It seems a long time since I last wrote home, but maybe that is because as usual a great many things have happen. To begin with, the section was cited yesterday and decorated with the croix de guerre (order de corps a l'armie) for the work we did the other night in the bomb attack. This is next to the highest citation that a section can receive. Each of us also gets a paper like a diploma, stating what part we had in bringing this distinction on the section. Besides, the sous-chef, the French lieutenant and three of the boys were decorated personally. As to the sous-chef, we are all sort of angry over that, as his citation said that he continued loading wounded with one other of the boys under the fire of bombs and aeroplane machine guns. As a matter of fact, the other boy was loading the wounded with me into my car and the sous-chef did not appear until I was just starting on my second trip from the scene of the destruction. Also, our chef made a plain statement saying that he did not deserve it as he had disobeyed orders and done just what he had been told not to do.
In the eyes of the section, he won his cross and lost his self-respect, as he had to argue with the French lieutenant for an hour and a half to make sure he would get it.
Even though I was not lucky enough to get one (for it was practically the toss of a coin that decided who should get them), I am glad I did not get one this way. I would rather go without, knowing myself that I had done my part well and that others thought so, too.
The censor department has evidently discovered that some people in some sections are not being careful enough to suppress military knowledge in their letters home, for we have been warned not to write certain things under penalty of prison sentence if the offence is continued.
The weather is terrible. About a week ago it began and they say we won't see good weather again for six or seven months. This is the second time I have been at this post in succession, with two days back at headquarters in between. The post is at the head of a horseshoe-shaped valley and the wind sweeps up and out over the hill and on us at a great rate. But that would be fine if it were only dry, but always a light rain, with sometimes a little hail in it, is driven before the wind. I can tell you it's fierce to drive against and at night it is dark as pitch. I live in my oil-skin pants as though they were a regular part of my clothing and the flannel underwear and sweaters are doing a good job trying to keep me warm.
Today, a number of packages came and I think they were the best assortment yet: 2 bottles of Horlicks, muffler, wristlets and helmet (just in time; thanks an awful lot), tobacco and Fatima cigarettes. That was one of the most pleasant surprises in a long time. Might I ask for one thing, a real pipe tobacco that is fairly sweet and does not bite. I like a pipe much better than cigarettes and Bull is sort of fine for a pipe.
Also, a big box of Peters milk chocolate came from Aunt Jennie and Uncle Joe, which after the coarse chocolate we get here, is awfully good. Aunt Nina, too, sent me a big box of molasses kisses. And above all, I must not forget the coffee which the lieutenant of the post, the other fellow who is here with me and I are to have for breakfast tomorrow. Also, two boxes of cereal. All fine and dandy; many, many thanks.
On the seventeenth, I am finished here and I cannot re-enlist -until I am eighteen. I have not had a permission, so I am getting out ten days earlier to make up for it. I am pretty well tired out from five months' solid work here and I think I will stay in Paris a few days and then go to Nice for a week. As to the Lestelles, I would not like to invite myself to stay an indefinite time with them. After the little vacation, I am going to look into the American Red Cross Ambulance which I believe is being made up of men turned down from military service, and which is sending sections to Italy. I have already written to them and I hope I may get some sort of a place as a result of my experience here. I only want to stay with this until I am eighteen and then go into aviation. I hope they don't leave before we get a bit of a chance for a rest, for most of us who have been here all the time (some boys got 10 days furlough or permission, as the French say) feel sort of played out from the nervous strain and the rotten weather. I don't mean by that that any of us are sick or are approaching nervous breakdown, but having known what a comfortable bed and clean clothes and a good roof are, we all would like to find such a place and have it out of reach of German shells, bombs and gas. Also, one would like to leave the world of stretchers and midnight calls behind for a few days.
As to my address until I get another permanent job, I think you had better send everything c/o American Express Co., 11 Rue Scribe, Paris. I intend cabling as soon as I arrive in Paris and so you will probably get that before this note.
I am feeling fine, but this rain and no sun are rather depressing.
P.S. Lots of newspapers dated from Aug. 25 Sept. 16 have arrived in the last week.