Some one must go; it might as well be I."
Greayer had many warm friends in the aviation corps, not a few of whom he had chummed with in the camion service. The letters which follow express their grief when he was taken from them and their joy in his comradeship. Beautiful, touching tributes they are, fragrant with words of comfort to wounded hearts. The reading has been through eyes blinded with tears, but they are treasured beyond estimate. As they, too, are part of the dear lad's brief career in the service of his country, they are included in this offering to his precious memory. The note from the little Belgian lad to Greayer was, probably, in acknowledgment of the present to buy the coveted new shoes. By Stanford University and Yale, Greayer's sacrifice is recognized.
[One of Greayer Clover's older friends was William Allen White, of Kansas, really of the United States, for as author, editor and publicist he belongs far more to America, at large, than to Emporia. To the parents of the young aviator, Mr. White wrote from Emporia under date of September 25:]
I have been thinking about the little boy I knew; the little boy playing soldier there in the yard by the pepper tree, the little red-faced, eager-eyed boy, who had all that he was and is, pictured upon his little square, solid face---dear little boy. How far the years have taken him! Out of childhood into boyhood, through youth into manhood, a sweet and beautiful journey through a vista of dreams. And how many, many of his dreams God let come true; every dream really worth while, I guess. How beautiful his life was and how full! How much he realized; how little he missed! Success, glory, honor, beauty, joy, high aspiration and great deeds, all were in the cup of youth that he drank, and what a draft it was. I don't think he is sleeping---not at all. I think when he laid him down all that he had dreamed came to him in the great awakening and that nothing is gone now ---nothing at all but his sleep. And the little boy I knew, grown to a man's full stature in God's own image, has passed, some way, into that realm where rise all our great ideals, all our high purposes, all that is true in our hearts. And the little boy I knew, eager-faced, clear-eyed, gay-voiced---I can hear his dear husky little voice still crying across the years---will walk there as "a gentleman unafraid"! But I know how lonely it will be without him.
And he is dead! Oh, I remember him
In Memory of Greayer
Upon the bosom of undying France
Richmond, Virginia, September 26, 1918.
Another hero dead? Another
Ah, mothers, those sons of you born,
Though it is miles away, she sees
To M. H. C.
"It is hard
to say 'good-by,' "
It is hard to say
It is hard to say
It is hard to say
My Dear Mr. Clover: You have been notified by now of the death of your son. There is nothing I can say that will in any way alleviate the profound grief of his parents, but I feel a solemn obligation to share with you some of the incidents of my association with him as I share with you the sorrow of this hour. I have been with him all through our flying training. Our bunks in the barracks adjoined, but more than that there had grown up between us a sincere attachment. I was attracted to him from the first moment. To me he was the epitome of glorious youth. I am a much older man and he flattered me by his apparent interest in my work. I was on the staff of the New York Sun. We had planned to go back to New York together after the war and I was to introduce him to my newspaper friends. He was eager for the metropolitan experience and I am sure he would have been welcome in any newspaper office in the city.
I was devoted to him as I have seldom been to any one. We had frequent and lengthy conversations about many things because of our similarity of tastes. I know of no one with a keener zest for life, which makes his death all the greater tragedy. He wrote you, no doubt, of his narrow escape at Tours when another machine ran into him on the ground. [No; he withheld this, doubtless, because he knew it would cause his mother additional worry.] He wrote exceedingly well, I thought. He showed me several letters which had been published.
I hope he wrote you of the friends he made at Tours. I met the wife of the deputy of the department of Indre at Loire, who had entertained him at dinner, to meet the under secretary of state for aeronautics. They all came out to camp at Tours to call on him the following day, but as he had suddenly received his travel orders I had to meet them for him and explain. It was always the same, whether French or American. Everyone was attracted to him. He liked people and there is ample evidence that people liked him.
He told me just a few days ago of the friends he had made at Issoudun. It was the simple home of a French workman. While the rest of us were hanging around in cafés he used to go and sit in the garden with these people and read the fables of La Fontaine to a tiny little girl who preferred that even to the bonbons he brought her. The affection between the big American officer and the little French child was beautiful and touching.
He was telling me the other day about how keen he was for flying and about the excellent instruction he was having. He was a good flyer. I had a talk last night with his tester, who had not heard before of the accident. He was dumbfounded. "Clover was a careful flyer," he said, "and knew what he was doing all the time. I would not have let him go if he was not all right." This monitor thought so much of your son that he gave him special instructions after hours. If so good a flyer as Greayer had to fall I know that it is all chance, and what happened to him may happen to any one of us at any time.
