Plattsmouth Journal, Monday, December 9, 1918
COMING OUT OF THE NIGHT
LETTER FROM THE TRENCHES, WRITTEN AT THE DEADLY HOUR OF MIDNIGHT.
WRITTEN FROM THE DUG OUT
Thirty Feet Under the Ground, While Serving As Watch for the Gas Shells.
From Thursdayâ€™s Daily.
Earnest F. WALLENGREN, who is a member of the engineers corps, writes to his parents while serving as watch in a dugout in France, a short time before the signing of the armistice, which stopped the fighting:
Somewhere in France, October 24, 1918
Having received your letter dated September 30, will try and drop you a few lines as we have moved since I wrote you last. As we took quite a hop when we did move.
The boys were sure glad to get off of the train, it is not so pleasant traveling as it is in the states. They have to pile them in like sardines as the cars are just like wagons in the states. And as there are so many troops to be transferred they have to put forty men to a car.
But the worst we have to contend with is the hiking as it has to be done by night and as the weather over here is muddy, you can imagine what is to hike with a pack on your back. There was two nights that we started to hike at sun down until sunrise, but it was quite a ways from the front and the roads were not shelled so it wasnâ€™t so bad.
Then we billeted and stayed at a place for about two weeks, quite a ways back of the line until here about two weeks ago we got orders to move and then is when the fun commenced as we started to get in range of the German guns so they tore up the roads pretty bad and the mud up to our ankles, it was sure an enjoyable time to think of about a fifteen mile hike.
` while making this hike we passed through quite a few villages that old Fritz had played his dirty work as I suppose that you have all read of his work that he has been doing since he started his war. Some very fine buildings that were destroyed by the big shells the buildings look like rock piles and some were still standing with holes blown in them large enough for a horse to go through.
And a lot of their airplanes took part so nothing but the walls were standing. There is one town especially that have about twenty thousand in population that the Germans have ruined he has at least the biggest majorities of buildings wrecked.
We are now living in the trenches and dugouts that the Kaiser had to vacate in a hurry when the Yanks made their big drive. And as we have a pretty good dugout, we are sitting quite comfortable again if it were not for a few of the fleas and cooties. But I would rather be here than way back living in some concrete barn, laying in a hay loft or manger as there was where we were living before we came here. And now our home is about forty feet under the ground and beds build for fifteen men and a stove in it.
It is quite comfortable, especially when we are all in here and tell of the excitement of the day and smoke.
And as we are now where we can hear the flying shells and bursting shrapnels that old Fritz is sending over. And we sure can hear when the Yanks begin to play â€œWhey the boys Come Marching Home.â€ As the Yanks are back of us and Fritz ahead of us. Bus as you know it is war time and the Germans have done us some dirty work as they got two of the boys from the regiment and wounded a few. But we have ben quite lucky as we only had one man wounded from a piece of shrapnel from our company. But not bad so I suppose he will be back with [blur] a few days.
But [blur] a few days ago was a miracle as we were out warning it must have been a boche plane that spotted us and sent signals back to the artillery and they started to throw shells over every ten seconds and they were from three to six [boche] guns and you could almost imagine how we boys scattered as some of the boys even took for twigs for shelter. And when they were coming thickest one boy said, â€œLord please pick my feet up and I will place them,â€ and he said the Lord must of, as there were three men ahead of him going for shelter and as he was passing he asked them why they were running.
Well as it is nearly midnight and my gas guard is nearly up for the evening and will have to wake up the next fellow to guard as you known in No Manâ€™s Land we are not taking any chance of the Kaiser sending over any of his favorite gas shells.
Will have to close and get a little hay myself. Good night,
With love, ERNEST F. WALLENGREN, Co. D, 5th U.S Engrs. A.E.F.
There is a bache plane humming over us now. I suppose he is figuring on starting his dirty work, dropping a few bombs before day light.
Plattsmouth Journal, February 24, 1919
[from] Boullionville, France, Dec. 11.
Dear Sister Edythe:
Received your and motherâ€™s letter the other day and as it is raining and no place to go will try and drop you a few lines.
We are now ready to take a vacation. We have started twice and they canceled it, so we are still living in hopes of going. There are 28 of us out of our company scheduled to go at one time.
Well, Sis, I sure would have liked to been in the state and saw the excitement, but in another way would not take anything in the world for the experience that I have had and the things I have seen. But so far as we boys celebrating when the armistice was signed, why there was nothing to it. The only difference was in the noise from the guns, as everything was quiet and the boys could walk up and down the road without keeping close to cover.
But I suppose that away from the front they had a big time. But as you know when a bunch of men lay in the trenches all the way from thirty to sixty days it does not make much difference. We had been in the trenches 37 days and when the armistice was signed we were in the woods near Fay-an-Hay. But we were all around between Fay-an-Hay, Pon-a-Mousson and also the St. Marie farm. We are now in billet that the Germans built along the side of a hill so were are living like humans instead of living in dugouts 45 feet under the ground. But I think I heard as many G.I. cans or big six shells as any of the rest. We headed the third army into Metz.
Well, Sis, I suppose that it will be some time before I will get to come back again, as we have been drawn in the army that will proceed to German, so I presume that then next letter you receive from me after I return from my furlough will be mailed inside of German soil.
Well, will close, as they are calling us out again to proceed on our furlough. With love, from your brother. ERNEST F. WALLENGREN.