Monday, November 10, 2003

November 11, 1918

My Granddaddy was a cook during WWI. That, and the fact that he did go to France, was all I knew about his military service. About a month ago, my aunt gave me a copy of his discharge papers and I learned a little more about him. The few times I asked him as child, he wouldn't talk much about it.

It seems he fibbed a bit to the Army when he enlisted. They have him down as being 20 years old when he enlisted. He was actually 17. I had always thought he’d been drafted in 1918, but he enlisted in September of 1917. I’ve since found out why.

My Great-Grandfather was married three times and he had three sets of children. His first two wives died, probably in childbirth, I’m not sure. My Grandfather didn’t get along with the third wife, so he enlisted to get away from her and probably to get away from the farm too. He was afraid to tell his daddy what he’d done; he went to his Aunt and told her so he could see which way the wind was blowing I guess.

According to his discharge papers, he was with Company H of the 60th Infantry Regiment. He did not see any combat and did not receive any wounds in service.

He was very fortunate.

He may not have seen combat, but I am sure he saw sights that few people today could relate to, or want to relate to. I think he knew, better than I ever will, how fortunate he was.

I wonder, every year, where he was and what he was doing when they got the word it was over.

The First World War was probably the most horrific war that has ever been fought in terms of battlefield casualties with the possible exception of the eastern front in the Second World War.

I cannot image what it would be like to be a Frenchman or a German who survived Verdun, or an Englishman kicking soccer balls as they went over the top at the Somme.

I’m glad Pershing insisted on American troops being an independent command, instead of being fed into the meat grinder like the Brits and the French.

I was originally going to try and make a point with this, but I’ve lost my train of thought somewhere in a muddy trench in the Argonne forest…