A Slitless Spectrograph

Flash Spectrum
Flash spectrum of the solar chromosphere, Nantucket Airport, March 7th, 1970

Extracted from: May, 1970, Sky and Telescope, Page 318 & ff.
GLEANINGS FOR ATM’s
CONDUCTED BY ROBERT E. COX

A Slitless Spectrograph for the Flash Spectrum

IN 1963, after reading S. A. Mitchell’s exciting book on solar eclipses [1], I became especially interested in his detailed descriptions of the flash spectrum of the sun’s chromosphere, which is observed for a few seconds at the beginning and ending of totality. I constructed a small concave-grating spectrograph and took it to that year’s eclipse at Stetson, Maine. But the equipment was never used, for the very thin crescent of the sun dissolved in clouds five seconds before the second contact.

700307-1_Nantckt
Photo: A. W. Doolittle

This year [1970] I tried again, taking the spectrograph mounted on my 4-1/4-inch f/28 reflector to Nantucket Island. Spectra were obtained at second contact, at mid-totality, and at third contact, the last being shown in color, four-times enlarged, in the center of this issue. A good flash spectrum is not only colorful but very informative scientifically – an important means for studying the composition and physical properties at different levels in the sun’s atmosphere.

What I needed was a compact instrument that could be attached to a portable, clock-driven equatorial [4] and pointed directly at the sun, eliminating the need for the coelostat arrangement professionals use for their larger equipment (see, for example, pictures on pages 280 and 284 of this issue). At the same time I sought good spectral resolution and large plate scale, in order to record many lines in the flash spectrum instead of just the few brightest ones revealed by direct-vision spectroscopes.

In Amateur Telescope Making—Book Three, Strathmore [2] R. B. Cooke and Robert A. Wilson give a complete geometrical treatise on the Wadsworth mounting for a five-foot laboratory spectrograph. This compact arrangement includes a collimating paraboloidal mirror and slit, without which the light source would have to be an infinitely distant slit. However, at an eclipse this requirement is essentially met by the thin crescent of the solar chromosphere produced by the advancing moon.

Thus, my spectrograph has the great advantage of only one optical element, the concave (spherical) diffraction grating, which focuses monochromatic images of the chromosphere directly on the strip of 35-mm. film that is held at the parabolic focal surface. The instrument’s size, configuration, and performance are completely determined by the grating constants. Replica gratings are perfectly acceptable for most amateur and laboratory purposes, and are offered by Edmund Scientific Co., Central Scientific Co., and others for less than $100.

I chose Edmund’s “instrument-quality concave grating,” which is made of glass 3″ in diameter that has been optically figured and aluminum coated. Its radius of curvature is 1,000 millimeters, and an area 1-1/2 in square is ruled with 15,000 lines per inch. It forms a solar image about five millimeters (1/5 in) in diameter, which easily fits in the width of 35-mm. film and allows room for coronal images. When the grating arrived, I measured its radius of curvature, finding it 10 mm. longer than advertised; my final design was adjusted for the difference in focal length.

The Specifications

Attention was then turned to the geometry of the Wadsworth mounting. The formula
.                                                         nλ = s(sin i + sin θ)           (1)
gives the relation between i, the angle of incidence of the light on the grating, and θ, the angle of diffraction, both measured from the normal (perpendicular) to the grating, as shown in the diagram. Also, n is the order of the spectrum (always a whole number), λ the wavelength in centimeters, and s the spacing between the grating lines, in centimeters.

Because a compact instrument giving maximum image brightness was required, I was limited to the use of the first-order spectrum, so that n was fixed as unity.

The dispersion of the spectrum, expressed in angstroms per millimeter along the focal surface, is given by 107 s/nf, where f is the focal length of the grating (half the radius of curvature), or 505 millimeters for my grating. For s, I used 1/590 millimeter, corresponding closely to 1/15,000 inch, which gave the dispersion as 33.6 angstroms per millimeter.

The spectral range that I wanted to cover lay between 3000 angstroms in the ultraviolet and 8000 in the infrared. This would occupy about 150 millimeters or 6″, that is, 3″ on either side of a central wave length of 5500 angstroms in the green region.

To place this central wavelength of the spectrum upon the grating normal, we set θ = 0 in Equation 1, which becomes
.                                                     sin i = λ/s.            (2)
Expressing- both lengths in millimeters, λ is 5.5 X 10-4 and s is 1/590. We obtain sin i = 0.3245, and  i = 18° 56′.

Using this value of i in Equation 1, we can calculate the values of θ corresponding to 3000 and8000 angstroms. We find that these extremes are symmetrically placed 8° 29′ on either side of 5500 angstroms.

This last calculation is important to be sure that there is enough clearance between the incident rays and the red end of the spectrum to accommodate mechanical and structural elements, such as shutter, film spools and pockets, and the camera walls. For my spectrograph, the clearance is 18° 56′ – 8° 29′ = 10° 27′. Had this been insufficient, I would have set a longer wavelength on the grating normal, obtaining a larger angle of incidence.

The focal curve is not an arc of a circle (a parabola), but is defined by the relation
.                                             D=R cos2 θ/(cos i +cos θ),       (3)
where D is the focal distance at the diffraction angle θ, and R is the radius of curvature of the grating. We can lay out the focal curve by calculating D for selected values of θ, preferably employing logarithms for accuracy.

Mechanical Construction

  Completion of the calculations permitted me to design the spectrograph itself: a lightproof box with suitable covers, access openings, grating support, and film support. In addition, baffles, screens, and light traps were placed to eliminate spurious reflections and stray light. The entire assembly was painted flat black on the inside.

S+T Pg (2)The film was supported at its edges by two strips of Masonite 6″ long and 1/8” thick, filed accurately to fit the calculated parabolic curve. The top and bottom runners were cut and filed together, for a perfect match. Slotted holes in the film support brackets permit slight shifts for the focusing adjustment. A film transport arrangement was devised to fit standard 35-mm. cassettes for winding and rewinding with slotted cranks inserted from the outside. The shutter must be large enough to illuminate the grating area fully, with additional clearance for the field of view (2° in this case). Shutters of large aperture are hard to find, but I came across an old 2-1/2” bulb-operated Packard shutter which worked well after cleaning and oiling. The shortest exposure that I can manage with it is about 1/5 second.

At an angle of reflection equal to the angle of incidence, the source produces a bright zero-order image. To absorb this, I made a black-velvet light trap, as shown in the diagram. But the trap can be opened to allow the strong direct image of the sun to fall on a target, thus providing a convenient means for aiming the spectrograph without opening the film plane access door. The grating holder should be rigidly mounted but adjustable, as in the design by Cooke and Wilson. All but the ruled area should be masked to reduce the intensity of the direct image. To preserve the grating surface, it is essential that the grating cell be fitted with an air- and dust-tight cover.

Provision must be made to set the film curve exactly in focus, not only at the center wavelength on the grating normal but at the other wavelengths along the spectrum. This requires, in the workshop, setting up a collimator and a bright, sharp source such as a slit illuminated by an arc. At the focus of a good 2-inch f/20 achromat I put an adjustable slit like one described by John Strong in ATM-3. To be sure the slit was exactly at the focus of the lens, I pointed the telescope at the star Sirius and moved the slit along the optical axis until the objective darkened uniformly as the star drifted past the optical
axis (as in a knife-edge test).

70020014_SpGraph70020017_Collimator
.                     Disassembled camera                                                    Collimator
Then the collimator was aimed at the grating and the slit illuminated by an arc, one carbon of which had been soaked in a mixed salt solution (NaCI, KNO3, or SrNO3). This produced a rash of bright lines all along the visible spectrum. Using a strip of frosted acetate as a ground glass, and setting the slit for best apparent parallelism with the grating rulings, I used a jeweler’s loupe to focus each section of the film curve. That is, I adjusted the film holder for best focus at each point along the spectrum; the sodium D line was easily resolved into its two components (0.2 mm. separation).

Not apparent when focusing with a slit is an astigmatism which is zero on the normal and increases to either side, becoming very noticeable in the zero-order image. It causes the crescent cusps and other eclipse features not essentially parallel with the rulings to appear somewhat out of focus at the ends of the spectrum. Physicists use cylindrical lenses and other means to overcome this astigmatism, but such a refinement is not necessary for the flash spectrum.

Observing the Eclipse

  I loaded two 20-exposure 35-mm. cassettes to permit trying out two kinds of film at the same eclipse. The leaders were taped together before loading; after loading and closing the camera the splice and a predetermined length of film were wound into one cassette to draw in an unexposed length of film from the other.

After this exposure the winding was reversed and the splice moved from the first cassette into the second for subsequent exposures on the film thus drawn from the first cassette. I did not use 36-exposure cassettes because these might make this operation difficult. I made sure to return the splice to the grating normal before opening the camera for removal of the cassettes.

I was unable to find a complete record of grating constants, exposure time, and film speed for some previous flash spectrum photograph. The speed of the grating is f/Ae, that is, the focal length divided by the equivalent aperture. The latter is Ae = (4As/π)1/2, where A is the actual grating aperture.

However, this calculation is confused by the fact that only part of the reflected light is concentrated into any given order. My grating has an advertised efficiency of 50 to 75 percent and a blaze wavelength of 4000 angstroms, meaning that 50 to 75 percent of the reflected light is concentrated in the first order and further concentrated locally in the 4000-angstrom region.

I decided to try about twice the exposure times recommended for use with a 40° objective prism [3], since substantially all of the light leaving a prism falls within its only spectrum. The exposures used this year on Nantucket Island were 1/5 second on Ektacolor-S (ASA 100) for the flash spectrum at second contact and 1/3 second on High Speed Ektachrome (ASA 160) at third contact (see center pages). Also, a 1-second exposure was made on Ektacolor-S at mid-eclipse, to record the coronal emission.

Before the eclipse the direction of the moon’s relative path was calculated, in order to orient the instrument so that the rulings would be tangent to the midpoint of the chromospheric crescent; this would produce crescents set vertically along the length of the spectrum. However, at Nantucket we were a substantial distance north of the eclipse’s central line, and the crescents could not be made to appear this way at both contacts.

[My assistant and friend Frank Dow manned the hour-angle and right ascension slow motion adjustments to be sure the sun’s image remained centered by cancelling accumulating errors in the motion of the weight-driven clock.]

Without practice from previous eclipses, and in the excitement of the moment, it is very hard to determine exactly when to operate the shutter. The flash lasts only the few seconds it takes the moon’s limb to traverse the solar chromosphere. I placed a small 5,000-line plane transmission grating (Wabash Instruments and Specialties, Wabash, Indiana) over one objective of a pair of binoculars, oriented so the rulings were perpendicular to the moon’s path.

With this, the Fraunhofer absorption lines (crescents) could be seen darkening and sharpening as the “slit” of the photosphere narrowed in the moments before totality. Fleetingly the crescent cusps gleamed and finally the chromosphere’s bright-line spectrum flashed into view as the bright arc of the photosphere was fully extinguished.

  At this moment, the stopwatch was started, to provide a countdown for the recurrence of the flash spectrum at third contact, two minutes later. Of course, with good time-signal reception and an accurate prediction of the duration of totality, second and third contacts could be timed without visual watching, but surely one would not want to trade the beautiful spectacle of the sudden appearance of the flash spectrum for the small cost of a plane transmission grating.

WILLIAM C. ATKINSON   (1970)
343 South Ave.
Weston, Mass. 02493

Notes:
[1] Eclipses of the Sun, Samuel Alfred Mitchel, Columbia University Press,  New York, Fifth Edition, 1951, 445 pages.
[2] Amateur Telescope Making – Book Three, Edited by Albert G. Ingalls, Scientific American, Inc., 1953, 644 pages.
[3] Solar Eclipse Photography for the Amateur, Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, New York, Pamphlet No. AM-10, 1968.
[4] In 2017 the spectrograph and equatorial mounting (tripod with clock drive) were donated to Cornell University’s Fuertes Observatory, in Ithaca, NY.

 

Elsie S. Church, 2000, Steps Retraced

Eglise St. Hippolyte, Bay-sur-Aube

A Weekend in Eastern France: 21-23 July, 2000
A revisit to the sites described by my mother Elsie S. Church in her journal and letters of 1918-1919: En Voyage, Bay-sur-Aube, Intervalle, and Nanteuille-la-Fosse

Friday, July 21, 2000

From Paris I set out for Bay-sur-Aube in the cool morning air early on a Friday in our small and “friendful” rented Peugeot accompanied by my new friend parisienne Catherine Lion-Meric, as navigateur.  After a hesitant start at the Pte. de Clignancourt we attained the peripherique interieur and rocketed east and south toward the exit for Dijon—the electronic panels overhead announcing the route ahead to be “toujours FLUIDE”.

I had written to Bay in June in the hope of having some advanced help in finding things there as I had no photos of Bay, my mother having not received a camera from home until June of 1919 in Paris.  The mayor had answered me (by e-mail) and Catherine had confirmed by phone that we were to meet in Bay at ten.

