|The Personal Record of Private John Brown. His Wanderings With the Sixty-Third Artillery, C.A.C., A.E.F.,1918-1919
Drowned in the mud of "Sunny France,"
Back in the days before the war-
If, when the roll is called for me,
|The 63rd Artillery, C.A.C. was organized in December of 1917 from the Coast Defenses of Pudget Sound and Headquartered at Ft. Worden, Washington. In June 1918 the regiment moved to Camp Mills, NY and then in July sailed from Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, New Jersey. The 63rd was one of 3 regiments of the 36th Artillery Brigade and was assigned to Army Artillery duty. The 63rd Artillery was stationed in Limoges, France and trained there but was denied its time on the front lines due to the signing of the Armistice. The 63rd Artillery returned to the States in February 1919 going first to Camp Mills, New York and then went to Camp Lewis, Washington where they were demobilized.
Photo on the left: The men of the 63rd Artillery on the S.S. Tacoma, going from Ft. Worden, Port Townsend, to Seattle, Washington.
GOOD-BYE; COAST DEFENSES OF PUGET SOUND.
Fond Farewells at the Seattle Armory
June 13, 1918
The big day has finally come, our five months of waiting are over and we are headed for France. The regiment left on the Indianapolis and Tacoma at 9:00 o'clock this morning for Seattle. About half of the town met us at the Bell Street dock and we marched through the "cheering throngs" to the Armory, where we hung around until 2:00 p. m., saying our fond fare-wells. Marched down Second Avenue to the O. & W. station and gave the city her last look at our regiment. Four trains are taking us across the continent. Wonder if the thirteenth is a good day to move on.
Men of the 63rd Artillery at the O. & W. Train Station in Seattle
June 13th to June 20th
It was a great trip, regular triumphal progress. Three or four times a day we would stretch our weary limbs and parade for the benefit of the particular town in which we were stopped. And what a reception! All the candy, cigarettes and tobacco a man could want distributed by the prettiest girls in town. If I keep all my promises, it will keep a private secretary busy writing letters for me. Round Up, Montana: Aberdeen, South Dakota, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, gave us great send-offs. Paraded in St. Thomas, Canada, and stopped a few minutes at Niagara, where we all exclaimed over the falls. We were lucky enough to make the trip down, the Hudson by daylight, and arrived in Jersey City late yesterday afternoon. Transferred to the ferry, and at Long Island to the train, which got us here about 11 p. m. This morning we were awakened by the exhausts of many aeroplanes. They surely make a curious and interesting sight, and most of us are suffering from stiff necks already.
Practically the entire town of Miles City, Montana turned out to greet the 63rd when they made one of the many rest stops
Looking at Niagra Falls
Tents at Camp Mills, NY
Tents at Camp Mills after a rain shower.
We have been having a great time for the last three weeks. Coney Island, Rockaway Beach and Broadway are all doing their part in extracting our shekels, but we are getting more than value received in good time. Once in a while we get a twenty-four-hour pass, but the rest of the time we just "silently steal away" Tomorrow we leave for overseas at last.
'Thirteen again. We seem to like the number, for again it is our day of departure. Up at 2:00 o'clock this morning and policing up camp in the pitch dark. We left camp at 4:00 a. m. and returned to New York by train and ferry, where we boarded the S.S. Empress of Britain. The least said the better, but we are on the fifth deck down, hotter than h - - - and all the portholes closed. I can easily picture the Black Hole of Calcutta now. Casual outfits, Signal Corps and Medical, fill up the ship.
On the left is Pvt George W. Salmon's bunk card from the Empress of Britain. On the right men pass the day away on deck next to one of the great anchors of the Empress of Britain.
This is the ship that was directly to Starboard of the Empress of Britain in the convoy going over. She has the typical Dazzle Paint scheme of ships during that time meant to confuse U-boat commanders.
They held us in port last night, probably figuring if we could stand it for twenty-four hours we might last out the trip. They must have been satisfied; for we left the dock at ten o'clock this morning. Soon we picked up the rest of our convoy and were escorted for some miles by dirigibles aeroplanes; sub-chasers; and destroyers, but they have all left and we are breezing along with only a cruiser to lead the way. Strangely enough, it happens to be the Seattle. There are thirteen ships in our convoy, by the way.
The cruiser left us last night and we have been scanning the horizon pretty anxiously, but this morning we sighted the first of the British and French destroyers that are going to take us into port. They look like so many mosquitoes, compared to our big ships, but the sight of them gave us all a "grand and glorious feeling."
The U. S. has fooled the Boche again and our convoy is steaming up the river Mersey to Liverpool, just thirteen days from the States.
We spent another night on the ship, probably to let the casuals make a safe getaway. They were tickled to death to get off the ship with whole skins, as we got everything else they had, together with the reputation of being "some" tough outfit.
