Monday, November 14, 2016

A Letter From The Front - 1918

In honor of Veteran's Day, 2016 - though I will admit it was a few days ago - I thought a post on my paternal grandfather's service in WWI would be appropriate.

Elmer Meyer Schulte was born on August 4, 1894 in Detroit, Michigan and by the time of WWI he was eligible for the draft.  As required he did complete a draft registration form as shown below.  While no year of registration is shown, I can only assume the date would have been June 5, 1917 as he listed himself as single and at that time he certainly had not yet been married.

He was, however, dating a young girl named Ella Wellhausen and the thought of being away from her while in the service of his country was daunting.  He was called up for service soon after registering and sent to Waco, Texas for training in the United States Army, Company D, 125th Infantry, 63rd Brigade of the 32nd Infantry of the Red Arrow Division.  Here is his scroll from that service which shows him as a Private 1st Class.  Also in that division was a Corporal, Edwin H. Herz who just happened to be a first cousin of Elmer's girlfriend, Ella.  Perhaps it was through Ed Herz that Elmer and Ella met though I don't know that for a fact.

Once down in Texas Elmer notified Ella that his division was getting ready to ship off to France.  Up in Detroit, Ella and her aunt, Helena Herz (mother of Edwin) discussed this situation.  They decided to go down to Waco, Texas to see the boys off to France and Ella's mother and father gave their consent.  Though Ella was already 21 it was still customary that her parents give their permission on such travels at least in the strict Wellhausen family.  While in Texas, however, Elmer and Ella decided to marry and on Christmas Eve, 1917 they were married at the First Lutheran Church in Waco, Texas.

Ella and her aunt returned to Detroit and to the surprise of Ella's parents she was coming back now as Ella Schulte, wife of Private 1st Class, Elmer Schulte!

During the next months letters flowed back and forth between Elmer and his new bride, Ella.  On August 4, 1918 (which happened to be Elmer's 24th birthday) he wrote a letter to his bride explaining that he had been wounded in the war and was now recuperating in a Base Hospital in France.  This letter was later published in the local Detroit paper under the heading "At the Front" complete with the gap where the censors cut out some text:
The above article, now nearly 100 years old, is faint, yellowed and hard to decipher, therefore, I will translate the text below:

At The Front:

Mrs. Elmer M. Schulte received an interesting letter from her husband, Private Elmer M. Schulte, telling of his experience at the front.

Base Hospital 44, August 4th, '18.

My dear W_______:

No doubt you will be surprised to hear that I am in the Base Hospital suffering from shell shock.  Well now I will tell you a little about my experience, if the censors will let you read it.  You perhaps have read in the papers that we were at that front.  Well the last one was rather more lively.  For three nights we hiked layed over in some woods at day time.  The food we had was what we carried that was three boxes of hard tack and a can of condensed beef.  Well you can imagine how long that lasts.  What water we had was what we could find in puddles and ditches.  The night we hiked to the front we had our gas masks on nearly all the way, and believe me its not very comfortable marching with those on.  It was nearly midnight when we got there and talk about tired.  I could have slept most any place.  But we had to get busy and make our dug out for protection from the shells.  After working for about two hours, we got the order to go out on a patrol.  Seven of us volunteered to go.  We were out but a short time when we heard something behind a bush.  We fired three shots and out jumped a Boche yelling "Kamerad, American".  Well the first thing we did was to search him.  He started to talk French and German and tried to make us believe he was a Frenchman.  But we did not listen to that.  I'd liked to have did worse to him.  Well we found a pair of spy glasses and some papers which are of some value to us.  We then took him prisoner.  Well by this time it was getting daylight____________________________________

____________________front of me and exploded.  Well that was all I knew until I got to the first aid, being brought there by some of the boys under heavy artillery.  From there I was taken to a Base Hospital.  But the aeroplanes kept trying to bomb the hospital.  Then we were all taken away from there to Base Hospital No. 44 where I am now getting along quite well.  The right side of my face scratched and bruised.  I was deaf for about three hours after the explosion and my eyes bother me so I think there was gas in the shell.  We sure do get treated fine here in the hospital.  Have also received my six months service stripe.  I am anxious to get back with the boys again.  Well I must close as I have told you about all I dare.  Haven't heard from you in nearly six weeks.  And sure getting anxious.

Good-bye.  Regards to all,
Your husband, Elmer

(Note:  Text is translated identically as written; a "Boche" is slang for a German soldier).

 Elmer would later receive the Purple Heart for his service in WWI and I am honored to have that medal and all of his war time medals including the scroll from his Red Arrow Division.

As an interesting aside to this piece of history, three years after they were married their first son, Melbourne Meyer Schulte was born.  This son was given the name Melbourne in honor of the Captain of Elmer's Brigade "Milburn H. Hawks". 

Copyright (c) 2016, Cheryl J. Schulte

1 comment:

TK said...

We're gonna need a much higher-resolution scan of that awesome letter for the Schulte book! Just sayin'!