Through Langres, off the A-31, then turning north at Auberive we came into Bay and turned left over a small stone bridge to see a couple of boys.  We asked the way to the mairie.  They pointed ahead and there on the sidewalk in the dappled sunlight stood five men obviously in casual attendance upon our arrival.  We were greeted by M. le maire, Henri Lodiot, who introduced us to M. Edgar Cudel (Bay historian), M. Rene Rousselet (village doyen, 86), Mr. Sebastian Price (Englishman, owner of the Chateau), and M. Jean Royer (a local genealogist).  All were gracious and obviously delighted to meet us.  They ushered us into the one cavernous village schoolroom in the back of the mairie where we sat at a huge wooden table and talked for two hours.

00072108_BayGroupRousselet, a contemporary of Cécile Mongin, remembered her and the family with whom Elsie had beeen billeted; we were later shown the house where she had a room on the second floor and where the Orderly Room had been on the ground floor. He remembered the (Co. F) cook who was wont to chase the kids away when they gathered around looking hopefully for handouts.  M. Royer had sought out that Cécile had died a few years previously in Marseilles at the age of eighty-one.  When shown some of Elsie’s photos taken at Le Bourget M. Cudel revealed his interest in antique airplanes and so I gave him my copies of the pictures. He had been a navigator in the French air force.

We gave them, too, a copy of Elsie’s letters and journal whereupon the Englishman offered to translate it into French for use by M. Cudel in his plans for a Bay historical retrospective to be held in the summer of 2001— and to which he invited us.

At noon the mayor had to leave for another appointment but before he left glasses appeared, a bottle of champagne, and a basket of pink frosted champagne biscuits.  We toasted Elsie and the AEF and some others and stepped out into the sunlight for a round of photos in the courtyard.

00072111_BsA_CudelHouseAt once it became clear that we were to stay for déjuner at the home of M. Cudel.  His house sat above the now disused lavarie in the square on a steep open street with a view of the town amid terraces of plants and beautiful flowers.  His wife Janine had prepared a lovely gourmet lunch in the French style:  pineapple with homemade mayonnaise, red wine, a delicious pork dish with fruit and cheese, followed by a lemon sorbet scooped in the center to accommodate a small pool of triple-sec.

We were then taken on an auto tour of the high ground above Bay with views toward Vitry across the valley of the Aube.  We saw the traces of a Roman road, the village of Germaines, and ended above Bay at the ancient Roman church.  Along the way Mr. Price revealed to us that above the town runs a straight “magnetic” line having tangible effects upon people in the region.  He cited as proof of the magnetic theory a “line” many miles long in England discovered when it was realized that all the churches lying on it were dedicated to St. Mark.  Catherine and I gradually came to the conclusion that Mr. Price was somewhat of an otherworldly visionary.

In the churchyard at Bay a majestic lime tree stands planted, they told us, along with others in churchyards all over France, to commemorate the Edict of Nantes.  Mr. Price expounded upon how, on a certain day of the year, the sun at its rising, shines through a narrow opening above the altar of the church casting a light exactly in the center of (or at least upon some spot of significance on) the opposite wall; the implication being that the church had been originally and mystically oriented toward this end.  Catherine and I accepted these revelations as colorful if somewhat fanciful.

1921_BayElsie'sHutM. Royer showed us the field immediately adjacent to the churchyard where Elsie’s “hut” had once stood [1]. The hut had been razed many decades earlier but we all convinced ourselves that we could find, in the churchyard wall, the spot where the doughboys had temporarily “liberated” stones for Elsie’s cheminée only to have had to replace them at the behest of an irate mayor.

Mr. Price took us on a brief tour of the Chateau.  His quick reading of the journal in the morning had led him to believe that Elsie had described an evening spent there but, in rereading her words, I think the chateau she described was not in Bay but in Germaines or in Aulnay nearby.

Promises were made to exchange photos and to stay in touch at least until the next summer.

M. Cudel drove us the three kilometers to Vitry. I wanted to walk back to Bay by the road that Elsie had so often taken after her visits to Juliette Whiton.  In Vitry Edgar made a few inquiries aimed at finding where Juliette had been stationed and billeted but there was no one old enough to make the eighty-one year connection.

France2000019Edgar left us.  We walked back to Bay along the side of the hill overlooking the valley of the Aube in the early evening sunlight— in France in July it stays light until eleven.  The valley was green and beautiful and of course I thought of my mother on this same walk so long ago.  We then came back into Bay and took our leave in the car; back through Auberive (literally, Aube riverbank) and on to Troyes where we had a Youth Hostel reservation.

Catherine had made a reservation at an andouillette specialty restaurant where we had a pleasant dinner.  Andouillette is akin to tripe and is, in fact, a tripe sausage famously favored in the Troyes region.  Catherine suggested that I might not like it and suggested I try something else, which I did.  I tasted hers and remained doubtful about whether it really could have been to my liking.

Outside the hostel we searched in vain for a comet that I had heard about.

Saturday, July 22, 2000

Catherine had not seen much of eastern France and we both remarked the “big-sky” flatness of the region we traversed between Troyes and the valley of the Marne.  We were on our way north to Hautvillers in the Champagne region armed this time with some photographs that Elsie had taken in the summer and fall of 1919 during her time in Nanteuille-la-Fosse with the Brits of the American Red Cross.

00072217_BsA_ClmBouquet
Catherine and Mme. Boquet

We had a picture of Mme. Legal and her son Leandre taken in front of an iron gate in Hautvillers, a town of about five-hundred houses; we hoped to find the gate.  After having drawn a blank at the tourist acceuil, although there were very few people out and about, we began accosting souls in the street to show them the photo.  A man said “Je ne sais pas, mais Mme. Boquet saura“.  The Mme. was called from her gate, threw open her casement above, and a minute later descended into her court— she is the sole and aging owner, we were told, of La Cave Dom Perignon.  “Ah. Je crois que c’est par la“, and we followed her around a corner.  “Voila“, she said.  But no; similar gate and details (a local founder undoubtedly made all the gates in the region and put upon them his mark) but not right.  “Alors, par ici” and we followed her around another corner but, again, not the one.  While the three puzzled in the street I found a young man, showed him the picture and he said, “Suivez moi“.  He led me down through steep back courts, pigs and geese scattering as we went, emerged on a lower street, walked down a couple of doors, pointed, and said, “C’est la“.  And he was right.

It was lots of fun.  We took photos. The lady of the house came out and now, of course, we had to send her a copy of the pictures too.

After déjuner at a nice restaurant we drove along the Marne through the vinyards and then north to the high ground of the Montagne de Reims and to the village of Nanteuille-la-Fosse (now la-Forêt) where Elsie had lived and worked during the summer and fall with the British Quaker ladies of the American Red Cross.

We wanted to find the house for which we had a picture of the courtyard containing a military truck and of a circular pool in the backyard as well as some others around the town.  After a disappointing hour or so of wandering around (the streets were empty) peering at the pictures we found a young man mowing his side yard.  He cut his mower and we showed him the photos one after another: “Pas a Nanteuille. Pas a Nanteuille. Pas…“.  We began to think we were in the wrong town.  Then:

Mais, Mme. Trinquart saura, parceque son marie ramasse les cartes postales anciennes de la ville.”  So, next door, the bell was pulled, Mme. came out into her court and let us in.  She looked at the picture, spread her gaze and her arms expansively and said, “Mais oui.  C’est ici!”  And sure enough, of hundreds of houses in the village, we happened by chance to be standing in the very courtyard we sought [2].

She led us through her house and there, in the back, was the little circular pool of Elsie’s photo, filled with grass and no longer “reflecting the mood of the sky above”.  We found the site of several of the other pictures, too, and one man (a M. Marcoup) asked me to send him a copy of the old photo of his street.

At Verzy that evening we visited Les Arbres Faux (a disappointment) and stayed at the hostel there.

Sunday, July 23, 2000

I had hoped to follow parts of Elsie’s battlefield tour but Catherine didn’t have much interest in that.  So we drove to Reims in the morning and got her a ticket to Paris and then spent the time until her train visiting the Cathedral.  I dropped her off at the station and headed off for the WWI front to the east, eventually reaching as far as Fort Douaumont at Verdun.

I had a couple of pictures.  One of the village of Forges— completely razed by battle.  And one of a wrecked house by the road.  There was one that I didn’t actually have with me but was pretty sure had been taken at Vauquois (Elsie’s “Split Hill”).

In the Argonne forest, after having visited a massive and sombre French monument and having revisited the Crown Prince’s Dugout [3], I parked by the side of the road more or less at random in an isolated stretch and walked into the forest.  All of the trees are the same size— eighty-two years old.  I hadn’t walked thirty meters before I came to a decaying battlefield trench deep over my head and zig-zagging off into the forest in each direction.  Ten or twenty meters farther on there was another one.  As far as the forest would permit a vista the “level” ground above the trenches was scalloped on a scale of three to six meters into an endless sea of huge “waves” each about one meter from trough to crest— the ancient shell holes now overgrown with low brush and trees.  My father, Kerr Atkinson, saw service in this region in 1918, but nearer to Grand Pré and Thiaucourt.

I passed through Varennes where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were arrested and returned to Paris after their attempted escape during the Revolution.

1919 ForgesAt Vauquois I told the Mme. at the visitor center I had a picture taken in 1919.  She wanted me to send it (and I later did.  She says it’s on display there now).  At Forges I drove through town from the direction of the former Cumières and then turned around having passed a group of gay people sitting at tables. I asked if it was a restaurant and  they said no but beckoned me over anyhow.  I showed them the photo of Forges and they passed it all around amazed— for it showed not a brick or stone standing; nothing but a hand-painted road sign indicating the center of town.  They offered me a beer and I stayed for a while to chat.

I stopped for a minute at Le Mort Homme, finding trenches in the forest there as well, and then went on to Verdun and Fort Douaumont where the massive iron view-ports and gun turrets are slowly rusting away on the crest of the fortification.  I looked for my mother’s “queer little narrow-gauge railway” but didn’t have time really to search it out— if, indeed, it still exists.

From Verdun I went on to the A-4 to Verzy again where the hostel lady was upset that I was too late for dinner for which I had made a reservation.  The next morning I briefly revisited Nanteuille and Hautvillers  on my way back to Paris to meet Catherine for dinner at her bureau in the rue Le Courbe.


[1] Elsie revisited Bay on her honeymoon in August of 1921 and took a photograph of the church with her “hut” on the right in the foreground.  She noted at that time: “… my hut is still there, ivy and all.”

[2] I have to wonder about this “chance”.  Upon returning home to Weston I found later some further photographs taken by my mother when we were in France in 1939 as a family when I was fourteen.  I have a diary entry for July 23rd in which I note that we “saw… the house [in Hautvillers] where she stayed”.  However, one of the 1939 photo’s is of the same courtyard in Nanteuille leading me to know that I had actually seen the house myself sixty-one years ago.  I have no recollection whatever of this particular visit but I have to wonder whether something other than chance urged me to stop next door to that particular house to query a young man mowing his side yard.

[3] There is a photo of Holley and me taken at this dugout in 1939.


William C. Atkinson, Weston, MA, 10/23/00


 

April Foolery (1977)

On the morning of April first I made some huge letters out of computer paper—six feet tall—and taped them to the inside of the twenty-fifth floor windows of the Lollipop Building at 100 Summer Street in Boston. Our offices looked out over the roof top of the Jordan Marsh department store a few blocks north where my friend Susie worked as a fashion photographer.

After having called Susie on the phone—with a desperate story of a man about to jump to his death from the height of my building—I waited.

And, sure enough, soon I saw her small figure emerge, camera in hand, from a doorway onto Jordan’s roof. Here is her photograph:

77040100_100SummerStBoston
100 Summer St. [Susan Manning]

The Gendarme: A Climbing Vignette (1973-1987)

SenecaRocks001
The Gendarme

Every few years we, in the Boston climbing group, would go for a week to Seneca Rocks in what was then the town of Mouth of Seneca, West Virginia. We would climb at the ‘Gunks on the way there and again on the way back.

As early as 1973 there was no climber’s shop—only Buck Harper’s general store and an old covered wooden pavilion with a stage at one end and no electricity. Here was where we camped. A wildly swaying suspension bridge over the Potomac’s North Fork gave access to the Rocks.

1987_SarahBill001
Sarah & Bill

We went again in 1980—by which time there was a new climbing store called the Gendarme—an eponymous reference to the fifty foot stone sentinel standing guard in Gunsight Notch between the north and south faces of the cliffs. On each visit it was considered obligatory to climb it.

But we climbed it with reservation owing to its precarious aspect, narrower at its base than in its body—more like a Popsicle than an obelisk. Topping out below it on the climb Banana one could actually see “air” through its base—the “stick” of the Popsicle—a slab of rock seemingly not more than three feet by twelve in cross section.  Over beer in the dark at the Pavilion we would speculate about the effects of the weight and motion of climbers or about how much wind it might take to de-stabiliz1987_WireBridge001e it. We marveled over what geologic forces might have produced it and wondered about its age. The cliffs in near their present form have been there for millions of years.

Again in 1987 I was at Seneca for a week in late September with my friend Sarah. The suspension bridge had been carried away by floods in 1985—replaced by two cables, one high and one low, for the hands overhead and the feet below. And, of course before we left, we had climbed the Gendarme.


