Background: It has now been over one year since Poppa joined 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, 1917 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. Many of the soldiers around him have come down with the Spanish flu. Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday October 6, 1918– Report came today that “Central Powers” have asked for armistice to discuss peace terms according to Pres. Wilson’s provisions.
Monday October 7– More peace news today. We would all like to go home but would rather go to the front and help make them surrender. Payday today.
Tuesday October 8– We now have a basketball court inside of the arena. The ground is very smooth and hard making a good place.
Wednesday October 9– Today was mail day bringing me twelve letters.
Thursday October 10– Spend the day staking out the new warehouse in the station yard. We need this building very much to handle our supplies.
Friday October 11– Joe applies for another transfer. Marshalls “across the street girl” polished the door knob only six times today.
Saturday October 12– Have made a big map showing front. My job is to move the pins each day as advance keeps on going.
Optimism about the War
On October 6th and 7th Poppa wrote that there was talk of peace. He might be referring to the fact that on October 4th President Wilson received a request from the Germans asking for an armistice discussion based on his 14 points. Apparently the Germans approached the American president instead of the British and French who they had been fighting since 1914 because they felt they would get more favorable treatment from Wilson. The 14 points refer to a set of principles of peace that Woodrow Wilson outlined in a speech in January of 1918.
Tuesday October 8
“We now have a basketball court inside of the arena. The ground is very smooth and hard making a good place.”
When Poppa’s unit arrived in Dax France in late 1917 they were provided with a bullfighting arena to use as their headquarters. Although Bullfighting is popular in Spain the Dax arena is the only one in France. Apparently, because they are only 30 miles from the Spanish border Dax residents were influenced enough by the Spanish culture to build an arena.
Meanwhile, on the Front lines: Corporal Alvin York
Although Poppa would likely not know about it yet October 8, 1918 was the date of a legendary event. During a battle on this date Alvin York was part of a group of American soldiers sent to attack a German machine gun position. After his superiors were killed York was placed in command. He continued to fight. When it was over he had singlehandedly killed at least 25 German soldiers and captured 132 more.
His heroics were depicted in the Oscar winning 1941 film “Sergeant York” starring Gary Cooper.
Next Week: Who am I working for?
“The History Place – World War I Timeline – 1918 – A Fateful Ending.” The History Place – World War II in Europe Timeline, www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/firstworldwar/index-1918.html. Accessed 5 Oct. 2018.
“Sgt. Alvin York Kills 25 German Soldiers.” OnThisDay.com, On This Day, www.onthisday.com/photos/sgt-alvin-york-kills-25-german-soldiers. Accessed 6 Oct. 2018.