At 10:00 a. m. today we bade good-bye to the Empress of Britain, no regrets, and hiked a couple of blocks to the railroad station, where they loaded us into those queer, dinky, compartment-car trains of the English, eight men to the compartment. As we were boarding the train, a Britisher presented each of us with an engraved card signed by King George, wishing us good luck, etc., our first souvenir. The engines here are as small and queer as the trains, but they hauled us along at a great rate, and at 6:00 p. m. we were dropped off at Romsey. It was a mile and a half hike to this Rest (?) Camp, where they put twenty-two of us in each tent, with a pine floor for a bed. But the floor should feel soft at that, in comparison with the deck of the ship, where most of us slept in preference to our hammocks in the "black hole."
This is a Rest Camp, all right, mind, body, and stomach. There seems to be an idea prevalent here that a slice of bread, a hunk of cheese, and tea make a meal. But we had our first bath since leaving the U. S., and that helps a lot.
The 63rd is greeted by English Schoolgirls with American flags and signs saying "Thanks for Your Help"
Wealthy people in England
While in England the 63rd Band paraded for the local towns folk.
Photo on the left shows some of the men of the 63rd Artillery relaxing and watching a parade. On the right a local woman refills some canteens for some of the boys.
We are on our way again, but this time we started on toot. Rumor had it that it was anywhere from nine to sixteen miles, but by the time we had reached there with our hundred-pound packs, under a boiling sun and with empty stomachs, we quite agreed it was sixteen miles. Our "rest" in New York and the trip across the ocean must have softened us considerably, for we were a tired, weary lot when we reached the seaport. A large percentage had blistered feet and we were mighty glad when we marched up the gangplank of a real American ship, the S. S. Yale, and dropped our packs at last. It is a pleasure to see American "Gobs" and a good, clean American ship again. At 8:00 p. m. we pulled out of the harbor, and are ready, as soon as darkness falls, for the dash across the English Channel.
I woke up this morning to find the Yale fastened to an American pier in Le Havre. Two life-preservers served as my bed last night, and I never had a better night's rest; but a lot of bones creaked and my pack was adjusted to a mighty sore back as we disembarked and hiked four miles through our first French town to another Rest (?) Camp. In fact, a number of the Regiment weren't able to walk at all and were lucky enough to draw a ride in a truck. As usual, a dozen or so men "rest" on the floor of each tent. We must have seen our last cot at Camp Mills.
40 HOMMES, 8 CHEVAUX
The 40 and 8's the men rode in.
We left camp this noon, but in entirely different spirits from when we arrived. As we marched to the station we gave the natives a sample of real American "pep" And at the depot we had our first taste of French troop transportation. "40 Hommes, 8 Chevaux" was on the side of each box car, and they made no miscount, for we are crowded in like sardines with our "Corned Willie" and beans for a three-day trip, headed for no one knows where.
Cramped and can't straighten out, tired and can't sleep. I wish Sherman had ridden in a French box-car. Last night about 1:00 a. m. we were still trying to figure how forty men could sleep where forty could only stand, when a brisk bombardment of some sort started outside. (As usual, we were standing still. A French troop train travels a little way at a few miles per hour and then rests a while.) The sky was full of tiny flashes and shells were exploding continuously over our heads. A few of the excitable saw dirigibles disappearing behind clouds and aeroplanes dropping bombs but we came through untouched. Today we learned that it was really an air raid passing over Rouen, where we were stopping, on its way to Le Havre.
Three views of Aixe, France. On the left is one of our billets, center is the swiming hole and or the right is how the French women do their laundry.
Passed through Versailles today and had a glimpse of the palace across the river. We turned more directly south there, passing through Orleans and Limoges, and we had just about decided we must be on our way to Italy, when, after a halt even longer than usual, they ordered us out of the train with our packs. No one hesitated. We found ourselves in a picturesque little town, where we are billeted in all the vacant stores, barns and stables that the village could spare. As soon as we were assigned to our new homes, we dropped bur packs and dashed for the river, which runs through the center of the town, and removed the accumulated dirt of the last three days. The kitchens, which were temporarily installed by the riverbank, soon had some hot "chow" and coffee ready for us, and we are quite recovered this evening.
Wonder of wonders! No calls, drill or formations today; nothing to do but wander about and take in the sights. I spent the day trying to talk to the "frogs" and I am becoming quite expert in the use of "oui", "beaucoup" and "combieri." The riverbank is lined with old women who might have been here at the time of Julius Caesar, from their looks, but who effectively beat all the dirt out of the clothes they are laundering with big mallets. When I become fluent enough to tell them what I want, I think I will have one of them beat on my clothes for a while. All the natives here wear huge wooden shoes, and their chief means of transportation are two-wheeled carts drawn by oxen which are even slower than a French troop train. A few of the fellows were lucky enough to get letters from the States, but there were none for me. Still, it is "some" service to have American mail the day after you reach your billets in France.