Four weeks later at the ‘Gunks, at the end of a day of climbing, Sarah ran up to me and said:
“Guess what happened at Seneca?”

Without a moment’s hesitation I replied: “The Gendarme fell.”

And so, on October 22nd—a sunny, windless Thursday afternoon—the sentinel collapsed and, with a roar, dashed itself into thousands of shards below.

In contemplation of this event, in relation to the geologic time-scale, it seems Sarah and I had a pretty close call.


 More climbing vignettes:
Bobo to the Rescue
Serendipity
“Travails” With Charley


 

A Gunner’s Tale (1944-45)

t-square 26 1CHAPTER III
Bombing Japan

by S/Sgt. Francis (Frank) E. Reynolds
498th BG [T-Square], 874th Squadron, Saipan
1944-45
[From a manuscript e-mailed to me by Gib Buckbee, whose father was a friend of Reynolds.]

-o0|0o-

(Some disturbing graphic content has been redacted thus: [. . .])

In mid-October we departed for Saipan. American forces had taken Tinian,
only two miles from Saipan, and Guam located 100 miles [south] of us. All islands were 1500 miles from Japan with the Japanese stronghold, Iwo Jima, being midway.

874th squadron
874th Squadron

When we arrived on Saipan, it was hot and rainy. We spent a few days in tents while we built quonset huts near the shoreline to live in. The officers and enlisted men lived in separate huts but close to each other. Showers were saltwater and located on the beach. We filled our canteens from steel drums. The food was all canned—no fresh food. Flight lunches were individual packets of canned food called K-rations.

We dug trenches outside the huts that we could get in if we had air raids. On November 2 at 0130 Japanese bombers dropped bombs for the first time. There were plenty of scares, but no aircraft destroyed, and two enemy were shot down by antiaircraft guns. We got bombed or strafed every few nights. The strafing was the worst. The enemy planes would come in low under the radar and start shooting. I remember one night we awoke with tracers going by the end of the hut. I was the first one in the trench and landed on the bottom with three or four guys lying on top of me. I thought the bullets would have to go through them before getting to me. I did not even notice the coral digging into my back.

Those raids did kill some people and destroyed aircraft. At night we took turns guarding the aircraft. Usually an officer and an enlisted man paired up to guard against Japanese still hiding in caves. One night in December, I was guarding our plane with an officer when the plane next to ours was hit by a rocket, fired from an attacking plane, and started burning. We got out of the bunker and ran to escape the coming explosion.

iwo jima
Iwo Jima (Mt. Suribachi)

After a big raid on us New Year’s Eve the raids ended, due to B-24s bombing the airfield on Iwo. Planes would fly from Japan to Iwo, land, refuel, load bombs, and bomb us. B-24s were given the job of keeping the airfield on Iwo knocked out. They dropped bombs every hour and the Japanese could not fill in the bomb holes as fast as the B-24s made them.

We flew two practice missions to enemy occupied islands. The Marines made certain there could be no possibility of a tipoff from Japanese holdouts on Saipan by conducting a “rabbit hunt” around the runways, which netted them over 200 killed. Then the planes were loaded for our first mission. Bad weather caused delays, but finally on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1944, 100 aircraft in nine plane formations, flew over Tokyo and dropped bombs on an aircraft factory. This raid was the first such attack since the Doolittle strikes in April, 1942.

The B-29 was under-powered, and taking off fully loaded with fuel, bombs and ammunition was hazardous. We had a 10,000 foot runway ending with a 300 foot cliff drop-off. All of the runway was used, and sometimes the 300 feet altitude that could be lost before hitting the water saved us. We flew low altitude to a climb point off the coast of Japan and then climbed to 30,000 feet bombing altitude. We had never made a maximum weight takeoff or been higher than 25,000 feet until that first mission. Flight time was 15 hours [round trip].

We saw many enemy fighters, but only had a few attacks on the first mission. On our third mission the fighters were more aggressive, and I shot down the first confirmed fighter in our Squadron. I shot down two others on later missions. The Japanese were doing anything to knock us down. They put up heavy flak, swarms of attacks, kamikaze rams, and even dropped phosphorous bombs above our formations. Major Krause was our well-liked operations officer. What happened to him as stated in official records illustrates their determination.

This is an eyewitness story given by Lieutenant Webster, who was in the flight commanded by Major John E. Krause which was flying over target 357, Tokyo December 27, 1944. His plane, T-Square 25, was leading the third element of a nine ship tight formation at 31,500 feet on the bomb run between Mount Fuji and Tokyo when they ran into trouble at 0425, one minute before bombs away:

“A Japanese Tony came in head-on with a closing rate of 700 mph or better, slightly high with guns blazing. The top gun sight blister blew off from gun fire, probably killing the gunner instantly. The right side of the ship, from nose to leading edge of the wing, was torn open with a gash three feet wide and emitting a sheet of yellow flame, no doubt killing co-pilot, engineer and radio operator. Parts and pieces of equipment came flying out of the wide cut in the side section. It is possible the Tony rammed the nose with his right wing, no one knows for sure. The ship held formation for 30 seconds, then dropped out abruptly losing speed and altitude faster than accompanying planes could slow down for her.

Fighters swarmed in from all sides, levels, and directions, each pressing home their attacks, trying for the kill like a bunch of hornets. At approximately one minute from the time T-Square 25 left formation, a Tony rammed it on the right side knocking off parts of the wing and either No. 3 or No. 4 engine, which came off and tumbled through the air. This was at an altitude of 28,000 feet and they were going down fast when another Tony rammed them from underneath in the belly near the gunners’ compartment. They finally went out of control and were heading nearly straight down until last seen at 20,000 feet. None of the crew was reported to have bailed out. Nine Japanese Tonys were seen to be shot down by the crew of T-Square 25.”

[. . .]

On a mission to Tokyo in February of 1945, we were under heavy fighter attacks when a 20mm cannon shell exploded against the fuselage just above my head. It knocked the plexiglass blister out and I hit the gun sight with my chest breaking it off as I was blown* outside the plane. I was pinned against the outside of the fuselage by the slip stream. The only thing that saved me was the seat belt. It was just above my knees, holding my legs inside from the knees down. The rest of me was outside.
*explosive decompression

God gave me superhuman strength and I got my hands on the rim where the blister was mounted and pulled myself back into the ship. The slip stream had stripped my flak vest, helmet and oxygen mask off, and tore the oxygen hose off the outlet. I had to have oxygen or pass out in 30 seconds and die in 3 minutes. Again, God came to my rescue. I unsnapped the seat belt, ran into the radar room where there was an extra outlet and mask and got on oxygen.

The plane took more hits; the controls were shot out, and the order came “Prepare For Bail Out.” Everyone was getting their chutes on. Mine was blown out in the explosion so I was trying to put on the spare, but it did not fit and I could not adjust it. In sheer desperation, I grabbed the radar operator and pleaded, “Don’t leave me!” He adjusted the chute for me. The pilots regained control of the plane by alternate controls and canceled the bail out.

Outside of some small shrapnel in my hands and neck, I was in good shape when we landed. The flight surgeon picked the flak out and gave me a tetanus shot.

I thank God for saving my life.

When word got around about what happened, for several days people would yell at me, “Hey, Reynolds. Don’t leave me!” Followed by loud laughter.

goat gulch theatre
Goat Gulch theatre

A Wing of B-29s moved into Tinian across the water about two miles from us in January, 1945. They flew a few bombing missions and then switched to dropping mines. We were envious of their “milk runs” as we called them. Dropping mines in harbors could not be as dangerous as bombing Tokyo. One night I was sitting on the hillside that faced Tinian to watch an outdoor movie. The Wing started taking off on a mission. Just as the first plane got a short distance from the runway there was a blinding flash and the aircraft blew into a million pieces. The second and third — the same thing. Ten out of the first fifteen planes blew up before the takeoffs were stopped. It was the most horrifying thing I ever saw.

Later we learned the mines they carried were detonated by sound, and the salt air had affected their fusing, causing aircraft engine noise to trigger the explosions.

In January, 1945 we lost an engine soon after takeoff and aborted the mission. The standard procedure was to salvo the bombs, and land. But our crew had worked hard the day before using hand-cranked hoists to load the bombs, and hated to see all that work wasted. Why not land with the bombs and use them on the next mission? The pilot requested permission to land with the bombs. Permission was granted.

The weather was dear with gusty winds. As the plane neared the cliffs, which as also the end of the runway, the wind abruptly decreased. This caused the heavy plane to drop onto the runway extra hard. The gasoline tanks located in the wings were almost full, and the hard landing ruptured the inter-connections between the tanks. Gasoline poured from the underside of the wings as we rolled down the runway. Engines and electrical power were quickly cut off to prevent a fire. The airplane was stopped. We evacuated and ran a safe distance from the gasoline-leaking ship. Crash crews hosed down everything. A refueling crew unloaded the remaining gasoline. The plane was towed to a hard stand and we unloaded the bombs.

The next morning the eleven-member flight crew reported to the crew chief and were given screwdrivers. The bottom wing panels had to come off so the mechanics could repair the connections. There were easily 1000 long screws on each wing that held the panels in place that had to be removed. After repairs by the mechanics, we reinstalled the panels and screws. There were a lot of sore hands and arms when it was over. To my knowledge no aircraft was ever allowed to land with bombs again.

Our mission to bomb industrial targets was costing heavy losses. Some missions were running at ten losses. Also, we were not hitting the targets. Weather was the main problem. Clouds covered the target area time after time. Frequently, 200mph jet streams played havoc with the bomb runs. If it was downwind, the ground speed was greater than what the bomb sight was designed for. Upstream antiaircraft fire was deadly or the planes ran low on fuel to return home.

The Air Corps Commander, General Arnold, decided a change in the command was in order. He assigned Major General LeMay, the most innovative Air Corps General of WWII, as Commander [of the 20th Air Force]. The General and his staff made a study and found that a high percentage of the buildings in Japan were constructed of wood. Also, there were very few antiaircraft guns suitable for defense against low altitude attacks. New tactics, copied after those the British used against Germany, were developed. Instead of high altitude precision bombing against industrial targets, it would be low altitude night area bombing of the cities, using incendiary bombs to burn them down.

March the 9th of 1945 was the first mission. Bomber streams of 300 planes from Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, their first mission, bombed assigned sections of Tokyo at 7,000 to 8,000 feet altitude with incendiaries. The glow from the fires could be seen for over 100 miles as we flew home. Fifteen and a half square miles, an area equal to Dallas, Texas, was laid waste. Within ten days five raids had taken place against the major cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe and Nagoya the second time, causing incalculable damage. Aircraft losses were low. Fire bombing was such a success it became the tactic that destroyed Japan’s war capability.

The fire raids were frightening to the bomber crews. When we arrived over Tokyo it was a sea of fire. Looking down at it, we knew if something happened to the plane we would have to parachute out and would probably land in the fire. What was terrifying was to get caught in the heat thermals from the burning fires. The airplane would suddenly shoot up 1,000 feet in altitude and just as suddenly sink 1,000 feet. We were tossed about like toys, with the pilot fighting for control of the plane. One plane was flipped on its back and miraculously the pilot got it righted. The fuselage and wings were warped. Another plane had the bomb bay doors torn off and one of them bent cross-wise with the leading edge of the wing and stayed there until the plane landed. A gunner on a new crew caught in a thermal was sure the plane was going down and he bailed out. Those thermals were much worse than any thunderstorm I was ever in.

In March, 1945 we were taking off overloaded with bombs, as usual. We used all the runway and went off the cliff still below flying speed. We lost the 300 feet altitude from diff to ocean and skimmed along on top of the waves so close that the propellers were throwing water on the gunners’ blisters. The nose of the plane was unusually high, but the pilot had to hold that altitude or we would hit the water. The flight engineer said, “Everybody get up front!” The five of us in the rear scrambled through the tunnel and joined the navigator and radio operator in the cockpit. The airspeed slowly built up as the tail lifted from the shift of our weight, and the pilot managed to climb enough to get the nose down.

Full power from the engines was only used for take-off which only took two to three minutes. The use of full power was not to exceed five minutes under emergency conditions because it could cause engine failure. We used full power for ten minutes.

Target 357, the [Musashino] aircraft factory on the outskirts of Tokyo, had been our first mission’s target and we had been back several times, but had inflicted very little damage. Now our Wing was told to destroy that factory. Low altitude bombing had been so successful it was decided to try it on [target] 357 with 500-pound explosive bombs.

Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945 [Atkinson’s first mission] was the date I was promoted to staff sergeant and this was our crew’s 17th mission. Take-offs started at 0700 at 30-second intervals. We were near the end of the stream. The plane in front of us crashed on take-off at the end of the runway and bulldozers pushed the burning debris off the cliff into the water so we could takeoff. This caused a 45-minute break between aircraft arriving at the target. All antiaircraft guns knew our route and could concentrate on us. It was a beautiful fall moon, as forecast, and I could clearly see the small island in Tokyo Bay where we began the bomb run over. There was probably only one gun down there and their first shell knocked out No. 2 engine. As we proceeded, searchlights picked us up and shell blasts rocked the plane. The interphone went out, which meant the pilot could not communicate with us. Another engine on the other side went out. The bomb bay doors came open, the bombs fell out but the doors would not close. The plane turned left, as briefed, toward the coast. We ran out of [the] searchlights and antiaircraft fire.

