Background: In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers whose primary purpose was to mill lumber and build the wooden structures needed by the soldiers. In November he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship. He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday July 14, 1918– Bastille Day. French holiday and celebrated also by A.E.F. Capt Campbell, Lieut. Benjamin and Lieut. Hatrick have left for training schools. I left at 6:30 for Tours. Rode all night in crowded train.
Monday July 15– Arriving at Tours at five this morning . Went to headquarters. Found some of the twentieth fellows. Took physical exam today. Saw Tours this evening.
Tuesday July 16– Took exam at 3 P.M. today before two Lieut Colonels. Exam very unsatisfactory. Not of engineering nature as I expected. Leave for Dax at 12:00 tonight.
Wednesday July 17– Rode all night on train arriving at camp about 10:30. Very Tired. Crowded train again. No sleep to speak of for three nights.
Thursday July 18– Back on job again. Weather very warm. Capt Elam (?) is now C.O. and Lieut. Wilson adjutant and engineer officer.
Friday July 19– To damn hot to work
Saturday July 20- read or write
Sunday July 14, 1918– Bastille Day is the common English name for the national day of France, which is celebrated on the 14th of July each year. The French National Day is the anniversary of Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789.
Last week on July 11 Poppa wrote “Notified to attend examination for E.O.R.C.”
EORC apparently stands for the Engineer Officers Reserve Corp. I believe passing this test would allow him to get an officers commission. On July 14-15 he travelled to Tours, France, which was the headquarters for the U.S. Army Engineers, to take the exam. However, he reported that the “exam (was) very unsatisfactory”. Apparently this means that he did not do well.
Meanwhile, on the front lines
After returning to his camp at Dax after the unsatisfactory exam it appears that the rest of the week was hot and uneventful for Poppa. However, significant events happened elsewhere in France.
On July 14th 1918, Quentin Roosevelt, a pilot in the United States Air Service and the fourth son of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, was shot down and killed at the age of 20 by a German Fokker plane over the Marne River in France.
On July 15th, 1918, near the Marne River in France, the Germans began what would be their final offensive push of World War I. Called the Second Battle of the Marne, the conflict ended several days later in a major victory for the Allies.
Forces of the German Army attacked the French Army east of Reims, while other Germans attacked the French 6th Army to the west of the city. The dual attack was an attempt to divide and conquer the French forces, which were joined by 85,000 U.S. troops as well as a portion of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), most of which were located in Flanders.
When the Germans began their advance, however, they found that the French had set up a line of false trenches, manned by only a few defenders. The real front line of trenches lay further on, and had scarcely been touched by the bombardment. As the Germans approached the “real” Allied front lines, they were met with a fierce barrage of French and American fire. Trapped and surrounded, the Germans suffered heavy casualties, setting the Allies up for the major counter-attack they would launch on July 18. Germany’s defeat was seen as the beginning of the end for them in WWI.
Next Week: A forest Fire and the ‘Spanish Fever’
“Quentin Roosevelt.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 July 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quentin_Roosevelt. Accessed 12 July 2018.
“Second Battle of the Marne Begins with Final German Offensive.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/second-battle-of-the-marne-begins-with-final-german-offensive. Accessed 12 July 2018.