Several of us attended the village church today, and it is one of the most beautiful old buildings I have ever seen. It is hotter than the Kaiser's future home here now, and our only relief is a swim in the river, which is rather dirty, but very refreshing. This afternoon a crowd of us went swimming, sans bathing suits, and the feminine portion of the town gathered on the bank to watch. The natives were extremely unconcerned, but it is a trifle embarrassing until you get used to it.
The regiment suffered its first casualty today. A man from Battery "E" ventured too far in the river and was drowned. They are still diving for the body. Lieutenant Colonel Hyde is sporting spread eagles for the first time today.
These were our barracks which were built by Napoleon I
This was the transportation of the Local French people
Our first big mail from the States arrived today. I dragged down three, Mother's, Sis', and Hers.
The ancient Roman Bridge.
An order is out prescribing bathing suits as necessary raiment when swimming in conspicuous places. We tried out a new swimming-hole today, in a nearby creek, which is cleaner and deeper than the river, though a lot colder. It is just above an ancient bridge, supposedly built by the Romans, flat stones simply cemented together in the form of an arch, and it is apparently good for hundreds of years yet. On the way back we passed some old ruins, haunted, of course, where Henry the Fourth is said to have lived. A French girl gave us to understand that his ghost walks around the house after dark, and while she had never seen it, she fully expected to some day. This evening we visited the village graveyard, which is quite interesting and picturesque. The graves are decorated with wreaths of imitation flowers made from beads of varied colors, and many date back several hundred years. In one corner was a heap of skulls and bones of the deceased whose surviving relatives had failed to pay the rent for their graves.
The Villiage Grave yard we visited.
A typical village Chateau with an attached barn.
The first detachment from the regiment left today to attend school at Limoges. It looks as though we are getting down to business at last. The majority are attending auto or tractor school, though many are studying signalling; radio work, onenteur, etc.
The people here surely value American products. Tonight three of us parted with an old razor, some soap, tobacco, and shoe polish for the sum total of twenty-six francs, with which we made the acquaintance of the Central Cafe, Cherry Brandy, and the "Vin Sisters."
Another group left for school at Limoges today. The "frogs" gave a Red Cross bazaar on the river bank this afternoon, which was very pretty; but we are still broke and there is no payday in sight.
Payday at last, and there was a "hot time in the old town tonight." Several little rows enlivened the evening and the town's supply of Vin and Biere has visibly decreased. Two days ago two strange vehicles called Caledons limped into town, and yesterday a few Supply Company men brought in four Rikers, which is some small start towards our motor equipment at least.
Lieutenant Colonel Gibson appeared among us today to take the place of Colonel Hyde.
Another payday, but this time we tried celebrating in Limoges. It was a beautiful ride by trolley, but a long walk back when we missed the last car.
A change of scene at last. A detachment of us were brought down to Limoges in trucks this morning, an hour's ride along the river, and left here at the Caserne, old barracks for one of Napoleon's most famous cavalry regiments. The buildings themselves are large, and being built entirely of stone and concrete, are apparently in as good condition now as they ever were. We wash in large stone troughs where Napoleon's horses formerly drank. We are here for a two-weeks' course, with the evenings to ourselves. I should see something of the village in that time.
Some little gray-backed friends of Napoleon have been disturbing our slumbers here. They evidently resent our presence and whole droves of them attack every night. I usually manage to drive them off, but I bear many marks of the conflicts. The past week has been most interesting and instructive. The auto school is very good, one-half of each day being spent in actual driving and the other half in shop work, "trouble shooting," etc. The evenings I have had to myself, and it has been one round of pleasure. Limoges is a good sized town, very old and quaint, but with a number of good shops, cafes, and beaucoup "jolies filles." I have already sent home yards and yards of hand (?) made lace, and she is to have an art ring for which this town is famous. Yesterday two of us visited the Haviland factory, and Theodore Haviland himself showed us how the world's most famous china is made. One more week here, and then back to the old monotony at Aixe. It will be a quieter seven days than the last; my francs have run out.
It is good to be back with the outfit and have some real meals again. They would have nearly starved us at Limoges if we hadn't been able to buy "grub" on the outside. I am a full-fledged truck driver now, at least that is what my card said that they handed me yesterday. No one could guess it from watching me drive, but I will take a chance with a truck if the government is willing. Base Hospital No. 13 sent a baseball team out here today, but they didn't know they wore our lucky number and the regimental team trimmed them, 17 to 4.
When the war is over I will have at least one occupation, learned in the army, in fact, I should be about the best pick and shovel wielder in the country. Our tractors and guns have finally come, and every day we haul the guns and platforms to a large field five miles from here, dig the pit, put gun and platform in position two or three times, haul them out, and start for home. To add to the pleasure, steel helmets are worn continuously between Reveille and Retreat, and Gas Masks whenever an officer wants to sound the alarm. I have done enough excavating in the last week to dig another Panama Canal. But, at any rate, we are learning how it should be done, and it is rumored that we are leaving soon.
