The World War One Diary of Henry Peterson of Wisconsin

This is a full transcription of the World War One diary of my Grandfather, Henry Peterson. As stated in the preview, Henry’s family came from Danmark in March of 1892, one of the first families to come through the newly opened Ellis Island. They made their way west to Wisconsin, staying with relatives at first. Henry was the first of the family born in the United States, in Belmont Township, Portage County, in 1894. The family soon after moved to nearby Waushara County where Henry lived the rest of his life. On 10 July 1917 in Poy Sippi he married my Grandmother, Esther Serena Hansen. He left home on 13 August 1918. Just two days later his first son, my Uncle Clarence Henry Peterson, was born. He wouldn’t see his son until he was almost a year old. Henry lived until 6 May 1942, dying at age 47 from a tooth infection. I never met him. Editor’s Note – I have decided to correct for spelling and grammar for reasons of clarity. An example of the original spelling may be found in the general orders Henry wrote down near the end of the diary. These I largely left as written.

Ferrieres, France

December 6, 1918

Pvt. Henry Petersen

S. S. U. 612

Convois Automobile

Par. B. C. M. France

Home address Pine River, Waushara County, Wisconsin

Left home August 13 in the evening. Stayed at Wautoma that night. Left in the morning of the 14th for Kansas City, Missouri, Sweeney Auto School. Stopped in Milwaukee about [?] hours and I was uptown. Came to Kansas City August 15th Thursday at noon. Stayed at the Overland Building that night and the next two days. Then I was sent over to the Sweeney Building. Was put in Company 8 with rooms on 9th floor. Awful unhealthy climate in Missouri. Had a cold all the time I was here. We have a fine place to stay. The rooms are partitioned off and eight men in a room, and on each floor is a shower bathroom. I take a bath almost every night. Hot and cold water. [?] the ground floor there is a drugstore and restaurant. There is an elevator but only sergeants and officers are allowed to ride on it. We have passes every Saturday and Sunday, so we get a chance to see quite a lot of the city. I was out to the stockyards for one whole day and didn’t see it all.

The Sweeney Auto School – The building is still there today. When I was in Kansas City back in 1993 I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center, just a block or two away, but I didn’t know it at the time.
The Kansas City Stockyards. This photo is from the 30’s but probably not much different from 1918. Easy to see how Henry could have spent a whole day there and not seen it all.

[in the margin]: Had the flu one week.

Then I left Kansas City October 17. Got to Camp Crane [Allentown, Pennsylvania] 23rd [sic] o’clock in the morning. Here we got our overseas clothes. We got good eats at this camp and had moving pictures every night. Got some letters from home here. I left here the 30th Oct. Arrived at Camp Merritt [Cresskill, New Jersey] in the evening. Stayed at Merritt just awhile and I read mail from home two times, which was all forwarded from Camp Crane. We left Camp Merritt the 11th of November in the morning. All the bells and whistles were blowing in New York and we guessed right away that the Germans had signed the peace terms. Well we marched about two miles to the ferry boat landing and went across the Hudson River over to Hoboken [down the river, not across]. At Hoboken we got on board the [RMS] “Cedric,” a British ship, and on the 13th of October [sic] we sailed. I saw all the principal skyscrapers of New York as we sailed down the Hudson.

A line of ambulances at Camp Crane.
Soldiers from Camp Merritt getting off a transport ferry down the Hudson River at Hoboken, where they boarded ships to Europe.
RMS Cedric
Manifest of the Cedric.

November 13, 1918 – I left New York today at 1:30pm on board the White Star “Cedric.” I sent a letter home just before we sailed. We went right by the Statue of Liberty. Lots of big ships are layering the harbor. We just passed two ships coming in from Norway. They are painted a neutral color. Well I went to bed early tonight as I’m pretty tired.

The New York City Skyline Henry would have seen.
The Statue of Liberty from a 1918 postcard.

Thursday, November 14th – When I woke up the ship was rocking pretty good. Well I got upstairs on deck somehow and beat it for the rail and that is where I lost my supper. I repeated the same thing about every half hour all day so I guess it’s true about us getting six meals a day on board – three up and three down. Well I stayed on deck all day and about eight o’clock pm I hit for my bunk.

Friday, November 15, 1918 – I had some wild dreams last night. Well I went on deck and passed the day the same as yesterday, feeding the fish, but this afternoon I am feeling a little better and have done a lot of walking around on board. It is awful windy and the waves come up over the deck once in a while. It is still more stormy tonight and after we was all below they covered up the stairs so the water wouldn’t run down. Well I’m going to bed but I will have to jump in quick so it don’t rock away from me.

Sunday, November 17th – I slept good, even if it was rough. I felt lots better this morning but not any to good, but I had a little breakfast and have kept everything down. I went to church here. The YMCA man preached a very good sermon and we sang a few songs. It is pretty nice weather today but it is pretty cold. I am on guard now in our sleeping quarters for two hours.

Monday, November 18, 1918 – We are still on our way and it is awful nice weather today.

Tuesday, November 19th – We had good weather through the night and all day. I was put on KP today together with eight of my section were in the 2nd class dining room.

Wednesday, November 20, 1918 – Rain but very good sea and not much wind. I am getting used to being a waiter. There isn’t very much for us to do and we get a little extra to eat.

[in the margin]: Baby is three months old today.

Thursday, November 21st – Raining off and on. Sea a little rough. The ships are all zigzagging back and forth so as not to hit a mine or torpedoes. We are getting near to England now so we are in the danger zone. Some say we will get there some time tomorrow. It sure will be nice to see land once again as today is the eighth day out at sea. There is a US battleship and torpedo boat destroyer along with us. The battleship turned around and went home today.

Friday, November 22nd – It is raining again today and the wind is blowing strong. I wasn’t feeling very good this forenoon. Have a bad cold and have had for some time. I’m still on KP and like it better use [sic]. I can pass away the time better when I am doing something. We are in the deepest part of the Atlantic now. They say they have never found any bottom here and they measured for seven miles down.

Saturday, November 23, 1918 – The sea is pretty calm today and it is fog and rain again. At 11am we had a funeral on board. One of the soldiers died from spinal meningitis. It’s an awful sickness and I hope nobody else gets it. He was dropped into the sea. We passed an island today about noon and they say we will be in port by tomorrow morning. Some British sub destroyers came out to meet us today and they sure can go some through the water.

Sunday, November 24th – We came into Liverpool harbor this morning just about daylight. It sure looked good to me. We got to dock and was all off by 11pm. Marched uptown and got on the train for Winchester about 200 miles from here. The English cars look funny to us, as they are quite a lot smaller than ours at home. The freight cars look like lumber wagons. We reached Winchester about 10 tonight and when we got off it was raining. We marched about two miles to the American camp. We are in tents and sleep on the floor. I think we will only be here a short time.

RMS Cedric in Liverpool

Monday, November 25, 1918 – Well when I got up this morning I was pretty sore and had a bad cold. I was so tired that I slept pretty good and we had a good breakfast and I got washed up and feel pretty good now. The sun is shining today and the aeroplanes are flying up above us most all the time.

Tuesday, November 26th – Got up this morning with a bad cold and sore throat and a stiff back from sleeping on the floor, and it was pretty cold so I froze most all night. Had some good warm coffee for mess. It is raining today the sergeant took us out for a hike and he give us double time most of the way. We had our overcoats so I got pretty sweaty, so now I’m wet both inside and outside and no place to get dry. We are to leave here in the morning [and] we have orders to have our packs rolled. I’m not sorry as it sure can’t be much worse than here as the mud is about six inches deep. We go to Southampton from here and then from there to some place in France. I got a Hell of a sore throat tonight so I ain’t feeling the best.

Winchester, England. November 29th – We got up early this morning, about 4am, and had breakfast. We was ready to leave camp at 7am. Left at about nine for the station at Winchester, about three mile’s walk. Left for Southampton, England and got there at about noon. This is a seaport in the south of England. We got on board the American ship “Charles” bound for France at 5pm. We haven’t had any dinner but we had a lunch along so we eat that and for [?] I had some warm coffee and then I laid down on the floor and slept.