I was flying that morning over the very spot where he fell. Of course, I knew nothing of it until his friend Webb told me, and even then it was incredible until verified at the hospital. I am sure it would be a matter of comfort to you if you knew that every mark of respect was paid at his post and all work was suspended while the funeral cortège passed. The flag was at half mast, and another was draped over his bier. I marched just behind the camion, which bore his casket along with a platoon of his friends. The band led and played Chopin's magnificent "Marche funebre." Our hearts were very heavy when they lowered him into the grave and when the bugler played "taps" he seemed to express our poignant grief for a dear friend. We saw placed on the grave fresh flowers, the blue, white and red of the clochettes, marguerites and coquelicots, the flowers of France that he loved so well, that he gave his life for gladly, I believe, as he had so often risked it to carry aid to those who were fighting for France.
I believe, furthermore, that he is well content to rest in France. The pity is that he shall not be here to share in the joy of seeing France liberated. We came away all the more determined to carry on and to do his share of the work as well as our own. As I stood at salute by the grave my heart went out its pity for his father and mother, and I salute you, the parents of this brave boy. With deepest sympathy, I sign his friend,
J. R. CROWE,
Lieut. A. S. Sig. C, 3d A. I. C. A. E. F.
France, September s, 1918.
[Lieutenant Crowe was killed a few weeks later in an accident almost identical with that which sent Greayer to his death.]
[Writing from Roanoke to the editor of The Evening Journal Mr. Duval Porter, formerly of Richmond, says: 'I am sure the death of no one, whom I never saw, ever grieved me so much as did that of your brave and talented son in France. I had read his charming letters in The Evening Journal, which he wrote from time to time, and by this means obtained an insight to his brilliant mind and warm heart. His death impressed me so that I could not rest until I had relieved my feelings by the little tribute to his memory which I enclose with this:]
Heroic youth! although we mourn
Yet honors high cannot avail
Aye, looking upward to the sky,
One reared in an ideal world,
And yet in an untimely hour
The tender heart, the brilliant mind,
Although his manly heart is still,
He is not dead, he cannot die,
My Dear Mr. Clover: By the time you receive this you will have known of "Grub's" death for some time, and my great fear is that by writing you I am only opening up old wounds again. But although I know that nothing I can say will make it any easier for you to bear, I thought I would write and let you know there is one who feels almost as badly about it as you do, and who loved him, I am sure, every bit as much.
"Grub" was my best friend, and he often told me ---and others as well---that I was his best friend. I hope I was, at any rate, and I can truthfully say that I have never met a fellow whom I admired, respected and cared for more. He was so full of ambition and enthusiasm and had so much to look forward to. He was as straight as a rod, and as a friend he was as true as gold. What is more than all of that he had the kindest, tenderest and most generous heart that ever beat.
You, probably, know of the little Belgian refugee whom he found and was taking care of; how he gave his five blankets, all that he had, to the family and then how he bought the kid clothes and sent him to school---all out of his pay. I ask you how many fellows of his age, and over here in the army, would ever have done so much? Not one in a thousand.
I met "Grub" coming over on the boat, and was in the same section with him at the front; we went on leave together and got into aviation together. We were separated for awhile last winter and then were together again here. In all that time I learned to love him like a brother. I have plenty of friends, but "Grub" was about the only real close one, so do you wonder that I thought the world of him?
Feeling that you would like to know, I can assure you that we did all we could for him. We bought a zinc lined casque, so that if ever you want to bring him home you can. We are going to have a stone put at the foot of his grave with just his name and the simple inscription, "Died for His Country," and the date on it. He lies here in the camp cemetery.
It was through no fault of his or of the machine that the accident happened. He was flying across-country to a town called Romorantin, and as he came to the field he naturally flew around it once to look it over. On one of his turns he did not bank quite enough, which caused him to skid, then the nose of the machine went down, as it is likely to when skidding, and he crashed headfirst into the ground. He never regained consciousness and died absolutely without pain, nor was he badly mutilated.
"Grub's" things were all gathered together and the army will ship them home to you. There is one thing I would like to ask you. While going through his things we came across some snapshots of him. Could you please let me have one, or any picture of him if you wish to keep them? I would give a good deal to have one, for I haven't any. If you would do this for me I would be very grateful.
Mr. Clover, please believe that I have the sincerest sympathy for you. Knowing "Grub" as I did, I can well imagine how you must feel, and please convey the same sympathy from me to Mrs. Clover, for I am not writing her as I know I never could express myself to her. If at any time I can do anything for you please let me know, for "Grub's" sake. Also please excuse this letter for my right hand is in a sling, and I am writing with my left. Hoping that one day I may meet you, Mr. Clover, I am,
Why should we mourn because his mortal day
My Dear Mr. Clover: I arrived at Issoudun yesterday and learned from the boys of the sad loss of your son, and I wish to send my most sincere sympathy to you and Mrs. Clover.