The Kaiser seems to be trying to gain peace, but I think his efforts will fizzle out. As it is, he has stirred up a lot of excitement around here. The "poov Frenchie" that sells the New York Herald's Paris edition is nearly mobbed every night as soon as he gets the papers off the train. A good American newsie could handle the crowd and be calling for more customers. but the "frog" gets so excited he never knows what he is doing.
This regiment always manages to hang around each place it stops so long that we are tickled to death when the order comes to move. The convoy comprising our trucks, tractors, and guns left today for La Courtine. They are going to have a cold, wet trip, for the tractors travel only about two miles an hour, and it will take them five days. We follow tomorrow by train.
We are in another of Napoleon’s old army camps, which are being used by the U.S. as a range for artillery practice. The walls of the old barracks are full of holes made by machine guns that were used two years ago to drive out some Russian troops who liked it so well here that they decided to stay rather than go to the front.
Nov 11, 1918
Now that the armistice is signed, what happens to us? There are more rumors flying than ever before.
It is getting colder every day, and now that our firing is over we are “waiting” again.
The diary was missing pages 12, and 29, 30. So we have lost some history. It continues again:
St. Morillon, billeted in barns and sheds. “May our stay be brief.” We are leaving here in a couple of days, but it looks as though we will have to walk, only twenty-two miles to Bordeaux. No mail since Christmas; they must be holding it in the States.
February 1st, 1919
Up and at 'em at 3:30 this morning. We hiked, as expected, but fortunately our packs were carried in trucks. The start was made at 7:00 a. m., and we covered the twenty-two miles to Embarkation Camp No. 1, in Bordeaux, by five o'clock. There was a serious motor accident late last night, near St. Michel, and three men from the regiment were so severely hurt that they won't be able to return with us.
We are now deloused, shorn, shaven, and freshly clothed, ready to move. The Provisional and Third Battalions went through the "mill" yesterday, and the First and Second today. No human laundry at a world's fair ever had anything on that delousing process. In at one end, the old clothes went in a heap; we were bathed, inspected and passed by long counters, where we gained our new apparel; on to the barber-shop, where only a fortunate few escaped unshorn, and out again, the rawest of raw recruits, in long pants, with barrack bags over our shoulders. There was a General Inspection this afternoon and, according to the rumors, we leave tomorrow for Marseilles. Tonight we were paid in good old American greenbacks, and "Come Seven" and "Snake Eyes" kept me awake half the night.
Standing in formation again outside of the delousing station in France before we left for the States.
For once the rumors were right and we left the camp at 11:00 a. m., with full packs, and hiked to the depot in Bordeaux, where we were again loaded in boxcars, but American this time, fifty men and two bales of straw to a car. It is rather crowded, but infinitely better than the French cars. There are two trains hauling the regiment, the first leaving at 4:10 p. m.
Today we passed through the picturesque old walled city of Beziers, had our first glimpse of the Mediterranean about 1:00 p. m., at Cette, and, skirting the shore line, passed through the famous old towns of Mount Pelier and Nimes later in the afternoon.
A smooth day on board the Caserta of the Italian mail Line, which we nicknamed her the "Macroni Barge"
We arrived at the docks at Marseilles at 1:00 a. m., and sat on our packs in a big warehouse the rest of-the night. The band did its best to cheer us up with lively airs, and some negro stevedores added their share of the entertainment with clog-dancing and songs; but it was a long night. As usual, though, the Red Cross were right on the job with coffee and sandwiches at 7:00 a. m., and as we boarded the boat they handed us little bags with candy and cigarettes in them. We started aboard the Italian steamer Caserta at 10:45 a. m., and finally cleared for home at 7:30 this evening. It was a great sight as we steamed slowly out on the quiet waters of the Mediterranean and looked back on the lights of the many ships in the harbor and the thousands agleam on shore. It is a sensation that will probably come but once in a lifetime to finally be sailing away from France on our way to God's country. The band played the snappiest tunes they knew, and we made noise enough to be heard half-way to Paris.
February 7th and 8th,
Sailing quietly over the blue waters of the Mediterranean, and for the most part in sight of the rugged shoreline of France and Spain. We are fairly comfortably fixed on this ship, with bunks and a certain amount of ventilation at least; far different from the Empress of Britain.
Just as Reveille blew this morning we rounded the Rock of Gibraltar and anchored in the harbor amongst dozens of ships flying the flags of nearly every nation. By eight o'clock the Caserta was surrounded with small boats of all kinds and descriptions, selling figs, raisins, oranges, and souvenirs of all kinds. The money is lowered to the Spaniards in baskets, and we haul up our purchases by the same route. Our ship has to coal here before we start across.
No coal today and we are getting to be an impatient lot. Some of the officers went ashore this afternoon and brought back interesting reports of Gibraltar, as close as we will ever get, probably.