The camp Henry was in at Winchester was no doubt Morn Hill. In this photograph American soldiers march back down Morn Hill to the railroad station at Winchester to board trains for Southampton.
The USS Charles, which carried Henry from Southampton to Le Havre.

Le Havre, France. November 28th – Well yesterday we was in England. Today we are in France. We got in some time in the night. [The] ship rocked pretty good going across the English Channel, and some of the fellows fed the fish but I felt pretty fine all the time and slept pretty good. Am getting used to sleeping on the floor. Well we debarked at about 8am and it is raining, and all a fellow can see is mud and water. We marched thru town. Everything sure looks new to me. We marched about four miles to the camp. It rained all the way and we had on our overcoats and our packs weigh eighty pounds so I was pretty tired when we reached camp, which we reached at noon, and of course we expected to get barracks so we could get dried off, but we got tents with no fire and twelve men in one tent so we aren’t very comfortable. Well we had Thanksgiving dinner – beans and greens and no salt on. Some dinner.

Rest Camp Number Two can be seen north-northwest of Le Havre.

Rest Camp Number 2. November 29, 1918 – It is raining again today. The mud here is a fright. Now as soon as we are outside the tent we are wading in mud. I slept some last night. Unrolled two blankets and shelter half so didn’t freeze much. Took a shave and wash this morning, the first time for four days. Had hot stew, bread, and cheese for dinner. Have got over some of my cold. There is some talk that we won’t stay over here very long. I wish it was true as I’ve had enough already. This sure is some rest camp. Mud and tents to sleep in.

Saturday, November 30th – Today it is fine weather. We left here for the station at Le Havre. Left there at 7pm in box cars – seven feet wide, ten feet long, 27 men in a car. Have just about enough room to sit down. Some train. Well I didn’t sleep very good. They give us [?] loaves of bread and some corned beef to eat.

BASE CAMP

This section is from the US Army history website and has a very detailed description of the base camp in Ferrieres-en-Gatinais.

Immediately after the establishment of the Army Ambulance Service headquarters in Paris, steps were taken to procure a suitable site for a base camp. The first location was at Sandricourt, about 35 km. (about 21 miles) north and west of Paris. This soon proved inadequate to meet the demands made upon it, and in February, 1918, after many disappointments, a new location was procured at Ferrieres en Gatinais, about 100 km. (about 70 miles) south of Paris. The main building here had formerly been a monastery built 700 years before. In this building were established the headquarters of the camp, the infirmary (a floor being devoted to convalescents), the pathological laboratory, the quartermaster’s storehouse, and the guardhouse. In the grounds of the property five Adrian wooden barracks were erected, one of which was used as a combination kitchen and mess hall. The buildings now furnished accommodations for 500 men. By taking over an old tannery, which was near by, and the erection of additional barracks, the capacity was increased to 2,000. A complete power plant was installed, latrines, garbage pits, and incinerators were provided, shower baths were procured, and other steps necessary to the formation of a comfortable and sanitary camp were instituted. There was a permanent personnel of about 150 officers and men from which were furnished all permanent details, including the necessary teaching force for a school for cooks, a school for mechanics, and a school for instructing noncommissioned officers in paper work. All new sections and all casuals arriving from the United States were first sent to this camp for a preliminary course of instruction. Sections were fitted out here with personal equipment, quartermaster and medical supplies. The casuals, having been equipped, were then used as replacements for sections at the front, or were organized into new sections. An effort was made to send here for convalescence all sick and wounded eventually to be returned to duty. During demobilization, as mentioned elsewhere, all the sections were sent to this camp for a thorough sanitary survey, including disinfestation, and to turn in all their property not needed en route home. They were then sent from this point to the base ports for embarkation.

Sunday, December 1, 1918 – We are still on our way. Don’t know where. It sure is rough riding. Well we got off the train at 4pm, hiked out here about two miles, and here is the end of our journey for some time as this is the base Camp for the USAAS. Like it fine here so far. It is right in town here that we are an old French town. We got good barracks and got bed ticks and filled them up with straw.

Monday, December 2nd – Slept like a log. Got up at 6:20. Had a good warm breakfast and feel fine. Done a little warming up today.

Ferrieres, France. Tuesday, December 3, 1918 – Laid around the barracks and slept most all day.

Wednesday, December 4th – Reported on sick call for sore throat. Got it swabbed out with a peace of cotton on a stick.

Thursday, December 5th – Have a bad cold. We have a stove in our barracks. Hans and I and Henry Perry were uptown. Note: The Hans frequently mentioned throughout the diary was Hans Pedersen of Arkdale, Wisconsin.

Friday, December 6th – I was peeling spuds all day long in the kitchen. Took a bath this morning and put on some clean underclothes.

Saturday, December 7, 1918 – Reported on sick call again. Tonsils swelled up pretty big. Have pain in left side. Doctor wouldn’t do anything for me. Said I should come back tomorrow. The only time they will do anything for a fellow in the army is when he is half dead. This afternoon I got a pass and Hans and I were out around town and we was up in the old church. Sure some place. Part of it was built in the year 400 then it was burned during the war with England and was rebuilt in 800 and 1400. I saw the town where two French kings were buried. One of them Charles III. I was also up in the tower and saw the big bell. It weighs two tons. The church has underground passages that reach way out in the woods somewhere in the country, but we could not get down there as the doors are sealed up. We was also out in the cemetery and they sure have some cemetery here in this country. I can’t describe how pretty it was. I picked up a few souvenirs. Note: Ferrieres Abbey was the coronation site of brothers and co-kings Louis III and Carloman II. Both were apparently buried there as well, before their bodies were later moved to the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris. Henry appears to be mistaken when he cites Charles III, who was half brother to the other two.

Sunday, December 8, 1918 – Slept pretty good. Still have a pain in my left side. Today I was over to Fontenay [sur Loing] about a mile from here. Got back for dinner. Sargent Hagen was along. Read my first two letters from Serena since I left the states.

Monday, December 9, 1918 – It is raining today. My cold is better. I am on guard inside. Am guarding all the bunks for our section for two hours. We have no stove here but it isn’t cold these days. Was out for a long hike this afternoon.

Tuesday, December 10th – Slept fine all night. Am working today filling up water bags. It is raining a little. Had our old feed of half cooked rice, black bread, and black coffee for breakfast. Some feed.

Wednesday, December 11th – Raining again. Mail today but not any for me. Was out for a little hike. Signed the payroll last night. Was over to see some soldiers decorated for bravery. They received (?) Silver Cross.

Thursday, December 12, 1918 – Cloudy. I had toothache last night. Was over to the dentist this morning. He wouldn’t do anything for me. Said I should come back in a week. We was out for a little drill practice on the street. Rained this afternoon. Sent a letter to my little wife.

Friday, December 13, 1918 – Rain. Didn’t get any mail this morning. Am feeling good today. Went for a hike out in the country. Very beautiful scenery around here. First four months today since I left home.

Saturday, December 14th – Good weather. Am on KP today. Very nice weather. Was up around town this afternoon as I was off duty after dinner.

Sunday, December 15, 1918 – Fine day. Hans and I were over at the Y to church. Had a good talk about the Prodigal Son. We sang a few songs. This afternoon Hans and I were out in the country about five miles for a walk. Awful nice scenery along the road. It seemed funny not to hear any noise. We got back at 4pm.

Monday December 16th – Raining. Was out for some exercise this morning. My cold is better. Went on guard for the first time at this place. Have the post at the ambulance yards. Five new sections came in last night.

Beautimount [?] near Paris, Tuesday, December 17, 1918 – Clear day. Felt puny this morning. Have a bad cold on my chest. Got three letters this morning from Serena, one dated Nov. 17th the others the 4th and 5th November. Very cold day with rain once in a while. Was on four reliefs of guard. Got back for mess tonight. We got our new clothes issued to us this evening. Note: I am not sure what the location for this entry means. He probably did not go to Paris for the day.

December 18th, Wednesday – Rain. Was on KP today. Got our new clothes. Had some burnt grub today. Wrote a letter to Serena tonight.