Grubby and I were together in the camion service ---we were bunk mates at St. Maixent until he finally left for Tours and I for Issoudun---and I had been looking forward to being with him here. None of those who have gone has been so near to me as he and I feel his loss more deeply than I can express. He was the finest of all and the truest and bravest gentleman I have ever met.
At St. Maixent, I learned to know him as a brother---to see how sincere and generous he was---and there are many poor French and Belgians there who will always remember his kindness. You know, perhaps, of little André whom he was educating---a wonderful little Belgian who thought the world of Grub. You can't know, however, of the many people he gave blankets and sweaters to---of the time he wanted to finance a small company in order to furnish a restaurant business for a French lady---Mme. DeVoe---from Lille---or of the many trips he made out in the country in order to take tobacco and food to needy French people. Many of us think of deeds such as that---but Grub was one of the few who continually did them.
Today I walked out to his grave---a square soldier's mound of the type he would like best---with a small cross at the head---and at the foot, a square stone "Greayer Clover---Died for his country. August 30, 1918."
I am sending you a small picture taken of us at St. Maixent. I have others in my trunk and will send them to you as soon as it arrives.
Believe me that your son has left a most wonderful memory with all of us, and we shall always admire and love our Grubby who has gone. With my deepest sympathy to you and Mrs. Clover, I am,
My dear Mrs. Clover: Greayer and I were members of the same section last summer, and were in Paris and Saint Maixent together, as well as in Tours and at this post. I want to send you my deepest sympathy in his loss. He was a very dear comrade, a generous friend, and a skillful flyer, whose memory will always be with me. He was more genuinely liked than any fellow I knew, and was always welcome wherever he came. If there is any way in which I may help in his affairs over here, as to his Belgian friends in Saint Maixent, or other, I hope you will allow me to do so.
Issoudun, France Sept. 11, 1918.
Dear Mr. Clover: It has been my intention to write to you for some time but I have been in the hospital for several weeks and was unable to do so. I know that you have lost one of the finest sons any one ever had and I one of the best friends any person could wish for. I was with Grub in his section in the camion service and have been with him ever since, at St. Maixent and all through our flying training at Tours and Issoudun. We all loved Grub as a brother, who knew him so well, and everyone who was at all acquainted with him realized and appreciated that in Grub we had lost a true gentleman and true friend, for everyone loved him.
His accident was a terrible shock to us, as Grub was really a very good flyer and had been quick to learn and advance all through his training. In coming into a field, on his cross country trip, he was "S'ing" into the field and lost flying speed, which caused his machine to dive, out of control, into the ground. His death was instantaneous and he did not suffer at all. I had the honor of being one of the pall bearers at his burial, which was largely attended by his many, many friends. It is hard for me to try to express my sympathy and I know how hard it is for you, for I have lost my own father and mother in the last three years. So please know that we all honor your loss and extend our deepest sympathy to you and Mrs. Clover.
Issoudun, October 10, 1918.
My dear Mr. Clover: Yale's roll of honor contains the name of your boy, Greayer Clover, who was a member of our present junior class. I am writing to you now as we make up the list of students who have lost their lives in the service, to express on behalf of the faculty and students our very deep sympathy for you in the loss of your boy. We have had many such and yet each death seems to be a personal one. I wish I could do something to help you in this time of distress, but I know well enough that any expression of condolence must seem very formal. Please believe that your boy's name will be remembered here at Yale with affection and honor. With assurance of sympathy, I am
New Haven, Connecticut, Dec. 17, 1918.
Dear Mr. Clover: I am sending you by this same mail a copy of the Alumni Weekly which contains Greayer's last article "At Suzanne's." Those who did not know Greayer personally are much pleased with the style and tone of his writings, but those of us who knew him well, can only read them now with deep emotion. I hope you will have them put into book form. He doesn't need that memorial for those who loved him, well, but I feel sure every one of his friends would like to have them to. keep in permanent form. The letters from Lieutenants Crowe and Webb were fine tributes to "Grub." I am sure we all uttered a silent "Amen" as we read them. They all contribute to the golden memory which we shall always cherish of Greayer. With kindest regards,
New Haven, Conn., Oct. 22, 1918.
My Dear Mr. Clover: Information has just reached me that your son, a lieutenant in the aviation service, has been killed in action. In the name of the university I wish not only to tell you of our deep sympathy, but also to congratulate you upon the splendid record of your son. We were very fond of him here in the university, although he was with us but a short time. He had a reputation for character and manhood that will not be forgotten. We will see that his name is added to the Honor Roll of Stanford men and we are sure that his fine record will prove a stimulus to the generations yet to come.
