At the time it was called the great war or the war to end all wars. Today we know it as World War I. It started on June 28, 1914 when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated.
Under the administration of president Woodrow Wilson America resisted entering the war until April 6, 1917 when Congress declared war on Germany and joined allies Britain, France and Russia in the war.
Young men signed up for the armed forces in record numbers for patriotic reasons or because they were lured by the adventure of war. My grandfather was one of them.
John Rodney Jamieson was a young man with a degree in engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1917 when he made the decision to join the United States army. He would serve for three years in the 20th Engineers regiment of the US army. He kept a record of his experiences. He wrote a sentence or 2 nearly everyday in a pocket calendar.
It has been a century since my grandfather Rodney made the decision to go to war for America. This is intended to be an account based on his journal of experiences published exactly 100 years after he wrote of them.
Background: WWI has been over for almost a year. After spending nearly 18 months in France with the 20th Engineers my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, came home safe and sound in May of 1919 on his 28th birthday. After that day he made no further entries in his journal.
A short time before leaving France Poppa purchased an engagement ring. After the purchase he wrote the following in his journal: Hope it pleases you Marion and that when you accept it you will never have cause to regret it. I shall do my best.
Apparently Marion agreed to his marriage proposal and they were married 100 Years ago this week.
The wedding occurred in the home of the bride’s parents on a Wednesday evening. Although today many weddings in America take place on a Saturday, this hasn’t always been the case. According to Country Living Magazine a century ago traditional weddings were on weekdays. “There was a rhyme that helped brides pick a date. Mondays were for wealth and Tuesdays for health. “Wednesday the best day of all, Thursdays for crosses, Fridays for losses, and Saturday for no luck at all.” The 1903 White House Etiquette guide reminded young, society women of the rhyme and also noted that in addition to bringing terrible luck, Saturday weddings were terribly unfashionable.”
Background: WWI has been over for 5 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are coming home from France. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has spent the past 10 days at Camp Upton in Long Island New York. He has just received his orders to head home. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday April 27, 1919– Very busy doing nothing today. Ate dinner at Hostess House, wrote some letters and read Sunday papers. Moved yesterday, again today just to keep in practice and to let us know we are still in the army.
Monday April 28 – All southern detachments went today. Marshall, Shorty, Dink, Hill Dorns, et al went with them. These are very long days waiting around for time to go by as bad as Bordeaux. Received several letters written at Thanksgiving time today.
Tuesday April 29– Scared stiff, this A.M. had headache, bad cold and did not feel good. Afraid I was coming down with the mumps as so many cases have developed in the outfit. Feel much better this P.M. and sure I haven’t them. Took exam this P.M. to leave at 6:00 A.M. tomorrow must get up before three in the morning.
Wednesday April 30 – Did not have to get up so early as we leave at 6 P.M instead of A.M. as previously reported. Have taken lunch nearly every day at the Y.W.C.A. while here. 8:30 – Left Camp Upton on big train bound for various camps.
Thursday May 1– Speeding westward at last long. Left New York at Midnight are in Penn line. Three cars for Camp Grant.
Friday May 2 – Arrived in Chicago at 6:30 this A.M. Red Cross gave us breakfast. Put on Camp Grant train about 8:30. Arrived in Camp Grant about 12:30 without dinner. We were given examinations, lectures, kept busy every minute until night. Expect to get us out tomorrow.
Saturday May 3 -8:00 P.M. Onboard Train en route home. Rain all day but nevertheless luck was with me being second in list to be discharged at 2:30 P.M. Just caught car to Rockford, made electric to Janesville, and will now soon be home. This ends my diary of twenty months of my life as a soldier. Tomorrow just 28 yrs. Tomorrow just 28 years after I started this life I will start again as a civilian in God’s own country. The End
The last leg of the journey home!
At the start of the week Poppa is stationed at Camp Upton in New York but has just been notified to expect to start for home on Wednesday. After three days aboard various trains he arrived at Camp Grant in Rockford Illinois.
The next day John Rodney Jamieson was discharged from the army, boarded another train for home and, on the day before his 28th birthday, resumed his life as a civilian.
