Charles Benham Writes from War Zone
Sept 28, 1918
My dearest Mother and Father:
If I can collect my thoughts in the few minutes remaining before mess, I will write you a few lines. A lot has happened since I wrote you last, as I am now in an entirely different part of the country. The heat is intense in the middle of the day, but as I do not have to drill in the hot sun, I enjoy the change from the dampness and the cold which never pleases me. If you could only see the heavy coat of tan that I have already acquired! We have seen of late many parts of France. The country where we are now located is very beautiful and reminds me of Dutchess although more open. Perhaps in my next letter I can tell you the exact location as I understand that is permissible, although our unit has not received official notification.
Our train passed through Amiens early one morning and on looking out of the window of our compartment, who do you suppose was the first thing I saw? Amiens cathedral! Although we were at some distance I could plainly see the towers and central spire. It is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe and dominates the whole landscape. In fact it is the only thing for miles as every other building is dwarfed beside it. Although we were so far away as not to see any of the details, it was a pleasure to behold. We also passed through Paris in the night. Of course, being in the vicinity I was anxious to see something, if possible, and was able to make out a few of the wide boulevards in the moonlight. Three or four months ago I caught sight of the dome of St. Paul’s, so you see the jaunt was some pleasure.
Also the opposite, we passed a battlefield recently, where the Huns had been driven back only a few days before. Can you imagine a city that once had beautiful streets and buildings almost pulverized by the shelling of the big guns and fields littered with wreckage of all kinds, uniforms, paraphernalia, broken helmets, etc., trees smashed to splinters and the ground torn up until it was almost a desert? That is what the Germans have done in France. But it looks as though they were getting some of their own medicine at present.
One night some time ago we were in somewhat of an unenviable position. Shells began to whistle overhead from a German long range gun and kept it up at intervals until morning. We could hear the whistle and then the report in some distant village and only imagine the havoc they were causing. Jerry also came over in person and dropped something two hundred yards away that landed in a garden. He hasn’t a very sure aim, but succeeded just the same in lifting the roof off all houses in the vicinity. I heard the next morning that one of these houses belonged to an old woman who had recently lost her two only sons in the war. So you see there are worse things then living in America just now- it is something that every soldier here is glad of, that their people are spared some of these incidentals of modern war.
Everything is going finely and I do enjoy the life which I am sure is benefiting me in many ways. It is broadening to meet so many men with different viewpoints. We have seen most, of course, the British and French, and I have talked with them every possible opportunity. They seem to think quite differently. Nationality is a funny thing anyway. Occasionally we pass groups of soldiers with their big turbans, they seem so out of place. And black people from the French possessions in Africa- in fact, every species of man on the face of the globe. I have also watched German prisoners at work- and they seem quite happy. Although, as you know, I’ve known many Germans, I had somehow gotten the feeling that I was going to see some kind of two-horned monsters in the ones over here. But I have seen some mighty fine and apparently brainy men among them.
Well I must close now and get something to eat. In my next letter I shall have more to tell. Don’t worry as we are in a fine country untouched by war. I only wish you were here.
As ever, love,
Charles M. Benham
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