Started coaling yesterday, but the ship wasn't ready to move until 2:30 this afternoon, which is quite natural, we always move on the thirteenth. I hope there will be no more delays.
Photo on the left: Oranges, Wine, Lingerre and what have you. Africa is in the background.
Our view of the "Rock of Gibraltar" as we waited for coal.
February 16th to 18th.
They say it isn't a very rough sea, but you can't tell that to over half the men on this ship. About that number are flat on their backs, when not leaning over the rail and hoping something will sink this craft and put them out of their misery. I haven't lost anything yet, but I am not exactly vigorous.
A day of history on the S. S. Caserta, no macaroni for dinner. We have had spagehtti, macaroni, or noodles twice a day ever since we left Marseilles, and they were combined with such other unappetizing dishes that we felt like declaring war on the "Wops." Today, however, our officers stirred them up a bit and we enjoyed two quite palatable meals. Delayed by the storm, we are not yet half-way across, but the weather has calmed down, fortunately; perhaps making it possible for our "speeding ship" to reach the States by the end of the month at least.
We never really appreciated George Washington before. The crew, though, realized that this was a day of great importance, and once more the macaroni was forgotten and this time chicken was served instead; chicken in strange and wonderful form and condition, but, nevertheless, chicken. This trip is beginning to wear on the nerves; nine days since we have seen land, and sixteen since we boarded this craft. The little flag that indicates our position on the chart has been hovering around the Azores for three days, and if the wind should gain much in volume we will probably wake up some morning back in Gibraltar. If I ever make land again, I am through with the sea.
The Caserta left Gibraltar on the thirteenth, and it was just midnight the twenty-sixth when she dropped anchor in American waters, thirteen days later. We all stayed up to get our first glimpse of God's country, and while it consisted chiefly of bright lights along the shore, they seemed just a little different from those we last saw on foreign soil. This morning a number of us found that we had been cheering the lights at the masthead of a monitor, which we took for the Statue of Liberty.
The only redeeming feature of our trip to France is the return home. All day long we have been going through a succession of sensations, thrills, and experiences which will never be forgotten. We left our anchorage near Fort Hamilton a little after nine this morning and steamed slowly up East River. The Mayor's Committee of Welcome, in a seagoing tug, escorted us to the pier, their band combining with ours in attempting to be heard above our cheers. And when we reached the dock, the Red Cross were "right there," as usual, with real coffee and real buns, and our only regrets as we walked down the gangplank of the fast (?) Italian Mail Steamer Caserta were that we hadn't scuttled the boat and saved some other troops the trans-Atlantic trip on a macaroni-rationed ship. After the "coffee and," we started retracing our steps of nine months ago; by ferry up the East River to Long Island City, and then by train to Camp Mills. Here we received our first surprise. Instead of the tents, open kitchens, etc., that we left last July, we found modern barracks, mess halls, and hot showers, unbelievable luxuries. Orders are out that no one shall leave the vicinity of the barracks until we are "deloused" again. Our outfit goes through late tonight. I should be able to wear out my long pants before then.
Photo on the left was taken by Pvt. George Salmon of the 63rd as they steamed down the Hudson River on the Caserta. The view is New York harbor from the Jersey City side.
"Deloused" once more, and we look more like recruits than ever. I exchanged my long pants all right, but the rest of the clothes were crammed into a barrack bag and steam-heated until they were wrinkled and shrunk beyond recognition. But we can't be discouraged now; we are in the land of tailors and pressers; tomorrow we get passes to New York, and in a few days will be on the train', headed for Puget Sound and Home.
If the "poilu" could only see us now, American train, three men to a section, and "Corporal Black" to wait on us. It is a through train, with a big time in Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma ahead. Our few days in New York this time were even more enjoyable than last July. We knew the ropes better and our passes and "leaves" were used to the best advantage. Payday, the Saturday after our arrival, naturally didn't hurt our feelings a bit, either. While we were at Mills, nearly half the regiment left us, and there are only about eight hundred all told on the two trains taking us West. All who enlisted or were drafted into the service east of the Rockies were formed in detachments, and will be sent directly to the camp nearest their homes for discharge.
The past five days have been a succession of welcomes from the smallest villages to the biggest cities. All along the line the stations have been packed to welcome us home, and gifts of smokes, magazines, and "eats" have been showered in our direction. Tonight we reached Spokane and were allowed to leave the train and enjoy the refreshments prepared by the Red Cross and Salvation Army workers. Bits of news regarding the reception awaiting us on our arrival in Seattle have been drifting to us, and from the reports, it is to be a big day in the Puget Sound country. We will reach Everett sometime in the forenoon tomorrow, and after a reception in that city, will proceed to Seattle.
The long-dreamed-for day has arrived and passed. Nine months ago we left Washington, believing that the day for our return was a long way off. We said our good-byes, and from that day have planned and hoped for the hour when we once more would be back amidst the old surroundings. There are no words that can express the feelings of our return. One has to be away on a mission such as we were on to realize such a sensation. The welcome accorded us shows only too well the true American spirit, and to say that it was appreciated would be expressing it mildly.