Stanford University, California,
September 26, 1918.
Dear Mr. Clover: Hundreds of our Stanford boys have volunteered in the service and I regret to say that it is not unusual now for word to come that one of them has been seriously wounded or killed in action, but it was a distinct shock to me when the word was received that Greayer had paid the great sacrifice. I had the pleasure of a close personal friendship with your three children during their college days and recall vividly the keen regret that I felt when Greayer decided to leave Stanford at the end of his freshman year, as I felt that he belonged to us and I expressed the wish to him at that time that he return in the future to finish his course and receive a Stanford degree. The information concerning his death was the first news I had concerning his enlistment in service and I am recording his name on our Honor Roll.
Stanford University, California,
September 25, 1918.
St. Maixent, August 12, 1918.---Dear Friend: I would never know how to thank you enough for your great goodness to me. I have just had a new proof of it in the ten francs that you sent me. All my life I will remember you who have done so much for me. Monsieur La Salle has taken my picture. Monday you will receive it, no doubt. Dear friend, accept my friendly wishes, my thanks and the kind regards of my parents. Your little friend,
Dear Little André: Before this you have heard that my dear son, your friend, Greayer Clover, has given his life for us all. He sent me word last April that for my birthday present, he was assuming the responsibility of your education. You are young, perhaps, to understand the sense of responsibility and interest I feel, now, that his wishes should be fully realized. You know what a great generous heart he had and his life was like a song for sweetness. He was as good as he was generous. I am sure that your memory of him will he like a star to guide you. You and your family stood to him for the outrages practiced upon your country he wanted to save, to restore, to free Belgium from the iron monster that now occupies her soil. That is what all America wants, and it is what we have sent our precious sons to do for you. I want every opportunity that you can get to fit you to serve your king, when he comes home again, and to take a useful part in the building up of a new world that shall have more kindness and more justice. When your time comes to take your place, it will be my son, too, whose work goes on.
My son's friend, Miss B-----, has asked that she might have the privilege of assuming the care of your education in Greayer's place, and I have given it to her, but I wish, too, to be a friend to you and to your family. Will you write me about them? I want to know how many brothers and sisters you have, and how old they are. Perhaps, some time, you will come to America, or, perhaps, I will go to Belgium, and find that we are friends indeed. Have you a picture of Greayer? If you have not I would like to send you one. I hope you will study well, and keep a strong healthy body; we think that is very important here. The soldiers we are sending will show you that. Are you a Catholic? I want to know all about you. The great sorrow of losing my boy makes me feel very tender to all other boys.
October 14, 1918.
Great honor is mingled with the great grief that has come to our friend, the editor of The Evening Journal. With the parent's pain at the loss of a son there is surely joined a patriot's pride that his boy met the supreme test and died as a gentleman-soldier should.
Young Clover must have caught the sunshine when he was born, for the twenty-one brief years of his life were spent in smiles. Richmond saw little of him during the residence of his father here, because the boy was at Yale and visited the city only during his vacation. But Richmond saw enough to know that the father had in Greayer a son who would honor the editorial craft
At first it seemed that the war was merely to develop along original lines the talent of the boy. He went overseas with that first joyous company of America's bravest, who burned with a zeal that all Europe admired. First as an ambulance driver and then as a student aviator, his clear young eyes saw thousands of things the more mature observers overlooked. Of these he wrote in a naive, breezy fashion that made an instant appeal. Many of us came to look forward to the appearance of his weekly letters in The Evening Journal and not a few of us rejoiced that young Clover was having the best possible training to equip him for work with his father.
It was not to be. Unwilling to remain in the rear while others faced the fury of the Hun, venturesome, too, with that self-forgetful ardor of youth, Greayer worked and argued and pleaded until at length he was admitted to the aviation school. There, through months that seemed endless to one who desired to meet the foe, he mastered his craft. Finally, he was ready for his commission flight and over the hills to Suzanne's he went. He described that flight in a remarkable article that appeared in The Evening Journal of August ---an article that we hoped his father would have reproduced in some magazine.
Amid a score of tender touches in his account of Suzanne, Greayer told how he was carried to the register where all those fliers who came to Suzanne's had written their names. "They all crowd around," he wrote, "to look without saying anything. Your name means nothing yet, but a year from now, perhaps, who can tell? In the first pages are names that have been bywords for years, and some who are famous the world over." Doubtless he hoped---as what boy would not---that for America's sake the time would come when those who found the signatures of Guynemer and Fonck and Bishop in that register would pause over his signature and remember him. But if, as he wrote his name, he had any presentiment of what was soon to befall him, we venture that his hand did not tremble or his brave young heart falter.
