David's Reformed Church Congregation

David's Reformed Church Congregation
Congregation of David's Reformed Church, Montgomery Co, Ohio, Circa, 1900

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day, 2015 ~ World War I ~ Letters From My Grandfather ~ Part Three

My grandfather, Leland Norris, in uniform with gas mask and bayonet.

My grandfather, Leland V. Norris, was now a part of the replacement troop regiment, 5th Battery, in France. It was from this location that he wrote the following letter to Rev. Thomas Dietz. 

Pvt. L.V. Norris
5th Battery,
F.A. R.K.
A.P.O. No. 722
American E.F.

La Cortline, France
July 16, 1918

Dear Pastor,
Received your letter of June 6th yesterday and was sure glad to hear from you and all the news.  I
am getting along fine. Have been laid up a couple of days with a cold and grip, but expect to get out sometime again
I am glad the church work is getting along so fine. I don't get to services as often as I should like to but do the best I can under the conditions.  We are doing quite a bit of work here now.  I am in a replacement regiment stationed here so we send quite a few troops away every day.  I have not
been near the front yet, but am stationed about two hundred miles away now, but am going up
one of these times when I feel well enough trained.
I like it fine here now, get plenty to eat and have good quarters, in fact better than in the states.
Stuckoed barracks are what we live in.  We sure are giving the Huns a run for their money, of late,
and something sure will happen soon  I haven't heard from Dwight, but he is over here somewhere. Glad everybody is well at home.
Well, Mr. Dietz, things are sure different over here than in the states. So much more poverty, I really can't understand these people right. I do wonder sometimes how things can be and think things will be right soon.
Well, I am fine and dandy.  I think this is a great world. Would like to see you all. Write often. Give my best to all and think of me in your prayers. 
I am, as ever,

I don't know when exactly my grandfather returned home. I was told that he never saw combat due to illness.  In the book "Cease Firing" there appears this small paragraph about him:
Norris, Leland V. Dayton, Ohio
    Leland was one of our first buglars, but somehow he never could just exactly "bugle."  We shall never forget one cold morning in Camp Sheridan when Leland could not get a sound out of his horn and we had to wake up another bugler.  He left our organization early in 1918 for immediate overseas service as a replacement. He has returned to this country and has been mustered out of service, but with what organization he served overseas we are unable to ascertain.

He was promoted to Corporal on 21 January, 1919 and he received an Honorable Discharge on 19 May, 1919.  Thank you for your service, Grandpa. 

Veterans Day 2015 ~ World War I ~ Letters from My Grandfather ~ Part Two

From Camp Sheridan to France ~ The Journey 

 My grandfather did not remain with Battery D until they left for France on 14 June, 1918.  He was called to leave as part of a replacement force on 10 May, 1918 it wasn't until 22 May that his parents received the following postcard informing them of his safe arrival overseas.  

The postcard received by my great grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Norris

It wasn't long after this that they received the following letter. This letter was also published in one of the Dayton newspapers:

Somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean.

Dear Parents-Just a few lines to let you know I am well, but not feeling exactly right. For today makes little over five days we have been on the water.  All we see from morning till night is water, water everywhere.  The sea has not made me sick, but I feel mighty weak in the knees.  I miss about every other meal, and lie in my bunk most of the time.  When it's rough a fellow sure has to watch his corners or he'll fall overboard.  
Yesterday I went to church services in the mess hall of the ship in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. I expect to be "over there" in another five days: at least I hope so, for land would look good to me wherever it would be.
I suppose you will worry about me, as it will be impossible for you to hear from me very often. But you needn't worry. God will take care of me over here Just the same as in the U.S.A. It is some experience and I hope to see everything that goes with it.  Hoping every one is well at home. I must close now, as it is supper time, but will write soon again. 
Hello again: Today is Tuesday, and still on our way.  We are having pretty rough seas today, and it's just like a cradle.  I have been napping a great deal of the time, but suppose we will be kept awake from now on as we are entering the submarine zone sometime tonight. We have been having fire drills three and four times a day, and now we can get out in good time, if anything should happen. 
We are being entertained by movies in the dining hall, and there are some Y.M.C.A. men on board, so we have plenty of writing paper. 
I guess I forgot to tell you we have to wear life belts all the time and also sleep in them.  It surely is one wonderful trip.  One beautiful sight was the high bluffs on the Hudson river.  
I supposed I'll have quite a job on my hands learning French.  So Dwight was home again: well, tell him I will meet him in Berlin in the near future.  It don't seem any farther away from home than when I was in Alabama or New Jersey, and I am on the same earth, under the same sky and under the same God, so there's no need to worry. 
One year ago, the 18th of May, I enlisted, and by that date I will be in France, going some. 
Back again. Another day gone by and all is well.  We are now in the submarine zone, but have not sighted any yet. 
I must close for good now as we are arriving safely over sea, and am feeling fine. Give my regards to every one. With love.
Your son,