December 19th, Thursday – Fine day. Cold. Baby four months old today. Drill this forenoon. This afternoon was out for a hike.

December 20, 1918 – Cold, rainy weather. Was on detail all day while washing the kitchen. Some job.

December 21st, Saturday – Sunshine day. Hans and I washed today. Got done at noon. We was out for a walk this afternoon. Was at Y to show tonight.

December 22nd , Sunday – Rained this afternoon. We was over at the Y to church. The talk was about Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Some new sections came here today. Thirty-one sections here now. Wrote a letter to Serena today. Hans got a box from home with candy and cigars. he gave me a [panatela?].

December 23rd – Rainy. Am on detail again today white washing the eating room. Got two letters from Serena stamped sent the 2nd and 3rd.

December 24, 1918 – Xmas eve. Rain off and on. I went on sanitary guard at three o’clock this afternoon. We had macaroni, spuds, black coffee, and bread for supper. Tried to get into the Y but was SOL because it was already full so I went back to the barracks and wrote a letter to my wife. I go on guard again at nine o’clock this evening. We got a can of velvet [?], one package of fills [?], and a bar of candy from the Red Cross. Note: I did not realize that SOL was such an old term.

December 25th – Very cold here today and a little frost. Was on guard all night. Didn’t get any chance to go to the doings at the Y but am going over tonight as I got off guard at eleven o’clock today. It is snowing a little today. We had a real good breakfast – bread and syrup, oatmeal with milk, and bacon, and coffee. For dinner we had turkey, mashed spuds, brown gravy, stuffing, one apple, and bread, and coffee. For supper we had beans, lettuce, and bread. They had a tree and show over at the Y but it was so cold that I didn’t stay, but went to bed early as I was up most all last night on guard so I am tired and sleepy.

Thursday, December 26, 1918 – Good weather but cold. We was paid this forenoon for the month of November. Received 55 [?] and 55¢. Expect some mail in the morning. Went to bed early. Pretty frosty evening.

Friday, December 27, 1918 – Was on barracks guard all day. Hans and I were to the moving picture show in the evening at the Y.

Saturday, December 28th – Had inspection this morning. I had on my new clothes. Was up town and looked around.

Sunday, December 29th – Rain. We went to church at the Y. This afternoon Hans and I were for a walk out to the tannery about two miles from town. Awful pretty place. It is cloudy but didn’t rain this afternoon. Tonight we were over at the Y. Some swell music from Paris. Sure was fine. Note: Apparently that tannery was converted to a private residence and was recently for sale.

Monday, December 30, 1918 – It is raining again today. I went on sick call this morning. Have a bad cold on my chest and headache. We signed the payroll today.

Tuesday, December 31, 1918 – New Year’s Eve. I was in bed all day with a bad cold. Didn’t get up and eat any dinner but had some supper. Have a bad cough and headache.

Wednesday, January 1, 1919 – Was in bed almost all day. Have chills all the time and pretty sore on my chest. Wrote a letter to Serena. This afternoon was made First Class Private.

Thursday, January 2nd – Didn’t get up for reveille today. Couldn’t talk out loud. Am going over on sick call.

Friday, January 3rd – Felt much better today. Was out for drill all forenoon. Went to the movies this evening. Very good show. Rained this afternoon.

Saturday, January 4th – Rain. Was to a show at the Y in the evening.

Sunday, January 5th – Hans and I were to church at the Y. Got a letter from Serena. Was playing cards all afternoon.

Monday, January 6th – Was drilling all forenoon. In the afternoon was for a hike. We swiped a stove and put in our barracks. Note: So Henry and friends were not above a little five-finger discount.

Tuesday, January 7th – Fine day. Went on guard at 5 this afternoon.

Wednesday, January 8th – Fine day. Slept all afternoon. Went to boxing match tonight.

Thursday, January 9th – Promoted to Mechanic. Rain. Clear this afternoon. Went for a hike. Went to movies at eight o’clock. Not very good.

Friday, January 10th – Fine sunshine. Drilled all forenoon. Got paid. Received 62 [?]. Had a half holiday in the afternoon. Went to Fontenay.

Saturday, January 11th – Was on detail. Cleaned out the washroom. It rained this afternoon. Went to town to the corner tonight.

[written over]: Was in detail all day leaving out the hard [?}

Sunday, January 12, 1919 – Wrote wife a letter. Rainy. Hans and I was to church at Y. Was inside all afternoon. Got five letter from Serena this morning. She got her first money the 11th of December 1918.

Monday, January 13, 1919 – It rained all forenoon. I was on barracks guard all day. Wrote my wife a letter. Went to bed early.

Tuesday, January 14, 1919 – Our section hiked to Montargis but I stayed. Didn’t feel like going. Did not do anything, only wrote a letter to Serena P. Hans and I [?] was to the movie tonight at the Y. Very good show. Very poor grub today.

Wednesday, January 15, 1919 – Rain. Was on detail today. All I had to do was to take five lanterns down from base camp to the sanitary office and I took them back at 9:30 tonight.

Thursday, January 16th – Fine sunshine. Drilled all forenoon. Played ball this afternoon. Score 15 to 9 in favor of us. Note: Apparently Henry was a ballplayer like his son, my Dad.

Friday, January 17th – Hans and I washed our clothes this forenoon. Fine sunshine day. Was at the show tonight at the Y. Wrote a letter to my little wifey.

Saturday, January 18th – Today is my dear old mother’s birthday. I didn’t do anything at all today, only read a book. Note: Henry’s mother Sofie Marie had passed away 27 March 1917 at age 63.

Sunday, January 19th – Very fine day. Hans and I were to church at the Y. Topic “When everything goes wrong.” This afternoon we was out in the woods to get some fresh air. Did not get any mail.

Monday, January 20th – We played volleyball this forenoon and this afternoon we played 613 and beat them 1 to 0. Wrote a letter to Serena tonight.

Tuesday, January 21st – Fine day. We played football all forenoon. Chose up sides, played a tie game 12 to 12. Had an indoor baseball game this afternoon. Our side lost, score 6 to 8. I was catching for our team.

Wednesday, January 22nd – Fine day. We are on guard. Got a letter from my little wife. I had a pretty good night’s sleep as my post was only a twelve hour one so I only had to stand guard four hours.

Thursday, January 23rd – Fine frosty day. Wrote my wife a letter. She is 19 years old today. Didn’t play ball today.

Friday, January 24, 1919 – Cold weather. Had a big review of us soldiers by Colonel Jones. Decorated some for bravery at the front. Had a big football game between the (?) and the Officers. Tie game. Am going to the Y tonight movies. Note: Colonel Jones was Percy Lancelot Jones, who served with distinction during multiple wars and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Saturday, January 25th – Fine day. Wrote a letter to my wife. Didn’t do anything today.

Sunday, January 26th – Fine day. We were on detail this forenoon but got done in time to go to church. I got three letters from Serena and one from Nels. Note: Nels was his oldest brother, Nels Peterson.

[in margin]: Moving pictures taken of us in review.

Monday, January 27th – Snowed last [night?]. Tried to play football but it was too wet. Went to show at Y.

Tuesady, January 28th – Had some setting up exercises this morning. Didn’t do anything the rest of the day. Went to movie at Y tonight.

Wednesday, January 29th – Didn’t get any mail today. Played ball this forenoon. Signed payroll.

Thursday, January 30th – Were on detail all day. There is a little snow on the ground yet.

Friday, January 31st – Had muster roll this forenoon. The rest of the day was holiday but we went on guard at five o’clock. Wrote to wifey.

Saturday, February 1 1919 – It has been an awful cold night. I had the post at the kitchen and kept warm and kept the fires going.

Sunday, February 2nd – Hans and I went to church at Y. Sit around barracks all afternoon. Didn’t get any mail. Wrote a letter to my wife. Pretty cold.

Monday, February 3rd – I took some French lessons. Got some auto talk from Lt. Smith on Ford cars. Was out for a hike this afternoon. Got our cocks. Sewed mine on tonight. I am promoted to Mechanic from the 1st of February from First Class Private. Note: What say you, military experts? Are cocks emblems sewn onto uniforms?

