December 29, 2010

Ammasa Gunter in World War I - Part I

Having just read Fall of Giants by Ken Follett  (see my post on ) which focuses on World War I, I began to think about all the ancestors I had who fought in France and Germany at that time.  When I was young, we lived next door to my Uncle Am and Aunt Fay in Malinta.  I loved to go to their house because Uncle Am (really my great-uncle, uncle to my mom) had built a very fancy playhouse and it was a heavenly place to play for a little girl.  Uncle Am was also famous for giving out a candy here and there, too.  In my research, I found just recently that he was a WW I veteran, so that led me on a journey to find out more about his service.

Uncle Am was born in or near Malinta, Ohio, and enlisted in Toledo at the age of 21 11/12 years on June 28, 1917.  He was assigned to Company F, 6th Infantry Ohio National Guard for exactly one day, when he was then transferred to Co. F, 4th Infantry ONG (Co. F, 166th Infantry) to 28 March 1918.  He was then transferred to Co. H, 166th Infantry to discharge.  He was promoted to Private First Class on 7 Jan 1918.  He saw service at Champange - Marne, St. Michiel and in the Defensive Sector and was wounded in action on 15 July 1918.  His service with the American Expeditionary Forces ran from 18 Oct 1917 - 25 Apr 1919.  He received an Honorable Discharge on 16 May 1919.

His draft registration card (which was too faded to post here) states that he was born at Malinta on June 2-?, 1896.  He was single and farming for Roy Gililand in Napoleon Township.  He described himself as short and slender, with gray eyes and light hair.

The best discovery was that Uncle Am had written letters home and they had been placed in the newspaper.  He wrote to his sister Ruth, his brother Walter (Bib) and his father, mainly.  I have located those letters and am posting them here.  Being away from home in France is exciting, at first, for soldier Am, but by 1919, he has seen enough and is ready to come home.  One can only be amazed at his patriotism and courage.  He can't tell as much as he would like in his letters; after all, the censors were reading them.  The Lem Ordway that he refers to in some letters was my great-grandfather and Am's father-in-law to be.
Ammasa Daniel Gunter, enlisted June 27, 1917 in Toledo, Ohio

Northwest-News, Napoleon, Ohio, December 13, 1917
"Somewhere in France.
Dear brother:
I will write a few lines to you as I know you are anxious to hear from me.  I am just as happy as if I was back on the farm and am feeling fine over here in our new camp.  Believe me, Bib, this is some fine place.  It is as warm here now as it is out there in August.  Plenty of rain.  It looks very strange to me indeed to see the farmers plowing with a yoke of oxen and see the people wearing wooden shoes.  I suppose that is the way it was in our country 40 years ago.  After a period of traveling 15 days you can imagine how we felt when we got here.  Some trip.  It made me feel like shaking myself.  Ha, ha.  We were 13 days sailing over the dark blue sea and a bunch of sea sick fellows.  I never saw such a sight in my life.  Surely I was lucky as it did not affect me in the least, although I got very tired but am feeling o.k. now.  Tell everyone you heard from me and I said hello.  Tell Ruth and Maud I will write to them later on.  Tell Daddy the news and that we are all well and cheerful, also tell Lem Ordway he never saw a large sugar beet.  I saw some to-day that will average 25 tons to the acre.  They are as large as a bucket and still growing. 
Will close for this time, hoping this will find you all well and sending my best regards to all,
your brother, Ammasa Gunter.
My address is V.S.P.O. Station 701, A.E.F. Via New York, 166 Infantry, Co. F."

Northwest-News, Napoleon, Ohio, February 14, 1918, p. 7
"A. E. F., Jan. 7th, 1918
Dear Sister Ruth,
I will drop a few lines to you as I think you have been waiting for an answer from me for a long time.  Well, sister, this finds me feeling good and only hope you and the folks are all the same.  Suppose you commence to think you would never hear from me again, but I guess you know that we are a little distant apart and it takes just a little longer for us to hear from one another.  I have written five or six letters home since I have been here, but failed to hear from anyone yet, but I am looking for mail most any time now, as we are settled down again.
We just made a big march a few days ago and now we are waiting on our mail.  We have a good deal of it over here but hasn't reached us yet.  This place where we are now may be our permanent camp until Spring.  We have made two big hikes since we have been here, the first one was three days and the next one was four days.  After we made our three day hike, we stopped for a few days rest, then we started on our next hike, which lasted four days.  It was the day after Christmas when we started on our second one.  The weather was not so cold, but there was a little snow on the ground.
After we marched three or four hours it began to snow, and continued snowing for three days, and before we reached our destination, we found a good bit of snow to tramp through.  We hit the place about 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the fourth day, then got in our billets and fixed our beds for evening.  The cooks soon had our supper ready and we were all ready for it. 
I would like to write a good bit of the news I know, but as our mail going out is all censored and the censor would not pass it, I think you will be very much pleased to hear from me, just that alone. 
Well, sister, I hope this finds you all well.  Let me know how daddie is and all the rest.  I will look for an answer.  Hoping you receive this soon, I will close.
With love from your brother,
Ammasa Gunter"