Mr. S. T. Clover, editor of the Richmond Evening Journal, has been filling his editorial pages ever since the war began with intensely patriotic utterances. Few writers, if any, in the country have carried to the hearts of the people more ardent sentiments for the cause of human freedom.
Not only has this advocate of national honor and justice preached the tenets of patriotism with peculiar power and persuasiveness, but he has offered to the cause of righteousness and liberty the choicest treasure within the power of any man to give. Greayer Clover was the sacrifice---young and brilliant. Nor did God smile on Mount Moriah with sublimer graciousness than on this scene. To his country, the father gave his son, and to that country the precious boy gave his all.
Men pass away after long years of duty done. The plaudits of people linger over their demise. Some attain, after years of struggle, the honors and emoluments of success. The credit side of the ledger may show an extended career of usefulness and leadership for them. But what are we to say of the [ad who freely gives his young life, a complete sacrifice, for the flag of his country? Brushing aside all the rosy plans and hopes for the future, yielding every tie and fragrance of life, he offers on the altar of loyalty and honor the very blood of his heart. The Richmond Virginian wishes to extend to the devoted father and family of this heroic youth the profoundest sympathy; but it holds that in a bigger and brighter world, there is a radiant spirit who watches and beckons the loved ones left behind.
Readers of The Evening Journal will recall two letters written from France in sympathetic tribute to the young aviator, Lieutenant Greayer Clover, killed in an airplane accident, August 30. They were printed on this page September 21 and were the heartfelt offerings of brother officers engaged in the same hazardous service. One was from Lieutenant James R. Crowe, formerly of the New York Sun staff, a southerner, born in Tennessee twenty-seven years ago, whose father was in the Confederate army. With deep grief we record the death of Lieutenant Crowe in an accident not unlike that which overtook his brilliant young associate, of whom he wrote so feelingly. He had completed his aviation training at Tours and was to have gone to the front September 15. Word comes that he was killed October 2. In writing to the editor of The Evening Journal, Lieutenant Crowe remarked that if so good a flyer as Greayer had to fall, "I know it is all chance, and what happened to him may happen to any one of us at any time." Alas, that his turn came to make the supreme sacrifice thirty-two days later! Although a stranger, his beautiful estimate of his comrade had endeared him to lacerated hearts and he was held in high regard by the parents of the lad he so greatly admired. He, too, was a gifted writer. His letters in the New York Sun evidenced his marked talents, while in the New York Times last July appeared his romance of "Jacqueline," called one of the best short stories written by an American since the war. A little later, August 4, was published his prayer of an aviator, entitled "A Birdman's St. Francis." A recent issue of the newspaper, Le Nouvelliste du Centre, printed at St. Amand, near the Third Aviation Instruction Center, contained on its front page a poem to the Yankee flyers, "Le Reveil," dedicated "Au Lieutenant Aviator Crowe." Brave, kindly and talented, "his disposition," says the New York Sun, "was as sunny and friendly as his accent was southern." Dead? Such as he? Never! Translated, rather. And the first to greet him, as he looked about him on that other planet, was his former brother officer and bunk-mate, Greayer Clover.
NEW HAVEN, April 11, 1917.
Dear Father: I have not done anything yet about joining anything; so don't let mother get excited. Watchful waiting seems to apply to my case, but you were mighty nice to give your consent. In another week the college will he turned into a semi-military camp, with half and half drill, the rest of the time being devoted to studies. Best love from
New HAVEN, April 17, 1917.
Dearest Father: The more I hear of the ambulance, the better it sounds to me. If I stay here I will have to join something. They drill now every morning for half an hour, and an hour and a half in the afternoon. Then three night classes a week. Not only that but as soon as they are called out by the government they will have to sign up for four years, or for the duration of the war. I know four boys here who joined the Naval unit. They are compelled to stay there for four years. That makes me hesitate before thinking of joining anything around here. The ambulance is active duty and for a six-months' term. Thirty-five men from Cornell left last week. Next to the ambulance I prefer the aero corps. Clif Rodman left for Buffalo last night where he and six others are to be trained for the flying corps. The more I see of the army drilling and the naval drilling the less I like it. Think of that for four years! It is not that it is hard work, but so tiresome and uneventful. If I were stationed in one place for two years I would go crazy. Please write to New York and find out all you can about the ambulance corps. Princeton and Harvard are closing in another month and if Yale does that I will have to get busy. Oh, I want to make it France! Please give my love to mother. Your loving son,
NEW HAVEN, April 19, 1917.