Tuesday, February 4th – Got some auto talk and got some practice driving.

Wednesday, February 5th – Had French classes, and auto driving and auto talk. Got two letters.

Thursday, February 6th – Holiday. Had some races. Warmer weather with rain.

Friday, February 7th – Got six letters this morning. Went to French class. Very cold.

Saturday, February 8th – Awful cold today. We got paid for January. Received 82 [?]. Wrote a letter to Ella and my wife. Note: Very likely that the Ella mentioned here was Henry’s sister-in-law, younger sister of his wife Esther Serena.

Sunday, February 9th – Cold weather. Went to church at Y. Went on guard at one o’clock. 10 section left for Germany on the Rhine.

Monday, February 10, 1919 – Very cold. Was on guard second relief. Guarded from seven to nine and from one to three.

Tuesday, February 11, 1919 – Didn’t do much today. Quite cold weather.

Wednesday, February 12, 1919 – Didn’t get any mail. Today we are on saw detail. Was riding on a Ford truck all forenoon. This afternoon we built at Y tent which burned down today.

Thursday, February 13th – Sailed for France three months ago. Played soccer ball.

Friday, February 14th – We are on guard. Slept in at tent last night. Weather not very cold.

Saturday, February 15th – We are on detail. Got a new Gillette razor. Wrote a letter to Uncle Peter M. Note: Uncle Peter M. was very likely Peter Mortensen, who was married to the younger sister of Henry’s mother.

February 16-19, 1919 – Didn’t do very much. Was on detail the 18th unloading wood. Hans and I were uptown today. An MP stopped us and took our names. Think maybe we are all right and they won’t say anything about it.

February 20, 1919 – I rode on the truck all day on detail work. Hans and I were over across the creek playing billiards in the evening. Most of the old section are in camp now. We are maybe going up near Metz in Alsace Lorraine next week.

Friday, February 21st – Pretty good warm weather. I was on barracks guard all day. Went to show in evening. It rained pretty fast.

Saturday, February 22nd – I walked out to the cemetery with Hans and Pernot. There was a new grave dug there and I found some old bones and saw a part of the old rough box. After people have been buried so many years they dig in the same place again. This evening Hans and I were downtown and played a game of billiards. Got my picture taken 9 f. 7 [?].

Saturday, February 22nd – Today Hans and I took a walk out to an old creamery.

Sunday, February 23rd – Was to church at Y. Wrote a letter to Serena. Got three letters from her. Went on guard at five o’clock.

Monday, February 24th – On guard all day.

Tuesday, February 25th – On detail on truck. It rained quite a bit. Had our pictures taken by the French government. Got seven letters, one card from Serena.

Wednesday, February 26th – Didn’t do much today. Signed the payroll. Got one letter from wife. Played a game of billiards this evening with Hans.

Thursday, February 27th – Fine weather. Went on guard at 5pm.

Friday, February 28th – Fine weather. I was on guard all day.

Saturday, March 1, 1919 – On detail work all day pumping water. Have a cold. We are getting ready to move to the front Monday. Saturday on water detail all day.

Sunday, March 2nd – Got ready to leave. Rolled our packs. Had a hot time in the barracks this evening.

Monday, March 3, 1919 – Left early at six o’clock for Paris. Got there at 10:20. It is raining hard. We got a pass to go. Was out and saw the city. Stayed at Rue Ganneron overnight. Note: Rue Ganneron runs past Montmartre Cemetery north of the city center. I believe there may have been an ambulance barracks located there during the war.

Rue Ganneron in Paris. Judging from the vehicles I believe this is around the time Henry stayed there. I think the “1980” is probably a postcard number.

Tuesday, March 4th – Left at eight o’clock. Changed cars at Toules [?]. Stopped a while there. Got here to Vittel at 8pm. Slept on stretchers. Had a fine supper. Note: Vittel was the site of US Army Hospitals during the war.

Base Hospital No. 36 in Vittel, France
Base Hospital No. 23 in Vittel, France

Wednesday, March 5th – Got up at seven bells. Had cocoa toast for breakfast. Got a bed for five franks and sleeping bag. Wrote a letter to Serena.

Thursday, March 6, 1919 – Slept fine last night. Didn’t do much work today.

Friday, March 7th – Fixed up two Fords today. Put in new brake bands. Was out for a walk tonight. Got a lame back.

Ford Model T ambulance.

Saturday, March 8th – Inspected all the cars today. Fixed a carburetor.

Sunday, March 9, 1919 – Had a great dinner today. Had a French cook this afternoon. Climbed the hill overlooking the town. Fine country here.

Monday, March 10th – Fixed up a couple of cars.

The American Red Cross Recreation Hut in Vittel, France

Undated entry – I have been so occupied with our new place that I have forgot all about writing my journal. Car repairing has been the order of the day for two months now. Have received quite a lot of mail from home. Now we have orders of movement so we are to leave one of the first days for Versailles to turn the cars in.

May 3, 1919 – Got up at four this a.m. We all left at six bells. I am riding with Scofield in car No. 19, the third last ambulance. Well we have got out about two miles. One of the cars broke an axle. I and the rest of the mechanics put in a new rear axle in about one hour thirty minutes. Well we got started and we drove all day and haven’t seen the rest of the convoy, yet we reached a city here tonight by the name of Corbeil and then decided to stop for the night for us. We are pretty sure now that we must have passed the convoy on the road somewhere. There is four of us. We have two ambulances. Well we have stopped here a little ways out of Corbeil. Are going to make a bed in the cars now and say goodnight. Note: Scofield is Chester Scofield of Okolona, Ohio.

May 4,1919 – Slept fine last night. Got a little headache. Got out about eight bells. Rolled up my blankets. Had a bite to eat. We had some reserve rations along we had some corn wooley [?] and bread and water for breakfast. I took a good wash out in a mud puddle out here in the field. Feel pretty good now. Hope the convoy will soon show up as we have decided to wait for them here. We are only a short way from Versailles. Waited until three o’clock for the convoy. They didn’t show up so we left for Versailles. Got in at about five o’clock. Stopped by the YMCA at about six o’clock. The staff car came in and the rest of the fellows had just reached Corbiel and was stopping for the night. We went to bed in the cars early.

May 5th – Slept fine. Wrote a letter at the Y. At about eleven o’clock the rest of the fellows came in. We slept in the cars again.

May 6th – Left early for Ferrieres. Stopped at Corbiel for dinner at a café. The roads were awful dusty and I am sure awful dusty. We left right after. Quite a few stops on the road.

[in the margin]: Was up to see the palace in the forenoon. Note: Versailles?

Got to Ferrieres on the 7th of May. Got lots of mail from home. We was for KP on the second day in, then we was deloused and we was on detail one day.

Left on the 19th for Brest on French boxcars. We were all of our section in one car. Came here to Brest last night at about eleven o’clock. Had supper at the station and then we hiked out here to the camp three miles. I sure was tired and dirty and had a good wash before I went to bed. We got good barracks to stay in.

May 21st – I didn’t get up for mess this morning. We got a good bath and medical exam again, and new underwear. Got my Franks exchanged for real money. We are to have pack inspection again tomorrow. We may go aboard day after tomorrow as they ship them out of here fast now.

May 22nd – Get up at 5:30, the earliest for a long time. Had an inspection of packs this forenoon and this afternoon again. It rained all last night, but it is fine weather today. I was going to write another to my dear wife but don’t think there will be any chance now and we won’t get any more mail until we hit the States. They sure have some system here and this camp will hold 80,000 men. The 36th and 80th divisions are just going through here on the way home. Don’t just know when we are to leave yet. We are 31 sections of S. S. U. men here.

May 23, 1919 – On board the Battleship St. Louis bound for home. Hurrah! We got orders to leave camp this morning. Got on board at about four o’clock and are now under way. I am feeling fine so far but expect to be sick anytime as this ship rocks a lot more than a liner. Note: Although Henry calls it a battleship the St. Louis was actually a protected cruiser.