For a few brief moments it looked like we were going to make it. But in the center wing section a few sparks grew into a stream and quickly into flames. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and went into the bomb bay hoping I could reach the fire, but could not. With horror I saw flames licking around a hung-up bomb and knew we were doomed.

I went back into the gunners’ compartment and said, “Let’s get out of here, this thing is going to blow up!” We proceeded to the rear escape hatch. The tail gunner had come forward and was crouched in the door. The last thing I did was take my .45 caliber pistol from its holster and leave it in the plane, thinking, they may kill me but not with my own gun.

We jumped through the hatch one by one. I delayed opening the chute until well below the flames, now shooting past the tail. When the ripcord was pulled the chute opened with the expected jolt. I swung around to see the burning plane just in time to see it explode with a loud boom.

A Japanese fighter had been trailing below and behind us, and he passed below me. I fell through his propeller wash which started me swinging violently. I fought the swinging, using the shroud lines, as taught in training. I observed a chute on each side of me, and tried to see where I was going to land. Suddenly, I was brushing tree branches and came to a halt with the chute caught in the top of a tree, but I was hanging in the clear. After my vision adjusted, it looked like I wasn’t very far off the ground, so unsnapping the harness, I lowered myself as much as possible and finally let loose and fell about ten feet.

I thank the good Lord for getting me out of that burning plane and safely on the ground.

It was 0400, April 2, 1945. I was on a hill and moved up to the tree trunk and sat down awaiting daylight. I was unhurt with only a couple of scratches. I had a lot of melted metal on my clothes, but no bums. It was cold, probably around freezing, but I wore a khaki uniform, covered by flight coveralls and flight jacket so I was fairly comfortable. I thought we were on the briefed withdrawal route from the target, and this must be the foothills of mountains northwest of Tokyo.

When it got good and light, I decided to go toward one of the chutes I saw while descending. I found the chute but no one was there. So, I climbed up a hill, saw a village and a path leading to it and headed that way.

As I approached the village, I saw someone on a bicycle. We both stopped. I saw it was a boy who must have been twelve to fourteen years of age, and approached him slowly and smiling not wanting to scare him. I had a couple of coins in my pocket and gave them to him. He turned his bike around and rode ahead of me a few feet. The path turned into a road. As we approached the village, an old man in a robe with writing on his long shawl was waiting for me. I saluted him and he bowed to me. He motioned me down the street. People started coming out of the houses and lining the streets, looking at me and laughing. A big teenager grabbed my arm and tried to twist it behind my back. I resisted and pushed him away, firmly but gently, and he walked along beside I thought, this is not too bad.

CHAPTER IV
Japanese Prisoner

by S/Sgt. Francis (Frank) E. Reynolds
498th BG, 874th Squadron, Saipan
1944-45

-o0|0o-

After walking about two blocks, I came to two policemen at [a] train station. They blindfolded me and tied my hands behind my back. School children started gathering around us and when the train came, we all got on it. Several of the kids came by and greeted me with a kick or punch. After a thirty- to forty-five minute ride, I was led off the train and walked to a police station. The blindfold was removed. Five or six policemen were in the room. One of them in very broken English asked me a few questions. The last one was, ‘”Who do you think will win the war?” I replied, “America.” He translated my answer and they all laughed.

About two hours passed before a truck stopped outside and military personnel came in. I instinctively knew the good times were over. The blindfold went back With shouts, punches, and kicks I was driven like a blind animal onto the truck bed and placed with no support for my back. I heard other voices and knew there were prisoners and guards aboard. Every time the truck took a sharp turn, I fell over— which gave the guard an excuse to jerk me back up by my hair and abuse me for falling over.

The truck finally stopped after a long ride, and we were herded into a field and tied to posts. I could hear voices and knew we had an audience. I thought, this is public execution time. I hoped they would shoot us and not behead us with swords.

A voice shouted with the equivalent of “Attention!”. The crowd grew quiet. Another voice gave a short speech and when he stopped, the guards started beating us. The crowd cheered. This was repeated four or five times. Then we just stood there for a while. We were untied and herded towards the crowd. They were lined up in two long rows and as we walked between them, they hit and kicked us. At one point my blindfold was knocked down and I saw our tormentors were high school age kids. It was a very terrifying experience.

They put us back on the truck and after another long ride we were unloaded and taken through a gate into a courtyard. We stood there for hours waiting our turn at interrogation. I learned by listening that five of my crew were there: Lieutenant Houghton and sergeants San Souci, Le Marca, Evans and myself. Lieutenant Houghton was injured and burned. I could smell his burned flesh. There was also a flyer from another plane. Sergeant Peterson, the top gunner, was missing. As we were going to the rear of the plane to bail out Peterson approached me, very scared, and without his parachute on. I told him he had better get his chute on, the airplane was going to blow up. I thought he probably had time to get it on and bail out before it did explode.

When my turn came I was led into a room, untied, and the blindfold removed. The interrogator was in civilian clothes, looked to be about 55 years old, and shouted every question at me in very hard-to-understand English. At the slightest provocation he would bang me on the head with a three foot long stick. If I flinched or anything he shouted, “Act like a soldier!.” I learned immediately I was never to show fear or pain or I was treated worse. The interrogation was a list of questions and he wrote down the answers.

I was led back to the courtyard. The whole time we were there people were coming out of the building, looking at us, laughing and getting in their kicks and hits. Probably around 2000 my guard said something, and a voice answered him in perfect English by spelling my name. He explained to me the guard wanted to know what the name tag on my jacket was.

Again, I was led into a room, my blindfold removed and wrists untied. This time I was facing a young Japanese officer. He told me that I was in Tokyo, in the hands of Military Police, that I was there for interrogation; and after they had obtained their information, which would take about two weeks, I would be moved to a Prisoner of War camp where conditions would be better. He was drinking hot tea and offered me some. He filled his cup and handed it to me. That was the best thing that happened to me all day.

The guard again blindfolded and tied me up and we returned to the court yard. After waiting an hour or so I was herded into another building. When the blindfold was removed I was standing in front of a wooden cell. After removing my shoes I crawled through a three-foot by three-foot door onto a wood floor. The door closed and was locked with a huge padlock. I was alone. In the left comer was a hole in the floor with a cover on top and a box below which was the toilet. There was a blanket and wrapping myself in it, I lay on the floor and slept soundly all night.

The building was a long single story, that had a concrete walkway on one side and six cells on the other. The cells were ten-feet wide and twelve-feet deep. The front was wood posts set about one inch apart. A small opening six inches high and twelve inches long at floor level cut in the posts was used to pass food and water into the cell. The walls were wood planks dividing the cells and you could see or whisper through the cracks in some places. The back wall had a small window placed against the ceiling that could not be reached, but at least you could see daylight. A light bulb was placed in the center of the ceiling and burned all the time. Behind this building was a pig pen. The pigs ate the Japanese mess hall garbage and supplied the cells with swarms of fleas, ticks and flies.

The main building where we were interrogated was the Kempi Tai Headquarters of a special military unit, like the Gestapo in Germany. It was a two story concrete structure with cells in the basement similar to those in the wooden building in the rear. We had a routine enforced by a patrolling guard which changed every eight hours. No talking or moving about in the cells. We were awakened at 0600 in the morning, sat with our backs against the walls until 2100 when we lay down. We were fed a baseball-size rice ball at 0800, 1300, and 1600 supplemented with a tablespoon full of greens, beans or vegetable one or two times a day. A small cup of water followed the food.

The Japanese never released any names or information about their prisoners. My mother and Rickie only knew that I was missing in action. But God gave my mother a dream. In this dream she saw me in a wooden cell counting out beans to other cell mates. This is exactly what we did and each person might get ten or twelve beans. From that dream she believed I was alive.

In the next few days I underwent three or four interrogations during which the Japanese wanted to know my personal history, military training, information on each mission flown, where the bombs hit, etc. When it came to the five fire-bombing missions, the interrogator insisted I say the fires killed innocent civilians. In the process, with him shouting, “Act like a soldier”, I asked him why I wasn’t being treated like a soldier under the Geneva Convention for treatment of POWs. Bang! Bang! Bang! Came the club. ‘”You are not a soldier! You bombed and killed innocent civilians! You are a criminal!”, he screamed at me. In the end I signed a fourteen-page confession containing the statement that I had killed innocent civilians on the five fire raids.

The flight engineer, Lieutenant Houghton, was in the cell to my right. I could not see him through the cracks but knew he was injured and burned. I tried to find out what happened to those in the front of the plane. But he was in shock and could not tell me. After about two weeks the Japanese knew he was dying and came and got him. They told me he was going to a POW camp. He was never seen again. [. . .]

On my second or third night in prison at 0900 P.M., the guard came down the cells telling us it was “lie down and sleep time.” When he came to my cell he told me goodnight in Japanese, and asked me how to say goodnight in English. I pretended to not understand that he wanted me to learn the Japanese phrase and teach him the American phrase. He repeated the phrase three or four times and started getting angry at no response from me. Thinking he understood very little English, when he said in Japanese, “Goodnight and American ……..?” I said, “American go to hell.” He immediately started cursing me in Japanese, ran down to the end of the cell block, filled a bucket with water, ran back to my cell and threw the water on me. My clothes were soaked, the floor in the cell was wet, the temperature was probably 40° and I was cold, wet and miserable for two or three days and nights. I caught a cold that lasted two weeks. I learned to be more cautious with the guards.

From that time on he became my personal tormentor. I named him “Double Ugly.” When he came on duty he delighted in coming to my cell and making me stand against the wood posts while he shoved his bayonet at me through the space between the posts. I would jump back avoiding the thrust. It was a big game to him, but could have been deadly for me if my timing was off.

[. . .]

I had been in the cell about a week when an injured P-51 pilot from Iwo Jima was brought to my cell. His forehead had a gash about three inches long and deep into the skull. Also his face and hands were burned. He was doing low altitude strafing and collided with some utility lines and crashed.

I poked food into his mouth, gave him water, helped him use the toilet, and kept him from scratching the scabs off his face and hands. He said the itching was almost intolerable. He lived but healed very slowly due to malnutrition.

[This] pilot attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology before entering the Army Air Corps. He told me he recognized the young Japanese officer, who had given me the cup of tea the first day, as a graduate of M.I.T., class of 1941 and that he had obviously just returned to Japan a few months before Pearl Harbor. No wonder he spoke perfect English.

San Souci, the right gunner, was added to the cell after about ten days of captivity. About four or five days later we got a shock when the guard came to the cell and said, “Reynoldo, we have your friend.” There stood Peterson, the top gunner. We had been wondering what had happened to him.

Like the rest of us, he had landed in the hills but he had decided to evade capture. (There was no escape plan from Japan.) All he had to eat was some plants and one craw fish. After fourteen days hunger drove him to approach a farm house. He saw the farmer and family were just starting to eat supper so he held his gun on them until he ate their food. Then he gave the startled farmer his gun and surrendered. The farmer got the police and then gave Pete a good beating for eating his food.

Pete had lost more weight than we had, but looked pretty good except for his foot. In his evasion he had gotten his foot wet and it had frozen and was black and swollen. It started paining him badly, so San Souci and I thought if we could get it lanced it would drain and reduce the pain. We talked the guard into lancing it by sticking his bayonet in it. We got the guard to get us a paper concrete bag from the construction outside and wrapped it around his foot to hold down the odor and drippings. We got a bag change whenever we could from a cooperative guard.

Prisoners were being brought in every day or so and they were segregated from the older prisoners. One time I was moved 10 the basement cells in the Headquarters building. When the cell door opened, I saw that the cell contained six or eight Japanese. One of them wore a military uniform. When the cell door closed, one of them asked if I was American. I replied, ‘”Yes.” He immediately stuck out his hand to shake hands with me. I backed away from him wondering what was happening. He said, “I Socialist. I Socialist.” It finally dawned on me he was talking about a political party. I got into a shoving hassle with the soldier about food once. I did not sleep very well lying down beside the enemy, but we shared the common miseries of hunger, cold, lice, and fleas.

By late April there were thirty to forty flyers in the jail brought in from all over Japan. One morning several guards came to the cells and started calling out names, giving them shoes, and saying they were being taken to a POW camp. Peterson was on the list. But six of us were left behind: four from my crew, the crew member captured the same day we were, and the P-51 pilot.

We were very disappointed. The next time the young Japanese officer came by I asked him why we were not taken to the POW camp. He said, “It has been determined that you six people have killed innocent civilians and are war criminals. You will be put on trial and executed.”

The propaganda radio program known as Tokyo Rose had said that flyers that attacked Japan would be killed. Some of the captured Doolittle flyers had been executed. We did not bother putting on our parachutes for the first three or four months of combat missions. But we were briefed in March that some flyers were being taken prisoner. We were not too shocked by his statement.

Again, captured flyers were brought into Kempi Tai a few at a time until the cells held thirty to forty. About May 20th all prisoners were again taken to a POW camp, we were told, except the six of us.

