World War 2 Army 547th FA 9th CA

THE LETTERS

(Floyd would write home to his folks and to Dell Beach, his cousin)

Columbus Bks. December 13th 1917

Dear Folks

Am now wearing the full uniform of the U.S.A. The only thing that I am kicking about was the long time necessary for the examinations. My arm is a little sore from the needle of course, but at that I am feeling OK even though we didn't have any sleep from the night of the 9th to that of the 12th.

There were near 900 men that left Chgo on the troop train that I came down on. There were 12 coaches of 75 men each and we didn't leave that night till 2 o'clock A.M. Now there are about 10000 men here but not many will stay as there is no room. They just come here for examinations.

There's lots of excitement ahead. (Tonight we are being entertained by the Elks in the line of music and speeches.) One of the more interesting parts is to see 3000 men all eating in one room. The capacity of the mess hall is 3000. I suppose we will leave here tomorrow for either Texas or some other place

I am in the ordnance dept. in the Engineering line and only had to pass three exams. Got accustomed to them though my eyes were out of tune. Seemed to be the only thing much wrong with me. We have no permanent address now but I think we will be in the 26th Co Ordnance Cps. Will send the address as soon as I am sure of it.

How is everything anyway. I sure miss the steel mills and Hobart some. Tell Olivia that I miss her a little and that I will write her a love letter as soon as possible. Ha.

Maude - if you don't want that hat yourself - will you please give it to Olive - as she wanted it. I can't see that I will need it for some time.

The weather down here is about the same as Hobart. There is about six or eight inches of snow here but our bunking places are kept pretty warm. We get plenty of grub but have not had any beans as yet. We eat things army style - Do you know how that is? Will tell you some time.

We were equipped with a first class uniform. The tight fitting shoulder and tight knees and leggins. The boys all seem to be proud of the government duds. Got five pairs socks 2 suits underwear 2 shirts 2 pair shoes - 3 blankets 1 pillow & a duffle bag.

Well give my best to Aunt Alb (?) and Mrs. Bulhand. Tell them that I will write them and that I miss Hobart and everything. At that this life appeals to me.

YoursJake

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January 19, 1918

Dear Folks -

Suppose you are getting ready for the Biloxi trip. Just eat several good messes of oysters for me - will you. Would like to go there with you.

Say that was some fine cake you sent. The dates and others am saving 'till we get on the road - which apparently will be not far away.

Some of us may not go on the first list. It is a cinch that some will not go as we must pass another examination before getting on the boat. It is some job to work for Uncle Sam - don't you think so?

Today it is snowing a little - not much. We lined up for inspection this A M and also went through dental inspection - every day we get measles inspection. For that we line up and walk past the doctor - all he does is to look close at our eyes and it seems there they discover the first symptoms.

Have been having a little cold lately but other than that I am feeling OK.

Well have to go to mess now - Just thought I'd drop you a line before you left for the south.

Love to all

Jake -

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Dodge, Georgia February 14th, 1918

Dear Folks:

Received your card a couple of days ago. Did not know if you had received my letters or not before I rec'd the card. Guess Back Bay will get you, hey? Is M J down there?

We are still at the same old camp but are having damned rainy weather. Last evening she rained so a few of us put on our ponchos and walked to Dodge City to the movie show. One hell of a show of course but most anything will do in the line of amusement. The piano sounds like the one at Hobart Theatre. The army ponchos are fine business - never saw any thing like them before. They are a new issue.

Had those pictures taken last Sunday (10th) - Went to look at the proofs Tuesday and ordered a half dozen of the best but they said they couldn't have them finished 'till the 19th. Pretty slow I say. You see it as this way - We may leave any day now. This is straight dope. Should we go before Tuesday the 19th I can't see how I am going to get the pictures unless I have them forwarded. May have them all sent home then you can get one there. You may not know me by the pictures.

Suppose "you all" are enjoying the warm weather oysters and etc. Give my regards to the girls down there. Are there any flowers in blossom now? Oh yes, you might eat a few strawberries for me as I haven't had any for quite a while.

Haven't heard from Olive for some time - wrote her a couple of letters but no answer. Will write her again soon.

Everything around the camp is about the same. Not much sickness. One barracks is quarantined on acct' of Scarlet Fever but nothing serious I guess.

Am at the K.C. hall this P M as it is nearer the barracks than the Y.M.C.A. Am in Co. P. now. Was transferred day before yesterday. The whole company was transferred as they wanted to make Co. D. a company of motor truck drivers only. Company P is a good company. Seems to be made up of the cleaner cut fellows of the Brigade. Our eats are pretty fair. They ought to be you know as I put in two days in the kitchen helping the cooks. Everyone takes a shot at the different jobs. We made 60 pies one evening and they were real ones at that (chocolate). Have pie or cake every day for dinner and they are pretty strong on prunes and apricots and etc.

Well the next draft bunch will soon arrive at the camp. They expect about 20,000 men by Feb. 22nd. They will be a sorry looking lot for a while I suppose. It is some job to come accustomed to the camp. I mean - the sudden change in life. For myself I am getting pretty well accustomed to the uniform and like the life fine.