The heavy snows in the Cascades delayed the trains, and it was not until nearly twelve o'clock that we arrived in Everett. Far away down the track the cheers of the crowd and the music of the band reached our ears, and as we pulled into the station the throng swarmed the platform to be the first to exchange greetings. The parade was soon formed and we moved down the street in our first parade in Washington. After the parade, we lunched as guests of the Woman's Welfare League, and from the quantities of pie, coffee, and cake consumed, it was thoroughly enjoyed. After lunch, we were allowed liberty to see the town and meet acquaintances. Those of us who were not so fortunate as to have someone to meet us, swallowed our disappointment and consoled ourselves with the thought of the greeting we would receive in Seattle and Tacoma. At three o'clock we again boarded the train, and shortly afterward pulled out. Short stops were made at Edmunds and several other places to allow the men haying friends or relatives there to say "Hello" and shout bits of personal news as the train moved out.
Soon familiar landmarks hove in sight, and as we approached Seattle the very air seemed to breathe the word "Home" It seemed an age to me from the time we left Everett until we arrived at the station in Seattle. The train stopped and I at once looked for Mother and Dad. Yes, they were there, as I knew they would be. After I had kissed Mother and Dad had nearly shaken my arm from its socket, I looked around for "Her." And such a meeting! Anyhow, there is not a girl in France like her, or in the U.S., either.
The parade was a success from the time we moved out of the yard until we disbanded at the Masonic Temple, some fifty minutes later. Second Avenue reverberated with the cheers of the thousands that lined the sidewalks, while horns, whistles, and sirens shrieked a welcome from every direction. My ears rang for an hour afterward from the din. The Great Northern Railway has the correct idea by saying "See America First." It is my motto from now on.
I have danced and feasted until all thoughts of the Caserta seem like events away in the past. I will say good-night and try to dream the whole day's events over again. Such a bed! I have slept in hammocks, in boxcars, in billets, out in the mud while on convoy, and in the beds of Broadway's finest hotels. They cannot compare with this one. Maybe it is because I am dead tired, or maybe it is because it is at home. I wonder which.
No reveille this morning, but the aroma of a cooking breakfast and the rattle of pans from the kitchen served the same purpose. I awoke and for a moment was puzzled at the surroundings. It did not take me long to get dressed and go to the kitchen to find out what was for breakfast. Eggs, coffee, and toast with "real" jam took the place of the bacon and gravy of the Army morning menu.
We left for Tacoma about nine-thirty and arrived there a few minutes after eleven. All of the city was congregated at the depot. The building shook with the music of the several bands, intermingled with the roar of welcome of the crowd. We experienced some difficulty in making our way through the crowd to the lunch that had been provided for us. I fear that if we are offered much more in the line of receptions I shall spend the remainder of my Army career with a cane and the gout. Six months ago pie would have sold for ten francs a cut. Here they give it away by the carloads. C'est la Guerre.
The parade up Pacific Avenue started about twelve-thirty and was a duplicate of the scene of the day before, I experienced the sensation of walking on about nine dollars' worth of cut flowers that some over-joyous person had cast in our path. Not so bad for a private, what? At night, Tacoma outdid itself in entertaining us. I would almost agree to go to war all over again to receive such a reception as we have received. Tomorrow we leave for Camp Lewis at eight-thirty.
Arrived in Camp Lewis just a week ago today, and since then have signed everything signable in camp. Tomorrow Uncle Sam and I will be on less intimate terms. In the morning we are to receive our discharges and what pay is due us, and at noon I hope to be on my way home.
This ceases to be the "Diary of a Buck" and becomes the diary of a civilian. Tomorrow I am going to buy a dime's worth of mothballs and lay them away with my uniform. I am no longer Pvt. John Brown, but have a discharge that announces to whom it may concern that "Pvt. John Brown is hereby Honorably Discharged from the Military Service." A new suit of "cits" is waiting for me downtown, and tomorrow night I expect to startle Second Avenue by appearing in them for the first time in twenty months. I told the folks not to wake me in the morning and that I would like to have my eggs soft boiled for breakfast.
By the time the next war arrives I will undoubtedly be one of the venerable old veterans. I shall stand on the side-lines and cheer the boys as they march up Second Avenue, just as we were cheered when we returned. I shall try to treat them in the same splendid manner that I was treated. Until then "Au Revoir."
The Regimental Emblem of the 63rd Artillery
Photos of the presentation of the French Colors to the 63rd Artillery, C.A.C. at Limoges, France on 12 December 1918
Some our 8-inch howitzers and limbers in France.
Here are 3 of our tractors we used to haul the guns.
On the Parade Grounds at our camp at Limoges, France.
Another Gopher Hole dug by two of the 63rd's finest men.
Site seeing while off duty in France
Sutton, June 25, 1918
Pvt. George W. Town on the left and Runt Herron on the right.