USS St. Louis about the time Henry was aboard.
Coming home aboard the USS St. Louis

May 24th – Slept fine last night but it didn’t last. After we got up I have been pretty sick all day and it isn’t any pleasant feeling. Didn’t eat anything, only a bottle of pickles which I bought at the canteen.

May 25th – It was awful hot down below so I came on deck about three o’clock this morning and went to sleep. The worst of it is there is no decent water on board to drink and only salt water to wash in. I am feeling lots better and have out [?] down three meals. Today we got a lot of candy and books to read from the K. C. [?] and Y. It has been fine weather so far but it is a little rough tonight.

[seperate on top]: Houence Vous gheet

Monday, May 26th – Pernot and I slept on deck last night under the side of a boat. We were awakened rather early by the sailors as they scrub the deck at four o’clock every morning. Well I went below then it had cooled off some. Was awakened again at about 5:30 and woke up just in time to save my shoes as there was about four inches of water on the floor caused by a busted pipe. One of our fellows lost his [?] so he sure will be SOL going down the streets of N.Y. The sea is rather choppy today but I am feeling good and eat three meals a day regular. This battleship is quite fast when under full speed but we are only traveling about 16 knots an hour as some of the boilers are on the bum. I saw a school of whales yesterday. They sure are big fellows alright. They are underwater most of the time but come to the surface once in a while and shoot a stream of water many feet in the air. Here also seen some flying fish today. They are about two feet long. They come way out of the water once in a while. It sure is interesting to watch them. We have boat drill every afternoon and today we had a short arm [?]. Sixteen of my section are on permanent detail sweeping deck but I haven’t had a thing to do so for me. Get fairly good eats. They say we will be in Hoboken on June 2. That will make a ten day trip.

May 27th – Fourth day out at sea from Brest. We had a fog come on last night. I slept on deck again and was awakened early at about 2:20 by the ships whistle. It blew every minute for about two hours but it is clear again today but a bit windy. We sighted another ship this forenoon, the first since we left port. It was quite a ways on. We are soon in mid-Atlantic, now. They had mine sweepers on when we left port but took them off yesterday as there is much danger from floating mines at sea now but mostly in the mined zone. I am feeling fine these days and eat down three meals a day regular.

May 28th – Out at sea a little foggy today. The ship fog horn has been blowing quite a lot. I took a bath today. Have had a rather quiet day. One of our fellows went to the hospital today. Don’t know.

May 29th – It is a rough sea today and the waves come up over the lower deck quite often. It is fine weather and it was very warmer last night. We are over half way. Are about 1400 miles from N.Y. Had a show this afternoon from our A. A. S. entitled “Let’s Go!” They have played all over France. There was a movie tonight. Saw a sail ship go by us today headed the other way. Guess we will be in N.Y. about Tuesday.

[following are some mostly French phrases] Note: Remember that these are my typed transcripts of the handwritten originals.

Friday, May 30, 1919 – Decoration day. It’s pretty stormy. Gets a little saltwater on him once in a while. We had memorial services on board this forenoon and the sailors fired about twenty shots from the cannon. The [SS] George W[ashington] is supposed to pass us sometime today with President Wilson on board for home. I am feeling fine. Some of the fellows got sick again today for the ship sure rocks like a cradle alright with plenty of side action, but I rather like it now. Note: The story about Wilson aboard the Washington appears to be just a rumor, at least the Wilson part. Wilson did make two trips to France for the Paris Peace Conference aboard the Washington, which was oddly enough a German liner that had been seized by the US during the war, but the dates Wilson was on it do not line up with Henry being at sea in late May. Possibly the Washington did pass them but if so only doing regular troop transport duty.

SS George Washington about the time Henry thought it passed them in the Atlantic.

May 31st – Well I don’t know whether I am on my head or just today. It sure is an awful sea and the old ship just plows right through them. I think we are underwater most half of the time. The waves look like mountains.

June 1, 1919 – The storm lasted all night and it is still at it today. The ship sure does rock some and a fellow has to look out not to slide off when on deck. It is a little better this afternoon. Quite a few of the fellows are sea sick.

June 2nd – The storm is over and it is fine weather. We went by another ship today. They say we won’t land before Wednesday morning. I wrote wrote a letter today to Serena.

June 3, 1919 – We are still headed toward N.Y. but won’t be there til sometime tomorrow forenoon. The sea is just like glass and we can’t hardly feel we are moving. I have been on deck all day reading in the sun. Guess I’ll roll my pack after dinner. It sure will be good to see land again. Rolled my pack this afternoon. I sent a telegram home tonight to be delivered as soon as we land tomorrow.

June 4th – We are just pulling into the harbor. It sure looks good to me. There is quite a little delay as there is an awful heavy fog. We finely got to land and took the train for Camp Dix N.Y. [sic]. Got here at about three o’clock. It is about seventy miles from N.Y. Note: Don’t know where he got the seventy mile figure from.

June 5-9, 1919 – Are still here at Camp Dix. Have been deloused again. It is awful hot weather. We expect to leave for Camp Grant [Rockford, Illinois] one of the first days and we won’t be demobilized before we get to that camp. This is an awful nice camp, about the best one I have ever been in. Today we are to be divided up into the different states so expect to be out of here today or tomorrow.

[doodled a graph with 100 squares]

[after many blank pages] Note: Transcribed as written with no corrections.

12 General Orders

1 = To take charge of this post and all gov. property in view

2 = To walk my post in a military manner always Keeping on the alert &e observing everthing that takes place within sight or hearing

3 = To report violations of orders I am instructed to inforce

4 = To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guard house than my ours

5 = To quit my post only when properly releaved

6 = To receave obey and pass on to the sentinal all orders from the orders from the com. officer officer of the day officers and non comissioned officers of the gaurd

only

7 = To talk to no one except in line of duty

8 = in case of fire or disorder to give the alarm

9 = To allow no one to commit a neusance on or near my post

10.= If in any case not covered to call the corporal of the gaurd

11 = To Salute all officers and standards not cased

12 = To be especally watchful at nite during the time challenging and calling all persons on or near my post and allow no one to pass without proper authority

Sec. 612

United States A. A. S.

With French army

[after a few blank pages] addresses reformatted some as best I can interpret. some of the numbers are section numbers but some could be parts of the addresses.

Harry S. Fenner, Rte. 3, Waupaca, Wisconsin, Section 595

Melford A. Asmus, 792 E. Grand Blvd, Detroit, Michigan

Arne F. Peterson (Denmark), Rte 2. Box 73, Wisconsin

Joseph S. Waala, Wautoma, Wisconsin

Fred J. Newman, Medford, Wisconsin, Section 613. Transferred and sent home with old section.

Sgt. Raymond Rodgers, New London, Wisconsin, Section 556 [?]

John A. Gerrits, Rural Rte. #1 Box 84, South Kaukanna, Wisconsin

Pyt. Walter B. Underhill, R.F.D. No 6, Lansing, Michigan

Alvin West Peck, R. F. D. 25 Box 4, Beloit, Wisconsin, Section 617 [?], Transferred to D. of P.

Herman A. Meyer, Rte 45 Box 95A, Marshfield, Wisconsin, Section 417 [?]

Albert Rustin, Dewnda [?], Wisconsin, Section 556 [?]

Ingman A. Olstad, Rte #1 Box 53, Rosholt, Wisconsin, Section 613 [?], Transferred to casuals later.

Albert Parker, Rural Rte 9 Box 94, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Roy Gallagher, 245 Marquette St, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Eugene Pernot, Rural Rte #3, Brooklyn, Wisconsin

Harry Groh, Wheelersburg, Ohio

Pvt. Benjamin F. Smith, 1539 Goodyear Ave, Akron, Ohio

Herbert C. Wafemeister, 1524 Chestnut, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Glenn Spangler, Rte #2 Box 70, Orient, Ohio

Elmer E. Gille, 801 Main St, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Ernest C. Hannah, Niellsville, Wisconsin

Elmer Russell, Almond, Wisconsin, Section 556, His cousin in my company at Sweeney died of flu.