Maybe you better not write Dell or Maude 'till you hear from me again. Would like to hear from you of course but we may be most any place within the next month. Will write the next letter to Hobart.

Yours Truly

Jake

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February 26th 1918

Dear Folks:

I received Olivia's letter and she said that you had returned.

How's the trip and weather down there? - You see I'm interested for we are preparing to go down in Alabama, leaving here on next day. The trip will be a little late to enjoy spending the winter - but maybe will inspire the green grass yard etc.

I sent three pictures home so you can get one of them when you go out or when someone comes down to Hobert. They are some pictures of course.

Today and yesterday we have been quarentined for scarlet fever. The doctor who gave us our weekly inspection found one of the boys with the first symptoms (breaking out on chest and a bad throat).

Just now there are a bunch of loafers around the barracks. A couple are singing and another bunch are pitching penneys. Once in a while we start a card game but no gambling is allowed. Some of the boys are reading and others are patching socks or etc. We received our toilet kits yesterday and tags to be sewed on our barracks bag for shipping .

We are having some pretty fine eats lately. This morning we had hot soda biscuits with honey, Corn flakes and milk, Fried ham and coffee and fried spuds. Before breakfast we went strong on daily mornings drill in front of the barracks and everyone was able to eat the breakfast. They have a regular crew in the kitchen here - one mess sergeant and six cooks.

This morning we are trading in our dress shoes for field shoes. This means business I think.

The new draft bunch are coming in pretty fast. They are having a hell of a time believe me. I was talking to a corporal from the infantry last week. He said they would drill the new boys bow legged.

Well have to get ready for inspection now so will write later.

Your, Jake

Will write from new address

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Camp Hancock, Georgia

Mar. 10. 1918

Dear Folks:

We are now pretty well settled in our Village of tents. Beginning tomorrow we will get about six hours drill daily and with the southern sun at 80 and 85 will be some hard feelings.

The very latest secret that I now hold is that I am trying to get a transfer to the heavy artillery - (107th). If I am successful then I will see some action. They are planning on using motor trucks to move the cannon - The facts of the matter are that this is the best branch of the service, generally speaking. Just now they are turning us over to the Ordnance Training Camp intending to make non-commissioned officers out of the best qualified of the men. Instead of following up our line of work, they will merely make soldiers of us for life - Seeing that they are doing this - I am working for this transfer and it now looks like it will make out OK.

Today being Sunday we did not do anything around camp. This morning I took a walk of about ten miles with a couple of men in my squad. The scenery isn't anything elaborate by the way but it's a change - The majority of the trees here are pine and the great majority of residences in the country are of negro families. We met one of those old fashioned southern carriages this A.M. - Four horses and open carriages and negro driver - Some style. The fellow riding looked like he could afford about twenty five Packards.

This is some camp, Dell - room for about 100,000 the way they have it laid out. (A band plays about all day) not sure of that last sentence. Negro women come to camp and do some of the boys washings - small negro boys come into the camp and shine shoes for the boys. I noticed a couple of them jigging most the time they were in the camp. They make a comical sight in this southern attire - no shoes and a large hat.

How are things around Hobart? Is Olive behaving these days? - I'd like to drop in on you but the chances look damned thin. How's my old ___ milk anyway? - also the oatmeal and bacon breakfasts? - We get oatmeal in the army but to eat it reminds one of eathing them fresh from the threshing machine. Once in a while the coffee looks like the Hobart river but we never look at such little things - our cups hold no less than one quart - should we drink so much at home we would look like a coffee pot. Last evening we had corn bread for mess - with the southern molasses - Our cooks are there with the goods.

Instead of using coal to burn here we use pine logs. I went on the wood detail the other day (eight men). We left about 8 o'clock a.m. in a large packard truck and made three trips of about six miles before noon and hauled about then or twelve cord. The wood is already cut - all we have to do is to heave it aboard the truck - They have about eighty trucks for camp use.

Love to all Yours

Jake -

c/o Co. P - Ord. T.C.

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The Old Country

France

July 4 1918

Dear Folks

Please excuse me for not writing as it is a big job over here at present - later on when we are located I will do better. Of course there is lots to write about but we can't write all we know about things.

Today being Sunday, I went sight seeing with a couple of the boys. We are free on Sundays but on week days we are doing some construction work which will take quite a while yet. We visited a town near here where we saw more U S soldiers than civilians. The French people seem to enjoy having us with them and do all they can to help us along. Whenever you find a camp here you will find prosperity in the near by towns. Maybe this is one reason they welcome us. The French kids have a good time with us. They will walk down the streets with you hand in hand to their enjoyment and smile all over when you give them a stick of gum or a cent.

We saw several old buildings and a castle or two that were built in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The buildings look just like the pictures I have seen - most all are built of stone with tile roofs. The trees are beautiful that are quite commonly seen along the river banks. We are located about a half mile from a river where we go in swimming about twice a week. Today I saw several people fishing, but so far, I haven't seen any large fish caught.

