World War One Manuscript Diary of U.S. Army driver in France, dated 1919

Small octavo, 127 manuscript pp., bound in original limp leather, entries dated, 21 May to 13 July 1919 and 25 January to 19 May 1919, written in ink, in legible hand; first 50 pp consists of the diary for the time period of 21 May to 13 July 1919; the next 60 pp are apparently entries from another diary copied into this diary for the dates of 25 January to 19 May 1919, giving a total time period of the diary for 25 January to 13 July 1919. The last 17 pp of volume contains various memorandum notes including: “Partial list of books I read in France,” the poem “Ladies” by Rudyard Kipling, a list of different types of alcoholic beverages, a poem “Jim,” a quote from “Ben Hur,” and “Wicksteed,” a poem “To the Unknown Goddess,” a poem “Jealousy,” plus two other notes about war and food.

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Description of Diary:

 

    The name of the author of the diarist is unknown at present, although, with research, his name could presumably be found. The author is a male who is serving in the United States Army in 1919 as a driver, transporting officers to various locales in France, near the former frontlines. The war had just ended (11 Nov. 1918) a little over two months before this diary begins (25 Jan. 1919), thus our author sees a number of the former battle fields and entrenchments of the frontlines, various destroyed French cities and towns, and he makes a tour of Paris. He also visits war cemeteries and attends various events at the Red Cross or at Base Hospital 53, amongst other places.

 

      There is much about his regular care and maintenance of his car and picking up military officers and travel to other military installations, towns, or places, or simply acting as the driver as the officers go out on the town, pick up prostitutes, bed them at a local hotel, and afterwards driving both the officer and prostitute to their respective homes.

 

    The diary recounts the various ‘joyrides’ that the author and his fellow servicemen take to nearby towns, the dinners they seek out, meeting French girls, bartering with the local French population with cash, chocolates, and cigarettes for various items like watches, fruit, gloves, etc. The diary also recounts the steamer ride home from France to Newport News, Virginia, which took from 24 June to 5 July.

 

     Sample Quotes from the Diary:

 

“From other diary

Jan 25, 1919

Have neglected diary. Will write only when I feel like it. At noon helped Miss Flagg pack books for another hut. Did not go to dinner but she brought me cocoa & sandwiches. Snow on ground.”

 

 

“March 24

Rain, sleet, and lightning. Dance at R.C., afraid to try. All sorts of nurses, big, little, short, tall, stout, thin, graceful, awkward, decent, and crooked. Some extremely ugly, but very [sic] are passably good looking.”

 

“April 6

Up early, breakfast, and roll pack. Left at 8 for St. Javin by way of Flinville. Rode atop a ‘Mack’ In barracks all shot to pieces, formerly German headquarters, St Javin was great German rail head, town occupied by Germans for 4 years. Full of German signs. Took walk to Champigneulle. Detonations, machine guns, grenades, etc. We put over a barrage. Sarsfield’s gun blew up salvage dump with piles of everything, French, American, and German. Piles of burned German helmuts. After supper walked thru St. Javin, heaps of dead unburied horses, German machine gunner buried with one leg sticking above ground, part of uniforms, heap of empty shells, an overturned machine gun by his side. Outdoor movies.”

 

“May 1

Went to Chaumont this morning. Cole is leaving for home, mother sill. Took Lehmer to café. Returned at 7, waited till 8. Good looking ‘Catin’ [prostitute] with him. Went to little town and had drinks. One to Rolampont to café de la Patrie. Lieut & girl slept next room to us. Came in to see me before she went to sleep. Moans!

 

“May 2

Breakfast and took L to Chaumont. Returned for girl. Asleep. Had not slightest idea of modesty. My reply to her advances was to get her clothes on or she would not go back with me. September moon in May. Truck trains left Chaumont at 1:30 P.M., was in Langes at 4 P.M. At 10 P.M. took Lieut L. and Capt. Ardon to depot. L was pretty drunk. Met 2 fellows and 2 girls. Took them to town. L had me drive him and them, but they could find no rooms. Drove them to Humes but no room there. Left them at depot. One girl about all in. Lieut L in R.C. talking to girl finally got him home at 2:30 A.M. Quite disgusting.”