Sherman E. Gruender, 109 Concordia Ave, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Hans C Pedersen, Box 24, Arkdale, Wisconsin

Chester Scofield, Okolona, Ohio

John H. Spencer, 432 E. Washinghton St, Napoleon, Ohio

Pvt. Charles Hedrington, 250 West Elm St, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Pvt. Henry M. Perry, Box 2, Eleva, Wisconsin

John B. Hindenberg, Rte No. 1, Kent, Minnesota

Edward J. Peterson, R#1 Box 21, Ogema, Wisconsin

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Henry Peterson WWI Diary Preview

My grandfather Henry Peterson was born 1894 in Wisconsin, the first of his family born in the United States. The family arrived at the newly opened Ellis Island in March of 1892 and made their way west to family already living in Wisconsin. Henry was born in Belmont township, Portage County, but the family soon moved to Waushara County where he lived the remainder of his life. By 1917 Henry had married my grandmother Esther Serena Hansen. In August of 1918 he left to go into the Army, just a few days before the birth of their first child Clarence. Many years ago I received his diary and the letters he had written during his time in the service. He didn’t go to France until after the Armistice but as an ambulance driver and mechanic there were still massive numbers of injured soldiers to transport. He trained at Sweeney Auto School in Kansas City. In 1993 I went to Omaha but spent a weekend in Kansas City at what was then called the Hyatt Regency Crown Center. I didn’t know that if I looked out a window down the hill just a block or so to the west I would have seen the Sweeney Building, still there.

Looking up the hill from the Sweeney Building today.

So the eventual plan will be to put all Henry’s diary and letters online. Unfortunately my grandmother’s letters to Henry do not appear to have survived.

Ferrieres-France

Dec.6st 1918

Pvt. Henry Petersen

S. S. U. 612 Convois Automobile

Par. B. C. M.

France

Home address

Pine River Waus. Co Wis.

Left home Aug. 13th in the evening stayed at Wautoma that nite left in the morning of the 14th for Kansas City Mo. Sweeney Auto school stopped in Milwaukee about (?) hours and I was up town Came to Kansas City Aug. 15th thursday at noon stayed at the Overland Bldg that nite and the next 2 days Then I was sent over to the Sweeney Bldg was put in co. 8 with rooms on 9th floor awful unhealthy climate in Mo. had a cold all the time I was here we have a fine place to stay the rooms are partissioned off and 8 men in a room and on each floor is a shower Bath room I take a bath almost every nite hot and cold water (?) the ground floor there is a Drug store and resturant there is an elevator but only sargents and offeicers are allowed to ride on it We have passes every sat. and sun. So we get a chance to see quite a lot of the city I was out to the stock yards for one whole day and didn’t see it all then I left Kansas City Oct 17th got to Camp Crane 23d oclock in the morning here we got our over seas cloths we got good eats at this camp and had moving pictures every nite got some letters from home here I left here the 30th Oct arrived at Camp Merrett in the evening stayed at Merrett just a while and I read mail from home two times which was all forewarded from Camp Crane we left Camp Merrett the 11th on Nov int the morning all the bells and whistels were blowing in New York and we guessed rite away that the germans had signed the Peace terms well we Marched about 2 miles to the Ferry Boat landing and went accross the Hudson river over to Hoboken at Hoboken we got on board the Cedric a British ship and on the 13th of oct we sailed I saw all the principal skyscrapers on N.Y. as we sailed down the Hudson.

(in the margin):Had the flue 1 week

New York skyline as Henry would have seen it.
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The End of an Old Family Myth

It was the summer of 1978. I had just graduated from high school and was looking forward to starting college as a film major, something that never panned out. In August the bakery closed two weeks for our annual vacation, this time to Wisconsin. It was only my second time there, having been once before in 1966. That earlier visit was the only time I met any of my grandparents. Three of them died long before I was born. We visited my Mom’s father, George Spencer Grant, who was living in a little house beyond some railroad tracks, but six year old Dean was not very interested in meeting the man, wanting rather to go play with some cousins out in the fields.

In 78 we spent time at the house of my Uncle Clarence and Aunt Phyllis. While there I always spent a lot of my own time down in the basement. It was cool and quiet. It had a pool table and a refrigerator full of soft drinks. But what they also had down there was a single typed page telling a curious story of my Dad’s maternal grandfather, Peder Hansen. It detailed how he was the illegitimate son of the Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel and thus related to the Danish royal family. It claimed that he had been born in “the Yellow Palace in Copenhagen.” It claimed that as a young man he had been given a job as a coachman for the royal family. It had a brief line of descent showing how the minor German country was intertwined with the royal houses of Danmark and England. These were some of the Hessians who served England in the American Revolution.

The paper had been prepared, apparently by a Hansen cousin who shall remain nameless. He had written, “I guess you can see I did my homework” at the top of the page. In later years I believe he retreated from the story, but it was pretty obvious he believed it at the time it was written. I also believed it, and was fascinated by the implications. It was the impetus that set me off on what, to date, has been a 40 year odyssey of genealogical research.

Time passed. In the mid 1980’s another Hansen cousin, Jerry Darrow, compiled family group sheets, photographs, and some biographical sketches into a Hansen family history. Jerry had hired a Danish research, Michael Bregnsbo, who I would also later hire. The research centered largely around parish records and some census date. It was the days before the internet and easy online research, but Michael’s conclusions were inescapable. Peder Hansen came largely from working class roots. The story of royal descent was debunked, at least on paper. In the history Jerry chalked it up to the drunken boasting of a man gathered with his neighbors at a drinking establishment after a hard day’s work.

I was not, however, prepared to abandon Peder Hansen just yet. It was not, as some might believe, because I was attracted to the thought of being royal. It was more out of loyalty to a man I’d never met. Perhaps it didn’t hurt that photos of Peder show a man with a squinty left eye just like I was born with. But still, by this time I was already an experienced genealogical researcher and I knew there were holes in the royal story big enough to drive a Carlsberg truck through. Peder was not born in Kobenhavn – had possibly never been there in his life. I doubted he had ever been near the Yellow Palace (Det Gule Palæ). However, very near to where Peder was born there is a manor estate called Juellinge, owned at the time of Peder’s birth by the Moltke family, another German family writ large in Danish history. It was not outside the realm of possibility that Peder’s mother Birthe had worked for a time at Juellinge. Could Peder have been fathered by a Moltke, or perhaps someone visiting the Moltkes? Had Juellinge been confused with the Yellow Palace? Interesting speculation but pertinent records were sparse and I did not devote a lot of effort to the theory. As time passed I did sense that DNA would be the key in finally unlocking the truth.

Many years ago I participated in the National Geographic Genographic Project. At that time the tests revealed only my Haplogroup, R1B – later refined to R-M269. But in August of 2017, almost 40 years after I began my research, I upgraded my test with FamilyTreeDNA, who had done the original testing. With the upgrade came autosomal matches. I uploaded my results to GEDMatch and MyHeritage for additional matches. Using the DNA results in conjunction with my traditional genealogical research, I began to identify the MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestors) between myself and my matches. Slowly I worked my way down through the lists. The ones with the highest percentage of common DNA were the easiest. Nephew. First cousins. Many already in my database, which numbers in excess of 25,000 people. A bit more distant became tricky. Non-paternal events, or NPE’s, were even trickier.

This past week or so I finally came to the next two names on my list. It happened to be two Danish women. This meant they were almost assuredly on my Dad’s side, as my Mom’s only Scandinavian ancestry is Norwegian. I did my usual research. One woman turned out to be my third cousin once removed. We share descent in the line of my Dad’s paternal grandparents. The other woman answered the question I’ve had for 40 years. She is descended from Inger Marie, an older sister of Peder Hansen. We have 103 centimorgans in common. On paper we are second cousins, once removed. The Shared cM Project 3.0 tool at DNA Painter shows a predicted range of 0-316 cM’s, with an average of 123. If Peder and Inger Marie did not share the same Dad then my Danish cousin and I would be half second cousins, once removed. For that relationship DNA Painter shows a predicted range of 0-341 with an average of 73, so the royal story is not entirely dead. However, the principle of Occam’s Razor states that when presented with competing hypotheses that make the same predictions, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions. That choice has been pretty clear and is getting more clear. The royal descent story of Peder Hansen should be put to rest, short of some Moltkes emerging from the DNA woodpile. With sincere apologies to my great-grandfather Peder Hansen, from his squinty eyed great grandson.