I found out after the war was over that both groups of prisoners did not go to a POW camp as claimed, but were in fact taken to another part of Tokyo and put in another jail. The building they were in caught fire on the 24th of May from the 600 B-29s fire raid and all were killed. U.S. authorities eventually identified sixty- six airmen that had perished.

I praise and thank God that He prevented the Japanese from carrying out their threats.

I spent most of my four and a half months at Kempi Tai in my original cell. It had contained a Doolittle flyer in 1942. On the wall he scratched his name, the date he arrived, and a calendar of sorts with thirty-seven scratches representing his days there. Below he had scratched, “I TRUST IN GOD.” I used to look at that and wonder what it really meant to trust in God. It was 1954 before I found out.

On May 24th and 26th, six hundred B-29s fire bombed Tokyo and destroyed the rest of the city. Fire bombs rained all around us, but none hit our wood building. The flames and smoke nearly choked us and the heat was almost unbearable, but we survived.

Thank you. Lord, for your mercy.

The Japanese defenses had been strengthened against the low-flying bombers. Antiaircraft guns had been moved on top of all concrete buildings and many into open lots. Since electrical power always failed, they devised a primitive but effective warning and firing plan.

The city was divided into small areas. Gongs were put in these areas to alert the gunners. When a B-29 was sighted, a gong would sound. The guns would start shooting at the plane if they could see it; if not, they shot as fast as they could with shells set to explode at the bombing altitude, expecting the plane to run into their fire. They shot down twenty-four planes the first night and twenty-eight the second night.

The planes carried canisters similar to fifty-gallon oil drums, loaded with little five-pound fire bombs. These canisters were dropped and then detonated at 2,000 feet altitude, raining burning fire bombs over a large area.

This is what it sounded like to us on the ground. We would hear the gong, the antiaircraft firing, the B-29 engines; then if the plane was hit, the crowds in the street would clap their hands. This was followed by the explosion from the detonator, and the little bombs exploding like firecrackers and falling down with a whistling sound. Then we would hear the shrieks of the people and the clatter of their wooden clogs as they scurried about dodging the falling bombs and the pools of fire.

In the next few days a lot of flyers were brought into Kempi Tai, several in bad condition. They were burned, injured and beaten by the population. Three or four that had inhaled flames died in a day or so. One flyer two cells from me was badly burned and in terrible pain. He alternated screaming with pain, begging the guards to kill him, and taunting them with every four-letter word imaginable, for two days and nights, before he quieted down. After about a week when it seemed like he was going to live, two guards took him out of his cell and killed him with their bayonets.

A co-pilot, who was the only survivor on his crew, told how as he was descending in his chute that the crowd followed under him on the ground. When he landed he was beaten, hung from a lamp post with his parachute shrouds, choked unconscious, cut loose and rescued by a soldier.

The cells became crowded as more flyers were brought in. We had fourteen in my cell. The small cells did not allow much floor space per man. With heads against the walls our legs overlapped to the knees. Most of us had to lie on our sides all night. For months after liberation I could not sleep on my sore sides, and to this day I cannot sleep with anyone touching me.

Abuse by the guards was getting worse. If we were caught talking, a common punishment was to do the Japanese kneel-down. On days when bombings had taken place, we all were made to kneel by the hour. Or they would make us stand up with arms raised. As things got worse for them, they retaliated against us more. Our water was reduced to three men per cup full, and one time we went without water for three days.

Another day around this time, there was a dull thud in the court yard and the guards were laughing. They told us a flyer had been pushed off the Headquarters building balcony and was killed when he struck the pavement in the courtyard.

I had a strong will to live fueled by two motivating forces—hate and love. I hated those Japanese guards. I spent hours upon hours planning how I would get even with them, finally deciding that when we were liberated I would capture the civilian interrogator and the guards, and put them in the cells we were in, and treat them like they treated us. That was the worst punishment I could think of.

My love for Rickie was the strongest motivating force. I could dose my eyes and visualize her in all her beauty. Though I could not feel her touch, I could just see her and know that she would be there when I got back to her.

In July the guards started telling us that the day U.S. forces invaded Japan all prisoners would be killed. It was obvious orders had come down from higher authority to this effect.

The Japanese were preparing for the invasion. Concrete pill boxes were being built in the prison area. Civilians were undergoing military training. We could hear a formation that met in the early morning once a week. They started off by singing their national anthem, then did exercises and close order drill, followed by bayonet practice with bamboo spears. If an invasion had taken place the loss of life would have been horrifying for the Americans and Japanese.

Around August 10th a Navy aircraft carrier pilot was brought in. Word from him got around that he heard on the radio just before take-off that some kind of new bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and destroyed the city. We could not imagine that, and thought perhaps it was an exaggeration.

On August 15th we were awakened at 0500 in the morning, one hour early. Breakfast rice was brought at 0600 instead of the usual 0800. Shortly thereafter a group of guards came in and started calling off the names of prisoners, one cell at a time. Shoes were made available, blindfolds were put on and arms were tied as usual. But it was strange that the guards were not knocking us around. I complained that the rope around my wrists was too tight and it was loosened. We were told we were going to that long awaited POW camp. There were 125 prisoners.

After a long truck convoy ride, followed by a wait on the trucks for an hour or so, we were unloaded, untied, and blindfolds removed. We were near a sandy beach on a small island in a bay. Next, we gladly obeyed the order to strip our filthy lice and flea-ridden clothes off and get in the water. It was warm salt water and felt wonderful. A couple of tanned and muscled British POWs appeared and with sticks gingerly loaded our clothes on a cart and left to wash them.

After wading around in the water for a while, we were directed to a fenced compound and taken to a barracks. A fiber mat was provided to lie on and we were ordered to stay in the barracks. Lunch was brought to us on a cart. The rice was hot, tasteful and more than we got for all three meals previously. Our clothes were returned dean and bug-free. The British said they boiled them to kill the lice.

That afternoon a Colonel Charmichael came to our barracks. He was a B-29 Group Commander in China when he was shot down. He told us another Group Commander from Saipan named King and forty-eight other flyers were in a nearby barracks, but were kept segregated from the British. Even so, he heard from the British that Japan had surrendered, but the guards were not saying anything. He said if we were patient we would surely know something in a few days. Sure enough, in a day or so a Navy fighter buzzed the camp and dropped a carton of cigarettes with a note that said the war was over and they would be in to get us in a few days.

In the meantime we were living in hog heaven. Our hair was clipped down to the scalp because we had scabies. Razors were supplied and we shaved. A big wooden tub was filled with hot water. We soaped up and rinsed off and then entered that steaming hot water for a few minutes. All of this was a first in five months for us six “war criminals”. The food remained plentiful and tasty. We relished the freedom of lazing in the sun and talking to each other until we were hoarse.

I was a skeleton, but in good health, except my knees and ankles were swollen and ached. Also, my lips and the end of my tongue had bad cracks in them. We got to see the British doctor in three or four days, and he said my condition was caused by malnutrition and vitamin shortage. The Japanese gave us some Red Cross supplies they had been withholding, and we got several boxes containing 3000 vitamin tablets which we ate like candy.

powdropAfter a few days the guards painted large PW letters on the roofs of our buildings. General McArthur had ordered them to identify all POW camps by this means.

A couple of days later a B-29 appeared flying low and parachuted us oil drums filled with food. So, during the last week in captivity we had all the meat, vegetables, and fruit we could eat. With all that good food for two weeks, I gained at least ten pounds, but I was still very weak.

The last few days we mingled with the other group of flyers. There were 3000 flyers missing in action during the air war on Japan. Only 175 lived to the end of the war. I thank God that I was one of those who survived.

-o0|0o-

francis e. reynolds
S/Sgt. Francis (Frank) Reynolds was a B-29 gunner in the 498th BG, 874th Squadron based on Saipan. He retired with the rank of Lt. Col. USAF.

From a manuscript e-mailed to me by Gib Buckbee, whose father was a friend of Reynolds.

 

The ‘Gunks of Yore: Bob Larsen (1925-2018)

Remembering Bob Larsen (1925-2018)

Sixty-two years ago, in September of 1956, I arrived at the Uberfall—a total neophyte; an Appie beginner.

That first climb! All the way to the top of the cliff on a rope led by Bob Larsen.
Wow! Who knew?

It was The Easy Overhang.

Bob led many of my early climbs; I felt that he was looking out for me. The next spring he offered my first “leg on a climb” toward becoming an Appie leader.

It was the top pitch of Baby.

We became friends. On long drives from Manhattan I learned with fascination about the Merchant Marine, the arcane social entanglements at the Uberfall, and the stirrings of a new sub-culture unfettered by convention—a culture to which Bob was an early adherent:

There was a john in the kitchen of his East Village pad. There I smoked my first joint.

Eventually, inspired by Bob’s account of his own Teton ascent, I bought a rope and went west to climb the Grand.

And so, owing to Bob’s mentorship, a door opened to the world of mountaineering;
And my life was changed forever.

Bill Atkinson, 22 September 2018


 

Hommage à Lissajous

56112924_Colors(2)


In a darkened room suspend a point of light on a thread from the ceiling; put a camera on the floor; give the source a swing; and open the shutter for a while. The result is a recording of the path of the luminous point.

A simple pendulum, as in a clock, would produce only a straight line, but if the bob can swing in all directions straight lines, circles, and ellipses can be the result:

A Lissajous suspension produces more interesting results. The pendulum has one length in one plane and a shorter one in a swing plane at right angles to it. The result is the family of  Lissajous figures:

56100007_Figure

56112917_Crown

12022303_HackSaw
This one with an inverted Lissajous system made of two hacksaw blades– planes at right angles. “Pendulum” set on floor; camera above.

56080004_Figure

And, just for laughs:

56090007_Tangle
This is one continuous line (a tangle).

56120000_Raquet
Tennis, anyone?

 

Le Geant Manque (1998)

98072439_DentGeant
Le Dent du Geant

The travails of geezerdom in Chamonix turned out to be as I had expected—actually, almost too much for un vrai vieillard like me. Paul (a mere child) was the soul of patience. We had a fine week, even though having had to abandon our attempt on the Dent du Géant (4,000m).  I am sure that my potting along at about three times guide-book time tried Paul’s patience but he never let on about it.

98072111_MiroirD'Argentine
Le Miroir d’Argentine

On arrival in Chamonix we settled in to our digs at the gite Les Grands Charmoz. For a week or so the weather—having been unseasonably warm—had prevented the névé from refreezing each night above 2,000m and the guides talked of the undue dangers of soft snow. And so, while awaiting some forecast cooler weather, we decided at first to go to Solalex in nearby Switzerland for a climb that I had heard of called Le Miroir D’Argentine. [1] From the valley its smooth, high limestone face—especially when wet—gleams like a mirror in the sky.

Our climb comprised ten pitches (one of 5.8+) on the 400m limestone face.  After slogging for an hour to the base Paul led the early—hard—pitches while I managed a couple above at the 5.6 level.  On the first pitch there was a desperate spot—La Boite des Lettres—where the protection was set far above the hard move; I don’t know how Paul managed it; I found it desperate.  We liked the climb—clean, challenging, and airy.

98072121_Goats
Attack goats (momentarily diverted)

The descent, however, proved a misery.  After losing the descent trail among flocks of fleeing, defecating sheep and curious, persistent attack goats we found a way down (not the guide-book route) just as an afternoon storm soaked us to the skin. The rain turned the steep, down-slabbing, and dusty trail into a quagmire down which we had to slip and slide on our butts through the mud, and even to rappel off trees with muddy ropes to save ourselves from slimy death.  We might better have rappelled the route itself.

Having no dry clothes in the car, and no possibility of finding a restaurant open upon our return to Chamonix, we stopped in Villars for an elegant meal, with wine and paté, which we suffered through shivering in our wet duds and sodden socks. We all understand that mountaineering has a well earned reputation for fun.

98072835_GrandsCharmoz
Les Grands Charmoz

After a day of preparation at the gite—ropes through the washer-dryer—the weather did get cooler and we set off early the next morning on the cog-train to the Mer de Glace station at Montenvers [2].  Having negotiated the steep local ladders down the cliff to the glacier we spent the day hiking its length; negotiating the tortured ice and morainal terrain. Fortunately the glacier was “dry”—no snow—making the crevasses visible. After a final 200 meters of vertical ladders and steps we reached the Refuge du Requin at 2,500m .  From there we could survey the entire Mer de Glace and its confluence with the Glacier de Leschaux [2], Les Drus and the backside of L’Aiguille Verte, L’Aiguille de Moine, Les Grands Jorasses, the Dent du Géant (our vaunted objective), and the tortured Seracs du Géant ahead through which we planned to thread our way the next morning.

98072421_SeracsGeant
Les Seracs du Geant (Geant upper left)

The maitress assigned us the bunk room for the Torino hut (up at 5:00a) and after breakfast we plunged into the ice-fall not having a clue as to whether we could or would find a path through to the Vallée Blanche above.  Paul proved a great route finder and, between the two of us, trying this, and probing that route in the jungle of crevasses and seracs, we soon passed most of the other parties (some roped and guided) who seemed to spend much time placing anchors and belaying instead of moving continuously along.  Occasionally roped, we jumped across voids and single-tooled up endless short ice walls with axes and crampons, gradually gaining easier terrain in the region of La Bedière above a rock prow jutting from the snow called Le Petit Rognon.