Another postcard, showing the ship filled with the replacement battery of soldiers

Veterans Day, 2015 ~ World War I ~ Letters from My Grandfather ~ Part One

Leland Vincent Norris

 Triangle Park to Camp Sheridan, Alabama

 The year before the Armistice was signed ending the "War to End All Wars" on November 11, 1918, my grandfather, Leland Vincent Norris, was training for service with Battery D, 134th Field Artillery at Camp Sheridan, Alabama.  The battery had first assembled on 15 July, 1917 at Triangle Park in Dayton, Ohio and for a little over a month the young men hiked, foot drilled, cut firewood, peeled potatoes, and washed dishes. They had KP duty and passed inspections and stood in long lines to get a "pass" to leave the park to relax and visit family.  They learned how to send and receive semaphore messages and prepared themselves to become soldiers.  Then, on 23 August, 1917 they received word that they would be leaving for "somewhere in the United States" at 5:00 pm. Tents were rolled up and belongings hurriedly packed. With much pomp and circumstance and surrounded by loved ones, the Battery was led by Heidelberg's Band through the park gate down Main Street to the Union Station. Corporal Donald D. Davis stated in the book "Cease Firing" that as they marched they were a "happy bunch" because "they had answered their country's call in the hour of need, she had accepted us, and at that moment we were actually being called upon for service".  The men were given the opportunity to bid farewell to their families and each was given a small basket that contained food good enough for a couple of meals for the trip.  As they boarded the train there was a fight for window seats and these eager soldiers stuck their heads out those windows for a final glimpse at family and friends. There was much excitement about the service on trip; Pullman cars and porters were a treat.  The trip took them through Cincinnati to Louisville, where they ate breakfast. The men gathered in groups and talked and played games to pass the time. No doubt, the talk included questions regarding where they were headed.  The train stopped in Nashville so the men could step out and stretch their legs and then off they were. They passed through Birmingham at 8:00 pm. and the next morning, three days after leaving their Dayton home they awoke at Camp Sheridan, Alabama, which was just a large cotton field.  The soldiers had to basically build their new home from scratch.  They remained at Camp Sheridan from 25 August, 1917 ~ 14 June, 1918, continuing their training until they would depart for the battlefields of France.  It was from here that my grandfather wrote to his mother on 28 November, 1917:

Camp Sheridan
November 28, 1917, Eve 
Dear Mother,
Well I will try and write a few lines tonight.  I sure have been some busy boy. Working hard all day and running around at night. The girls arrived here last Wed afternoon. I sure was glad to see them. Ah yes I kissed them once or twiced. To make them think I had not forgotten how.  I received your kiss alright.  Well I am on guard tonight and (unreadable) came off of post, and am ready to hit the straw. Well, I am getting ready for our own Thanksgiving dinner. Going to have Turkey, potatoes, gravy, pie, cake, celery, cranberrys and sweet potatoes, Tomatos soup and a few more. I guess we will live high for one day at least. We boys have already received one Thanksgiving dinner. From Mabel and Vera. Tell them I thank them ever so much for it. I sure did eat.  I received the money also the other stuff you sent with the girls.  It sure was fine and Thanks. Well I guess you will have some dinner Thanksgiving: I guess Maggie will be there give her my best also everybody. (Say Mother if grandma is taken sick in bed send me a telegram at once for I sure do want to come home and see her.)  I will send my suitcase home sometime this week so keep on the lookout for it. And I guess the trunk will come next. For we boys have got our little cloth bags. Well how is the new machine.  I guess you are sporting around some.  Well I guess when I come home I will have some car to go see the girls in. I got a letter from Dwight. I guess they are pretty busy. I sure am some tired tonight. Will be glad when it is over with. How is Aunt and Uncle Ole? Give them my best. This is the first letter I have written in a week. That sure was some sweater Marie made me. (unreadable) Will keep it for when we get in France. Ha Ha. It sure is fine to have a home where you can go and feel at home again. I go down most every night and lay on a good soft bed and sleep a couple hours.  I sure wish you could have come along. Well none of us will get home Christmas unless we have a reasonable excuse. I sure would like to be there a couple days at least. I sure wish you and papa would come down for a week or two Christmas. Mr. Hart and his wife is coming down better come along.  It only costs $20 around trip now: I sure was glad to get the money. Tell grandma I wish her a happy Thanksgiving. And wish I could eat dinner with her Does she go to church with you? Give all my best and tell them I will write when I have time.
Ohio State football team played down here last Sat. It sure was some game 0 to 0. Tell Paul H to write once in a while. Well wishing you all a fine Thanksgiving and would like to be there. Most close for this time.