The farmers have done fine considering the shortage of help. One sees some good truck (?thick?) gardens and field of grain as well as pretty houses and cows. Goats are used quite a lot for milk and cheese.

If I had my Kodak along I could get some great views for my collection but we can't use them 'till we finish with Germany. I may send for it then if the war doesn't last too long. The reports lately look as though we may be back home by next year. (Sounds like a long time doesn't it?)

We now have very satisfactory sleeping quarters and eats. Later we will be in barracks again with hot water bath. Am feeling fine.


Love to All

Floyd S. Black J A Watkins 1st Lt. Ord. N. 9.

Co 2 - 4th Ord. Bn.

Ord. Repair Shops

U.S.A. P.O. - 741

A.E.F. via New York

Hello to Ellen - will write later

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July 28 1918

Dear Folks -

We landed in France in fine shape and I think I will like the country after we get settled. Lately we have been doing some traveling to an interior camp and living in pup-tents. The trains over here are pretty different than ours. We spent about two day riding in a box car outfit of a train which was far from being like the Pullmans we rode in at home.

The trip across the Atlantic was a memorable one - that is we didn't travel first class you know. I can't complain on the roughness of the trip as it could have been worse. I see now where my river experiences at camping are of a real benefit. Some of the boys don't seem to fall for the camping game as well as others. We had some rough weather during the trip but I didn't get sea-sick as I had expected.

One night at about midnight our boat rammed another; a small freighter which sank in about eight minutes. Of the crew of forty five we saved eleven and the rest went down with the boat. The weather was rough or I suppose more would have been rescued. For a while we thought a submarine had hit us but it was soon found that our boat wasn't damaged at all. We are not allowed to write about the interesting things or I could write lots more.

France is a very pretty country. The homes and small villages are very picturesque. The French people welcome the U.S. Soldiers and quite a few American flags are seen flying from the homes. Most all the work is done by the women and small children and I will say that they do pretty well at working as most all the land is farmed and the crops look good.

The late reports from the front look quite favorable. We see lots of prisoners of war that have been sent back from the front to do such work as may be ordered by the French guards. They seem to be perfectly satisfied at being prisoners but a couple of them shook their fists at us the other day as we passed them. One of the boys asked them in German a few questions but they aren't allowed to talk to any one.

I bought a pipe the other day for three francs which is about 50c of our money. It is French briar and looks to be a good one. We don't have any trouble in getting rid of our U.S. money over here. We can either have it changed at the Y.M.C.A. or spend it as it is. It won't take us long ?to get onto the French coins.

I was surprised today to meet a Valpo boy at this Camp. His name is Garrot Conover and he has been here for three months. He was as glad to see me as I was him.

We may see some actual service within a month or so but just now we are quite a ways from the front.

Love to All

Floyd S. Black

2nd Co. - 4th P.O.D. Bn.

A.E.F. - c/o A.P.O. 741

Via New York

Will write a better letter soon. Will be living in barracks in a week or two with hot water bath.

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August 29th 1918

Dear Folks -

We are now up in a country where things happen. Beautiful old scenery, fresh air and steel helmets. Mail is as scarce as hen's teeth, but I guess we will get some, some of these days if it ever catches up with us.

This is about the third letter I have written this month. It seems I can't get started on letter writing. Don't know why. It must be the lack of material to write about. I could write a book on the things over here but will wait 'till the "Boches" are given a first class "round up". How do the reports look back home?

Will never forget this little trip, believe me. France is a pretty country - every part of it. It's ancient appearing villagers and the people themselves are interesting to us all. We spent about a week billoting in one village where one franc (about 18 cents) equaled the U.S. dollar and where we could buy an occasional drink of wine or beer. If we were in such a place permanently I could soon pick up some of the language of the French, but as it is we don't progress very much on that line. Can get away with some of it at that.

We are on the field most of the time and have been doing some construction work and a little of everything. Uncle Sam takes pretty good care of his army in the line of eats. Of course "canned Willie" (corned beef) is a sight that seems too familiar at times but it is nourishing and about as good as the other armies are getting (without a doubt). we get white bread, coffee, sugar, beans, bacon and etc. Couldn't get this though were the people at home not in the game with us.

Regards to the boys and Olive.

Love to All

Pvt. F. S. Black

Detachment of Ordnance

Care Chief Ord Officer

U.S.A.P.O. 774

Censored by ??

1st Lt. Ord N.A. A.E.F via N.Y.

Please don't mention this to Mother. I'm writing them today too. She probably worries some - as it is. J-

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29, September, 1918

Le Foyer Du Soldat

Union Franco-Americaine

Dear Folks -

This is the second letter I have written to you in the last week. You see the other one failed to pass the censor and was returned - so the delay.

I visited a French canteen yesterday where I was able to get some of their letter paper and read some newspapers from the States that were not so late as could be expected. We also have American canteens but at times they are hard to get at. Believe me, we get there when possible, you know.