Our speed then subsided into my codger’s slow slog—we’d reached an altitude of 2,800m—which persisted through the rest of our long day’s journey into height.  We moved up and across the Vallée Blanche toward the Torino hut (3,400m) on the alps Italian side.  The sun blazed, we slathered on sun-block, argued over the route (I, naively, for an apparent direct route and Paul for the much longer but obviously well-traveled one), took photographs, and forged—I breathlessly—ahead. We descended the final and seemingly endless steps from the Col des Flambeaux down to the hut to exchange our loads (Paul had graciously carried the heavier one) and our boots for cold beer and  food.

98072438_RefugioTorino
Rifugio Torino

We shared dinner with some personable Alpine Club guys from New Jersey who had spotted my AAC t-shirt and hit the sack early in anticipation of an alpine start (3:30a) the next morning for our attempt on the Dent (4,000m).  One reaches summit pinnacle after about five pitches of technical rock above a small snowfield: La Salle à Manger (3,800m).

At 11,000 ft. I found the going agonizingly slow. At first it seemed that with our early start we might have a chance at the summit and our spirits reflected our hope.  However many parties passed us, first in the dark, and later on the final snow slopes and on the many class-four rock pitches below the Salle à Manger, which we did not reach until noon with several parties queued up ahead of us for the final technical pitches.  We rested and had a bite while the heretofore sunny weather suddenly loomed down in cold fog only to clear moments later and then to descend again in misty swirls for long minutes at a time.  We found this highly unsettling but our final decision to bag the climb hinged on the lateness of the day, the parties ahead, and my reluctant admission that I didn’t have five technical rock pitches left in me.  To have reached the summit at four or possibly six in the afternoon followed by a five hour return to the hut seemed unnecessarily daunting. We bailed.

98072506_MtBlanc
Paul Dale and Bill Atkinson (Mt. Blanc, Aguille du Midi, Vallee Blanche)

The next day we descended to Courmayeur, the Chamonix of Italy, to look around and to have lunch after Paul had found some old prints to buy in an antique shop.  Courmayeur seems less frenetic, more forested, and more handsome than Chamonix.

Then we rode all the téléferiques in series—to the Punte Helbronner, the télécabine to the Midi high station, and thence down to Chamonix where we walked to the cog railway station to complete our circuit.  Luckily Cheryl Berry had a room for us at the gite where Yuki Fujita, a climbing friend from Boston, had just arrived for a three week stay.  We loafed around the next day and on our last went to Les Praz to take the téléferiques Le Flegère and L’Index to climb a fine arête on L’Index (an embarrassingly low number in Rebuffat’s 100 Finest [3]) reminiscent of the Whitney-Gilman ridge on Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire.

98072810_L'Index
L’Index

Paul flew back while I boarded the TGV to Paris and Rennes to spend a week with my old ice climbing friend at his house in La Bouëxière where I earned my keep at le bricolage as carpenter, plumber, electrician, and layer of parquet flooring.

                                                                          -o0|0o-

Notes:
[1] https://www.camptocamp.org/routes/53893/en/miroir-d-argentine-voie-directe#&gid=1&pid=4
https://www.mountainproject.com/area/107646478/le-miroir-dargentine
[2] Today (2018), under global warming, the snout of the Mer de Glace no longer reaches the cog station at Montenvers (an erstwhile tourist mecca). And its confluence with the Glacier de Leschaux has vanished.

merdglc1
Confluence G. de Leschaux & Mer de Glace (ca 2000) [Editions ANDRE]
[3]  Gaston Rebuffat‘s Hundred Finest Routes.


Elsie S. Church, France 1919, Chapter 4, Nanteuil-la-Fosse

Letters Written by Elsie S. Church of Ithaca, NY to Her Family and Friends from France in 1919.

Re-transcribed by W.C. Atkinson, her son, in 2000

In 1919 my mother was 29 years old.

These letters were originally transcribed from the handwritten by Elsie’s elder sister Edith mainly for the purpose of their subsequent publication by the Ithaca Journal in the winter and spring.

-o0|0o-

Chapter Four
Nanteuil-la-Fosse [1]

 -o0|0o-

VINYARDS
The Vinyards of Nanteuil (Leandre at left, ESC at right)

Hotel Roblin
Paris, June 25 1919

Dear Family:

It’s all fixed an I am to become a “Friend” and go out to a little village called Nanteuil-la-Fosse [1] to begin an absolutely new kind of work.  Imagine my feelings when I got all your letters saying you expected me home in July!  It sure did make me homesick and I certainly do feel low tonight when I realize that I leave tomorrow and am all signed up for at least three months more.  Of course there’s the possibility that I may like it well enough to stay on in the winter, but I imagine I’ll be _good _ and ready to come home in November.  I will have stayed out my year and had the satisfaction of really living among the French people.  My French is going to undergo a good stiff test.

Speaking of French, I met Mr. Pumpelly in the Red Cross Headquarters yesterday and he came to lunch with us at the Hotel.  He has been to the Balkans and wants to go to Poland for a month or so but fully intends to get back the Ithaca to teach in the fall.  Grace Bird took dinner with us too, on Sunday, as also did Ruth Skinner, Elizabeth Skinner’s older sister.  She is on her way home.

I must tell you the tragedy about this work with the Quakers.  Joy Hawley and I of course planned to go together, in fact neither one of us would have actually gotten into the work without the other.  Well, after we were all signed up, Joy got a letter from her mother telling of illness and an operation and Joy began to get worried and homesick which, combined with the fact that she was more tired than she thought, upset her terribly and she has been released by the Friends and is going home as soon as she can get a sailing.  That leaves me high and dry to go alone.  I’m terribly disappointed, but I suppose it will do me good.

Since I have been in Paris I have been having the most wonderful time.  Between Freddy F. and Lieut. Osnes of the 52nd Infantry, both of whom are here in the Sorbonne, I have been introduced to most of the pleasures and palaces of the great city.  I have been again to Versailles, to the rose gardens of the Bois de Boulogne, have been down the Seine on a boat trip to St. Cloud, have seen opera as well as the gay musical comedies made for the benefit of the A.E.F., and have eaten in every imaginable kind of restaurant including the outdoor kind where you sit at a little table on the sidewalk and watch the world go by.

And shopping, my heavens, there isn’t a thing I haven’t bought.  I have had to pay out so little for my keep since I have been in the army, that I find I have saved a really great deal.  So I haven’t stopped at lovely underwear and even some inexpensive jewelry and beaucoup lace.

Well, I must run along.  Freddy has come for me and is going to take me as far as Reims where we are going to look at the cathedral and the city on my way to Nanteuil-la-Fosse.

Will write again when I am settled.

Loads of love,

Elsie

[1] Now Nanteuille-la-Foret. Fosse means ditch or pit in French.

-o0|0o-

Friends Bureau,
53, Rue de Rivoli. Paris
Nanteuil-la-Fosse,
June 28 1919

Dear Ones at Home:

You would certainly be surprised if you could see what an utterly different life I am leading and am about to lead for the next few months.  In the first place I am still of the A.E.F. but no longer in the A.E.F.   After having lived for six months surrounded by men, sharing their joys or discomfort as the case might be, it is queer to be plunged into a group of unusual but altogether charming women, one Scotch [sic], one English and one American and find the duties waiting one so utterly different from any former ones.  At present I am general office-boy, beginning in the warehouse just as anyone would, working up in a business.  “Jock” [1], the Scotch girl, goes on her leave next Wednesday and I am to take her place at the caisse [2] as general cashier then.  ‘Til that time I shall “fag” as she says and do dirty jobs around so as to become familiar with the stock and the running of things.  You see the work revolves around a shop where the Mission sells all sorts of things to the peasants at ridiculously low prices.  For instance, they can get boy’s suits or corduroy knickers for 2 francs apiece, and other things on the same scale.  Besides clothes they sell them farming and cooking utensils, sheets, blankets, towels, canned goods, etc., etc.  There is oodles of bookkeeping in connection with it all of course and I will have to do that, and then every family in the ten villages served by the equipe is on a card index and each one is visited and an equal distribution of things is assured.  I went out to the traveling meat market this morning to get the dinner and realized how limited my French vocabulary is.  I came back a sadder and wiser woman, bearing with me 22Fr worth of cotellettes et ragout de veau and un roti de boeuf.  Next week I am to be housekeeper which will require a little managing, as the materials are meager and the bonne de cuisine knows how to boil things and that’s about all.

My first two days here have been very busy ones.  Yesterday they held shop at Pourcy and we loaded a camion with garments for men, women, and children, piled in and rode for about seven kilometres.  Arriving at Pourcy, we set up counters in a room provided for us in a house whose top story had entirely gone and the ceiling of our room was in imminent danger of falling about our ears.  It refrained however and for three solid hours we sold garments of all kinds and descriptions.  It was quite a strain on my vocabulary to converse glibly about colors and sizes and materials.  My ear needs training as well as my construction.  I had a good chance this afternoon.  M. le Cure came to call, just in time for tea, which they have in true English fashion every afternoon at four, and as M. le Cure hasn’t any teeth and mouths his words most frightfully I was able only to get a very sketchy impression of his side of the conversation.  Miss Lindley [3] speaks excellent French and when she started speaking it was like finding a raft to rest on when you are swimming around in deep water.

1919_NLaF_Truck
110 Rue de Bre, Nanteuil-la-Foret, France

The house we are living in was visited by only one shell which destroyed the mantel in the dining room and chipped up the stone floor considerably.  We are wondering who occupied it during la guerre.  There are two signs in Italian on two different doors and we know that the British were in the village at one time, but nothing definite has been told us about the house itself. [4]

Today we moved goods from the transient store house to the grenier on the third floor by means of a wonderful ascenseur that Jock rigged up out of some old telephone wire and a gunny sack.  I found such manual labor rather hard on my uniform and I have been unable to unpack my trunk as yet.  In fact I am not well equipped for clothes at all.  About three middies and a corduroy skirt would be the most sensible costume.  But I shall get along all right.  It will be only three months anyway.

You can’t imagine how I miss Joy and all the people I have been with.  I just won’t let myself get homesick and even if I should have tendencies that way, I am going to be too busy, I imagine, to follow them.

Freddy F. came down to Reims with me on my way here.  We visited the cathedral but were unable to go inside as repairs were in progress.  It is beautiful in its damaged state.  It looks like a chrysalis from which the butterfly has flown.

They say there is a greve de facteurs, in other words: a strike, among the postmen and Heaven only knows when this letter will ever start on its way.

Love me a lot and write often,

Elsie

[1] Chalmers; from Edinborough.
[2] Office window.
[3] Grace Lindley, “Benjamin”; from London.
[4] When I found the house (110 Rue De Bré) in 2000 it was owned by a Madam Trinquart. Google it.

-o0|0o-

Friends Bureau,
53, Rue de Rivoli. Paris
Nanteuil-la-Fosse,
July 4 1919

Dear Edith:

Now that I have been a week at the new job I can really give you some idea of what it is all like.  Have I explained the organization fully?  It is under the Red Cross but the Friends Unit itself does strictly reconstruction work among the French civilians.  But, joy of joys, I am entitled to wear a Red Cross pin on my hat and ever since I have come in contact with the work of the A.R.C. over here I have envied the wearer of that insignia.  That is not in disparagement of the “Y” for they are such totally different organizations.

Well, anyhow, now for the setting: The equipe (or team as the word means in French) consists of three people: Miss Lindley, a delightful English woman from Winchester, Miss Andrew or “Andy” from California, and your humble servant who is taking “Jock’s” place at the cash desk as she has gone on her vacation.  Nanteuil-la-Fosse is not as badly shot up as some of the villages in the district.  The house we live in [1], a square, boxy plaster affair with brick trimmings, surrounded by a high wall with a creaky iron gate, is mostly intact.  It is shabby and battered, however, a shell having messed up the dining room and the rest having become rundown through lack of care.  When the wind blows, there is one continual slamming and banging as no window casing is entirely filled with glass and no door has a real bolt or latch.  The front court-yard is rather messy, being always filled with packing cases either being moved into, or out of, the “shop” which occupies half the downstairs.  But of that anon.  Behind the house is a garden.  Such a sweet little place it must have been before the war.  In the center of it is a round stone-edged pool 1919_NLaF_Poolwhich reflects the changing mood of the sky above.  This morning, one of wind and clouds and sunshine, it looked like a Maxfield Parrish print.  Radiating from the pool are all sorts of little paths and hedgerows, and the whole garden is enclosed by a high wall with its inevitable pent-roof of red tile.  The paths are overgrown now with weeds, but the place is still gay with roses and the climbing things and the gipsy poppies have crept in from the vagabond world outside and make it resplendent with their color.  In the meadow, which stretches from the garden gate to the Foret de Reims toward the eastward, the poppies have gone wild and there is a riot of daisies and corn flowers and morning glories and buttercups, but especially the poppies.  They are the gayest things and flare at you from every roadside and pasture.  The country around is beautiful despite the fact that it was so lately a battlefield.  The peasants have most of them returned, their gardens are flourishing and the grain fields are getting yellow.