Below are narrations of men who were in the 63rd Artillery, C.A.C. during WWI. If you know of someone and have facts and stories please contact me and I will add them here with thier fellow soldiers so that what they did "Over There" will be remembered for all time.
George William Salmon was born about Nov. 1897 in Pennsylvania, and schooled in Seattle. They moved there in 1899. His father was George M. Salmon, a mechanic, in Iron Works and Metal Shops, born about December of 1870 in Pennsylvania. His mother was Emma T. Salmon, born November of 1870, in England who came to America in 1888.
George, at the age of nineteen, was in the Washington State Militia, Washington Coast Artillery Corps, stationed at Port Townsend, Fort Warden, in the days before the First Sound. His unit was sent to Butte, Montana School of Mines, because of miner unrest and violence. After this situation was diffused they returned to Fort Warden and then were sent to Seattle in June of 1917, to start their journey to France to take part in the Great War. They would be an artillery unit with French 8-inch howitzers. Initially they could not get the guns or the tracked vehicles with which to pull them. They were not ready to participate in the War until they were trained and supplied; when trained and supplied they were ready but the Armistice came and they were sent to Marseilles, France and sent home on an Italian ship.
In 1920, George was a 23-year old laborer in a shipyard in Seattle, and living with his parents. Afterwards he went to Alaska to work where he took some interesting photos in Southeast Alaska, of steamers on the rocks and the Ketchikan area.
By 1930, at age 33, George was living with his parents in Seattle and worked as a bookkeeper at a machine shop, perhaps the one where his father worked. Around that time George met a married woman named Irene Tracy Merritt. They fell in love and moved to Los Angeles to live and work. Irene's mother Maude lived and worked there also. Irene was amicably divorced in 1931 and she and George were soon married. George took some interesting photos of the damage in Long Beach from the great earthquake of 1933.
After that George and Irene moved back to Seattle, Washington and he got a job at the US Post Office. Irene’s Uncle Leonard Metzger, who was a manager at the Post Office, may have helped George get a job there during the Depression. George delivered mail at the local postal branch in North Seattle until his retirement.
Irene, his wife, died in 1949, aged 54, after the prolonged effects of cancer and George died in 1956, aged 59, in North Seattle, also of cancer. Both George and Irene are buried in the Salmon plot at Washelli Cemetery in Seattle.
Ready for the Party. 3rd Squad, Battery A, 63rd Artillery, C.A.C.
Names are: 1) C. D. Clauden, 2) Marvin Goss, 3) Bob Heefe, 4) Cpl. H. L. McClinton, 5) J. W. Efaw, 6) J. J. Dunn, 7) Pvt. George W. Salmon
Most of the photos on this page were taken by Pvt. George W. Salmon and shared with me by his step-grandson George Merritt
Robert N. Miller was born about July of 1893 in Springfield Ohio. On the 15th of October 1914 Miller enlisted into the Army at Fort Logan Colorado. He was assigned to the 26th Company, Coast Artillery Corps stationed at Fort Flagler, Washington. He also served at Ft. Casey, Washington for a short time. He made Corporal on 24 June 1915 and was advanced to Sergeant on 11 August 1917. On 3 September 1917 he was honorably discharged to accept a Commission as a Captain in the Coast Artillery Corps. On 4 September 1917 he was assigned to the 63rd Artillery, C.A.C. Upon his return from France with the 63rd Artillery he was discharged at Ft. Worden, Washington on 28 February 1919 with an Honorable Discharge.
...headed towards southern Spain for awhile and then toward the Baltic for awhile and continuing this course for several days. At times we would hear of them getting in on a wireless message of submarines that were trying to locate us but there was so many rumors I did not know which one to believe .
We never saw a one anyhow after about day’s out our Battleship turned sharply around and headed out across the water and disappeared beyond the horizon where she went to I do not know but it was rumored that she went to rescue of the "Justicius", which was sunk just a little off our course that night. It was also claimed that the "Battleship" supposed to be the "Seattle" was sunk after a running fight with the submarine’s sinking right before she went down nevertheless she never returned to escort us the rest of our journey. It was on that same night if I remember right "Acquitania" the sister ship to the "Leviathon" passed us returning to America but I think she got through safe. The next morning found us out floating around not knowing where we were at and wondering why our convoy had not shown up as it was supposed to have done the night before but we floated all that day and no convoy came in sight. That night we all had to go on the upper deck and sleep with our life preservers on. It was moonlight and you could see almost as plain as day but none of those bad submarines showed up and when we awoke in the morning no convoy showed up but about ten o’clock it proved to be our convoy and finally after three days with the convoy we were landed at Liverpool, England without the loss of a single ship. Well I must close as the fellows are going. Will continue our journey in another letter.
With love to all, Fred
Sgt. F.E. Tuttle, Bat. "B" 63d Arty (CAC) Am. Ex. Force, France
This letter was shared by a relative of Sgt. Tuttle.