Background: My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, had been stationed in France during WWI with the 20th Engineers. They have just sailed back to America aboard the USS Roanoke and are now stationed at Camp Upton, Long Island, New York awaiting discharge from the army. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday April 20, 1919 – Spent Easter Sunday very quietly. Reading, writing letters, visiting pie and ice cream parlors, etc. Saw Jane Cowl in “The Crowded Hour” at Liberty Theater tonight. Have a good camp. Better than any place I have been in yet but am anxious to get away. Big detail from companies today for Easter. A fine way to treat A.E.F. troops of 17 months service.
Monday April 21– Going to New York this evening. Marshall, Shorty and myself on 24 hour pass. Later:- Arrived at Penn Station about 7:30. Went to Knickerbocker theatre seeing “Listen Lester”. Awfully good show. Afterward saw Broadway at midnight with great white way. Stayed at York Hotel for the night.
Tuesday April 22– By means of Salvation Army sight seeing bus which we accidentally stumbled onto saw Wall Street, Stock exchange, Millionaire Row, Fifth Avenue and many interesting and important centers of New York. Got back to camp about eight o’clock.
Wednesday April 23 – Very warm day. Just “hung around” barracks today reading, writing and resting. Went to vaudeville show at Liberty Theater. Wish some mail would come for me. Bought a liberty bond from Joe.
Thursday April 24 – N.Y boys were transferred today to Camp Upton to be discharged soon. Three letters received today. Two from Marion, one from home. Awfully glad to get all of them, long time since I have heard from them. Went to “The Kiss Burglar” but were so far in theatre that we couldn’t hear so left.
Friday April 25 – Four detachments, ones from Camps Bliss, Meade Taylor and Pike are to leave tomorrow. Gosney Stratton and Christensen go with them. Smull was mustered out this a.m.
Saturday April 26 – The four detachments left today. Also ones for Camp Dix and Devans (?). Most of others including Grant received orders today to leave next Wednesday. Went to show tonight but was pas-bon.
Poppa and other soldiers are temporarily stationed at Fort Upton in Long Island, New York. They have little work to do as they wait to be discharged from the army. Poppa took in some culture as he toured New York City and saw three Broadway plays.
“The Crowded Hour”, with Jane Cowl was on Broadway for 139 performances before closing in March of 1919. Apparently the play was then performed for soldiers at the Liberty Theatre which was on the grounds of Camp Upton . Jane Cowl (1883-1950) starred in over 30 plays between 1904 and 1947. She also wrote some plays and appeared in 6 films.
The next day Poppa and two of his friends got passes to leave the camp and went to New York City for 24 hours. While there they enjoyed the musical “Listen Lester” at the Knickerbocker Theater on Broadway.
By Thursday Poppa had returned from their busy sight seeing tour of New York City and that night attended the musical “The Kiss Burglar” at the Liberty Theatre. This play had recently completed a run of 100 performances on Broadway. Poppa was disappointed because they sat so far back in the Liberty Theatre that could not hear well.
During the week Camp Upton was the site of much activity. Soldiers from New York were arriving at Camp Upton to be discharged while detachments from other states were leaving for their home bases to be “mustered out”.
As the week ends soldiers from the midwest have just received orders to prepare for the next leg of their journey home. They expect to leave for Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois the following Wednesday.
Next Week: Tomorrow, on my 28th birthday, I will start life again as a civilian in God’s own country!
Background: WWI has been over for 5 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, and other members of the 20th Engineers are crossing the Atlantic aboard the USS Roanoke. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday April 13, 1919– Weather still good, sea quiet, making good time for this tub. If weather like this continues we will dock on Thursday. All sea sick ones have now recovered and are feeling very good today. Mileage today is the best we have made thus far. 350 mi
Monday April 14– Sea very quiet today. Stopped last evening for one and one half hours for an operation on a sailor. Nevertheless mileage was 325. Are more trade winds the way home. The days are very long. Not bad but the nights are terrible.