I got the news last night that the division that M.J. is in was passing along the road - not far from us here. It was raining and pitch dark so I didn't attempt to find him. It is possible that his company wouldn't have been among those passing last night. I am planning on looking him up at the earliest date possible. It will be good to see the kid again (my side kick on the river trips).

Your letter of the 17th of August was very welcome. I received it on September 25th and enjoyed reading the interesting news. What do Carl & Fred think of the new draft laws? Maybe they are sort of anxious to set into the game, but I don't think we will need them - that is - the way things look now. Everything seems to fall in front of our troops - especially the prisoners who drop their guns and are taken, give me the impression that they are very much buffaloed.

We are now quaranteed in some barracks that are a little the worse off for wear. We have a cat and a dog or two hanging around but we never see them at night. The cat sleeps in the tree tops at night for fear of being eaten up by the enormous sized rats that roam around the place. The dogs also beat it somewhere. We have one rat named Jerry. He spends most of his time at jumping from one bed to the other at night. Of course we don't mind such little things as cooties and lice on us.

I don't know of much that I can write about. I am feeling fine and probably weigh several pounds more than when I enlisted. We feed good. I have seen some of the most interesting sights - have seen several air battles between the Bosche and our planes. They all turned out in our favor at that. The fireworks at the front at night are wonderful.

I am sorry I can't write more. Give my regards to Murphy and tell him I will try and write him soon. Also my barber friend next door.

I am wearing a mustache now and am smoking a pipe that is stronger than any of Henry's old ones. Am working quite a lot among the French and am picking up their language a little.

Love to you all,

Floyd S. Black

Detachment of Ordnance

c/o Chief Ord. Officer

U.S.A. P.O. #774

A.E.F.

Censored by -

1st Lt. Ord Dept. U.S.A.

E McClure

Robert W Hunt & Co.

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American YMCA October 27 1918

On Active Service

With The

American Expeditionary Force

Dear Folks -

As we have been in the field most all of the time for a month I have had too little time to write. I'd like to write to the folks and mother once a week at least but I find that I can't always do so.

I (in company with two other Ordnance men) am attached to a company of colored infantry. Don't suppose we will be with them permanently, but don't know at that. They are a jolly bunch - plenty of comedy and quartets. The cooks are good - looks as though they may have been chefs in the states. One of the cooks carries a pair of boxing gloves over his shoulder when we move.

I was out shooting yesterday (had no license either) you can hunt either Bosch or quail over here. I just went out to compare the shooting qualities of the Endfield (British Rifle) and the Springfield (American Rifle). Found them both to be excellent guns. Could hit a tobacco can easily, nine out of ten at about fifty paces. The Cal.30 is a neat bullet.

Am taking a little scrub today, washing some underwear and taking a bath. Have to heat a pail full and take sort of a sponge scrub. Could find plenty of shell holes with clean looking water in them, but don't use them as the water is very apt to be poisoned.*** We have had cooties on us - caught them out of some dug-out I suppose. Water is scarce in most parts of France - see quite a few springs but no wells. You dig down about four feet and you will hit stone every time. The Frenchman drinks lots of wine so he doesn't worry so much about water.

Well how's things out in Hobart. I hear that Walter and Louise (Floyd's sister) are moving there. W.G. (Floyd's brother Walter who was also in the Army) saying that he expected to be a 1st Lieutenant soon - good dope.

Love to All,

Floyd S. Black

Detachment of Ordnance

c/o Chief Ordnance Officer

U.S.A.P.O #774

AEF

(Am feeling fine)

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Northern France November 6 1918

5 days before the end of the ware

Dear Folks -

Well - I feel pretty good today - We all got mail today - Rosie, Camouflage and I. I got fourteen in a bunch - three from you, five from Ethel, one from Claude S. Beach from over here, one from Nora and John and a couple from Louise and Walter. Also the Hobart paper of September 13th. You see our mail comes in bunches so we have to take an hour or two to read them (not as bad as that). I guess they didn't know where we were at for we had to go to headquarters to get some clothes today and our Sept. pay.

Your letters were full of news. (about M. Best yet).

We are all assembled tonight around our small centre table in our dugout. We have a stove here that makes us flapjacks occasionally as well as plenty of heat. All we have to do is chop the wood.

What say - doesn't the war situation look pretty promising now? Damn - I don't see how Fritz holds out. The prisoners we take look mostly hard. Leave it to the dough-boys. When we get through with the Bosche, we'll come home by way of Mexico - clean them up too, so we won't have any more wars to fight for a couple of years. What say?

Am glad you saw the guns on exhibition in Chicago, Dell. - We helped prepare most of them for shipment to the states, last August. Have seen them lined up over here by the hundreds (big ones).

You made me pretty homesick Maude, in one of your letters. You mentioned about a batch of doughnuts and Dell spoke something about those pancakes we use to have. We made some doughnuts once over here - got hold of some flour from an abandoned field kitchen. Maybe you can imagine what they looked like (not mentioning how they tasted) for we had no sugar, no eggs, no milk and not enough grease. We had the flour, water and lots of baking powder - Now! They were poor specimens what I mean but we ate them hot nevertheless. We didn't make another batch but switched over on flapjacks - our old stand by.

