January 2, 2011

Ammasa Gunter - World War I Letters - Part 3


After awhile, the realities of war struck and the good times were over.  The men were in the trenches and home began to look better and better.
Uncle Am was wounded in action and had to spend some time in the hospital. The Army called it a 25% disability at discharge.  Worst of all, he was assigned to a much more dangerous job...message runner.

Northwest-News,  Napoleon, Ohio,
November 14, 1918, p. 5
Somewhere in France
"Dear Brother Bib:
Hello, old top.  Well, kid, when I tell you what I have been doing for the last couple months, you won't be surprised at me not writing.  In the first place, I was knocked out July 11th, Hospital for me.    Slightly wounded from shrapnel that old Fritzy sent over, and a little gas that did not affect me very bad.  I was only absent from the company 5 weeks.  After returning, I was disappointed as my old friend Captain was gone to the hospital and a lot of the boys in the Co. were not there, so things did not seem the same as before.  After learning that the captain would not be back again, it gave me a sad feeling for a while as he was the only one I knew in our Co. 
I am a runner now.  Don't like it as well as Orderly because there are so many times the Runners don't make a home run when he carries messages.  There are eight of us that run in the Co., so you see not only myself is taking chances, but each of us carries messages, taking turns.  We are once more back of the lines.  Just left a few nights ago where it was getting pretty warm at times.  It seems like home again to get back where the French people are living and hear the old rooster crow.
Don't know how soon it will be until we are on our way to the Front again, possibly tonight or in a day or two as we don't stay long in one place.  That is why I don't write often.  We are going through Hun land like a dose of salts.  Believe me, boy, we are going to hit the goal before long, the way it looks now.  We see a lot of destruction but the boys are happy and I the same.
Can't tell you all the dope I heard about the Kaiser as it would take too long, but keep the home fires burning, it won't be long any more.  I could bring back souvenirs but they are too heavy to carry.
I suppose you are getting lots of war news.  Have you heard from Lewis Bachtol?  The last I saw him was on the 12th of July.  He went to the Hospital a few days before I did and I have not seen or heard from him since.  I guess he was operated upon.  Let me know if his folks have heard from him.  Well, I will bring this letter to a close or miss my chow.
Your brother,
Ammasa D. Gunter
Co. H., 166th U.S. Infantry"

(Ammasa's grandson wrote: "In Ammasa's copy of Ohio in the Rainbow, he marked a lot of passages that pertained to him.  Early on during the Champagne defensive, a German shell fell near a small shelter in the trench that he and 8 others were in.  It included the company supply sergeant, 4 mechanics, 2 French liaison agents and 2 runners, one runner being Ammasa.  One mechanic and a French man were killed and the other 7 were wounded.  Not hurt as badly as some, Ammasa gave aid to the more severely wounded.  The bombing continued all day and night, as they were moved to the aid stations in the rear.  The Champagne defensive was the Rainbow's most important engagement because it was the battle that marked the turning point of the war.  Grandpa Am told me about getting wounded and said he was hit with bomb shrapnel in the foot.  Not a severe wound, but bad enough to put him out of commission for around 5 weeks."