Tuesday April 15 – Sea is slightly rough today. Have had remarkable weather for our trip and with any kind of a boat would have been across some time ago. The ship’s officers have been very good to us and allowed us all possible privileges.
Wednesday April 16 – Colder today meaning we are nearing land. Quite rough today but spirits of all are high.
Thursday April 17 – Morning rainy with a heavy fog. About nine of clock we picked up another vessel lost in fog trying to get into port. Followed us balance of day. Happiest afternoon of my life! Entered harbor about 3 P.M. Passed many boats, all of which greeted us with three blasts of the whistle. Tied up to pier about 6 o clock. Must stay on board tonight.
Friday April 18– Loaded into ferry at nine o clock sailed around New York from Hoboken to Long Island City. Boarded train here for camp Upton, arriving here about three thirty P.M. Went through mill in evening after all of our clothes are spoiled went to bed in good bed and barracks.
Saturday April 19– Spent day looking around this part of camp> Buying ice cream, pie, etc. which we have been very short of since leaving this country. Move to another part of camp tonight.
Back in America!
After nearly 2 weeks at sea the USS Roanoke docked at Hoboken, New Jersey. Poppa spent one more night aboard ship before he and the other soldiers rode a ferry to Long Island and then took a train to Camp Upton.
Camp Upton, named for a Civil War General, was built in 1917 to house soldiers before they were sent overseas. Now, in 1919 it is serving them as they return. The camp sat idle until WWII when it was re-opened and used in the same manner.
One of the soldiers stationed at Fort Upton in 1917 was Irving Berlin (1888-1989). While there he wrote the musical “Yip Yip Yaphank” based on his military experience. This musical included one of his most famous songs “Oh, How I Hate to Get up in the Morning”.
The week ends with Poppa enjoying things that were hard to come by over seas such as pie and ice cream.
Background: WWI has been over for 5 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France. After a year and a half stationed in the forests of southern France the 20th Engineers have begun the journey home. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has spent the past few weeks in various camps near Bordeaux , France. He has just received orders to sail home with the other soldiers of the 20th Engineers and they have boarded the transport ship the USS Roanoke, but have not left port. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday April 6, 1919– Left Bordeaux at 8:00 A.M. Pulling down the river reaching the green salt water at 2:00 P.M. Boat very crowded with poor accommodations. We are in the (?) at very rear. Slightly better than Madawaska.
Monday April 7– The Roanoke was formerly a mine layer in the North Sea with the British. This is its first trip across with troops. Weather so far has been very good. Slightly rough this A.M. Enough to make some of us a little sick.
Tuesday April 8 – Rather good all A.M. but grew rough this P.M. Boat can make but thirteen knots at its best, in rough weather not over ten. Looks as though we are in for a long trip.
Wednesday April 9– Very rough today but still going very well. Many sea sick last night.
Thursday April 10– Stormy all of A.M. and half of P.M. Going very slowly. In evening weather cleared slightly but still cloudy. Made better speed.
Friday – April 11 – Still a little rough this A.M. but are now making good time. Very little distance made in last 24 hours due to the storm. Have been sea sick nearly all the time until today. Most meals have been a sandwich.
Saturday April 12 – Appetite has fully returned. Weather is fine, sea smooth. Made 307 miles in last 24 hours. Best run we have made yet. Spend most of my time reading, sitting, lying or standing around deck but always on deck.
Setting Sail for America
Poppa and the other soldiers of the 20th Engineers have finally started for home aboard the USS Roanoke.
The Roanoke was originally built in in 1901 by a shipping company. It was acquired by the navy in 1917 and converted to use as a mine layer.
This journey is the first of 3 across the Atlantic the Roanoke would make repurposed as a transport to bring soldiers home from Europe. Poppa wrote that this ship is “slightly better than Madawaska” which was the ship that brought him to France in 1917. Although he doesn’t mention it, the mood of soldiers on the Roanoke must be different than that on the trip on the Madawaska. They are now returning home victorious and don’t have the constant threat of German submarines that hung over them on the trip over.