Dear Father: I am thinking about this war and may do this---subject to your approval. If I stay here and train as most will do, it will mean about six months of hard army training and for what? Before I could even get in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (age limit twenty-one) I would have to wait and train until I am 21, or else go as a private. Everyone here is enrolled in the R. O. T. C. and will go into intensive training if war is declared.
When this conflict is over it seems a pretty safe bet that there won't be any more wars which would affect me, so I can't see anything but six rigorous months of training with no benefit. The whole idea is to serve---serve the country and the cause. The country won't perish without me and if I should go to France as an ambulance driver, where men are needed, I will be really serving and doing something worth while. I can't stay here at college if everyone goes into military training---that does not attract me at all. I don't want to be a soldier, and so if I go to France I can truly help. Several other boys here feel the same way about it. I could arrange to go for a six months' enlistment. This is no time for quibbling and evading and what difference does it make what I do, if it is certain to be something?
I will never regret having helped France and six months there in active service appeals to me much more than six months of training at Fort Sill, Okla., where they are planning to send us. Of course, there is danger and everything, not only from bullets. I understand the other dangers, but I am twenty years old and willing to take the chances. If I enlist at all it will be for six months or more so why not be spending them in a place where they will be appreciated?
Please think this over, as it looks like a probable course to me. For goodness' sake, don't say it is dangerous. This is how I think of it: it is better to be driving a wounded man back to a base than lying in a trench looking for a chance to shoot a man's head off, and what else is war but that? We may never go, you say. Then my months of training to do it, whether I ever actually get in a trench or not, are wasted. Your loving son,
NEW HAVEN April 21, 1917.
Dearest Mother: Sixteen boys from Andover (prep. school) leave for the front to join the American ambulance corps this week By this time I hope father has written to at least three of the directors or backers of the American Ambulance Corps asking that I be sent. Has he? Princeton and Harvard are closing May 8.---one month earlier than usual. All the students are joining something and that is what will happen here. Yale will not close, I think, but all the regular guys are intending to leave at the first call for training camps. Pacifists, pro-Germans and those that are afraid, will be left, and I don't want to qualify for that league. I am either going to join the army or else the ambulance corps, and I much prefer the latter. If this conscription goes through it will hasten those camps so I want to be off for France before then. If I went I think I could get six or eight fellows to go too. There are several here who are on the fence and only need a push. Please ask father to hurry his efforts. Your loving son,
NEW HAVEN, April 24.1917.
Dearest Mother: Many happy returns of the day . . . . Mother, I am all at sea. If I do anything I will be forced back another year, that is, if I join any active unit. If conscription goes through I suppose I will have to go anyway. Yet I can't stay here if we send troops to France and so I guess I will have to stay out next year. It is either join one of the camps now forming or stay out of it entirely. If possible, I will enter the aviation corps or the ambulance service. They speak of the danger but what possible difference can it make whether the average is ten days or sixty---if they all end the same. Please keep your ear open for a chance in an aviation unit. Your loving son,
NEW HAVEN, April 28, 1917.
Dear Father: Many of the boys here are joining the American ambulance and will leave as soon as possible. One of them is from Pasadena---Buckingham---and he talked to Mr. Hereford in New York. The first thing Mr. H. asked him was, "Are you financially able to make the trip?" The cost is about four hundred dollars and it would be at least another hundred before I get back. I have just read a book written by two men in the service and it is a very interesting account of the daily doings of the men there. It is more than interesting, it is inspiring. It is practically a choice of what branch of the service I enter as on May 8, or thereabouts, the training camps will begin and after that there will be no college for me. I do not expect to come back next year anyway, if we are really at war, and few of the students will return either. You are my only hope of being able to go and immediate action is imperative. Hundreds of applications are coming in for the service. Twenty boys from Andover sailed today. Lots of love to you and mother,
NEW HAVEN, May 3, 1917.
Dearest Mother: I am planning to leave New York on the 19th. Before then there are doctors to see and equipment to get and a course in Ford repairing to go through so I have resigned from school from today on. Before that is accepted as final they want your definite statement withdrawing me from college, so please have that request signed by both father and yourself and send it to me. The birth certificate or affidavit ought to be on its way by now, as I cannot get a passport without it. . . About the steamship company: We sail on the French line steamer Rochambeau, from New York. I am leaving with five other boys, all of us in the same class here and all good friends. I think that is better than going with a whole unit of twenty-five men. I have to leave then to go with these fellows (I induced them to go) and so I must make that boat. Your loving son,
A BORD le 20 de Mai, 1917.