We are well equipped now with wearing apparel. I guess my pack complete would weigh around 125 pounds now. Since we left the States I have added considerable to my luggage. The list of the newer things consists of one Springfield rifle, one eight pounder shoes (gun boots) a pair of hip boots, a leather vest and heavy socks and underwear besides the packs and four blankets. I'm thinking of adopting a horse and wagon to carry my department stove.

We heard last night that the war was over and that the boys along the front were celebrating by sending up fireworks and etc. Hope it is true but I can't believe it yet for a few days. It would take that long for the good news to soak in.

I got the Mutts and Jeffs and we all had a laugh over them. Yes- I would like to get the Hobart paper - fine. I read your letters over thoroughly and the news from home and about Ethel and all, were all good news.

Thanks to the people in the good old States. We couldn't do a d___ thing without them.

Love to All

Floyd S. Black

Detachment of Ordnance

U.S.A. P.O. #774

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American                                                                On Active Service

YMCA                                                                               with the

                                                               American Expeditionary Forces

                                                                         November 14, 1918

Floyd writes here, "Have been recommended for sergeancy"

Dear Folks -

I got your long letter today and am answering right away - to show how good I was to get it. Am worried about Ma, of course but sure glad that she was out of danger. No doubt she has enough to worry about without being sick. Am also glad that Maude was there to help.

Say - We may be pulling in some of these days - don't know for sure. The big hunt seems to be all over with - The Frenchmen says "Bosche Finish" and they are glad too. If you were here dell - say tomorrow morning early. we would take a couple Springfields from the dugout and a few Land grenades in our pockets - start north (not far) and do some fine shooting what say - bring back a few scalps for souvenirs (even if the war is ended now) We wouldn't give a damn for that - If we got tired of the rifles we could try some of the machine guns - or still better - Go back a short distance and send some across a bouquet of eight or nine inchers.

Everything is quiet at present. Just waiting for the Bosche to awaken to the fact that they are ruined. Will be sending an Army up toward the Rhine pretty soon.

To describe this part of the country I would say that there is lots of work ahead to clean and straighten things up. Here and there are ruined villages. Along the roads are artillery positions, piles of left over howitzer shells, boxes of small arms ammunitions, grenades and here and there, trenches running zig-zag across the fields, barbwire entanglements and numerous shell holes. Real often a graveyard may be seen and occasionally single graves. Horses run wild and may be easily adopted if you care to throw a bridle on them. One soon becomes accustomed to seeing long strings of heavily loaded trucks and the sound of high powered motors. Michigan Ave. in Chicago has nothing at all on the roads leading to the different fronts.

I am feeling most O.K. The weather is not of the best but that is a minor worry. Please write soon as I'm worried you know about our Ma. Thanks for the papers. They are starting to come now.

Love to All

Floyd S. Black

Detachment of Ordnance

c/o Chief Ord. Officer

U.S.A. P.O, 774

A.E.F.

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note from Bob Black, Floyd's son, says Floyd sent this letter and the letter from November 23rd to his Mother and Dad instead of to Dell Beach as he did all the other letters

Verdun Sector November 23, 1918

Dear Folks -

May be the censors aren't so strict now so I'll try to write a little on details. At present we are in the Verdun sector. Have been between the Metz sector and this one now for over two months. This is the sector where some of the stiffest fighting of the whole war took place. The Germans lost here...500,000 men in one offensive and as many move this fall the country is a natural fortification and a land territory to advance in. Nevertheless it was here that we made our big advance.

It has been very quiet now for the last ten days or so. We are not doing much of anything at present. We had become quite used to the heavy pounding and the flashes of the guns. It is all over now and an army is now advancing towards the Rhine river without anything to stop them. I have been under shell fire several times but was never in any of the thickest fighting.

It is rumored that the first army will not go into Germany. They have done all the real fighting so they will probably come home first. I am attached to the first army so may be among the first home - Don't know though. My company is about sixty kilometers from here and I hear they are mobilizing again preparatory to the trip back.

Most of us have been on detached service. Myself and two other Ordnance men have been attached to a company of colored infantry and have been doing all salvage work along the front. We followed the advancing Army and salvaged such things as ammunition and guns and etc. that could be used again. My job was merely an instructor on ammunition to see that none of the men killed themselves through not knowing anything about it. It was an interesting job and I have had good chances to pick up plenty of souvenirs and etc.

The church bells have been ringing in the small towns near here, that is - when they could find the bells - most every building in this whole fought over country is only a pile of rocks now. A few of the old French residents are gradually moving up to their old homes to find them all ruins.

I haven't any idea where M.J. (Myron, Floyd's brother) is now. I suppose they are working on some road or bridge construction work near here.

If he is attached to the second Army he may go into Germany but I think not for there will be a big demand for Engineers and labor divisions for some time after the war.

The weather here is pretty fine lately. It freezes every night and we had the first snow on Nov. 18 but since then it has been clear every day.

