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. 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 September 8, 1918– A quiet day. Writing letters, reading, etc
Monday September 9– The tennis court is very popular. We play tennis, sometimes baseball but something for exercise every evening. Much needed after days confinement in office.
Tuesday September 10– News today that sec Baker has again arrived in France. Perhaps to see the big offensive of the American army which must start soon. Our front has been quiet for some time now.
Wednesday September 11– Have asked for a new job. Am tired of maps, tracings, and blueprints.
Thursday September 12– The American offensive started today. The townspeople are much excited tonight over the first report of the success.
Friday September 13– This is supposed to be an unlucky day but not so for the “Armie Americane” with their 13,000 prisoners.
Saturday September 14– An aeroplane flew over very low today giving a little demonstration of turning and diving.
Success on the western front
Three of Poppa’s entries this week refer to the progress of the war. On September 10th he noted that secretary of war Baker had arrived in France. In a previous journal entry for October 31st, 1917 Poppa wrote that Secretary Baker had visited their headquarters. Is it possible that Poppa, a lowly private in the US army, had the chance to meet the secretary of war?
Newton D. Baker served as secretary of war from 1916 until 1921. Baker, of Cleveland Ohio, supported Wilson at the 1912 Democratic National Convention. Supporting a candidate in the election gets you a position in the presidential cabinet later? Things haven’t changed.
September 12, 1918 – “The American offensive started today. The townspeople are much excited tonight over the first report of the success.”
The battle of St. Mihiel began when the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) attacked the southernmost portion of the Western Front in France at St. Mihiel. This was the first operation of the Americans as an independent army. The offensive was supported by 1,476 Allied aircraft used as part of a coordinated air-ground attack. It was the largest air force ever assembled for a single operation, consisting of 366 observation airplanes, 323 day bombers, 91 night bombers, and 701 pursuits. Also on hand were 15 US and six French balloon companies.
Within 36 hours, the Americans take 15,000 prisoners and capture over 400 pieces of artillery as the Germans withdraw.
It was the first and only offensive launched solely by the United States Army in World War I.
The fighting was depicted in the 1927 film Wings.
Next Week: Marion. She is the true girl alright!
2 2000 By, Walter J. Boyne, et al. “ // .” Air Force Magazine, www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2000/February%202000/0200mihiel.aspx. Accessed 8 Sept. 2018.
“U.S. Launches Saint-Mihiel Offensive.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-launches-saint-mihiel-offensive. Accessed 8 Sept. 2018.
“Battle of Saint-Mihiel.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Saint-Mihiel. Accessed 8 Sept. 2018.