During the middle of the week the weather was bad, progress was slow and many soldiers were seasick. By the end of the week both the weather and the soldiers’ moods had improved. As the week ends they find themselves making irritatingly slow progress toward America somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.
Background: WWI has been over for over 4 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has spent the past few weeks in various camps near Bordeaux, France. He is anxiously awaiting his orders to head home. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday March 30, 1919– Rained all day. Barracks leaks badly. Took bath, read, wrote letters just to put in the time. Went to church at Y. this A.M. First service I have attended for months.
Monday March 31– Still raining. Read, wrote and did nothing this A.M. Went over to other camp to visit the boys this P.M. Very blue place over there. All sick of laying around waiting. Think of me with months ahead. Several letters came today.
Tuesday April 1 – April starts out bright, clear and cool but shortly after dinner it’s rain again. Was in Bordeaux all P.M. and evening, sat in front of the fireplace at the Y.M.C.A. all afternoon until 8:30 when we came home in the rain.
Wednesday April 2– Better weather today. Stuck around all A.M. Very restless, I hate to see the 20th boys go without me. Visited the bunch this P.M. and evening. They hardly expect to get away for a week yet.
Thursday April 3– This is a bright April day. Best news I have had since I left Dax. A telegram first came saying none are to be held for commissions unless they desire. Otherwise to go home with their outfit. Didn’t take me one second to decide which I shall do.
Friday April 4 – This P.M., while over with the 20th word came that they are to embark tomorrow P.M. Everyone happy. Spent the P.M. trying to get fixed up so that I can sure go. Kraft is going to stay. Tonight 6 of the boys 157 inf. Received their commissions. Looks like I will miss mine about one day.
Saturday April 5 – Waited all A.M. for orders to go back with the 20th. Received them about 11:00 reaching the outfit about 30 minutes before leaving for Bassens. Marched to Bassens, had a good lunch from Red Cross, boarded Roanoke about 3 P.M. Saw Dave Robertson in the evening.
Dramatic change of situation
Poppa and the other soldiers of the 20th Engineers left their home camp in Dax, France on March 17th optimistic that they would soon be back in America. Two weeks later they are still killing time in camps in the Bordeaux area of France. To add to his misery Poppa has been told that soldiers like him who are eligible to receive an officer’s commission might be staying in France and not returning home with their units.
At the beginning of this week Poppa appears resigned to the fact that he will have to stay in France to receive his officer’s commission while the rest of his unit heads for home. It must have been depressing for him to be in that situation. On top of that the weather is rainy and the roof of the barracks leaks. But his fortunes change suddenly when the army appears to change plans and suggests that those in his situation can return home with their units if they are willing to forego their commission. Just minutes before his unit leaves camp he receives orders indicating that he can indeed sail for home with his buddies of the 20th engineers.
On Sunday April 5th, 1919 he boarded the USS Roanoke at 3:00 pm to begin the journey back to America! But… the ship is still in port as the week ends.
Next week: Looks as though we are in for a long trip.
Background: WWI has been over for over 4 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has moved with his buddies to a camp in Bordeaux. He is anxiously awaiting his orders to head home. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday March 23, 1919 – The most disappointed fellow in the A.E.F. today. Have not been able to get more information yet. Do not want commission or to stay over here. Have hopes that it can be fixed up some way so that I may yet go back with the boys. Arm very sore from shot. Nearly sick. Saw “Let’s Go” tonight.
Monday March 24 – Still hoping that something can be arranged so that I can go home with the bunch. Not much to eat in this camp and we are quartered in different barracks all over camp. Gilcrest, who was left behind in the hospital with the flu caught up to us today.
Tuesday March 25– Nothing definite today, looks very doubtful that I can go with the 20th. Rec’d a note from D.J. Robertson at Bassens with Q.M.C. Hope to see him tomorrow.
Wednesday March 26– Went to Bassens today for some canteen supplies and called on Dave Roberson. When I returned found that I was detached from 20th and attached to Hdq of embarkation camp. Moved to other camp. Found 70 others in the same fix that I am in. Good quarters here however. Hope the commission will come soon.