Some of the boys were on a wild pig hunt the other day but didn't get any Some one had located a few of them in a big swamp near here. Foxes and quail are quite plentiful farther back in France.

Well I may be home in a couple of months. Hope so. I can't see the idea of keeping us over here now. There is lots of ammunition in this territory that will be sent back but I don't know if we will have to handle it or if the Frenchmen will do so. I will say there is a hell of a mess to be cleaned up.

Walter (Floyd's brother) was too late to see the game. Tough luck - and still he was lucky at that. It has been worth seeing but I wouldn't care to see it over again.

We have a dog here with us that is pretty smart. He knows the different bugle calls and is the first one up in the morning and on the job when the mess call blows. He also is a good ratter. Sometimes we spend our spare time at catching rats. Just put a little powder in the hole and burn them out. They come out backwards and two at a time. We stand by with clubs and etc. and have lots of fun and the exercise pounding them. One of the boys got hit on the foot with a good sized club yesterday and is on the bum today.

This pen is a bum one so will end. Hoping everyone is OK.

Love to All

Floyd S. Black

Detachment of Ordnance

c/o Chief Ord. Officer

U.S.A.P.O. 774

A.E.F

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Near Verdun November 30th, 1918

Dear Folks:

This part of France is where the hardest fighting of the whole war took place. Now it is very quiet. Neither army could advance over a few kilometers a year 'till the U.S. came and since then, up to November 11th we had advanced something like forty miles. The Germans continued to shell the ruined city of Verdun until their guns were so far away that they couldn't reach it. Their object was to destroy the main roads through the city.

At present we are not doing much of anything. Just waiting for orders as if we are expecting any day to get word that our outfit is mobilizing again. The headquarters is about fifty miles from here (near Metz) and we haven't received any mail or pay for several weeks. We (three of us) are still not Co. B. 808th Infantry and are living in dugouts and etc. in a large woods called "Forests de Hesse". In places the forest has been shot down and nearly all trees are dead. Today while chopping wood, we had to stop work and regrind the axe for we were constantly chopping into pieces of shrapnel that averaged in size from that of a dime up to the size of our fist. When shrapnel enters a tree it is red hot and burns its way through leaving a streak of burnt wood.

We spent Thanksgiving in sort of a gloomy way. Of course we were thinking about the good old dinner at home, and all that. Maybe that was what made us feel kind of sore. For dinner we had fresh beef from the U.S., mashed potatoes and rice. Not so bad at that, but we were thankful anyway that the war was over.

Think I shall take a trip soon looking for some mail. Last time I got about twenty letters at once and some were dated way back in July. 'Tis Hell - this mail over here.

Am feeling fine - the weather is all rain so that we wear our boots all the time. Suppose you have had snow haven't you?

Love to all

Floyd S. Black

Det. of Ord. c/o C.O.O. U.S.A.P.O. 774 A.E.F.

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Fleville, France December 8, 1918

Dear Folks -

Thanks for the very good letter of Oct. 25 and the Hobart papers I got today. One of the boys returned today from Romagne with some mail for us. We must have more mail at Montigny, our headquarters - fifty miles east of here.

Did you notice the word "Fleville" at the top of the page? Well - it means just that for, for they are here. I guess the Boche left them for they were here only a month ago.

We moved up here a week ago to do some more salvage work. The area we are now working on hasn't been touched since the Boche were driven out and the town and country is full of German ammunition. We are cleaning up everything in that line, such as hand grenades, "duds" (shells which didn't explode) and a little of everything. I think there are a couple dozen Boche big guns, back in the hills, that will have to be pulled out.

The hills outside of town show some heavy fighting. The Marines were located in this town not long ago.

The town of Fleville isn't shot up so much as most others. We have a front room in one of the buildings that doesn't even leak when it rains. We are located on the corner and can look up the Ayere valley and surrounding country. We have the room fixed up "to order" - have lots of furniture and a cooking stove. The walls are decorated with mirrors and trophies. We have about a dozen rifles of different style hanging on the wall and an assortment of bayonets and knives. Damn I wish I had some of this junk back home. What say Dell? - Say, I'm strong for a trip out to Otto's place, Dell. - leave it to us - we'll pull off something good when we get home.

A couple of Frenchmen were here today looking over their property. Don't know what they thought about things. One of their homes had several big shell holes through it and the other one was half gone and in front of the house was a big pile of six inch howitzer shells. They seemed damned glad to see the old place anyway. Some of the buildings around here were built along about Columbus time and are still standing strong.

When the Boche pulled stakes they blew up all the bridges across the river but next day the engineers had put up new ones of plank. They put a good charge beneath each of them for I notice pieces scattered a quarter mile away. One thing they left was a power house and a bath house on the river. Just outside of town is a graveyard where there are a couple hundred Germans buried.

Well, I can't think of much more news to write except that we are now attached to Co. G. 807 Inf. (colored) and they say that when we finish salvaging this area we will be about through. Hope so anyway. Most all the Huns(?) are planted now so I don't see the idea of staying over here longer than necessary.

