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Mason County Memories

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WWI History Column Dave Petersen We will continue this week with an overview of letters written from France by local men who participated in the First World War that were published in the Ludington Daily News. Walter Stump of Custer writes from the Camp Custer where he is being trained. "I see the paper states that we are not being drilled very hard during hot weather, but if you could see us out in the drill fields doing double time with our shirts off you would think differently. We saw a bunch of slackers who tried to get out of the draft for various reasons brought into camp today. They are prisoners now and at present because of us boys who are trying to do our bit it's a hard place for slackers and I would hate to be one of them when the boys come home." Pvt. Walter Hansen of Ludington writes "We were at the front lines for almost three months and saw all kinds of real action. Saw Many air battles almost every day and also saw many German shells burst and many big barrage fires pulled off. I tell you it's something wonderful but very sad. Old Bill sent over his gas every day but it never hurt me as I was always quick in getting my mask on as I'm afraid of that stuff." Sam Snow of Ludington wrote that " Fortunately our voyage across the English Channel was calm. We were so closely quartered that it was impossible to lie down. Stek and I stood up all night at intervals munching our scant rations of hardtack. " I was placed in the dispensary upon our arrival. The Germans launched a heavy gas barrage today. Early today our ambulances began bringing the victims to us. It was a most horrible sight to see our American boys in such terrible condition. We were unprepared of course, consequently everyone is working at high tension. The gas is composed of some terrible chemical which burns the body and face terribly, that accounts for it's nickname; mustard gas. The various wards are close to the dispensary and all day I have heard the cries of agony and distress." Pic 1 The first American troops to set foot on German soil. Pic 2 The town of Fismes showing the devastation of the bombings on one city street. Pic 3 A company of tanks near Juvgny France. Pic 4 Pvt Fred Nankee of Scottville writes home that he had a safe journey over and that he had seen some very ugly fish in the ocean. One has to remember that this was the first time off the farm and out of the County for many of the men who served. Everything was new. He writes; "here is a picture of myself, I wonder if you would know me if I hadn't told who it is of." Pic 5 don't use this one Pic 6 Corporal Albert Shepard was the first Ludington Serviceman killed in WWI. He had made the claim that he was the fourth Yankee soldier to touch French soil. He had been injured in the battlefield but had written home that he was in the hospital and expecting to recover. He had written home to his little boy, Russell age 5 that when he came home he would bring the by a pony and tell him about the war. Pic 7 Pvt. Joseph Petrak came home for Christmas after being injured on the battlefront in France. He had seen action at Alsace-Lorraine, the second battle of the Marne, and was wounded late just beyond Soissons. "The bullets whizzed everywhere, and the shrapnel cracked all around. A fellow did not know what minute would be his last and we went ot it for all that as in us to get as many Huns as we could before they could get us. I never expected to come back alive. " When we walked across the Marne river we walked across the bodies of dead German. That stream was re with human blood and its curse was blocked with the bodies. Dead and dying were everywhere. Our own men with the Germans." If you have any stories or photographs to share with our readers about a family member who fought in the War to end all Wars please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or email at davp@blackcreekpress.com or write in care of the Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Mi 49431. please include your contact information.

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