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.
Background: WWI is over 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 in France with the 20th engineers for over a year. He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based 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 February 23, 1919– Spent day getting over it. Practicing show, writing letters and sleeping.
Monday February 24– Spent most of day getting show material in casino, rehearsing parts of show and getting ready. Big rehearsal this evening. Looks as though show will go pretty well after all.
Tuesday February 25– Band practice in A.M. The show was a big success. Everything went off very well. The (?) Engineers made the big hit. But everything was pulled off soberly, smoothly and successfully.
Wednesday February 26– Made about 1150 francs clear on the show. Tonight we had a big banquet at Hotel du Voycrgus (?). Supper was good, wine very good. Everyone had enough to feel like a million dollars but none enough to make them drunk, troublesome or disagreeable.
Thursday February 27– At last some mail came today. Two nice letters from Marion and others from home. Worked all day and part of night on some maps for Major Brookings who is leaving here tomorrow for his new job in Paris. With the H(?) Commission.
Friday February 28– Lt. Col Benedict ordered all work to stop today. Hope it means home soon. Gen. Pershing in this part of country. He may be here tomorrow. Today is my father’s birthday. Hope he enjoys the day and has many more birthdays to celebrate.
Saturday March 1– Drove to Pontenx today after tires. Gen. Pershing inspected the troops from this district this afternoon. Gave us a nice little talk and very brief inspection.
WWI is over and there is not much for the soldiers to do. For several days those in Poppa’s unit have been rehearsing for a show they planned to put on. He was obviously looking forward to it. It was held at the Dax casino on the evening of February 25th. Here are pictures of the 4 pages of the program:
I don’t know how talented the soldier/musicians were but Poppa had some musical experience as he played trombone in his high school band and was part of the Ripon College band in 1910.
Poppa wrote that they made 1150 francs from the show. In 1919 that was equivalent to $162 but is equal to the buying power of $2400 in 2019 dollars. Apparently that helped fund the dinner and drinks the next night at the Hotel du Voycrgus (Not clear from his handwriting if this is correct spelling of hotel).
Major Brookings Leaves Dax
Walter DuBois Brookings was Poppa’s commander. On February 27th Poppa wrote that he was leaving for Paris to work on the (illegible) commission. Paris was where the commission was held that set the terms for the defeated powers. It resulted in the Treaty of Versailles and the start of the League of Nations. Although Poppa said Brookings was going to Paris, 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, 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.
February 28, 1919 – Birthday of Addison Jackson Jamieson
March 1, 1919 – General Pershing inspects troops
On March 1st Poppa wrote that General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing inspected the troops. Pershing was the general in charge of the American war effort in Europe. This is at least the third time that Poppa had crossed paths with Pershing since he enlisted. After victory in Europe Pershing returned to America a hero and some of his most ardent supporters encouraged him to run as a candidate for president of the United States. Pershing had little enthusiasm but agreed. He was not nominated by either party.
Next Week: Made THE purchase in Paris!
Thanks to Michel Boquet for finding the “Frolics Program”
Background: WWI is over and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France. My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers and in November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship. He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based 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 February 16, 1919– Wrote a few letters, cleaned up and am going out to Cafe St. Pierre for supper. We are all getting fine treatment at that place now. Tough piece of luck this P.M. when I broke my pipe. Can get it repaired soon in U.S.A.
Monday February 17 – Old Co E of 2nd Bn now fifth company arrived today. They have been up quite close to the front all the time since they left us at ST. Nazaire. The band started practicing today. Our schedule is for every afternoon 1:30 to 4:30. I drive the bunch out from headquarters in my Dodge to 2nd CO Y.M.C.A.
Tuesday February 18 – Driving all A.M. Band practice all P.M. and show practice in the evening. What a glorious life.
Wednesday February 19– Had a nice ride to Arengosse this A.M. The band practices playing and marching this P.M. I am a sick woman tonight don’t know what is the trouble. Haven’t had a drink and feel as drunk or seasick as I had a good one.
Thursday February 20– (No entry)
Friday February 21– Feel much better today still not good enough to go to band practice this P.M. Full rehearsal of show at casino tonight. I’ll be there to pound the bass drum. Relieved from further work today. Left out the 20th
Saturday February 22– Drove Dodge on various trips to Cos most of the day. Trucks are moving 1st co from Pontex back to their old camp. Officers dance at the casino is the principal event of the day. Jazz orchestra played for the dance. Much champaign put the orchestra in best of form. The dance a great success and orchestra wonderful (!)
Units of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) continue to be moved around France in preparation for being sent home. The soldiers of the fifth company had traveled to France on the same ship as Poppa but were stationed closer to the front. On February 16th Poppa wrote that the Fifth CO. has now rejoined him in Dax.
Poppa was sick for several days during the week of February 16, 1919. He doesn’t report the cause of his illness. However, in early 1919 the world was still experiencing what is thought to be the second biggest epidemic in world history: the Spanish flu outbreak. In the month of October, 1918 alone 195,000 Americans died from the disease. Because of improvements in transportation and because of the mobility of soldiers the flu spread rapidly around the world. Some experts say that more America soldiers were lost during WWI to the flu than to the fighting.