Love to All Floyd S. Black Det. of Ord. c/o C.O.O

U.S.A.P.O. 774 A.E.F.

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Fleville France Dec 22, 1918

Dear Folks -

Nothing has changed since I wrote last. The prospects for coming home about next month look pretty good and at present we are doing reclamation and demolition work, that will be about a months work I believe.

Reclamation and demolition work consists of the salvaging of all ammunition, and the blowing up of all bad stuff. We are now blowing up all (or most all) German ammunitions and there is plenty of it in this area. We are about forty kilometers north west of Verdun.

It has rained so much in the last two weeks that the Aire river has been out of its bank for some times. The bridge here in town has been gone for a few days now. The bridge was made of wood by the engineers after the enemy blew up the old steel one. The Germans sure did a good job of blowing up the old one for pieces of it are scattered a quarter of a mile on all sides. Down the river a short ways are two bridges of stone that were also blown to pieces.

The rivers in this country don't compare with ours, quite. I have seen the Meuse, the Marne, the Arsne and a few of the others but none of them are over a hundred and fifty feet wide. The Aire river here is about thirty feet wide and is probably six or eight feet deep. Some of the boys will see the Rhine. I would liked to have gone to Germany with the boys but there was no chance. They got away before I knew anything about it or maybe I could have got in on it.

We are "stopping off" in this town at one of the most prominent buildings. We are eating at the headquarters kitchen of the 807 Pioneers Infantry and are getting plenty to eat.

We are getting Christmas packages from the Romagne Y.M.C.A. not far from here so will be all set for that day. Lets hope next Christmas will be a little different.

Love to all

Floyd S. Black Det. of Ord. c/o C.O.O. U.S.A.P.O.#774 A.E.F.

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(censored black out location) France December 29 1918

Dear Folks -

Here we are at (blacked out) and it looks very much like we'll be here for a couple months or so. Now that the salvaging of all Ordnance is nearly completed we are doing demolition work - interesting work, by the way. We are demolishing all German ammunitions, "duds", all trench mortars, U.S. storage bombs, a dozen different kinds of grenades and signal flares and etc.

The hills back of here are full of Boche stuff and when we get this area cleaned (about 15 square miles) we will be on the way home. At present we have cleaned up about one fourth of our area. There are about 300 Ordnance men doing this kind of work so we ought to get through (blacked out censored) time, at least, sooner the better for me. We have the colored boys working with us.

How's the winter coming along in the States? You should see the kind we are now putting up with. I swear that it has rained every day for the last month. In fact, I can't remember of a clear day. It snowed twice but as the ground was so wet it melted upon arrival. I'm afraid though that it will be snowing for good some of these days - then we'll be held up with our work 'till spring.

The Hobart paper as of Nov. 7th came the other day and I read it through. I see the elections went as you noted, Dell. I leave things to you - old top.

I got a small letter from Red (Floyd's nickname for Myron his brother and later for Bob his son. Highest ranked U.S. General) the other day. He says he is still at Brast and expecting to leave for U.S. in 1919.

We spent Christmas all OK. The colored boys had an entertainment at the Fleville Church (some church - shell rocked). The most interesting event of the day was the pie eating contest. They sure got outside of those pies at double time. They pulled off some singing etc. The offices of the 80th invited us to attend. They presented us with cigars, candy and etc. - good fellows all of them. I don't imagine I shall ever forget Xmas in France - it snowed just enough to make us feel all the farther away from home than we really are.

President Wilson is expected to visit the greatest battle fields so no doubt he will be around this way. General Pershing (highest ranked U.S. General) has been a frequent visitor in the advance area and I have seen him several times. He is a fine looking man. It was last August that Gen. Pershing was reported to have made the remark that he would pay for all communication shot after Xmas. Another was - "Heaven, Hell or Hoboken (New Jersey landing port) by Christmas" He was right, all right.

Everything is pretty quiet now. Last week a Frenchman came to Fleville with a horse and wagon. He didn't stay long at his old home for it looked a little the worse for wear since both armies passed this way. There isn't a whole house in town - only a few are standing and they have all been shook up time and again.

Just a week ago they finished burying the dead (mostly Boche). We make about the only noises now when we are blowing up the ammunition. Sometimes they rake the town considerably.

Will try to send you a German helmet Dell. Don't know if it would get through or not as someone might cop it on the road. We haven't seen many souvenirs at present - still we have a few.

A letter from Ethel says she is sending M.J. and me a Christmas package. She is a good girl. I didn't send home a Xmas coupon as we didn't get them on time. I don't just see how she can send one now, but maybe things are different - the war being over.

How is Cincy (?) these days? Do you go out home often? I expect to camp there when I hit that place.

Love to All Floyd S. Black

Det. of Ord. c/o O.D. U.S.A.P.O 774 A.E.F.

p.s. Will try to write often. We usually play cards evenings so it is still hard to do much writing - Jake

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Fleville France January 8 1919

Dear Folks

Your good old letter of Nov. 15th came the other day. I was damned glad to get it. The letters and papers from Hobart have been coming in handy believe me.