During World War One the 63rd Artillery, C.A.C. served in France and was fully trained, ready to take their place on the Front Lines of that war when fate stepped in to change the history of that Regiment of men willing to sacrifice their all if required to for the Freedom of the country they loved. The men who made up the 63rd Artillery came primarily from the state of Washington. But there were men from several other states in the 63rd Artillery, men such as John “Graves” Vann from North Carolina.
John G. Vann was a Master Gunner in Headquarters Company, 63rd Artillery. John served in France with the 63rd and returned with them. Because no WWI draft registration card was found for John G. Vann this suggests that he enlisted into the Army before he would have had to register for the Federal Draft prior to April of 1917 when America entered the war. He was discharged and returned to his home state of North Carolina. The name of Vann carries with it a long-standing history within the state of North Carolina.
John Graves Vann was born on 4 August 1897 in a small town named Winton, which is located in Hertford County, North Carolina. He was the second eldest child of John E. and Leonie T. (Graves) Vann. There were several John Vann’s in the family line and can be traced back from John Graves Vann to his father John E. Vann, his grandfather John A. Vann, sometimes referred to as Jno A. Vann, and then to his Great-grandfather John Vann who would have been born about 1768. John Graves Vann was known throughout his life as “Graves,” his middle name. This name came from his mother, as her maiden name was Graves. The name of Graves has been carried on in the Vann family as no less then 3 other men in the family have used the nickname of “Graves” throughout their lives.
John Graves Vann’s great-grandfather and grandfather were farmers all living near the small town of Winton, NC. John Graves Vann’s father also lived his entire live in and around Winton but chose the Lawyer profession. In June of 1900 the John E. Vann family lived in a house in Winton and in the home was John E. and his wife Leonie T. and 3 children. John E. and Leonie T. were married about 1893 or 1894 and their first child, a daughter named Louise C. was born in August of 1894 followed by John G., the subject of this narration, in August of 1897, and then youngest son David A. born in January of 1900.
Also living in the home with the family was a 20 year-old single male by the name of Bertis M. Graves. He was likely a relative to Leonie T. Graves Vann, and may have been her younger brother known as “Bertie.” The 20-year old Bertis M. Graves was born in North Carolina and so were both of his parents.
By 1910 the John E. Vann family still lived in Winton. In the home with John E, and Leonie T. were daughter Louise and son John Graves. The youngest son David A. had passed away sometime between when he was four months old and the taking of the Federal Census in 1910. John E. Vann was still working as a lawyer, likely in his own practice.
The granddaughter of John “Graves” Vann, Debbie Mills recalls, “family lore has it that he was president of the freshman class at Wake Forest University (when it was actually located in Wake Forest, NC) and my grandmother was the president of the freshman class at Meredith College in Raleigh, both good Baptist colleges a few miles from each other. There was a social-mixer of some kind and they had to stand next to each other in a receiving line and that's how they met. They were staunch Baptists for all of the time I knew them.”
Debbie Mills goes on to tell this about John and his courtship of his future wife Mary. “One funny story my grandmother told me was that my grandfather would come to "court" but she wasn't allowed to walk down the street with him. So, she would get a friend and he would get a friend and the girls would walk ahead, the boys behind, and converse over their shoulders. My how times have changed”
Master Gunner John "Graves" Vann
John Graves Vann likely joined the Army prior to April of 1917 when America was joining the fight in Europe. The family believes that John did not finish college because of the war. His name appears in the Regimental Muster of Headquarters Company of the 63rd Artillery, C.A.C. and he did serve in France with the 63rd. After he was discharged from the Army he did return back to North Carolina, where on 11 January 1921 he married Mary L. Norwood in Goldsboro, Wayne County, North Carolina, which was Mary’s hometown.
According to Debbie Mills her grandfather and grandmother John “Graves” and Mary made their first home together in Greenville, South Carolina but Mary "went home to mama" to Goldsboro to have her first baby, Debbie’s uncle, John Graves Vann Jr. (also known as “Graves”) in January of 1922. At some point the family moved to Richmond, VA where Debbie Mills father, George Norwood Vann, was born in October 1923. Then they moved to Raleigh NC where their daughter, Louise Hart Vann, was born in June 1925. They lived in Raleigh in the same house where the aunt of Debbie Mills was born, until their deaths.
In April of 1930 John G. Vann was working as an investment bond salesman and may have been doing quite well as he and Mary owned the home they lived in. By then the family had moved from Wayne, County and was now living in Raleigh, NC. The home was located at 1606 Scales Street and was valued at $10,000.
John G. Vann eventually took a job with the North Carolina State University as a Business Administrator in which he retired from that position in 1965. At the age of 79 on 12 July 1977, John “Graves” Vann passed away at home in Raleigh. His wife Mary survived him.
Debbie Mills is the granddaughter of John G. Vann.
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