Doughboy’s Smuggled Letter Home Recounts Dangerous Ocean Crossing

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In late 1917, an American soldier  risked authorities censors’ wrath to sneak dwelling a letter about dodging German submarines whereas aboard a troopship headed for conflict
 The next transcription is from a two-sided carbon copy discovered inside a e-book the editor of this journal purchased for a dime at an property sale within the American College Park neighborhood of Washington, DC, within the Nineteen Eighties.
An undated photograph of USS President Lincoln being leaving her pier in Hoboken, New Jersey on certainly one of 4 profitable transatlantic voyages as a U.S. troopship. All advised, the previous German-American liner carried 23,000 U.S. doughboys to France in World Struggle I. (freepages.rootsweb.com/~gillespiehistory/army
Simply after Christmas 1917, an American soldier named Stan boarded the troopship USS President Lincoln in New York harbor for the journey to France, the place he would grow to be certainly one of 4.3 million doughboys to hitch British and French troops within the conflict in opposition to Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Expire and the Ottoman Empire.  
The vessel  had initially been a Hamburg-America Line passenger ship bearing the identical title. Seized by the U.S. Navy in New York harbor within the first months of 1917, President Lincoln turned certainly one of roughly 100 German and Austrian ships pressed into the Allied conflict effort.
Stan had skilled at Camp Mills, a U.S. Military set up established in September 1917 on Lengthy Island, New York. The camp was named for Main Common Albert A. Mills, a former superintendent of the U.S. Navy Academy awarded the Medal of Honor for service through the Spanish American Struggle. The camp, created to coach Nationwide Guard troops mobilizing because the forty second Division and whose ranks included Col. Douglas MacArthur and F. Scott Fitzgerald, turned an Military Air Corps airfield and ultimately was developed into Backyard Metropolis, New York.
The submarine chaser SC-103 main a contingent of the small however quick wood-hulled ships on convoy responsibility within the Atlantic. (Navy Historical past and Heritage Command)
After leaving New York, President Lincoln virtually instantly confronted German U-boats, which on the top of their effectiveness between October 1916 and January 1917 had sunk 1.4 million tons of Allied transport, practically reducing Britain off from its meals sources. Anticipating U.S. entry into the conflict and the menace submarines posed, Assistant Navy Secretary Franklin Roosevelt ordered American shipbuilders to design and manufacture quick, nimble, 110-foot, 85-ton wood-hulled craft referred to as submarine chasers to guard convoys of transports and service provider ships.
(Of 441 subchasers constructed, France purchased 100, and 121 had been deployed off Britain, France, and within the Mediterranean. Armed with machine weapons and depth expenses, chasers patrolled American coastal waters and guarded convoys. Six had been misplaced through the conflict. After the conflict a number of had been transformed to civilian use as trawlers; 14 had been transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard. Others remained in army service overseas, with just a few seeing motion throughout World Struggle II. These matchstick men-of-war protected President Lincoln and the fleet of troopships that took doughboys like Stan to conflict.
On Board the united statesS. President Lincoln
Within the harbor at Brest,
France, Dec. 29, 1917
Pricey Al:
One of many sailors goes to take this letter again to New York and mail it for me in order to keep away from censorship. That’s the reason I’m telling you the title of the place now we have landed at (or reasonably going to land at, as a result of now we have been mendacity within the harbor right here for the previous few days). We obtained right here the twenty seventh.
The orders learn that we disembark tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. You’ll have to excuse the writing and every thing else as I am going on guard at 12 and it’s after 11. Then they wake us at 4 a.m. and I wont’ [sic] have one other probability to put in writing in time to offer it to the sailor earlier than we go away the ship. I don’t come off guard till 2 a.m.
Pop and I by no means even had a contact of seasickness on the journey. Fairly just a few of the lads had been sick, though the movement didn’t appear unhealthy to me.        
 We pulled out of Camp Mills on the Wednesday morning after Pop went dwelling on his final go to. We laid in New York harbor till the evening of the 14th ready for the opposite transports. There have been six transports and one battle cruiser within the fleet. It wasn’t till Christmas morning after we wakened that we noticed the remainder of our convoy. That they had simply joined us the evening earlier than someday. All the best way throughout we had had solely that one cruiser for our convoy. The remainder of the convoy that met us on Christmas Eve was ten submarine chasers. They’re concerning the quickest issues afloat—able to making about 35 miles an hour. In fact they might dodge the torpedoes of the submarines and be peppering them on a regular basis. They’re reasonably closely armed for his or her measurement, so they’re actually the one issues afloat {that a} “Sub” is afraid of.       