This afternoon Andy and I took a long walk through the champs de bataille.  We ran across heaps and heaps of discarded clothing, helmets and gas masks galore and explored some trenches and dug-outs.  Now, in time of peace, it is hard to imagine how the soldiers lived for days and days in the woods, exposed to all sorts of weather and with no shelter except what they could build for themselves out of branches and mud.  It looked as if a lot of cave men had been there.  There were rude beds and tables and wigwam effects of saplings woven together.  In following a line of telephone wire we suddenly stumbled on an old ruin at the end of a long green aisle of misty trees, such as the Prince went through to find the Sleeping Beauty.  It had once been a castle I imagine.  The walls were of gray stone with an old arched doorway and loop-holes above; and creeping over it all was the friendly ivy that covers up the scars and discloses the beauty of the structure.  The place had been used in late military operations and the paraphernalia of modern warfare, which lay scattered about, was most incongruous amid its medieval quaintness.  I really believe that I am going to find some time for sketching.  There isn’t much to do of a Sunday as things are very quiet here and in the recesses of my trunk somewhere I have my water-colors and about four sheets of paper.

Today was the glorious Fourth.  It was a fete day here, the children had no school, but Andy and I, the only Americans around, didn’t even take a holiday.  Yesterday was shop and there was too much left over to see about today.  “Shop” comes Tues. and Thur. at Nanteuil and ordinarily on Friday at an outlying village.  It is like running a little country store.  They have for sale clothing, shoes, stuff by the yard, garden tools, kitchen utensils, beds, bedding, linen, etc.  A great deal of material is furnished by relief organizations.  This is sold at a nominal price and thus they are enabled to sell other materials such as the tools, cloth, etc. at a loss and still make expenses.  It is a wonderful chance for the people returning to their homes to start their menages again at prices within their means.  A great deal of stuff is given away as pure relief also.  For instance, tomorrow a Ford truck is coming down from Payny and we are going to distribute paquets to every family in three villages.  The paquets contain three things for every member of the family and are wrapped in a nice woolly blanket.  It is fun making up the paquets—deciding what we shall give to M, aged 40, and Mme., aged 36, and Andre, aged 4 and little Marie who is just beginning to toddle—etc., etc.  I have the little village of St. Imoges tomorrow and must visit as many families as I can and report on the condition of the house and get as much of the family history as my tact and knowledge of French will permit.  I think it will be fine and I will tell you results in my next letter.

Of course my real job here while Jock is away is to keep the accounts of the shop.  You know I love to handle money—but no doubt the experience will be an excellent thing for me.

1919_NLaF_ESC
Rufus

I thought I would surely be homesick for the A.E.F. and my many friends in the Army.  I am in a way, but life here is so engrossing and the time passes so quickly that I don’t have time to think about it.  Of course in comparison to the glowing, varied life of a canteen worker in the A.E.F. this life would seem a bit drab.  But comparisons are odious and the people with whom I am associated here are perfect peaches.  We live in a truly English style.  Breakfast of bread and butter and coffee any time anybody wants it.  Lunch at 12 and then tea, always tea, at 4:30 with more bread and butter and jam when we are real dressy.  Dinner doesn’t come ‘til 8 o’clock and so the evenings are rather short even though it is light ‘til after 9 o’clock.  The cook is a French girl who never cooked before and she certainly does very well.  They call her the “Elephant”.  They haven’t a name for me as yet [1], but no doubt they will when they know me better.  Speaking of things to eat, here are some more French suggestions:

  1. When you are cooking a stew some time put in some macaroni and let it boil in the meat juice. Before you serve the meat, put the whole thing in the oven for a few minutes to sort of braise it and get a crust on the macaroni and you will find it delicious.
  2. Another thing—a cooked salad! Put bacon grease in a frying pan or rather fry the bacon and remove it from the grease. Then put your lettuce or chard or endive, comme vous voulez, into the grease and let it sizzle a few minutes, not long enough however to get it soft and soggy.  Put in a salad bowl and pour the liquid over it and serve while hot.
    3. Make a cream sauce, add tomatoes as if you were making cream tomato soup. Pour over buttered toast.  Grate some cheese on top and sprinkle with cayenne just enough to make it look nice.

Am going to try to get the rule for “gaufres” before I leave France. They are a cross between a waffle and a Nabisco wafer.

Do you know I still have a good many of the seeds you sent me.  The last batch came too late to use anywhere.  Am thinking of digging up a portion of the meadow near the wall and planting the sweet corn.  Haven’t the wildest idea how deep or anything, but since it’s “late corn” I think there should be time to harvest a crop before we leave Nanteuil.

Haven’t any idea how long I shall be here.  The equipe will probably go on until December but as I signed up for only three months I imagine I will be sailing in October if I can get any kind of passage.

I wonder what you’re all doing now.  The girls at home are probably all dancing or canoeing etc. while I sit here by candlelight (haven’t done that since I left Bay) in a dingy room with the stillness of a sleeping village all around me, and yet I can’t make myself feel a bit sorry for me!  In fact I am enjoying making up the sleep that I lost in Valdahon and Paris.

Love and lots of it—from,

Elsie

[1] In the end it was Rufus.

-o0|0o-

Mission De La Societe Des Amis
Nanteuil-la-Fosse (Marne),
July 13 1919

Dear Family:

I haven’t yet heard from you of course saying that you know about my new venture with the “Friends”.  You know by now (the 13th) I am sure, but I shan’t hear from you for another three weeks!  This writing into the dark is most unsatisfactory.  I almost wish I had cabled from Paris before coming to this out-of-the-way place where the nearest R.R. is 7 kilos away.

You horrid things.  You evidently expect me home daily, for it seems you have stopped writing.  I haven’t had any word from home in about two weeks.  Edith H. [2] is treating me the same way and so is Olive [3].

(This was a[n ink] blot, but I made it into a bird for I was too lazy to start another piece of paper.)

Cheer up, you’ll all start writing again just as soon as I really am about to come home.  But don’t get excited.  That won’t be before November I greatly fear.  I signed up here for three months, July, August, September, but last week we had a visit from Miss Sophia Fry, our “boss” and she asked me if I would consider staying until the equipe closes which will be in December—what do you think about it?  I must have something definite to tell her very soon, so please write me your opinions.  I myself would be only too glad to feel a boat under me, going westward, on about Nov. 1st for a year on this side of the water away from you all does seem just about enough.  I wonder if the Bement girls have returned.  When they do, they will tell you all the tales of the A.E.F. and you won’t want to hear my stories which will be quite stale.  I talked with Ethel Williams in Paris and she is trying to stay and do some studying at the Sorbonne.

By the way, about Joy Hawley, it certainly was a disappointment to me when she decided to go home, and left me high and dry, all out of the “Y” and into the A.R.C.  You know, she is thinking seriously of going to Cornell in the Fall.  She has had two years at Rockford, but took mostly Dom. Econ. I think, and wants to get an A.B. from a university.  Of course I have talked Cornell, and if someone from Illinois or Wisconsin doesn’t get hold of her she will probably be in Ithaca in October.  Now please write her, won’t you, and send her a Cornell circular, for I fear the one you have already sent her will never reach her, since she sailed last week.  Her address is 504 N. Court St., Rockford, Ill.  And when she comes to college be just as nice to her as you know how, for she is one of the most lovable, clever, and accomplished somebodies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  I hope she comes, for if I am in Ithaca during the year it will be wonderful for me.  Tell Epsie [Barr] and E. Horton about her too, if she comes, for I know she would like to be entertained at real homes besides mine.

As for life here at the equipe.  Time is just flying, for our weeks are very busy and are planned chuck full from now on.  The one just past was hectic.  On Tuesday we had a garment sale which, as usual, lasted from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M.  That night I added up columns and counted money ‘til I almost fell asleep.  On Wednesday, we moved and sorted goods in preparation for our “out sale” on Friday and in the afternoon Miss Fry, or “Sophia Maria” as she is called before and after taking [?], arrived in the Ford and the rest of the day was taken up in preparing tea for her, for which she furnished a real cake, and in the evening she had little chats with each one of us in front of the open fire.  Thursday we had another sale with its attendant accounts and card catalogues and in the evening 1919_NLaF_Truck2“Buddy”, the camion driver, came to spend the night so that we might get an early start in the morning.  So we did.  We piled our stuff into the camion, and then got in the front seat, 5 of us (we have two French girls to help us on big days) and rode 7 kilos to Fleury-la-Riviere, a pretty little town nestled in a valley on a tributary of the Marne.  Our sale was held in the Mairie, a building remarkably free from shell holes and we were aided by the brown eyed, brown bearded school master, who had prepared for us a list of the inhabitants of the town written in a most beautiful copy-book handwriting.  It was great sport, but rather fatiguing.  On Saturday we arranged and rearranged stock, etc. and began housekeeping, since the Elephant has left for the week-end.  The stove is as big as a minute and when Andy and I have on it a stew, the coffee, and a casserole of water it seems overloaded; while the Elephant negotiates thereon a meat dish, two side dishes, coffee and sometimes a tart or a pudding!  The French conserve everything, even space.

Tomorrow is the great day for France, July 14th!  In the village there is to be a free distribution of cakes, bread, etc., some speeches in the P.M., and dancing in the square in the evening.  We all decided to stay here, not daring to leave the house all alone, but the people at Pargny[-les-Rivieres] have gone to Paris to see the big doings.

Am enclosing a letter of Freddy’s telling about Paris the night peace was signed.  Tomorrow will be like that only 10 times more thrilling.

Must go to bed.  Loads of love,

Elsie

[1] See photo’s of court, and garden pool
[2] Edith Horton, Ithaca friend.
[3] Olive E. Andrus, Ithaca friend.

-o0|0o-

Mission De La Societe Des Amis
Nanteuil-la-Fosse (Marne),
July 19 1919

Dear Papa:

I don’t know whether you folks have me all fixed in your minds or not.  Anyway the days are flying by and the work goes on.  The shop of course is the main thing, but we do lots of things in between.  Yesterday Andy and I went visiting in Cormoyeux, about 4 kilos away.  En route, right near the road, we found German prisoners collecting shells and putting them in a fourneau or trou in the earth.  Later, we came into the village we heard the most terrific explosions and were met by the Garde Champetre who told us the road would be blocked for four hours and we were prisonieres in his town.  We said we didn’t care as we had come for the day anyhow, but it was a queer feeling, having your retreat absolutely cut off.  They are sending off all the unexploded ammunition that you see lying in the woods and along the roadsides everywhere.  It seems a great waste to me for I should think it could be carted back to where it came from.

The visiting is interesting and it makes it ten times nicer when you can really greet people as friends when they come to buy at the shop.  Today I am just about to hop on Andy’s bicycle and go to St. Imoges where I have already some friends whom I visited two weeks ago.  The Mission is well known around here with its four-pointed red and black star and people always welcome you in their houses and show you around and aren’t slow about giving information when you ask for it.

The visits yesterday were some cheerful and some otherwise.  One place where I went there was a 17 yr. old war widow with a 9 mo. old baby. Her husband was killed in the big offensive here a year ago.  She is so sweet and pretty and like a child herself.  At another place there was a poor blind girl who was horrible to look upon.  We shook hands with her and said “comment ca va?” and she answered “Oh, c’est toujours pareille”.  The mother was poor and the house wretched.  The son was home from la guerre, badly wounded and they insisted on showing us the piece of obus [1] that had been lodged in his shoulder, and also his wound, which had healed, but he was very weak and couldn’t even work in the vines.  Most of the country around here is covered with vineyards, in fact it is the great champagne district near Epernay.  That seems rather ironical doesn’t it when it is the Quakers who are helping to re-establish these people in business again.

Some of the houses were most cheerful.  One old lady gave us first coffee and when we came in later to prendre conje, she had sour red wine awaiting us (oh, such sour stuff, and we had to drink it) and a basket of nice new potatoes.  People are wonderful to us.  We have so many salads at the present moment that we don’t know what to do with them and we have enough cherries to keep the Elephant making tarts until the cows come home.  And yesterday we were presented with cheese and honey; and raspberries in a bowl covered with the silvery leaves and my little couturieure left a green bowl filled with glossy gooseberries.

1919_NLaF_Trees
Picking cherries

I must tell you about the quatorze Juillet.  Of course at Paris they had the most magnificent celebration that has ever been.  You will no doubt see movies of it long before I, and I am only about 150 miles away from where it all happened.  “Scat” [2] was in yesterday and told us all about it.  Her name is Scattergood, but everyone is nicknamed around here [3].  She and four other people from the Pargny equipe spent Sunday night in Paris, camping out on the Champs Elysees from midnight ‘til 7 next day and thereby gaining a very good place to see the Parade.  They said it was marvelous—all the dignitaries of the Allies, toute le monde, and also they said that our Amer. doughboys marched better than any other soldiers and that Gen. Pershing made a fine, dignified figure in his plain khaki, in contrast to the flashy uniforms of many of the others.  But though we did not see the great parade in the most wonderful of cities we quite enjoy ourselves.  Had a rather unique time in fact.  The A.M. was spent up in a cherry tree picking cherries for the proprietaire of our maison [4].  Andy and I wore army breeches and it reminded me much of my “Farmerette” days on West Hill [5].  You see, he gave us permission to have all the sweet cherries off another tree if we would pick the sour ones for his wife to can.