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2 June 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – Red Bank, New Jersey

Postmark Date – 3 June 1943

Letter Date – 2 June 1943

Text:

Hello sweetheart,

How are you tonight, baby? I missed your letter yesterday but got one from you today and was I ever glad to get it. I was waiting for it all through mail call and when my name was called I yelled so loud that the mail clerk said I must have been waiting for it, and I sure was glad to get it. It was nice all day but last night we had one of the biggest storms that has been here for a long time. It sure was a Lulu. It blew, rained, and it hailed the hardest I have ever seen it hail. Some of the hailstones came through the tar paper on our barracks. Boy, it sure was a pip[?]. You said you was going to Ronald’s shower[?]. You know last summer he bet me the best drinks in town. I haven’t been home to collect from him so I guess you will have to straighten up that debt. You had better take ice cream or pop instead, though. I will be home to collect that pretty soon, though you can take part of it now and I will get the rest. The bet was that we would be married before the first of this year, and we was. That should prove that I was going to marry you, don’t it? But I was ready to marry you the first night I went out with you. I really loved you the first time I saw you, even if you did act kind of mean to me. But I loved you all the time. School is going good. In fact, everything is going good, only I am so damn far away from you. That is the only thing that bothers me. Gee, how I wish I was home. I think I will go post school. Then I will learn to type making me a regular old woman out of me, but then maybe I can get a good job when I come home. Wouldn’t that be swell? We could have a little house all by ourselves and a yard for Bonny girl to play in…also for her little blue-eyed brother, the one we are going to make when this is all over. I only hope it is soon. I am glad that you like that pin I got for you. It wasn’t much but reminded you I still think of you, and my picture will follow soon as quick as I get it finished. Say, who does Bonny look like anyway? I am sorry. I didn’t mean that. All of us boys look a lot alike. I am the only one who isn’t good looking so it is good that she has my brother’s looks. Uh-oh. The lights are going out in about two minutes, so for tonight all my love and kisses to my two sweethearts, from Daddy

PS – I love you a lot, honey. Please think of me always. Sweet dreams, baby. Night, now. Ralph

Notes: I am a bit stumped over the identity of the Ronald that Dad had a bet with. Not sure if he was family or a friend. Mom would have admitted that she was cool to Dad on their first date. I once asked her what she thought of Dad when they met and she told me she thought he was pretty damn full of himself. Again, Bonny most assuredly looked like my Dad.

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31 May 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – Red Bank, New Jersey

Postmark Date – 1 June 1943

Letter Date – 31 May 1943

Text:

My dearest wife and baby,

Gee whiz! I got two letters from you today. That’s the way I like to get them. I can’t figure out why you haven’t been getting my letters. I have been writing every day. There must be something wrong with the mail. You will get two letters this week some time as I wrote one Saturday night and another Sunday. The mail didn’t go out until today, so you most likely get two in one day. I hope I keep on getting two a day. That’s what keeps up my morale. Keep it up, will you? I will try and get one a day to you. A very quiet day in camp. I was barracks on duty today so didn’t go to school. I kind of layed around all forenoon but in the afternoon I really went to work. I washed all my clothes, and this is the truth, I ironed all of them, too. I guess I must have turned into a old woman. It’s the only way I can get them done, though. I could send them out and have them done but I need all the money I get. Talking about, we had payday today so I have some money again. I hope enough to last me the next month. Now I can go down and get my picture fixed up and sent to you. I think you said you wanted my picture, didn’t you? I am glad that Bonny is growing and getting bigger. I only wish I could see her smiling and cooing. I only wish I could have been the first one to make her smile, but as long as she smiles at you. The lights are out in the barracks but I am writing this down in the washroom. A lot of guys are here but I sneaked off in one corner and have a little quiet now. There isn’t much to write about so this will a short letter. You said you had got over your madness. I didn’t know you were mad. If you were, what were you mad about? Was it that trouble you had with your folks? I hope that is what you got over. Tomorrow is another day of school. They added another two hours on our school day so now we have so now we have [sic] nine hours instead of seven. I guess they want to push us through faster. I don’t know why they want us to go any faster but what they want they get, so it is two more hours a day from now on. It’s kind of funny. It hasn’t rained since last Friday, the first time it has gone three days in a row without raining. I hope it has quit, as it is awful dirty here when it rains. This is all for tonight as the lights are going out here pretty soon, so have to close with all my love and kisses to the sweetest wife and baby a man could ever ask for, from Daddy

Notes: Although Dad said he didn’t do too much that day it looks like he was tired when he wrote this. The letter is sloppy, perhaps because he was writing it in a loud and crowded room. Can’t figure out if washroom is a bathroom or a laundry room. Still funny that he wants Mom to write him twice a day.

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29 May 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – Red Bank, New Jersey

Postmark Date – 31 May 1943

Letter Date – 29 May 1943

Text:

My dearest wife and baby,

How are my two girls tonight? I hope you are both feeling good. I am getting along fine and I’m feeling good. Got my shoes and a letter from you today. Boy do those ever feel good on my feet after having those big army shoes on all the time. I am really grateful to you for sending them. Of course I know you would send anything I ask for. Please excuse this pen as the damn thing is leaking ink all over I think. I have got it fixed now. I am sorry to hear that you and your Mom aren’t getting along. I had an idea that it wouldn’t work out. Way back in my head I was hoping that your mother would get it out of her head that you was at last old enough to take care of yourself. I know she has some crazy ideas and of course you will be the one she will take it out on. I hope you can stay there until I come home, and then we can have our place all by ourself. I am just waiting for that day. Think you can wait, sweetheart? And don’t worry about everybody not wanting you. There is one little soldier boy who is your husband who wants you and needs you more than anything in the whole world. And don’t worry about our little Bonny girl not wanting you. I think something would happen to her if you wasn’t around, and if you didn’t care for me something what happened to me which I know would not be accidental, so I think if we all want and need each other we will come along all right. Just keep that in mind. I need you and you need me and our little Bonny girl needs us both. You think I am right? Say, baby, you asked me whether I would care if you worked at Chapman’s. If you really want to go there and work just go ahead. I don’t want to say whether you should or not, but if you really want to I say go ahead. But do you think Avis will be around all the time while you are away? I suppose she would, and you would be home at nights. It would be some time away from your mother. Go ahead, honey, and try it for a while and see if you like it. But don’t go falling for any of those grease monkeys down there unless it is for your pappy. There is not anything else to write about tonight and so I guess I will close until tomorrow, so night now, honey. Keep your chin up until I come home again. Give baby all my love. Ralph

Notes: Haven’t yet seen the letter from Mom yet but apparently she was fighting with her Mom and feeling down. Letter got pretty dark for a moment in the middle with the references to bad things happening that wouldn’t be accidental. I never met my Grandma Grant but I understand she was a strong personality. My Mom sure was, and I can easily picture those two personalities slamming heads from time to time. An earlier letter had mentioned that Grandpa Grant was working at Chapman’s.