Northwest-News, March 7, 1918, p. 7
Soldier Writes From France
"Somewhere in France
January 22, 1918
Brother Walter,
Will drop a few more lines, as I have nothing to do at present but sleep, and it is too early to do that.  I am by myself right at the present time.  I just wrote to Ada and then thought of you.  The Lieut. is up to the Major's room visiting and that's why I am left alone.  I just came down a few minutes ago.
Was up to see Lew. Lewis is the Major's orderly and I am Lieut. Bailey's orderly, and we are in the same building, so it isn't hard for Lew (Lewis Bachtol) and I to get together.  We are having plenty of fun every night.  Suppose you wonder how Lew and I got our jobs, but just see who we are.  The way it happened, I can soon tell you.
My Corporal recommended me and I soon got my job.  I have been at it almost two months and a couple of weeks ago, the Major said to Lieut. Bailey that he would have to have an orderly, and I soon got the job hunting one for him, as both insisted on me hunting one.  I told them I knew of a good sort of fellow right from my home town and I got Lew, for the Major's orderly.  He is tickled over the job.  Each of us stay right with them and sleep in the same room they do.  Lew and the Major are upstairs, and Lieut. Bailey and I are down.  All we do is build fire, clean the room, shine boots, wash a few towels, make the beds, and a few other things.  Oh, yes, we have to drill in the forenoons, but don't in the afternoons. 
Lew and I are in the signal squad now learning to send messages with flags same as getting them at the stations,the wig-wag it is called, by dots and dashes.  Letter A for instance (demonstrates with dots/dashes)  I have the alphabet all learned and can send but can't receive very well yet.  We have only been a couple of days at it.
Well, how is everybody?  All kicking yet?  I am feeling grand.  Just got over a bad cold.  Say, have you got my allotment yet.  There should be $20 coming in every month or so.  Let me know if you got the January pay, that is the first one.  Then save all the certificates that you get from the bank, and while I have it in mind, did you pay my big tax.
I will have to quit you pretty soon or you will never get it all read.  Will tell you a little about the country around as far as I can see from here and that isn't very far.  We are down in a valley with big mountains surrounding us, a river not so very far away.  It is very beautiful here I judge during the summer time.  There is no snow on the ground now and the grass is almost as green as it would be in June, but just in the valleys.  We have had nice mild weather during the last week, could go without a coat.  Plenty of game around, no trouble to see wild boars and foxes and big rabbits - as big as dogs.  I am learning a little French, but very slowly.  I can ask for things that are needed very often and things that a person can't do without. 
Well, Bib, think I will roll a dizzy and hit the slats.  Say you don't need to say anything to Mart Dietrick or Len Glick about that game or they may come over here.
So long, hoping all is well, from
Ammasa Gunter"

Letters from Henry County Soldier Boys
In Camp and In the Trenches
Northwest- News, March 14, 1918, p. 11
"Somewhere in France
February 11, 1918
Dear Brother,
Will drop you a few lines tonight while I have plenty of time to do it.  This finds me O.K. and also hope it will reach you in the same way.  I haven't heard from you for a couple of weeks and it is kind of hard to write as there isn't anything new to ask you, but will do my best.
Well, W.K., this may be the last that I can write for awhile, so don't think that anything has happened to me.  We are going to leave here and go to a new camp in a few days, and it will be a little while before I can write.  But just as soon as we get settled down, I will write again.  I could write on our trip, but it is quite a bit of bother, so I guess you will not blame me for not writing.  This trip is going to be the most interesting trip we have taken for some time.  It will land us somewhere that will be a little exciting for awhile, but will soon get over that as we know just about what it is.
We have been having some sham battles the last few days between the 166th and 165th.  It is fun and everyone likes it.  Lewis and I are still runners and orderlies.  What I mean by runners, is to carry messages.  We are soldiering our best these days and surely are making good by doing it.  We haven't had a day of extra duty since we had it at Camp Perry.  You couldn't hardly blame us for getting extra duty that time, but after we left Camp Perry, then we went to soldiering and have been ever since and it is the only thing to do in this man's army. 
I am just full of patriotism up to the brim and sure am glad to say that I am here to help get the dirty old Kaiser, and we are going to get them all in a very short time.  I have been wearing a steel helmet all day.  We had them issued to us today.  You just ought to see me with my gas mask on and my helmet.  This helmet looks like a stiff hat cut down like the one we used to wear around town on a fool's night. 
There is a Frenchman on the outside giving a movie of some American girls on the screen, so I must go out and take a good look at them.  Well, Bobby, old boy, write as often as you can.  Tell me all the news.  Don't forget the dear old county paper Northwest-News, it looks good in France.
Oray, tell Lem Ordway that the beets are still growing yet.  Tell Lewis's* mother and father he is O.K.  I will close with best wishes and hope to see you soon.
Ammasa  Gunter"

To be continued...

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