Dear Family: We fooled the subs and made port easily enough. They did not spoil my sleep, but about two-thirds of the ship slept on deck and caught colds. Our boat, the Chicago, although slow, rides easily and that was none too good. I was low for four days and on the fifth I had real mal de mer. After that I picked up and was fairly alive for the rest of the journey. There are almost three hundred men on board who are going over in various units. Some of them are joining the American Escadrille---a flying corps. One man is returning who was in the Princess Pat regiment. He was one of thirty-two who came back from the eighteen hundred in the regiment. He has all the honors they give. Also, there are several men from Canada, Frenchmen who are croix de guerre men; all have been wounded. Young Sidney Drew is on board and he is a very nice fellow. Twenty-five years old and you can imagine how much experience he has had. He is joining the ambulance corps too. The boys I am with are all agreeable and we get along very well. This has been an interesting trip and a novel experience Best love to all,
21 RUE RAYNOUARD, June 2, 1917.
Dear Mother and Father: Paris is a most marvelous place. It is, I should think, an ideal spot to live in. Here you have everything a big city can offer and yet, somehow it seems to be country too. Trees everywhere and very handsome buildings. The style of living seems very free and easy and thoroughly enjoyable.
I have been rushed to death since I got here as we arrived Thursday and were told to leave Saturday. I go to a training camp at historic old Soissons where the American Field Service has established a camp. There we train for about two weeks and are then sent on to our posts. . . This is a sketchy and rapid letter but I get up at five o'clock tomorrow to leave soon after. I have been so hurried I can't stop to tell you half the exciting and unique experiences we have had. As an example of French and English courtesy and delicacy though, this is the best I have heard. Stranger has just arrived and is in plain clothes. A major in the English army rides by on horseback and stops on seeing stranger.
"Fine day, today!"
"Yes, indeed, beautiful."
"Very good air here."
"Come here from England, I suppose?"
"Have a passport, of course?"
"Might take a look at it if you don't mind."
"Oh, not at all, sir."
"Thank you, good day."
"Good day, sir."
We were met by a delightful old Frenchman, and talked at a street café for quite a while with him He also was most delicate and started with an accurate history of France. Detailed the places of interest and connections with the French revolution. He had fought although over fifty. His three sons were in the army---two of them lost, one at Champagne---one at Somme. He was very patriotic and filled with a quiet fervor. He ended with other details of interest about the war but I am told the censor is rather strict about descriptions. However, the sights in Paris are sights no other city can boast of. San Francisco may have a "Coast" but Paris has all that and much more. All robed in true delicacy of the French, but that is another story.
Soldiers are everywhere and are treated like kings. Their women are so proud of them and sometimes you see a soldier with, perhaps, two or more decorations going along with a cane and a wife. and the woman is a study in pride and sorrow and anxious hours expressed in her eyes.
Oh, those eyes They are the first thing I noticed. Never have I seen such sad, sad eves, and all so brave. They are not disheartened or afraid but just sad. Their suffering must be terrible in the sacrifice of love. It is not physical hardship as food is apparently plentiful though a bit high according to French prices ---we would think it is cheap if it was on Broadway. It is the suffering in anxiety and doubt. That is the story in the eyes of almost every woman I have seen. It is beautiful too because it is a suffering of love and patriotism. Nearly everyone is in black, naturally enough, after three years of bloody warfare. Cafés close at 9:30 which is very proper, as no one is in the mood for ostentatious gayety. More later, but now, good-by. Please, mother, don't worry about me. I see too much of that around here. There is no occasion at all for even thinking about me. We are well fed, warm and quite comfortable and as for personal danger---there isn't any. Please send my fur coat and razor, etc., as soon as possible. Best love to all.
Your loving son,
DOMMIERS, T. M. 23, June 5, 1917.
Dear Mother: We had the usual routine today with a drive to the station at Vierzy to meet some more boys. Two of them are from Williams and very nice companions. Vierzy was shelled at one time and the old station blown to pieces. Parts of the débris are still there.
About five-thirty we came in and had time for a "shower." This is the privilege of standing under a bit of a stream about three-quarters of a mile from T. M. 23 (our camp). Water is scarce around here for some reason and a bath is a luxury. I am getting so hard boiled now I can eat without washing and sleep without half cleaning. They instituted a setting-up drill recently and that wakes you up better than a bath. We never think of changing our clothes so life is very simple.
After supper is the best time of day. They have wonderful twilights here, mother. Something I never saw before. From six until about 9:30 it is perfection; cool and quiet with nothing to worry about such as cleaning your dishes and eating, etc. Oh, it is great. Besides rats and insects there are several cute little rabbits running around camp. They are not quite tame, yet they don't try to run away. They just nibble about and look domestic.