In the afternoon we dressed up in our uniforms, hats and gloves and went by special invitation (the only women in fact) to the Mairie.  Here a solemn council of men was gathered, some in smocks and corduroys and some in tailored suits and white collars.  We sat with them around a long, bare table and partook of bread and sausage and briosch (a kind of holiday cake) and drank the vie d’honneur, each one chinking the others glasses.  It was a very solemn affair, but fun for us, being an absolutely new experience.  Outside in the court one was giving away the same repast to all the assembled children of the village.  After we had walked home in state and passed the proper time of day with all the populace, we came home and built a fire on the hearth as it was cold and very raw.  About 9 o’clock Mlle. Bourquin (a little couturiure who is a great friend of ours) tapped on our door to tell us that “on danse sur la place publique”.  We went out and here were about ten little boys ranged around the place holding bright colored lanterns and the young people were there and an old fiddler of 83 years.  The rain soon drove them in and they had the bal in the grande piece du cafe.  I’ll never forget the scene.  Lighted by flickering candles and red and orange lanterns, they danced young and old, some hopping, some whirling, some doing graceful figures, all to the sawing and whinning of the old man’s fiddle.  He sat in state on a table in the corner of the dingy room.  The tables (for it is quelquefois a bar) had been shoved back and the loaves of bread (for it is quelquefois a boulangerie) piled under them to make a clear space.  Some of the dances were similar to ours, the polka, the waltz and a sort of schottish.  Then they did a quadrille much like our country square dances with much bowing to partners and all hands ‘round.  We came away at 11:30 but they danced ‘til deux heures du matin.

Nothing of great import happen as the days go by.  It is all very enjoyable and I’m not a bit homesick despite the fact that it is so very different from life with the A.E.F.  All my Amer. friends are on their way across the water.  I hear from them at Brest, or St. Nazaire, or Le Mans and then a gap and then a postal saying they have set both feet in God’s country and will write when they get settled, etc.  Grace Bird, I imagine is still in Paris and K. VanDuzer may be in Brest, but Juliette Whiton, I know is home and Joy sailed last week, and, oh dear me, I am beginning to feel quite alone and independent.  I know traveling and sailing isn’t going to be as simple a matter now, as it was when I was under the wing of the “Y”, but I hope nothing happens to hinder me when I decide to rentre chez moi.  What do you think of my staying on?  Do let me know for I must tell Miss Fry.

Tell people to write me.  They have so many of them stopped because they thought I was coming home.  I can’t blame them, but it makes a big gap in the letters.  I haven’t heard from you folks for over two weeks now!

Loads and loads of love,

Elsie

[1] Shrapnel.
[2] Margaret Scattergood
[3] Elsie became “Rufus” owing to her outstanding auburn hair.
[4] See photo’.
[5] West of Ithaca, NY.

-o0|0o-

Mission De La Societe Des Amis
Nanteuil-la-Fosse (Marne),
July 27 1919

Dear Family:

Well, I have been gardening all this week-end.  Of course I know it’s late to plant nasturtiums and corn, but the season is late anyhow and i haven’t had time before.  Besides, the soil here is wonderful and I feel it won’t take any time for things to grow.  Edith would die to see the tools I use!  There is absolutely nothing except what we have to sell and I can’t use those, so I have a spade and a pick salvaged from the battlefields and, as a seed drill, an old rusty bayonet sheath.  I have planted things in every available spot including German helmets and ammunition cases which will soon burst out in blooms of nasturtiums and mignonette.  My first batch of corn is growing beautifully.  We are praying for a little hot weather and a very late fall, or it will never mature.

The week has been strenuous as usual.  Besides shop we had a garment sale at Belval, a most sad little town in the midst of broken orchards and ruined vineyards.  We loaded up a big Denby truck with clothes of all kinds and arrived at the Mairie about 11:30 by vieille heure—12:30 by the heure legal.  It’s awful having two times that way, but the peasants will not set their clocks ahead!  The institutrice met us and gave us the school room to fit up as a salesroom.  We juggled desks around for counters and piled the ink-wells in the corner.  The sale lasted ‘til 5:30 and, believe me, we were dead when we got home.

We have a lot of company too.  The dentist and the oculist spent three days at the equipe to treat the peasants.  They slept in the grenier and we had to put two tables together for meals (they each one had their respective chauffeurs) and drank up our water at dinner before the last course so that we could use our bowls for coffee.  It seemed almost like the officer’s mess at Bay only there we had to drink or coffee first so that we might have some place to put the canned peaches or pears which formed dessert!  Those days seem long ago!  I got a letter from Juliette Whiton which you enclosed the other day, with a Kodak picture she took of me and some of the M.G. Co. in front of my Hut.  The only one I have of Bay and I surely treasure it! [1]

Well, I’m glad you’ve finally gotten me straightened out and have been writing again!  It was a long lapse and awful not to hear from anyone.  Do tell me what you think of my staying on.  I suppose I could stand another Xmas away from home, but it certainly would seem queer.

Yesterday “Scat” was here with her Ford and when she left I hopped in and rode to the top of the long hill where you can just see Reims in the distance with the cathedral standing gaunt and gray above the ruins.  People speak of the “Crime of Reims”.  It seems to me that the cathedral has been marvelously spared and it is a wonder as much of it is standing as there is!  I said goodbye to Scat and walked back alone in the twilight.  It was lovely.  The wheat fields with their flush of poppies, the neat gardens which are springing up in the midst of the shell torn landscape, the patches of woods and the little village of Nanteuil nestling in the valley—made a lovely sight as I came down the hill.  And suddenly, from out of the air, from nowhere, from everywhere, came the song of a sky-lark!  I had never heard one before, that I know of.  He sang and dipped, and dipped and sang and suddenly dropped like a stone and was still.  I have always wondered why the English poets eulogized him so, and now I know.

When dinner was over Andy wanted to take a walk and so I started out again.  We went across the battlefields, turning over helmets and gas masks and other refuse to see if we could find anything of particular interest.  I salvaged a German helmet, much camouflaged, and will send it home if I can manage it.  We went into the woods where there are the strangest structures—half underground and half on top.  They look like gun emplacements, or trenches, or dug-outs—what they are I do not know, but they are most carefully constructed.  The woods bear evidence of many troops having lived and fought there.  It is weird to think that just one year ago now, this place was a perfect hell of war.  They have been firing off the ammunition that litters the woods around Nanteuil lately, and we can get a very faint conception of what it would have been like in those terrible days.

Jock comes back tomorrow.  My duties may change as she will probably take over the shop.  I rather like it.  Do you know that we order stuff in kilometers? Last night we made an order for about 40,000Fr. worth and there were many kinds of stuff that were ordered in lengths of 1,000 metres and more!

Edith—will you kindly send me one more thing—a corset!  You get it at Miss Mills [2].  It is pink with elastic in the sides.

[1] This photo’ is presumed lost; it is not among Elsie’s effects.
[2] In Ithaca.

-o0|0o-

Line-A-Day:                             August 1st, 1919

Scat and I left in early evening for Esternay to get chickens and rabbits.  Had five punctures!  Finally gave up and spent the night in the camion by the roadside.

Journal:                                    August 2nd, 1919

Resumed work by daylight and arrived at Esternay.  Loaded up with livestock.  Lunch along the way.  Two more pannes de pneus making seven in all.  Finally stuffed  the tire with grass and arrived in Pargny at 7:00 P.M.  Crowd down from Paris; regular house party.

-o0|0o-

 Mission De La Societe Des Amis
Nanteuil-la-Fosse (Marne),
August 8 1919

Dear Family:

I had such an interesting day today that I just had to sit down and tell you about it.  Part of the work here, you know, consists of visiting the families in the villages of our district with a view to finding out their needs.  One thing we have done for everyone is to make up a “paquet” for each menage containing about three garments for each member and the whole thing wrapped in a couverture or blanket.  These paquets have been given to almost all the villages, but in two good-sized towns Hautvillers and Cumieres we are only serving the refugees and they had not many of them been visited.  So it fell to my lot today to make as many visits as I could between 10 A.M. and 5 P.M.  “Scat” took me down to Hautvillers along with some goods to be delivered about 10:30 and left me there with the prospect of eating lunch where I could and walking home [1].  So I started out, first soliciting the help of the Garde Champetre, whom you find attached to every Mairie, to show me where various people lived.  I hadn’t gone far before Mme. Legal, a very nice woman with whom I had become friends before, came out of her basse court and asked me if I wouldn’t come back at noon-time to lunch with her.  So I started out.  When I’m alone, talking entirely with French people, my French stands the strain pretty well.  It’s when Benjamin or Jock are around with their fluent conversation that I get self-conscious and sink into my shell.  Most of the refugees in Hautvillers are awfully nice people.  They have come from around Reims, some driven out in 1914 and others only having evacuated in 1918, when the fighting was so fierce in this section.  One little couturiere showed me some snaps of her home in Reims.  Is it utterly destroyed and they have no hopes of getting back for two or three years.  She saved some furniture and her sewing machine and [so] is able to make a decent living and rent a house.  The absolute opposite of this case is Mme. Bruion who is living in a cellar.  She has three sweet children.  They came to Hautvillers too late to find any kind of lodging and took this dark damp room until something better turned up.  All the furniture is borrowed, such as it is.  The whole family gets what work it can in the fields and they are hoping for something better before the winter sets in.  One little old lady and her husband are living in two rooms upstairs in a stranger’s house.  They refused to evacuate in 1918 even under bombardment and people accused them of stealing things while they were away!

By this time it was time for lunch, so back I went to Mme. Legal’s laden with flowers that people had given me.  Mme. Legal and her little nine-year old boy [Leandre] are living with her mother and are pretty lucky.  Mme. has a very sad story.  Her husband, a Lieut. in the French Infantry, was wounded and discharged.  In the meantime Mme. and Leandre were in occupied territory and prisoners of the Germans.  Mme. was compelled to cook and work for some officers, which in itself was not unusual, but they treated her very brutally.  Once she was struck on the hand with a whip because she didn’t open a door quickly enough.  She learned German by talking with the soldiers and was suspected [by the Germans] of being a spy.  Even the soles of her slippers were taken out in the search for concealed papers.  She was sent to three different places because they thought she was imparting revolutionary ideas to the soldiers.  She was in Belgium when the Armistice was signed and was liberated just when they were on the point of separating her from her little boy.  That would have about killed her, for he is a perfect little dear and they are devoted to each other.  But to return to her husband.  After he was discharged, he enlisted again thinking he might be able to get up to where she was.  He was taken prisoner and as far as she knows was shot for some reason, but she has had no official notice and doesn’t really know what has become of him!  That is certainly a home that has been wrecked by the war! [2]

Mme. asked me if I could find a “marraine” [3] for the boy and I decided to be that same

1919_Hautvillers
Mme. et Leandre Legal

myself then and there if she had no objections!  So now there remain but a few formalities in Paris and I will have a real god-son [4].  Do you know of anyone at home who wants to be a “marraine”?  Because there are any number of dear children here whom a little help like that would help to have a better education, etc.

Well, to return to the lunch.  They had the inevitable soup and bread, petits pois right out of their adorable garden, red wine, coffee, cheese, and some delicious gateau for which Mme. gave me the rule.  I certainly am going to have some fun when I get home trying out French cookery.

I did a lot more visiting in the P.M. and then at 4:30 went back to Mme. Legal’s house and she and Lean walked with me to the top of the hill above Hautvillers.  From there you can get one of the loveliest views I have seen in France—it takes in the vine-covered hills, several towns, and Epernay with its towers and church steeples in the distance.  The land is being cultivated again and has an orderly, neat appearance.  And the colors of the earth, the orchards, the vineyards especially which are of a blue-green hue due to a certain spray which is used on them.  You would have laughed to see me trudging home after my friends left me.  A bouquet in each hand and a loaf of bread, which Mme. Legal insisted upon giving me because it had just been baked and we don’t get fresh bread at Nanteuil, under my arm!  It was almost a yard long with a glossy brown crust.

[1] Six kilometers.
[2] His name (Leon Legal) is on the little memorial obelisk in Hautvillers.
[3] A godparent.
[4] Leandre Legal grew up to be an airplane mechanic in the Second World War serving in Algeria.  His mother remarried (Minoggio) and removed eventually to the village of Ste. Foy-la-Grande near Libourne in southwestern France where we saw her in 1939.

-o0|0o-

Here the available letters end.


Postscript

Leandre served in the French air force in Algeria, survived the War, remained in the military, married, and had a son Jean Pierre—whom I found in Paris after a long mail search through the mairies [town halls] of Hautvillers, Luxembourg, and Paris. I visited him in Paris on several occasions. Sadly, he had become paraplegic as a teenager owing to a motorcycle accident. He died in Paris in 2017.

On her return trip Elsie’s passport is stamped 21-10-19 (October 21, 1919) and so she had ample time after the last letter extant (August 8) to have done some interesting things that we aren’t sure about.