzle” camouflage to make it more difficult for observers to estimate its speed and heading.

February 20/19

Well—it is as I expected—I have been detailed by the CG in command of troops on ship as Troop Personnel Adjutant. That means I must handle all paper work of every officer & man on board. Some birds are lucky in drawing soft [naps?] but not me.

So far everything is pretty beautiful weather. Ocean calm, great food, plenty of excitement on board and everything else that is necessary. A great number of civilians from England are on board, some very distinguished I understand. Charles M. Schwab sits at table with the General and Colonel just to the side of ours. Certainly a great contrast from our trip coming over with no lights, no smoking and everything quiet. Now we have a dance every night—music by our jazz band.

February 22/19

Certainly am writing these lines with difficulty, we ran into a little rough weather last night, and all day I have experienced that which is impossible to describe. One of our men expressed my sentiments exactly. He was sicker than a dog and was doing his bit at the rail when suddenly he dropped on his knees and started to pray. His prayer started something like this: “Oh Lord, I beseech you to call this ocean to attention.”

Have missed only one meal as yet but some of them go down pretty hard. Had to knock off work in the office today.

“His prayer started something like this: ‘Oh Lord, I beseech you to call this ocean to attention.'”

February 23/19

Have gotten all over my little indisposition and am joking like myself again—and am back on the job—and some job it is. I fully expect to go crazy before I hit shore. There are worlds of reports and forms necessary for debarkation and I am responsible for all of these for all troops on board which includes, besides our own regiment, the 317th San. Tr., Three Base Hosp. units, numerous casuals and civilian—but I must forget it all. I’ll soon be back in ‘cits’ again.

February 25/19

Another view of the Olympic's "dazzle" camouflage.

Another view of the Olympic’s “dazzle” camouflage.

Well we are docked at the pier in New York—came in sight of land about 10 a.m. yesterday morning and from then until the ship pulled up to the pier there was wild excitement on board. We came in sight of the old ‘Statue of Liberty’ about 3 p.m. and if one believes there was not some wild cheering and joy spread around that ship they are very much mistaken. It was not only the enlisted men on board but many of the officers—it was a grand and glorious sight and one that I will long remember.

I was inside most of the time trying to complete my work but was on deck long enough to get fully into the spirit of the occasion.

February 27/19

Our orders sent us to Camp Upton from the dock and here we are back in the same old camp that we left over eight months ago. I did not leave the ship with the rest of the regiment but remained to straighten out some work on board. When it was completed, Major Blackburn, Capt. Willis and myself came out on the train after spending the afternoon in New York. How good those old buildings looked, the street cars, the streets, the people and all. We all stared around like a bunch of farmers.

New York's Hippodrome in 1905

New York’s Hippodrome in 1905

Went to Rigg’s for lunch and then to the Hippodrome—first show I have seen in eight months. Understand we will stay here at Upton about a week when we will be split up into detachments and spread to all corners of these dear old United States.

The personnel of the regiment has changed almost completely since we left—only four of us: Major Ross, Capt Sweitzer and McCarty and myself are left—but we have a good crowd at that. Rather hate to see the old bunch broken up. Talked with Mother today—was wonderful to hear here voice again. She spoke of having received my wireless and telegram. Told her to send Louett down Friday to bring some things back for me. Hope he makes it—want to see him before he gets out of his uniform, watch him stand at attention and give a snappy salute.


As these few pages were to be written during my sojourn in France, I am going to bring them to a close. It has often been difficult to find the opportunity of jotting down a line and as they are, for the most part, written hurriedly they must necessarily be poorly written—but I hope I have not failed in my original purpose of attempting to convey the theme of some of my experiences—in order that Father may obtain an idea of my sojourn as a member of the A.E.F. and to be able to recall certain memories in years to come.

The last words Cap entered into his war journal.

The last words Cap entered into his war journal.