William L. Westerman, WWI Letters

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December 6th, 1918.

Dear Vrina:

I have been unable to get paper until today so could not write to you, though I have put some notes in my note book. - -

The professorial dreams of luxurious quarters on the George Washington speedily dashed, I found that I was quartered with Lord of Harvard, and Dat and Seymour of Yale. We were put in D deck on the port side in an outer state room. The room was filled with baggage, with two double decker bunks. Lord has since gone out and we are not overcrowded. The port windows were still painted black thought the paint was taken off today.

Going out of the harbour was a great event. The President and his party came on at eight o'clock. After breakfast, I met Major Fling of Nebraska who is going over, and Captain Stanley Hornbeek. At 10:15 the boat backed out. What with the firing of guns and blowing of whistles of the tug boats. Two aviators flew over us for miles, swoop ing down within a few feet of the top of the maots. When they abandoned us, two hydroplanes followed us out to open sea for hours, swooping over us and around. Finest of all was a great dirigible balloon which picked us up about noon. I think there were about ten men in the boat shaped tonneau beneath it. The dirigible was a beautiful silver gray.

About noon it was that the fulle scort picked us up, ten destroyers and the battleship Pennsylvania. The big ship lends us and the destroyers are on the sides and to the front. The Pennsylvania keeps about 300 yards ahead of us. Today (Friday) our escort has dim inished to five destroyers and the battleship.

Besides the President there is Jusseraud, the French Ambassador, and his wife, the Italian Ambassador de Cellere and his wife, with a few other aldies whom I am unable to place. It is a curious assemblage, what with diplomats, the President and Mrs. Wilson; a group of bull necked secret service men (several of these follow the President about closely whenever he walks, and one is always sitting in front of the door of his suite); the professorial bunch, several generals and colonels, a large group of clerks, secretaries and stenographers, with a few nurses.

Lansing is a small and very interesting looking man. Henry White of the Peace Commission seems the most democratic and approach able of the men of the strictly "Presidential party". The officers and those of the Military Intelligence Department Keep quite aloof from us, except, of course, Fling and Hornbeck and a Colonel Ayres, statistical expert for the Government. This morning he told us much about the Chateau Thierry and Saint Mihiel attack which I shall write to you.

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Saturday Night. Last night I went to see the nightly moving picture, a very funny comedy by Charlie Chaplin, and another by Douglas Fairbanks. I sit at table next to Major Campbell, once an army officer, but later in moving pictures. He is now in the moving picture part of the war history work, an unusually nice chap. H eworked near Fred Paxson-excuse me-Major Paxson, at washington. President and Mrs. Wilson came to the play. Mrs. Wilson I consider to be very attractive woman, in appearance entirely charming when she smiles. With them was Gearoge Creel. He impresses me, only by appearance of course, as a very objectionable Jewish type. He has a very boyish, somewhat cocky manner of walk, which is extremely self-conscious. Today I talked with Lord about the Armenians. His plans for them are quite different from those which we at Princeton had formulated. Later Mr. Mezes came in and was quite evidently interested. Tomorrow I shall write of the M. I. D. and the Italian Ambassador. We are now in the Gulf Stream and it is warm, about 70 degrees in the day time I think Sunday, December 8th.

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We are now streaming through a beautiful sea, of blue and green colors, filled with sea weed showing that we are still in the gulf stream. I was told be a seaman this morning that we would not stop at the Asores, but I am getting this letter ready in case we should.

In the conversation with Colonel Ayres, which I mentions before, the Colonel, who seems to be well informed, stated that he belived taht the German failure in the spring and summer campaigns was due to a change in Hindenburg's plan of campaign occasioned by the Crown Prince's jealousy of the success of Prince Rupprecht's attach in Picardy toward Amiens, which began March 21st. The success here was chiefly due to the use fo mustard gas, then a new gas in warfare, used in the zone system; i. E. by drenching the next lane of two miles, and so on.

The success of Rupprecht aroused the jealousy of Crown Prince Friedrick Wilhelm. For dynastic reasons he insisted that he be allowed to attack southward toward Paris. Against Hindenburg's strong oppostion this internal political reason carried at General Headquaters. The Crown Prince's army carried on well, having picked out what the Colonel calls "a soft spot" in the line. So arose the dual attack, against Paris and against the Channel ports. The Colonel spoke of the great dejetion of the French in June, that which we saw reflected in Dorothy Canfield's letters of that time. In June came the first real trying out of the American Troops.

He puts the change in morale in Frence in July, complemented by reversal in morale of the German Army, beginning with Chateau

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Thierry. He had talked with a French officer who was in command before Chateau Thierry, who told him how the officers had to go to their soldiers and shake them to keep them awake. They would go to sleep out of sheer exhaustion, leaing against the trenches or against a tree. Then the American regulars came through fresh and vigorous, yellling like mad. He claimed that they got somewhat out of hand, throwing away their coats and cartridge belts, sticking their cartridges in their pockets. The German troops, when they saw them coming thought they wer Portugese. The Germans had become overconfident and almost contemptuous advancing in squad and company formation and were simply astounded at the vigor of the attack.

This was the beginning of the change.

The Germans, he said, had parked literally hundreds of thousands of 75 centimeter shells at Charteau Thierry, for the further advance. They had made no provision for a retreat, and the shells are still there.

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Monday evening, December 9th

Yesterday one of the ship's officers, a Chief of Police and Order on the boat, a curious character named Maratto, took Day, Seymour name. The hospital and the "sick boys" were very interesting. There were some ten boys in the beds on the upper deck that day, all mild sicknesses.

A very gentle and decent sort of lad, a Florida boy, one of the nurses, told us of the trip over when they had 600 cases of influensa and 80 deaths. They were not prepard and the medicine soon game out, especially aspirin. He told how the negro soldiers would leap and try to run or clamber thru the windows. Maratto too told much of the fear of the soldiers about submarines.

The soldiers lived on E - F - G and H decks. Their beds were slung between iron posts, in two, sometimes three tiers. When I saw these rooms, with little space to move about in, where these thousands of soldiers spent twenty hours out of twenty four, my respect for them went up tremendously, for them and what they sufferd. There were 7,000

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