Paul and I recently picked up a Frenchman who can speak English and, of course, French, so he was very interesting. He has been in the trenches where he was wounded and then removed to the motor service. Among other things he said no one was ever kept in the trenches more than ten days at a time. They go up, stay awhile, and then are taken back for a four or ten days' rest. These stories of months in the trenches are pure "bull." They only stay there a few days without being relieved. Also I found out what the Blue Devils are. They are a section of the army which is only used for attacking. Wherever the B. D.'s are, there is sure to be action. Sometimes, they only work five or six hours in as many months. The rest of the time they are merely killing time. Some of them are recuperating, I expect, because in the last offensive near Soissons only four hundred and forty-five returned from a sortie which numbered two thousand four hours earlier! How is that for mortality? A regiment of them was encamped near Dommiers Just before we got here. Maurice, our friend, told us about them, and they just camped here doing nothing so long that the country women, who all have husbands and sons at the front, objected to the discriminate treatment and so the regiment was moved away to avoid discontent.
Another thing about the French army is that they may change a man from one regiment to another as often as they like. Thus a man may he in Paris one week drilling an awkward squad and the next he may find himself a Blue Devil saying his prayers before going "over the top." Near here there are old entanglements which were put in front of a trench. They give a fair idea of what a charge would be.
I was sitting down near the épicerie when a little French child came up and sat in my lap. He was extremely friendly although our conversation was very limited. I finally got at his name, which was Gouchard, as nearly as I could understand it. After that he said he voulez-voued les bon-bons and so we went in and squandered four cents or twenty centimes on some little fruit tablets or some such duke. Then we went outside the shop and there was his little sister playing in the sand. Gouchard went up to her and after taking two pieces of candy gave her the whole package. He was about four years old. The little blond sister ate and ate and so I bought some more, for by that time we had a small nursery around us. I had little Gouchard do the honors of host and he passed the candy to the bashful kids. He always came back to my lap though and seemed as happy as I was. Pretty soon they were climbing all over me and when other fellows came we had horseback races which pleased them immensely. Incidentally, we got some ear training in elementary French. The other boys bought cherries and passed them around, so I guess there were some sick enfants that night.
After that we tried the Musseaux avec fromage and it went famously. Maurice walked back with us and showed us the soldiers' barracks at the Farm. He is one of the expert mechanics and a good fellow to in with. He showed us a curious sight in their room. They leave a light burning all night and put bread near it. About an hour after everyone is under the blankets there is a squealing and squeaking and from twenty to twenty-five big rats are there fighting for the bread. Maurice picks up a big shoe and he said every night they kill two or three. Lots of times the rats run over their faces and wake them up. Isn't that nice? But it doesn't bother them a bit. They have all been in the trenches and M. said after a few weeks of that nothing can disturb you.
Today we could hear firing and were told it was the artillery. We could see the observation balloons near Soissons too. Our ride was thirty miles today and, as usual, we saw many interesting things. One was a three-towered stone castle which dates from the middle ages. It is abandoned now but it is on a hill overhanging the road and has a big cave or cellar that was used by the country people. All the houses in the villages have a sign on the front that tells how many troops can be billeted there. They never encamp a troop at rest any more; they billet the soldiers on the people, paying rent for their keep. The chasseurs who were encamped here used to practice most of the day with bayonets and hand-grenades. They are all young fellows from the country and mountain districts and are very strong and fierce fighters. They never do any drudgery or trench work, nothing but attacking. They are death with a bayonet. While practicing throwing hand-grenades one went off in a soldier's hand. Yes, it hurt him. They buried his companion and put up a stone for the memory of the unfortunate, himself. That was all that was left of him. And all this happened about one hundred yards from here---just in the field at the edge of the bois ! Lyman Dudley, a Harvard man who leaves tomorrow, told me this. He also said he met an old woman near here who has never been to Soissons! It is only eight miles from here and is the nearest town of any size. Can you beat that?
Our ride took us to Villers-Cotterets. We stopped there five minutes and had some patisserie or pastry---and little cakes. On the way back we passed a bois with several graves fixed with stone monuments. Our own coal bin here for the mess is a hollow that held a hidden battery not long ago. (I just now saw a flare bomb sent from the front lines. It stayed two or more minutes and gave a very brilliant light.)
Lafayette Escadrille has a station not far from here and the boys have just come back. I have not been there yet. Gregg (Spurr) said about twenty fliers landed while he was there. They all ask how many are still out and hang around telling what they have seen. (Taps, blame it!), Lovingly,