You asked when I was coming home. Say - I'll be damned as I know - to tell the truth. I now have it sized up that I will be here for months. The Ordnance Dept. will be on the tail end of the procession and I'll bet a thousand francs on it. We are now cleaning up France of all ammunition - including German. They have it doped out that there will be no further call for war material, and the consequences are that we have orders to destroy most of it. The labor for this work is furnished in the different colored regiments now here.

I guess the kid will be home pretty soon. He wrote a letter not long ago saying that he was then at Brest and ready to pull stakes for Hoboken. We will be there on the celebrations, Dell. We will get it up probably and stay that way for a month or two - or at least I will. All the time I have been over here I was only piped once. Just drank a few bottles too much. The French wine is good if you get the right kind, but if you don't you will feel like a dead man next day.

What do you want for a souvenir? Lets see - I can send most anything - that is there is plenty to send, but would they let me send it. There are a thousand things I would like to have - for a den, such as a rifle and bayonet from each army (we have them here) a machine gun or two - luker pistols - u.s. 45's field glasses - Boche, French, Italian, Australian, English, and U.S. helmets - gas masks - a variety of hand grenades - a few projectiles of the light artillery kind and etc. Would also have a can or two of corn Willie (red turkey) - a package of hard tack and etc. again. Best of all would be the photograph of a rainy day in France. If I had a Kodak now I could get some excellent views of rainy weather. Moss grows on the south side of trees over here and ducks fly the year around.

Clements, Rosenthal (Rosie the Jew) and Bitzer and I are working together. Don't know where the rest of the company is now days. We amuse ourselves evenings at cards. Arguments, songs, resting, drinking water, dreams of home, telling lies and hitting the hay good and tired.

I have been in this game now three years - 1917, '18 and '19. My term expires this year. Fortunately next year I will stay home unless we may have a war with China or some other country like Siberia or South Africa.

Camouflage now carries his pipe stem in his pocket these days - one of the boys has been smoking his pipe. Camouflage (Clements) believes in looking out for himself. He is also the champion souvenir hunter. At the present writing he has a bag full of souvenirs, (60 pounds or so).

The weather at home is probably getting cold - isn't it? I can see the cold from here. I don't believe it ever gets very frosty here. I don't believe it ever gets very frosty around France - the grass is still green.

Can't think of much news. I am feeling fine and we are getting excellent mess with this company. The Officers here can't be beat.

Give my regards to Julius Larson, Wilder and the Hobart boys. I have been too busy to write to them.

Love to All

Floyd S. Black Detachment of Ordnance c/o Chief Ord. Officer

U.S.A.P.O. 774 A.E.F.

Say Dell -

Later on I would like to send for a fountain pen and an Ingersoll watch. Looks like we'll be here 'till things are cleaned up. Probably next May or June. - Will try to get an order if it is necessary (nothing expensive you know) Jake

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Bois - de - Gesnes January 22, 1919

Dear Folks:

Received your good long letter dated Dec. 16 a couple days ago. It was very interesting and I read it over a couple or three times. I had just started to answer it the other day when word came saying that a truck would be along in an hour to pick us up.

We hear that so often that it doesn't bother us much. The two words (pack up) are commonly used in the army. Just when you are sitting pretty too.

At present we are stationed in "Bois de Gesnes" - meaning 'woods of Gesnes'. Gesnes is a small town down the road a couple kilometers and is pronounced in French - "Gains". The bungalow we are living in was at one time used by a couple German officers. I have seen photographs in magazines of just such places as this. We are only a mile from Mountfault - a place you have probably read about.

Today is the coldest day of the season over here - no snow though and the grass is still a little green. I was talking to a young Frenchman the other day, about the winters they have over here. He talked a little English and I talked a little French. He said that so far the weather has been very sweet this winter - By sweet he means not cold I guess. Surely he has overlooked the rain we have had. By the "Stars and Stripes" (our paper) I see they have had 330 rainy days at Brest out of a possible 365 - Some weather what I mean.

Got a package from home yesterday. You can't imagine how things from home hit the spot. I am looking for the package you folks are sending. It aught to be here about now for we have better mail service than when the war was on. Our headquarters are at Romagne - about five kilo's from here.

We will probably be on the way home by March 1st. We are still doing demolition work and it is said that we will be finished with our area by Feb. 15 (three weeks more). The French are now starting on demolition so we will get through sooner than expected.

That was pretty good of Capt. Hunt wasn't it. Didn't imagine he was so thoughtful; am glad you wrote and thanked them. I'll do the same.

Got a letter from Walt and Louise saying they were now located in Gary. Bet that is quite a change for them.

Wish I could write a longer letter but there isn't much news so will write again soon. Am getting the Hobart papers quite regularly and enjoy them. Am planning now on coming home - Save the stuff for that party.

Love to All, Floyd S. Black Detachment of Ord. c/o C.O.O.

U.S.A.P.O. 774 A.E.F.