To fight the German U-boat menace in World Struggle I the U.S. commissioned a whole lot of quick, wood-hulled gunboats and armed them with a deck gun, depth expenses, and a machine gun. The harmful little ships compiled a outstanding conflict report. (worldwar1centennial.org)
About two days off the coast of France three of the transports and half of the convey left us and went on to St. Nazaire whereas we lower off and got here north to Brest. On leaving New York we understood that each one of us had been to go to St. Nazaire, which is on the mouth of the Loire River, on the Bay of Biscay. Inform Lydia to look it up in her geography so she will see the place we’re. (In fact, I imply Brest) The way in which I defined issues above made it look as if I meant St. Nazaire.
That is the Doughboy little harbor Al. You’ll be able to see throughout it on the widest half and with the glasses you possibly can plainly see the fishermen’s quaint little properties perched up on the hillsides. They’re the cosiest wanting little locations you ever noticed. We haven’t been in a position to get a superb take a look at town of Brest as but as a result of the water isn’t deep sufficient for our ship to be towed as much as the docks. I’m afraid we received’t have the ability to see a lot of the city anyway as they’ve already posted orders on the bulletin board as to the actions and habits of the lads aboard the prepare. In order that they have to be figuring on getting us proper on the prepare and transport us to some level within the inside. There’s a rumor that we could do provost responsibility in Paris, however I hardly suppose that’s true. It’s too good to be true. Say girl, supposed they’d load us on the prepare and run us proper as much as the trenches. Wouldn’t that be some New Yr’s presenet [sic].
All of the fishermen carry their wives and households out of their fishing boats to see the transports and males on board drop them cash and sweet and every kind of issues. It’s the women although who get the cash. Two swell wanting dames got here out in a ship by themselves and each of them obtained their bonnets filled with change.
There’s a person on this regiment who abandoned the French Military and went to the States the place he was caught within the draft and now could be unhealthy [sic] once more with us. Ought to he be acknowledged it could imply the firing squad for him. Good outlook eh!
The meals has been fairly good all the best way over, however the menu strains are blamed lengthy. They put out a superb Christmas dinner, however so many males slipped in for seconds and even thirds that a few of us solely obtained about half of what we had been due. I obtained mine. By the best way one of many sailors took films of us consuming Christmas dinner so in case you see any of the images of the transport Pres. Lincoln of males consuming look out for me. I believe I’m fairly conspicuous. At the least I attempted my greatest to be in hopes that a few of the people may see me.
Did you get my field? I haven’t been paid but so I couldn’t ship you the worth, and apart from I don’t know but what it value. I don’t even know whether or not the person expressed it or not. It was my solely probability. I needed to take it or go away the field within the camp.
Hear Al, the very first probability you get open the field, break it open if needed and (if course should you obtained it) and ship the sweater in there to A.S. Boxwell, 607 Pine St., Wilmington, Delaware. Name up Anna and ask her if that’s the fitting quantity. Please try this for me Al. It received’t value a lot.
Inform Billie that Grandpop mentioned he’ll positive carry one thing nice after we come dwelling.
I’m closing now, Al, however will write once more as quickly as we get settled down. Each probability I get I’ll slip a superb letter by the censors to you people. Like to all.
Stan.
Hq. Co., 161st Inf
 A.E.F. by way of New York
P.S. 1
Inform Lydia to please ship me all the images she will get. Particularly the one I requested her to get of Anne on the drug retailer at ninth & F Sts.
P.S. 2
Photos of anyone I occur to know. One thing to have a look at.
***
Survivors of the sinking of of the united statesPresident Lincoln by U-90 June 1, 1918. (Courtesy of Gustavus C. Robbins, 1973.)
President Lincoln made 5 voyages from New York carrying some 23,000 American troops to Brest and St. Nazaire, France. 4 journeys had been with out incident. Departing Brest on Might 29, 1918, with three different troopships and accompanied by destroyers and subchasers, Lincoln handed safely by the portion of the Atlantic deemed harmful, whereupon the escorts left the convoy. On Might 31 German submarine U-90 torpedoed Lincoln, which sank in 20 minutes, taking down 26 of the 715 males aboard.

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