 

“May 10,

Drove all day and B.H. at night. At R.C. Peggy asked me to go for a walk. Experiment, ‘Baso,’ Muy bien. In at 3 A.M. ‘Cracker’ had his court martial today.”

 

 

“June 5

Did not make a trip. Farewell party at Y. Close of contests. Band concert & special selection. Fine. Free eats. Date with Miss Lawrence for tomorrow night. Down town in ambulance to round up drunks.

 

“June 6

Woke me up at night to go to Romagne went via St. Dizier, Bar le Duc, Varemes. Lunch at fine café at Bar le Duc. Romagne at 3:30. Large camp, tents, largely negroes, ‘beaucoup’ P.W.’s cemetery is very large, mainly for those killed in the Argonne, to hold 30,000 to 40,000. Dug up & brought in by negroes, search for means of identification. Disagreeable work & place. Very bad smell over entire camp. Motorcycle, bicycle, mounted and foot M.P.’s, no place to stay with them. Loan of bunk & blankets, razor & use of barber shop. Lemonade at ‘Y’, Negro ‘Y’ & ‘Y’ women.”

 

     “June 24

     Up for breakfast, fair, hit most of lines, hot chocolate, at ‘Y,’ coffee & sandwich at J.W. B., cakes at K. of C., 3 cones ice cream at Premier Hut. Rate of exchange for U.S. silver is same as for French silver. Rolled pack at noon, 12:00 physical inspection. Out to parade grounds with full equipment at 4:30, supper, march to boat at 8 P.M., cigarettes and chocolate from Y.M.C.A. at wharf, gangplank at 9:30 up on deck till midnight.”

 

     “June 25

     A good night sleep tho it is some job to dress & undress. When get back can give exhibition as ‘sandwich man’ for in these 4 tier bunks one is a living sandwich every night. Fair meals. Mixed indiscriminately with negroes and hate it. They are often unbearably insolent. Rain at 9:30, 35 war brides aboard, one being a negro. Leave locks at 1 P.M., last glimpse of France late in afternoon, a low-lying headland off to right. A very heavy windy &sea steadily getting rougher. Many are getting ‘mal de mer.’ By night waves dashing over forward hatch & bow In very tip of ship protected from waves by covering overhead. Most motion of any part of ship but I like it. Bed early.”

 

     “June 26

     Up for breakfast, fed fine, but nearly everyone sick, especially the ‘smokes.’ They are whiter than I thought it possible a negro to get. Still windy and rough. Good dinner. Moderating slightly in afternoon. War brides not in evidence. Oh, but they are a hard-looking bunch. One looks like someone’s washwoman about 40 years old. I sure don’t want anything in that class. Would be ashamed to be seen with one of them. No foreigners in mind…”

 

     "June 30

     For breakfast boiled eggs, first time since I left Wash. Barracks that had eggs in regular mess. But these were so old I expected the chick to peck me when I opened the shell, absolutely not fit to eat. Am sure getting tired of this trip, every day is a month, you read, sleep, eat, talk watch the porpoises or simply look at the sea & think of home, what you will do when you get there, etc. The boat is so crowded it is very hard to get a place to sit-down & are mixed up with Negroes in everything. And the Y man takes candy & tobacco up on the promenade deck & he and the officer amuse themselves by throwing it to the fellows and laughing at them scrambling for it. It is really disgusting, just like a bunch of little kids. But there is always that would do anything if they think they are getting something for nothing. Well anyhow, I can stay clear of it…"

 

     “July 5

     Rolled my pack last night while I had a little room but slept perfectly comfortable. Sighted land at 12:30, debarked at New Port News at 4 P.M. ‘Y’ with cigarettes & candy. Marched under the ‘Victory Arch’ & thru town. When we halted people gave us water, bought ice cream and cola at drugstore. It seems so strange to hear civilians speak English and especially children. But oh boy! It sure seems good. And everything moves along briskly and in a modern manner, street cars, locomotives, autos, & everything are so different. But unless one has spent a year in France he does not know the relief & joy it is to get back…”