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30 May 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – Red Bank, New Jersey

Postmark Date – 31 May 1943

Letter Date – 30 May 1943

Text:

My sweetest wife and baby,

How are you this nice Sunday afternoon? At least I hope it is as nice there as it is here – the first real nice Sunday since I have been here. No mail from you, but there is a reason for that. The reason is that they don’t pass out the mail on Sunday. Pretty good reason, don’t you think? Had a big parade today here in honor of Memorial Day. I was not in it but I was watching it and it sure was nice. There must of been a couple of thousand soldiers in it. Lots of flags and bands. Also some tanks and some airplanes. These planes were those big Flying Fortresses. Say, did I tell you about the air raid we had the other night? If I did I will tell you again. The lights went out as usual at ten, and about ten-thirty when we were all sound asleep the damned siren went off. We had to get up, put on our packs, gas masks, and leggings. This all had to be done in the dark, as it had to be dark all over. And to top all that off I am an air raid patrol and had to get out first and help load trucks and see that everybody got out. When we were all loaded the all clear sounded off, so we all went back to bed, a very tired bunch of guys. I only hope that it don’t happen very often. When we put the lights on after it was all over I found I had put my leggings on the wrong legs. I am going to a show tonight. It is supposed to be a good one. The name of it is “My Friend Flicka.” Roddy McDowall is starring in it. You remember him from “How Green Was My Valley.” It is all about a horse and a little boy from the west. Tomorrow is payday and I suppose you will be getting your check soon after I get mine. Let me know if you get any more this time. I want to know if you did get any more. I sure as the devil can use it, as I spent my last dime this morning. I bet you can use it, too. If you worked down at Chapman’s you wouldn’t have to wait until every month for your money. Then you would have some money all the time instead of having it all in a bunch. That is, if you worked down there. I’m afraid I can’t think of anything else to write about today, honey. Everything is quiet and peaceful here so I think I better close and go and eat supper, so until tomorrow night kisses and hugs to you, honey, and also to Bonny girl from Daddy.

PS – Gee whiz, honey, I miss you so damn much I can’t hardly wait until I come home to you again.

Notes: As mentioned in a previous post, Chapman’s was an area business back home.

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28 May 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – Red Bank, New Jersey

Postmark Date – 29 May 1943

Letter Date – 28 May 1943

Text:

Hello sweetheart,

Another day gone by and here I am writing to you. The best part of my day’s work. I mean the part I like the best. We just got done doing our weekly duty. That is every Friday night we have to scrub up our barracks nice and clean for the Saturday competition. Everything is supposed to be spick-and-span for inspection. It was nice and warm all day until tonight, when it started to rain and blow like the devil. But it has cleared off now and it looks like it might be a nice day tomorrow. Oh, by the way, I better tell you I got your letter today, and also a card from a guy in St. Pete – the one from Green Bay. He had his wife send him a telegram that she was awful sick and so he got an emergency furlough. When he came back from home he brought his wife along back with him. That is the reason he wrote to me. Him and I used to get along real good. He is only nineteen, too, and a real nice guy. Say, here is a poem that a guy told me when we was in school today. This is the way it goes…

Twinkle, twinkle little star

I stayed all night in his car

What I did I ain’t admittin’

What I’m knittin’ ain’t for Britain

Some poem, huh? I don’t know whether I should write it or not, but I felt like a little devil so I dood it. Don’t be mad at me, honey. Say, you haven’t heard from Marvin, have you? I haven’t got a letter from him only once since I have been in the army. That little devil better let me know how and where he is pretty soon. I wouldn’t doubt that he might be in the army by now. I wish I was home so we could go fishing together again, just like we used to. Remember that time down on the White River? The more you talk about things happening up there the more lonesome I get, but keep on telling me all about it. Gosh honey, I can’t think of anything else to write about tonight so guess I will have to close until tomorrow night. All my love and kisses to you my sweetest wife, and loads of love to Bonny girl from Daddy

PS – No shoes yet, but will let you know as quick as I get them. Night now. RP

Notes: I don’t know if little brother Marvin Peterson was in the Army yet at this point, but he eventually did enlist. Interesting that Dad included a vaguely suggestive poem here. I wasn’t sure what the reference was, but it seems there was a United States project started before our entry into the war to support England, something called “Bundles for Britain,” which was mostly American women knitting a variety of clothing items for British soldiers.

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27 May 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – Red Bank, New Jersey

Postmark Date – 28 May 1943

Letter Date – 27 May 1943

Text:

Hello Girls,

How are my two little sweethearts tonight? No letter from you today. What’s the trouble? You getting tired of writing to me? No? Come now, don’t lie to me. Tell me the truth. I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean that. It’s just that I got the crazy idea that I should get one or two letters a day, and when I miss one day I get so darn disappointed. Then I remember that I know that you don’t get one every day and I feel a little better. I’m going to try and send you one every day from now. The only day I will miss is Sunday, because the mail don’t go out on that day. But every other day I’m going to try and get one sent to you. I want you to do the same thing. Today was nice and sunny and very warm – the first nice day since I have been here. I don’t know what it will do tomorrow, but I suppose it will rain, as it usually does. I had my first test in sending today and I really came out good. The instructor said so, anyway. I am still doing good and I hope I keep on doing it. I sent that present I bought for you again today. This time I think it will stay wrapped. I tied it enough, anyway. This will be an awful short letter tonight, as we had a ball game, and as we always do we won. I will have to close now if I want to mail this tonight, so until tomorrow, honey, and a longer letter, all my love and kisses to my dearest wife and baby. Night now, honey, from your husband and daddy.

Notes: Interesting contrast between insecure Ralph the husband and supremely confident Ralph the ballplayer.

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26 May 1943 – Letter from Dad to Mom

Letter or Postcard – Letter

Sender – Ralph Peterson

Recipient – Phyllis Peterson

Postmark Place – Red Bank, New Jersey

Postmark Date – 27 May 1943

Letter Date – 26 May 1943

Text:

Hi sweetheart,

Got your letter today and was sure glad to get one after missing yesterday. And it was an awful nice letter, too, the kind I like to get. Just the right length. I suppose you will think it is funny for me to agree on the letters but I really like the letter I got today. Just keep it up and I will be satisfied. Then the only day I will miss will on Sunday, as they don’t pass out the mail then. I also got Avis’s letter, too, and was glad the little squirt wrote to me, but for God’s sake don’t tell her I called her that. Maybe then she won’t even write to me, and I just love to get mail, especially if it is from you. It is a sort of relaxation to lay down at night and read letters from home. It makes me feel good. I can lay back and close my eyes and dream that I am home beside you. Gosh, honey, that sure is a grand feeling. If I could only make the dream come real one of these times. But I don’t suppose I can until I get out of school. Maybe I better tell you more about my school and where I will go when I get done here. You see, if I pass this school here – that is, if I get thirteen words a minute – I will go to post school, which is a school for advanced training that lasts for three months. If I get through that all right I will get a sergeant’s or a staff sergeant’s rating and be sent to be attached to some air squadron. From there I don’t know where. If I don’t pass the school I will be sent out to some air squadron anyway, but won’t get the rating and will have a lot harder work. I only hope I make the post school as it will be a lot better and I can use the rating and the money. The rating I can use to make you feel more proud of me and the money because then maybe I can send some home to you. As far as my stripe goes I have got it but can’t wear it or use it while I am on this post, but when I get out of here I can put it on. The reason is this – I have been transferred out of the Signal Corps and am now in the Air Corps. When I get done here I will be sent back to the Air Corps. That is the reason I can’t wear my stripe. The Signal Corps can’t give an Air Corps man a rating. Don’t worry, I will let you know when I will use it because I would like to have that stripe on. It will make me feel a lot more important. So our baby is starting to write already. Try and get her to write me a letter all by herself. Do you think she can do that? Maybe not for a while, yet. I want to be home when she starts writing. I remember Thelma had the same idea about you trying to take Bonny away from her. Boy, is she nuts. Ain’t it? I don’t think you would try anything like that, would you? It would hurt poor old Thelma so much. Don’t worry about us making up what we lost. When I get home we are going to spend at least a year just to ourselves. I mean you, Bonny, and I. Do what we want to and when we want to. It is worth all of that after we are separated for this long. Don’t call yourself names, honey, about making me feel bad. I think I should call myself all the names I can think of, as I have wrote you nothing but all my worries, but I will try and cut that out. I know it don’t help you any. There isn’t much more for me to scribble about unless I tell you it is raining again. Which it is doing half of the time here anyway. I will close now as it is getting late and I want to write to Harold Button and take a shower yet tonight, so for tonight all my love and kisses to my one and only love and our baby, from Daddy

PS – Thanks for sending me shoes. It will save my feet a lot. Night, now, babies

Notes: A much meatier letter with a more adult tone. I am very curious about what was going on with Thelma [Shruck] Pick, who was Mom’s first cousin and as far as I know never had children of her own. One sentence Dad is calling her crazy and the very next he is sympathetic to whatever her situation was. Something I will have to look into further if I can.

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