100 Years Ago This Week: We are Given our First Issue Tobacco

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army.  He was in the 20th Engineers whose primary purpose was to mill lumber and build the wooden structures needed by the soldiers. In November he sailed to St. Nazaire, 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.  


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday June 9, 1918 – Took a long walk today about ten miles.  Found a pretty drive and returned along river.

Monday  June 10– Major Weisel leaves for ten day trip to southeastern France in his car.  Mail today.

Tuesday June 11– Working on maps for Capt. Berry of timberland.  Lots of drafting and blueprinting for this week.

Wednesday June 12– “Home” is rather quiet this week as Joe is in Arengosse helping the 43 engineers – one company – to get located.

 Thursday June 13– The Marines have made a name for themselves in their advance yesterday.

Friday June 14– Were given our first issue tobacco yesterday, consisting or 8 packages of “Bull Durham” and 25 cigarettes for one month.  Gave “Bull” away.

Saturday June 15– Two aeroplanes flew over today one having engine trouble both landed.  One did not have room to land, running into hedge, overturning and smashing machine badly.  No one hurt badly, one slightly.

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Monday  June 10– Major Weisel leaves for ten day trip to southeastern France in his car.  

Major Weisel is the commanding officer of Company A of the 20th Engineers. He took command after the death of Edward E. Hartwick on March 31st, 1918.

Tobacco Issued

Friday June 14– Were given our first issue tobacco yesterday, consisting or 8 packages of “Bull Durham” and 25 cigarettes for one month.  Gave “Bull” away.

Prior to World War I pipe smoking was more popular among American men than cigarettes and any type of smoking was considered “unlady like”.  When the United States entered the war in 1917 tobacco companies saw an opportunity and marketed cigarettes to the soldiers as an escape and morale booster.  Cigarettes became so popular that they were used as a form of currency among soldiers.

Back home in America as women began filling jobs that became available as men joined the military they also began to take up smoking.  Campaigns were initiated to provide tobacco to the troops over seas.  The American Tobacco company of Durham started a program that allowed any American citizen or organization to provide a soldier with a gift box of 2 packages of Lucky Strike cigarettes, 3 packages of Bull Durham tobacco, 3 books of Bull Durham cigarette papers, 1 tin Tuxedo tobacco, and 4 books of Tuxedo brand cigarette papers for less than retail price.  When it was determined that not enough tobacco was getting to the troops through these contributions the American tobacco company took their products off the market and contracted directly with the U.S. government to provide tobacco to our soldiers.

For soldiers, tobacco was seen not only as an item of comfort but also as a battlefield necessity.  Contemporary studies supposedly demonstrated that soldiers could go an additional two hours between meals if they smoked, the tobacco serving as an appetite suppressant.

Poppa did not specify whether his tobacco ‘issue’ came directly from the army or if was a provided by private parties.  Apparently he was not a pipe smoker because he gave away the loose Bull Durham tobacco  but kept the cigarettes.

Aerial Warfare

Saturday June 15– Two aeroplanes flew over today one having engine trouble both landed.  One did not have room to land, running into hedge, overturning and smashing machine badly.  No one hurt badly, one slightly.

When America entered the war in 1917 they did not have an air force.  combatants on both sides were trying to figure out how to use planes as weapons of war.   The first aerial bombing occurred in 1911 when a pilot threw grenades at the enemy from his plane.  According to the website onthisday.com the first aerial bombing raid by an American unit occurred on June 12, 1918.

Is it possible that the “aeroplanes” that landed in Dax  France 3 days later were related to this event?

Next Week:  We are building Hospital Now

Sources:

“Bull Durham Tobacco, To the Rhine and Back.” NC DNCR, 16 Nov. 2017, www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2017/11/16/bull-durham-tobacco-rhine-and-back. Accessed 8 June 2018.

“Smoking in the United States Military.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_in_the_United_States_military. Accessed 8 June 2018.

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