May 11, 1917, Friday


Dear Ma:-

Just a line to keep you informed while I may. I say "while I may" for just now we have nothing to do except possibly when we have to keep some appointment. Today, for instance, all we have to do is meet the commissioner of police. Of course getting necessaries takes some time but there is an awful lot when we have nothing to do. However, once the uniform, etc., have been obtained I will got a chance to see a few of the things Paris is famous for without worrying about other things. I wouldn't be surprised to get out next week and it is really just a question of when they can get the cars finished. Some of the men who came on the Chicago are still here and of course they will go first unless they haven't gotten their uniforms or for other such reasons. Section 19 goes out Sunday or the beginning of next week and Section 20 as soon afterward as the cars can be put together.

The Ambulance as you most likely do not know is changing about every month or so. Recently they inaugurated a new branch in the transport service. They are making up sections of 40 men approximately who will drive 5 ton trucks and carry munitions to the front or points of attack. They are part of the French army but are the first men to go out armed and under the U.S. flag. The lst section went May 8th. Yesterday there was a reception at the office and a Mr. Mackay presented American flags to all the Ambulance sections which are to fly with the French tricolor at all the bases in France and Salonica.

Today a priest who was on the boat turned up for the presentation of the flags. He is quite an interesting man. He talks French and English and from him we learned yesterday that the Capt. of the Touraine received a wireless while we were just a few days from Bordeaux that said four submarines were waiting for us. We did not see any though, but that explains the unusual precautions we took when we reached the zone. The Rochambeau the week before had quite an engagement with a sub. As I understand it, it was like this

 

The first missed by only about 30 feet and none of the passengers knew of it till they reached port and were told. The 2nd only missed because the Capt. turned the ship as shown and nearly passed under the stern overhang. The passengers all saw this one. Besides the Rochambeau fired about 15 shells but did not hit the sub. The sub also fired some shells but they did not hit.

Paris at present is supposed to be a fortified and besieged city as I understand it. Every day aeroplanes fly overhead and the day before yesterday, two French dirigibles flew over also. All the street lights are out except one at each end of the side streets and others at very long intervals along the main ones. All the lights have big shades on them so that they cannot be seen from above.

Food does not seem to be lacking and certainly I have had nothing to kick about so far in that line. They only have tickets for sugar. On Tuesday and Wednesday no one eats sweets. After the 12th no cakes containing flour are to be made and no chocolate used. At present chocolate is $1.00 a pound and sugar candies are worth considerable also. After the 12th though, it will be very hard to set any sweets at all especially chocolate and things with a value for nourishment. They think in the U. S. that France does not need men. You should see how few there are in the fields and cities unless in uniform and then you would understand why the French all ask "When will the Americans come to France". Every man in civilian clothes who is not gray haired or a boy has a story like the concierge of the house where I am put up. Three bullets and poisoned by gas. And yet some said that we were shirking military duty at home to come here!

On the street it seems as though everyone was in mourning and the black certainly adds a solemn tone to it all. However, the spirit is still here and the troubles of the people seem to be rather mental than physical.

Now I must mail this and then attend to the next thing on my program.

Harvey

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