Thursday March 27– We are quarantined in a good barracks with floor here. Have a good place to eat with nothing to do but wait. Went to other camp this P.M. Visited with the old bunch all afternoon and evening.
Friday March 28 – Doing nothing- It’s very tiresome- wrote a few letters this A.M. Spent P.M. in Bordeaux. Good supper at Y with real ice cream. We are allowed passes everyday when not on duty from 2 to 9 P.M.
Saturday March 29 – Moved this A.M. to a dirty, old, casual barracks. Hope to move again soon as every other one is better than this place. Visited the old gang at other camp this P.M. Stayed there for supper and until 8 P.M.
Stuck in Bordeaux
For the first leg of their trip home Company A of the 20th engineers have left their camp of over a year and traveled by train to Bordeaux. They have been there over a week awaiting orders to go home. But there is a complication. Because he is a candidate for an officers commission Poppa had recently been told that he would have to remain in France. Given the choice, he would gladly forget the commission and head for home. But it’s not up to him. On March 26th Poppa was detached from his unit and assigned to the headquarters unit of his new camp. With little work to be done he spends his days with his old unit but sleeps in his new camp with “70 others in the same fix that I am in”. It appears now that his buddies will soon be returning to America without him.
On March 23rd Poppa saw “Let’s Go” which was a short film from 1918 starring Harold Lloyd.
On March 26th Poppa drove to Bassens, which is less than 10 miles north of Bordeaux, for supplies. Like Bordeaux, Bassens is a port community. While there he visited with Dave Robertson who I believe is a relative. Poppa had an aunt whose family name was Robertson.
Two weeks after leaving their home camp in Dax Poppa and his unit are only 90 miles closer to home.
Next week: I hate to see the 20th boys go without me
Background: WWI has been over for 4 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has been stationed with the United States Army’s 20th Engineers at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France. He is anxiously awaiting his orders to head home. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday March 16, 1919– Drill in rolling packs, inspection of packs and equipment has taken up the entire day. Think we will get away from Dax in a few days now.
Monday March 17– “Started” for home today. Rec’d orders last night to leave on train at 2:20 today. 950 men with equipment were at the depot today at proper time but no cars were there for us. So back to camp for another night in Dax at least.
Tuesday March 18 – Ordered to leave here again today. Marched to depot with full packs. Entrained leaving Dax at 12:50. Spent P.M. enroute to Bordeaux. Detrained at _________ north of Bodreaux at 9:30. Arrived at “dirty” camp, fed and in bed by 1:00 A.M. Very good camp considering everything.
Wednesday March 19 – Spent day resting in camp. Office force very busy with reports, rosters, etc. Rained all day so stay inside. Papers, recommending we be given commissions were sent in today due to new order for successful candidates.
Thursday March 20– A big detail from all companies went to work at our new camp today. Hope we do not stay here long as roof leaks at night, over my bed. It’s hard to sleep and swim at the same time.
Friday March 21 – Another rainy day, time spent around the fire discussing possibilities and probabilities of leaving here and of getting home. “Dax” is the name of our new puppy, brought from there to be taken across with us if we can manage it.
Saturday March 22 – Left enterance (?) camp at 6:00 P.M. today. Went through “mill” or delouser in the evening. I was fortunate to lose practically nothing but my temper and that a dozen times. A great experience and one of the A. E. F. that will never be forgotten. Just as I came out Capt. Friedman (?) told me a new order just came not allowing candidates to leave France.
Beginning the Long Trip Home
Poppa’s unit was among those ordered to begin the trip home to America at the beginning of the week. The end of the week finds them rain soaked and living in a different camp in Bordeaux, France, a distance of only 91 miles from their starting point in Dax.
But, there is a complication. On Saturday he is informed by an officer of a new order “not allowing candidates to leave France.” Poppa apparently is considered a “candidate” and will be affected by this order. This is because in November of 1918 Poppa was accepted into the officer training school in Langres, France. However, he did not finish the 6 week program and did not receive his commission. With the end of the war there appeared to be little reason to continue training officers in France. Therefore, Poppa was allowed to leave the school early in order to return to America with his unit. As it turns out he could have finished officer training because 2 months later they are still in France. Will he be able to leave for America with his buddies or will he have to stay in France?
