Background: In September 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the 20th Engineers regiment of the United States Army. In November he sailed to St. Nazaire, France aboard a troop transport ship. They are now based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.
From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson
Sunday Jan 6, 1918 – Attended football game today, much different than U.S. games. Went to casino, pictures show also.
Monday Jan 7– It’s very easy to do our laundry with plenty of hot water. Women will do it very cheaply for me.
Tuesday Jan 8– Have been working for the last week with ‘Shorty” on posting books in the supply room.
Wednesday Jan 9– On clear days we can see Pyrenees Mountains about 35 miles distant. Very pretty sight.
Thursday Jan 10– Mail today. Five letters from home, all of them six weeks old. Mail service is not very good.
Friday Jan 11– Hope to get through of this job in supply room soon, book work is rotten.
Saturday Jan 12– Every Sat at 1 p.m. we have inspection. Did some tracing today Better job. Fine feed tonight.
Jan 9, 1918– Poppa mentions that he could see the Pyrenees Mountains. A blog describes them this way: The Pyrenees are a magnificent mountain range in the southwest of France that form a natural border between Spain in France. These mountains span over 300 miles and reach heights over 11,000 ft.
This travel site has a more detailed description of the mountains.
Major Edward E. Hartwick was Poppa’s commanding officer. His biography by Gordon K. Miller contained the text of a letter Hartwick wrote to his family in January of 1918. Here is what he said about President Wilson’s speech:
Yesterday the French on the train were all enthusiastic over Mr Wilson’s address to our Congress, wherein he enumerated the fourteen conditions for peace. Of course, the condition calling for the return of Alsace and Lorraine pleases them- and also the reference to Belgium. Quite often I am asked by them: “How long do you the war will last?” and “How many soldiers will America have over here this spring?” and they are disappointed when I shrug my shoulders and answer “Je ne sais pas” [I do not know]. It is a gigantic job and we are preparing it on a huge scale. At a supply camp that is now built where I was yesterday the main side track is eight miles long and we are building a huge ice plant there, etc. My hands are so cold I can hardly write- no heat in this room – I must get ready for the train.\
Next Week: Some Think we Have No Business Here