Imlay treasures its 'Letters from Boys'
History revealed in messages home from area's soldiers of 'Great War'
November 11, 2009IMLAY CITY — Ninety-one years ago today, the battles and bloodshed of World War I came to an end. November 11, 1918, became Armistice Day and a ceasefire between the Germans and Allied forces was declared.
In the years to come, veterans of the Great War continued to mark the day with parades and special ceremonies. Eventually, Armistice Day was to become what we now call Veterans Day, honoring service men and women who served in all wars.
Letters from local soldiers, some of who were on the front lines, documented that historic time in Europe when what the people believed to be 'the war to end all wars' was won.
The Imlay City Times newspaper reprinted several of the letters in their pages under the title 'Letters from the Boys.' The letters and newspaper are currently housed at the Imlay City Historical Museum.
Here are excerpts from letters written by Imlay City natives Dr. Maurice Paxon Jones and Clio Sheppard. Letters from Clyde Covey and Alfred Chrysler are posted online at www.tricitytimes-online.com.
Jones was a captain with the 104th Field Hospital. His brother, Morrell Jones, also served as a doctor in the war. In this undated letter, Maurice writes to his father Dr. George Jones, a longtime Imlay City physician.
Jones relates the review of his division, the 26th Infantry, by General John J. Pershing. The division was part of the American Expeditionary Forces and saw combat in France. Jones writes that at least 25,000 men assembled for the general's review.
General Pershing, mounted on a beautiful white horse rode onto the field and the division was thus formally turned over to him for inspection and review.
|The Imlay City Times published ‘Letters from the Boys’ from hometown soldiers serving overseas. photo by Maria Brown.|
General Pershing rode briskly through the positions of the various units and then returned to the viewing stand. Shortly afterward he began his formal inspection of the division on foot. Walking briskly up and down through the different units he completed in about three hours his inspection of the division and he didn't miss a single unit.
Upon the completion of his inspection orders came down the line for all officers to close in around him. For about 30 minutes he addressed the officers, during which times he complimented the division on its achievements, thanked the officers for the work and wished them to convey to the men his appreciation of their meritorious services and the many sacrifices they had made.
While he was talking, the camera men where close up getting pictures of the whole bunch. I happened to be in the second row and you may see me some of these days in an American newspaper.
With this ceremony finished we all returned to our company positions to await the time when all were to march past the reviewing stand.
What a majestic sight it was to see those veteran, steel-helmeted troops swing in close column of companies formation with clock-like movement , which spelled the perfect discipline of veteran warriors that they are.
I shall never forget the spectacle as long as I live and it was worth going miles to witness. It certainly was the most inspiring sight of my life.
It was certainly a revelation to me and afforded a complete demonstration of the fine training and perfect discipline of this veteran division.
After all was over we started our march back home, arriving at 8:30 p.m., tired, wet and hungry but with just pride to have been part of a grand division in a grand review...
You can look for me in a short time after I am a free agent.
Give my love to all.
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Clyde Covey, a private in Company A, 4th Machine Gun battalion, wrote to his mother on Thanksgiving Day, 1918 from Nommern, Luxemburg.
Well, we have canned the Kaiser and have nothing to do now but tour Europe. At present we are on our way to the Rhine River in Germany. We came out of France through Belgium and are now in Luxemburg, not so very far from Germany. I think that after we have been there a few weeks our division will be sent home. I am in the Fighting Second division and all the boys that came across with me are in the same division.
It seems funny to be able to write anything I want to as the censorship has been almost entirely lifted. Everything is silent now on the battlefront. When the last shot was fired I was right on the front line and had been there for quite a long time so you can see I know something about the war.
We had a fine dinner today. Our officers bought six pigs from a farmer here so we had fresh pork, mashed potatoes and tomatoes, some dinner after the fare we have been having in the trenches.
I do not remember if I told you about getting shot through the sleeve. Tell father I will write to him as soon as I can get some paper. This is the only sheet I have and was lucky to get this from a local girl this morning. If you see anyone that wants to hire a guy for next summer, just tell them that I hope to be home soon. No, I do not think there is any influenza over here and I hope we won't get any of it.
Remember I am safe from bullets now and will be home soon.
With love to all, Clyde.
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