Pvt. John S. Gothard
Pvt. John S. Gothard, 70th Regt., Coast Artillery.
La Roussiere, France, 24 Nov 1918.
To Father, John Gothard, Kirksville, MO.
My dear Father:-
This being the 24th day of November the day set apart for each soldier boy in the American Expeditionary Force to write his “Dad” a letter and tell him about his experiences that he has had over here. This day is also called Father’s Day. The way I understand this situation each Father is the U.S.A. is also to write to him on this day too. I just wonder if my dear Dad is writing to me. Well dear Father, how are you. I sincerely hope that this finds you and the rest of my dear loved ones at home enjoying good health and getting along fine. I am well and happy.
Well dear Dad, I’ll now try to begin. We left Hamilton for Ft. Wadsworth June 8th while there we got some drills and took several hikes and was issued most of our equipment for our sea service. Enjoyed life real well while there. Went on lots of passes spent several happy hours with my darling wife on some of these above named places. Guess what I told you about the nice boat rides across the ferry, and the different places I went and the sights that I saw. Well I haven’t the time to tell everything. So I’ll tell you the rest when I get home. We left Fort Wadsworth N.Y. for Hoboken N.J. July 14th 6:00 am. Left Hoboken July 15th 3:55 a.m. sailed along over the old Atlantic Ocean on the good ship the “Great Northern” for seven long days. The sea was real smooth most of the way. We landed in the seaport of Brest, France on July 22nd 2:55 p.m. got off the boat July 23, 8:40 a.m. From there we went out in the country about five and one half miles to a nice green field and pitched our dog tents as we called them and lived in them for four days. This place they called a Rest Camp. Done lots of hard work those four days and rested a little, but enjoyed it all real well. Left Brest on July 27th. 4:30 p.m. and arrived here at La Roussiere July 28th 8:30 p.m. and up to this time we are still at the same place, La Roussiere. We are located on or by the side of the river Lamayenne. We all took many a good bath in it. It is about a quarter of a mile wide here. Then is an old mill just above our quarters. It caught fire some time before we came here and they have the most of it torn down now. It was run by water power. So there is also a dam across the river here, so we can hear the falls roar at all times. A fellow could get lonesome listening to them at times. I walked across it several times this summer and fall, but is to cold for us to take any more swims or baths in the river from now on for boo-boo to cold. We had infantry drills for some time after coming here Took a few long hikes. I have walked so much since I’ve been in the army, I do not think that I will have any use for a buggy or automobile. Ha! Ha! After we had been here or some time each Battery was issued for eight inch Howitzers From that time on we done the most of our drilling on them, but before we got the big guns we went to the rifle range. Will you believe it if I tell you that I was one of the best shots in our battery? That sounds pretty big but it is so never the less. Ha! Ha. The last few weeks we have been going on the maneuvers. This drill was quite interesting but took hard we had to get up early in the morning, and, come back late at night. The first time we went out we took only our rifles, belts, gas masks, helmets, and telephone men took their wire and telephones, and the telephones were put up and we cleared off a place or four places just as tho we had our own Howitzers and pretended we were firing on the enemy. We advanced on them about a mile and a half. Ha! Ha! Then we have went out twice since then, took the four tractors four guns or Howitzers two trucks and of course the Captain went in his motorcycle. We placed the guns in position, and pretended as tho we were firing on the enemy for some time. We made good on these maneuvers I did not tell you anything about our gas masks. We had several interesting drills with them. We were taught to put them on by the numbers, or in other words taught to put them on quickly. Once they turned us loose in a room with real gas in it. It was tear gas the kind that made us cry if we did not have our masks on properly our masks fited alright. We have turned them and our helmets and our big guns or Howitzers in, and we are expecting to come home soon. Well Dady I can’t tell you any thing about what took place on the front for I was never there, and I have never seen any Germans, only German prisoners. So all that I can tell you about is what little scenery I have seen and the ways and customs of the people. This village here where we are located is composed of four dwelling houses a gin mill, the old flower mill & several granerys These bildings are all made of stone or cement we use these granerys for our billets, or barracks. There are scarcely any wooden buildings to be seen in any part of France that I have yet been in, and many of them are very old. These granerys are much warmer to sleep in than the wooden granerys at home would be. There are lots of churches here but I have never seen any kind of a church but catholic. There are lots of salons, or wine shops here I have seen lots of drunk people since I’ve been here, but none of these things both me in the least, only I do feel sorry for the fellows who do patronize such places.
The village that I have spoke about going to in several of my letters is La Membrole. We have great times trying to talk to these French people. Ha!
Many of the poorer class of people wear wooden shoes and you hardly ever see a four wheel wagon or see them work their horse side by side. Their wagons only have two wheels and work their horses one ahead of the other I have seen them work as many as five one right ahead of the other. Most all of the Frenchman use the open fireplace. I have only seen one cook stove since I have been in this country. Well, I must close of I won’t have any thing to tell you when I get home. Love and best Christmas wishes to you, Mother, Ora and all the rest of my dear loved ones Good bye and God bless you.
Pvt. John Q Gothard
Msv1_G1. Violette Collection of WWI Soldiers’ Letters. Mudsp Collection V1. Truman State University Special Collections.