In previous journal entries Poppa wrote that some of his colleagues were hospitalized because of the flu but it doesn’t appear that Poppa’s illness was severe enough to require hospitalization.
Michel Boquet is a retired French engineer who is an expert on the history of forestry in France in WWI. He has acquired the journal of a US army physician who was treating soldiers in the area of Poppa’ camp. Michel noticed the following entry: “Saw Pvt (possibly Lt) Jamison from St avit for acute appendicitis”.
However, this entry was labelled January 19, 1919, almost a month before Poppa’s illness.
On February 22nd Poppa wrote that “Officers dance at the casino is the principal event of the day. Jazz orchestra played for the dance. Much champaign put the orchestra in best of form. The dance a great success and orchestra wonderful (!)”
Poppa did not write whether his band was part of the entertainment but his enthusiastic description suggests that they might have been. The same physician who treated private Jamison for appendicitis attended the officers’ dance and made this journal entry:
“Washington’s birthday. We engaged Casino and gave a party. Band music and invited all our friends. Enormous success. Nobody wanted to go home. Dancing and songs.”
Background: World War I has been over for more 3 months. It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers in 1917 and was eventually assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A 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 February 9, 1919– Busy nearly all day with hauling water, meat, etc. Took coffee to 200 yankee division men passing through on the train this evening. Some nice mail today.
Monday February 10– (No Entry)
Tuesday February 11– Tom left for Paris today to work for the peace commission. Sorry to see him go but glad he has the opportunity to get on the work as it will be very interesting no doubt. Basketball team played in Bordeaux today but were defeated 82 to 10.
Wednesday February 12– (No entry)
Thursday February 13– The other half of H (?) Co. which has been detached since we arrived in France came today. They had a tough trip (?) and all seemed mighty glad to get here. Letter from Lieut. Johnson today tells me the engrs school are going home very soon…. And I thought I was lucky.
Friday February 14– Telegram came today saying Hdq. 1st Bn-1st,2nd,3rd and 5th companies will be relieved from duty soon after March 1st. Everyone is smiling again today after a month of continuous grouch. Made another trip to St. Avit today weather is fine past few days.
Saturday February 15– Not working very hard today. Some of our captains just want to go home. All are sore over bill introduced into congress to prohibit service stripes. Some of our politicians got jobs in Washington to get out of coming over and taking their chance and now are afraid the service stripes will reflect on them.
Soldiers all over France were anxious to return home now that the war has ended. Poppa and his friends are optimistic as they were informed on February 14th that they would be “relieved of duty soon after March 1st”. But that is still at least 2 weeks away. Activities are planned wherever possible to keep up the soldiers’ morale. According to bulletins of the US Army each division can put up sports teams to compete with championships to be held in Paris. After being defeated 82 to 10 I’m guessing that Poppa’s basketball team did not make it to the championship tournament.
Tuesday February 11– “Tom left for Paris today to work for the peace commission. Sorry to see him go but glad he has the opportunity to get on the work as it will be very interesting no doubt.”
The Peace Commission in Paris, which became know as the Versailles Peace Conference, was a series of meetings of the leaders of the victorious Allied Powers to set the terms for the defeated countries (known as the Central Powers). The President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, had already sailed to France to participate. The major accomplishments of the Peace Conference was the formation of the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles which would finally signed by the Germans on May 7, 1919.
Poppa has mentioned Tom in several of his journal entries since arriving in France. According to his address book he is likely referring to Thomas V. Coleman of Dallas, Texas. It appears that Poppa and Tom were friends and tent mates. He doesn’t mention what Tom’s job will be in Paris but being associated with the Paris Peace conference is likely to be an interesting assignment.
Saturday February 15– “Some of our captains just want to go home. All are sore over bill introduced into congress to prohibit service stripes. Some of our politicians got jobs in Washington to get out of coming over and taking their chance and now are afraid the service stripes will reflect on them.”
According to Wikipedia a service stripe, or hash mark, is a diagonal stripe worn on the sleeve(s) of uniforms. Service stripes are authorized for wear by enlisted members on the left sleeve of a uniform to denote length of service. Service stripes vary size and in color.
However, the 1919 army appropriations bill included this statement:
“That it shall be unlawful for the Secretary of War to provide by regulation or otherwise for any distinctive stripe or chevron of any kind indicating service overseas or in the United States to be worn upon the uniform of any officer or enlisted man in the service of the United States and any regulation heretofore made on this subject is hereby invalidated”.
I don’t know the actual reason this law have been passed. Poppa and his colleagues apparently felt that congressmen were covering for their own cowardice exhibited by their action of ‘hiding’ in government jobs in Washington instead of enlisting in the army.
Soldiers were not the only ones enraged by this action. In reaction to that action by the U.S. congress the legislature of Massachusetts passed the following order in 1919;
Be it ordered that the Massachusetts House of Representatives unreservedly reaffirms its belief that recognition of distinguished service in the military naval or aerial service of our country is due to those who made it possible by their efforts and sacrifices that democracy by representative government might still prevail and deplores any attempt to take away from our soldiers sailors or aviators any mark or marks conferred for distinguished service previously granted … and be it further ordered that copies of this order be transmitted by the Secretary of the Commonwealth to the Senators and Representatives from Massachusetts in the Congress of the United States.”