Next Week: I’m the most disappointed fellow in the A.E.F. today!
Background: WWI has been over for 4 months and some soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has been stationed with the United States Army’s 20th Engineers at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France. He is anxiously awaiting his orders to head home. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday March 9, 1919– Cleaned up this A.M. Wrote a letter in the P.M. Went to “Pas bon” entertainment in the evening. This constituted my Sunday.
Monday March 10– More joy for everyone. We are confined to our camp until departure. The optimist would say “What a rare opportunity to observe the beauties of the park!” The pessimist would rejoin “It’ll be Hell without our beer when the hot weather starts. I want to shave now. My water is just now hot and four fellas are crowding my little tent. If I had any sense I’d shave in the morning anyhow. Bon soir! By Ohlman
Tuesday March 11– Inspector general is here today looking over records, camps equipment, etc. Some say we will leave here very soon. Fourth battalion has taken over nearly everything now. Good minstrel show at the casino tonight. We were allowed to march over and back as real prisoners would.
Wednesday March 12- Took physical examination yesterday and papers went in today. For O.R.C. Took a long time for these forms to reach us.
Thursday March 13– Gil is in the hospital with the flu. Brundage there with a dislocated knee and Munday with a cold. Am afraid not all will be able to go with us. Much rain these days but it is not cold.
Friday March 14 – Being confined to camp we now have two guards on at all times. All take turns at four hours of guard duty. I was on today but read a story in the bright sunshine. Rcd many letters today (14), ten of them were written in October, lost at the A.C.S.
Saturday March 15– Turning in all surplus equipment today. Have my shoulder bag packed but little goes in the barracks bag. All that is left to do is to roll my pack which can be done in 15 minutes.
In early January of 1919 Poppa left Engineers Training School before completing the course because he thought he was about to be sent home. Two months later he is still biding his time in the 20th Engineers camp in Dax. He is more than ready to return home. By the end of this week he wrote that his bag was packed and he could leave with 15 minutes notice. But the order to return home hasn’t arrived.
A “guest” journal writer
Poppa’s journal entry for Monday March 10th was different than any of his other entries. The entry is longer than usual and almost sounds poetic. And it is in a different handwriting. Apparently his journal was borrowed by another soldier, possibly when Poppa left it unattended to shave? At the end of the entry it says “By Ohlman”.
The company roster shows that there was a soldier named Hilmer Oehlmann stationed with Poppa. He was from Alameda, California. According to the internet Hilmer Oehlmann went on to become General Manager, Chairman of the Board, and President of Yosemite Park and Curry Company, Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley, CA. He was married three times and had 3 children. When he died in 1983 his ashes were scattered by airplane overYosemite. His son, Hilmer Oehlmann, Jr. was a law student at Stanford when he was killed in a car accident in 1951. The Stanford Law School awards a prize in his name.
Poppa is also concerned that his friends who are currently hospitalized won’t be able to travel once orders to return home arrive. He has mentioned Gil several times in previous journal entries but his last name is unknown to me.
In 1912, Before joining the army and being sent to France Brundage was a forestry assistant working in California for the U.S. Department of agriculture. Many of Poppa’s colleagues worked in the forestry and/or lumber business before and after they served in the 20th Engineers.
Next Week: Leaving Dax!
List of Workers in Subjects Pertaining to Agriculture and Home Economics in the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and in the State Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations.” Google Books, books.google.com/books
Background: WWI has been over for almost 4 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, has been stationed with the United States Army’s 20th Engineers at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France. He is anxiously awaiting his orders to head home. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday March 2, 1919– Had inspection of packs and equipment in park outside of arena today. Reminds one of days when we were getting ready to come over. Hope to hear some definite date this week.
Monday March 3– Medical inspection at the companies today. Drove all A.M. Band practice in the P.M. is every days routine. Forgot to mention on Feb 28th Major Brookings left for Paris there to start for Finland to work for the Hurd (?) commission.
