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Letter, November 28, 1918

[Letter on color stationery of the American Y.M.C.A. and color stationery of the Y.M.C.A., Union Franco-Américaine.]

Nov. 28 - 1918

Dear father & mother

I have the letter of Nov 1, and will spend part of this thanksgiving day answering it. I was interested in the note or clipping about Fred. Maude had written something concerning him but she described it in a rather indistinct way and I could not get much from her statement. But the article he wrote himself I now see what he was doing & where & when it happened. Im not far from there now. We are just a few miles north and east of St. Mihiel. Some country thru here. I well remember the drive he refers to. On the 12 of Sept. I was on my way to school and read the accounts in the paper of what had been going on, but little did I think Fred was in that drive. On Sept 26 our boys had a fight north of Verdun on the river Meuse at Consevoy & Mont folcon that was far different from the on[e] at St Mihiel. The 149th art. (our Bat. A belongs to them) came up to our front from St. M. and from all reports the line of the Meuse was one of the hardest fought battles of anyplace along the line. Yard by yard they advanced. With many divisions being identified on the side opposing us. For 45 days our regiment stayed in the line without any relief.

But I'll not go father for its too long a story. You never learn much of our div. as nothing is ever printed about us, so it will have to go untold until we get home and can tell our friends and then they will know we have been far from idle our six months in France.

My trip thru France was to a school where special instructions were given in gas. Learned many interesting things concerning it. The place was Clemacy. On our way there we went thru Nievere which is over 200 miles south of Paris. and by returning by way of Paris we did not go over the same road twice. Nievere is a large city, Has a Cathedreal built in 1028, and rebuilt about 1500. largest I've been in, tho the one at Amiens is larger, I never had the privelege of visiting it. At Nievere I found the 1st masonic lodge in France. Napoleon is quite famous at this place. A large monument erected to him. He made a stand here in one of his great wars and won a decisive victory. So that is the reason for the history.

Did I ever mention of having seen the place where Joan of Arc was imprisoned the day before she was burned? The place is not so much, but glad I saw it.

I've spent quite a few days along the banks of the Somme when we were attached to the Australian division. Have been in Amiens many times. To think that river ran red with blood in 1914 when the heavy german push for Amiens was made. Those chalk hills, hot sun & dust were very uncomfortable when we were there.

Then we visited Albert. Was attached to the British then. We entrained in Amiens and went to the Verdun front. And some of the most beautiful, picturesque, places we saw on the way. But there is no place like the front down here in these hills. How our boys ever drove them out of here is more than I can see. Our regiment was on the front on Nov 11 when recall was blown and they came marching back thru no mans land. A sight no one will forget who saw it. We had just cleared them out of the hills in to the level plains of Woevere. at one place here I counted something like 21 villages. It is as level as a floor, this plain, a bit swampy, & full of barbed wire.

They blew up a mine in Fresnes the day we were there. yea gods, you should have seen it. Whole buildings went up hundreds of feet in the air in a million pieces. Was some sight.

We are now on what seems to me to be a mt. when you climb up from the village below you sure think it is one too. It is covered with woods and trenches and long billets. Our band is in one large billet. We have stoves ever so far apart. Have a long table we use to write on. Cornet case is my writing chair. We rehearse in here twice a day.

This afternoon we play a concert for 3rd Bn. We are not going to have turkey and all those nice things to eat today, seems just like any other ordinary day. yet we can feel the spirit of the day somewhat by thinking of what, more than likely, is going on at home. I've been thankfull many days during my time over here, but this is the acme of thanksgiving. I believe it to be the greatest one in history.

Its a gloomy day. rains every few minutes it seems. Never fails to rain at nite. Mud fierce. you cant keep your feet dry & warm. Takes me 3 hours every nite to get my feet warm. You know my feet are naturaly cold. I dont mean that in the figurative way either. Will be glad when we can get out of this country. While it hasn't froze much over here, yet it is chilly & wet, very dissagreable weather. Have to be careful & keep your self as dry as possible. Since war has ceased we can do it much better than before.

Well Mother I am hoping that by the time I have been gone 2 years that I will be near home again. Possibly by that time I will be home. We are all wishing for peace to be signed. I don't know when the first ones will be sent or how far from the first we will come. But at the best it will be quite a while. It is rumored we will garrison Luxemburg. I wish we would go there, and get out of these lonesome hills. No civilians any place. Only to get back into Gods country again. This makes 2 Thanksgiving dinners I've had to miss at home. If you miss me, you can feel certain I miss you. Only there is so much I am missing - all my folks, while, its only me that you miss - all the rest is there, tho Guy is not there it has been only a short time he was there. He should be getting to come home to stay, soon, it seems to me.

So Mary Lopp had the spanish flu. Am glad to hear Arthurs are getting better. Rec. a letter from Bertha telling me of their experience with it. She sure is having a pretty tough time, first operation, then sore lungs and this spanish flu. I sure can see I am not the only one who is not having the best of things[.] Every one seems to be having their troubles in diff ways.

Had to laugh about the Alarm clock. It sure has done its bit tho.

So daddy has to go to work at 10 oc. I guess you can get used to anything. I have had to do it and I am not super human.

Say, I sure would enjon [sic] eating candy and peanuts with you. I've had no popcorn, icecream or peanuts since coming over here.

I give a bloody damn what kind of candy it is, glad to get any kind. Such a little we get. I havent seen a Y.M.C.A. for months it seems. And when I do see one it seems they sell out before I get to buy any thing. And if you do get to buy its only one piece (little one) of candy. Cigarettes & cigars you can most always get.

You sure are doing quite a bit of washing lately. Must like it. I haven't done any myself for a long time. Not because I dont need it tho. We havent had a decent place to do any for a long time.

And a bath is a luxury. A hot one especially.

Well daddy I say you are not doing a big bad considering what you started in at. Sure has paid to stick with it. 91 is good wages for 8 hours a day.

So the old belgian has an auto. Do you mean the crippled one?

If thats the one, how does he run it. Am surprised to hear of the girl marrying an austrian. What is the matter with the girls over there. They seem to be, all of them, getting married, and some don't seem to be at all particular who they marry. Well they can keep on getting married as far as I am concerned personally.

How is the food proposition now. is it getting better? I see by reports that they are considering feeding the allies plenty before they start shipping to the germans any great amount. I sure hope they carry that out for I've went on light eats pretty long now.

Our thanksgiving dinner was salmon heated up, potatoes, gravy and bread & coffee.

It has rained so this afternoon that we are not going to play concert, and are being permitted to write letters.

Sure are having the rain, not hard rains, but misty & drizzly ones.

So my watch needed a main spring[.] I had one put in, in Quincy, also a jewel. It must be hard on main springs. I had the missfortune of getting my wrist watch knocked out. So I have none now. Took me quite a while to get used to being without one - can hardly say yet that I am used to it.

I understand from newspaper articles that men are being sent home now. Those in the hospital that are able to be moved. I suppose before many more weeks other units will start moving[.] Hoping I get home by spring I remain your son, with lots of love for all

Paul B. Hendrickson

Hdq. Co. 129 Inf A.E.F.

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November 1918