Gates, Marvin H., 1876-1972
Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace, April 28, 1918. Family, Business, and Personal Affairs Papers - Family Correspondence File.
Somewhere in France April 28, 1918
The fourth Sunday after Easter and I am just now ready to go to a real artillery school. Have had a splendid tour of the Atlantic Ocean and France. Have seen France as no civilian tour could possibly see it and now have a room with four of the most congenial first lieutenants in the regiment at an old chateau with a beautiful garden, a moat, a fine park, and a church with a chime clock and the most beautifully toned bell I ever heard. The hardships of this war are sure easy to bear so far.
Major G. and I took a walk yesterday afternoon and turned off on a road that said "Chemin Particulier." Neither of us knew what that was. Evidently it means private road, for we ran into another chateau. There was a man at the gate who invited us in and showed us a park with a pretty little stream running through it. There was a swan on it and some green and white ducks. The gardens were things of beauty. There was an old mill in the park where they made flour (before the war), their own ice plant, electric dynamo, and every other convenience. There were six kinds of horse vehicles (no horses, gone to war), three autos in a garage that looked like pictures of Swiss homes you've seen. The whole thing was surrounded by a six-foot wall. Take it all together, the major and I had a very pleasant walk. It belongs to a French colonel .
Have not gotten any letters yet although I'm hoping to get some in the next thirty days or so. Gee what I would give for one teeney weeny letter from you. I've read and reread those I got at the port of embarkation until they are nearly worn out. The rest of the gang are in the same fix. Everyone of 'em is writing his sister or his cousin or his aunt right now. I think we'd give all our next month's pay and a lien on the next for a letter from home.
We couldn't be more comfortably situated anywhere in the world. If we don't learn our lessons it won't be because our surroundings aren't right. If I could only tell you all the things we've seen and done since arriving. We've got a hard boiled Col in charge here but he's a fine man and I think will put the fear of God into some of us. Some of these birds seem to think they are on a grand picnic and it seems like we are but we've got to work like thunder from this out.
We got here Saturday night and I couldn't go to sleep right away because the church clock would strike eleven and then the clock on the Hotel de Ville would strike eleven five minutes later and then five minutes (It takes longer to address than to write) later some clock that I haven't been able to locate yet would strike eleven. By that time the church clock had started on eleven fifteen and it was one continual round of pleasure all night long. They've gotten them all together today but I don't know how long they'll stay that way.
Went to church this morning. Catholic in French. Couldn't understand a word but I reckon it was all right because they took up a collection and Major G told me that the drift of the Priest's little French talk was that the ration should be adhered to and that the girls shouldn't flirt with the gay Americans. Like to froze in the church but it is nice and warm outside.
Be sure and write real often. I hope to get them some day. Will write as often as I can.
Yours always, Harry
(Later instructions) Harry S. Truman 1st Lt. 129 FA Amer Ex Force, France, via New York
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