Tuesday March 4– French holiday this. Lieut. Ward leaves tomorrow to join the major for his work in Finland. Captain Wilson transferred to one of the later battalions. Capt Elam C.O. of this district as he will not go home with us. Tom Coleman has gone to Poland..
Wednesday March 5– Rec’d a letter from Marion today which made me very very happy. My truck was sent to Arengosse today so now I am out of a job in the A.M.s . Band concert at 2nd CO. tonight.
Thursday march 6– Started on 3 day leave today. Went to Pau in the A.M. Saw the sights of Pau in the rain all P.M. Visited the Chateau of Henry IV which was very interesting. Slept in nice warm room in good soft bed.
Friday March 7– Made the purchase this A.M. Hope it pleases you Marion and that when you accept it you will never have cause to regret it. I shall do my best. Visited Lourdes this P.M. A beautiful spot in the mountains. My thoughts are also with you today my mother, your birthday. May you have many more to come.
Saturday March 8– Spent the A.M. in Lourdes most of the time hunting for entrance to the old castle which we never found. Went back to Pau in the P.M. Again it rained the remainder of the day so at 5 o’clock departed for Dax. Found some nice mail waiting for me there.
Romance is in the air!
Poppa’s job changed again when the truck he had been using to make deliveries all over southern France was assigned to another unit. The next day he went to Pau, which is a town in southern France, about 55 miles from Dax, for a three day leave. It seems like was romance was on his mind and he made a big decision about his future!
Wednesday March 5– “Rec’d a letter from Marion today which made me very very happy…”
Friday March 7– “Made the purchase this A.M. Hope it pleases you Marion and that when you accept it you will never have cause to regret it.”
Poppa never mentions exactly what he purchased in France but the context suggests that it is an engagement ring. Don’t you agree?
Pau is a city in The south of France near the Pyrenees Mountains. Records indicate that Pau has existed at least as far back as the middle ages. It has been a resort center since at least the 1800’s and during WWI it was a very popular destination for American soldiers on leave.
In 1909 the Wright brothers set up a pilot training school near Pau. During the year that Poppa was stationed in Dax he saw ‘aeroplanes’ fly over and even land. Is it possible that those planes were from the pilot training school in Pau?
Poppa wrote that while on leave he also visited the Chateau of Henry IV and Lourdes.
Lourdes is a small town at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France and about 20 miles south of Pau. According to Poppa it was a popular location to visit for soldiers on leave in 1919.
Soldiers assignments change
Walter DuBois Brookings was Poppa’s commander. On February 27th, 1919 Poppa wrote that Brookings was leaving camp to work on the (illegible) commission. Although Poppa initially said Brookings was going to Paris, this week he wrote that Brookings was headed to Finland. That makes mores sense because Brookings obituary says that after leaving France, “as a representative of Herbert Hoover he took the first shipload of relief food to the Baltic Region, landing in Libau Latvia” in March of 1919. Ten years before he was president of the United States, Herbert Hoover led the commission for Relief in Belgium. According the Wikipedia the commission’s purpose was to supply food to German occupied France and Belgium during WWI.
Eliza Duff Jamieson
On March 7th Poppa wrote “My thoughts are also with you today my mother , your birthday. May you have many more to come.”
Next Week: My bag is packed!
Note: In the first version of this week’s blog post I wrote that Poppa went to Paris to make THE purchase. Thanks to Michel Boquet for pointing out that it was more likely Poppa made his purchase in Pau, France, as it is much closer to Dax. I checked the journal entry more closely and clearly Poppa wrote ‘Pau’ not ‘Paris’. This makes much more since since it is near Lourdes and the Chateau of Henry IV.
“Aviation History Wing/Aviation’s Attic/Charles Fint Remembers From the Memoirs of Charles Flint, the American Tycoon Who Backed the Wright Brothers.” History of the Airplane, www.wright-brothers.org/History_Wing/Aviations_Attic/Charles_Flint/Charles_Flint.htm. Accessed 4 Mar. 2019.