The last two letters from a more homesick Ammasa are from Germany in January 1919.  He was discharged in May of that year.  Both letters appear in the Northwest-News, February 27, 1919, p. 3.
"Germany, Jan. 18, 1919
Dear Sister and Folks:
I received your letter dated Dec. 28, found me feeling O.K. and am the same at present.  I was awfully glad to hear from you and know that all are feeling well back there.  Am sorry to hear that Dad has asthma so bad, if he can only get thru the Winter alright it won't be so hard on him during the summer.
Ruth, expect you have often wondered why I haven't been writing so often as I used to, but has been so in the last couple months that I didn't get any mail at all during my absence from the company, now that I am back with them again, I will write more or at least try to.  Have been back a few days - found all the boys well, but very anxious to get home.  We don't know how long it will be yet before we start for over there.  We are all living in hopes that it won't be very long.  you said it would be a glorious time when we come home; well, it surely will (is no mistake)   
 I think Robert is lucky for getting out of service so soon.  Am glad to hear that he is so heavy.  Must have had a good mess sergeant in his Company.  Ha,ha.  I have been getting plenty to eat altho I don't gain much in weight, have gained 20 lbs. since I entered in the service, is not so bad at that.
O yes, Lewis B. is back to the outfit again, the day I got back was the first I had seen him since July 13th.  He is looking healthy as ever.  I have had a couple long talks with him since I have gotten back, we often talk about the old days back home and long to see them come again.
Ruth, talk of weather back there, you can't beat it over here.  It is almost like Summer all the time, it hasn't frozen ice to amount to anything except I will have to go down South during the Winter when I get back in the States, as this is my second Winter over here and neither one was like you have over there.    Maybe your scheme would be alright about hugging the gal, ha, ha!  I'll tell the world I am not going to hug any stoves when I get back.
Lewis received a lot of County papers from home and I have been reading all day.  It sure is appealing to one who has been away from home 18 mo. and get to read the news that is gathered up around the county.  Suppose you'll be surprised to read so much of this all at once.  Wouldn't write so much but this is Sunday evening and I did not drill today.  Seems like I can spread it tonight, ha, ha! 
Maybe you would be interested to know what we are doing now days.  We don't lay around at all, we have our same old daily drill, same as before we knew what war was, we also stand guard, have inspection, and target practice, sometimes gas drill, and we are located along the River Rhine. 
Everything is beautiful, even down to some of the Dutch gals (some! did you get it?)  There is no joking this country is far ahead of France on everything.  On my way from France back to my Division, I saw a great many large towns in France, but none of them looked as nice as the German towns as being clean, you have to hand it to the Huns in that respect.  Well, sis, I will close, hoping all will be well when you receive this.  My love and best to all, I remain your brother,
Amasa Gunter
Co. H, 166 U.S. Inft."

"Germany, Jan. 23, 1919
Dear Sister Ruth:
Will have to answer to my Christmas package I just received.  I was much pleased to get it and on't think I will ever forget how good it tasted.  Everything in it was fine and nothing could have pleased me better than what it had in it and to know it was from home made it much better than I would have thought. 
Ruth, it has been snowing today and the coldest it has been the whole winter.  Maybe we are going to have a few weeks of it being the first signs of any winter, but the Germans say that Jan. is the coldest month here and it being nearly over, I don't think our cold will last long.  Suppose it has been awful fresh back there.  Hope nothing like last winter.
Well, Ruth, you might be surprised to see me rolling in there before long, can't promise you how long it will be yet, but don't think I will spend any more Christmas over here.  I haven't been drilling any today; but have been on a detail of my own.  A person is seldom ever on that kind of detail, ha, ha!  I was detailed by the Captain to help a Lieutenant distribute some books around to the battallion.  I hustled it up and finished at noon so I have had the afternoon for myself. 
Am hoping now that I won't be on guard tonight as it is so cold.  We stand 4 hours on and 8 off, there are 3 reliefs.  One person gets to stand 8 hours out of 24. 
Well, what is Perry doing now days?  Expect he is busy at something for he always kept that way, ha, ha!  Wish he was with me tonight.  There is a little German boy about 17 years old that comes up in our billet to see me every night, but I can't talk to him. 
Well, sis, it is getting late and almost time for retreat so I close wishing you all good luck and hope to meet you soon.  I remain your brother,
Amasa Gunter.

A very special thanks to Jim Ritz, great-grandson of Ammasa for these documents and the soldier photo in a previous post.  What a great addition to his story!

Clipping found in my mother's Bible from 1971
Ammasa and Fay Gunter's 50th Anniversary

 "Friday, May 14, marks the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Ammasa D. Gunter, Malinta.  Mr. Gunter and the former Fay Ordway were married in Napoleon, May 14, 1921, by Reverend D. G. Hall, pastor of the Methodist Church. The Gunters have two children: Mrs. Dorvin (Alta Mae) Ritz, Fairborn, and Mrs. Charles (Marcella) Rice, Ayersville.  They have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.  A family dinner will be held at the Holiday Inn, Defiance, Ohio, Sunday, May 16.  Prentiss Photo"

Burial in Hoy (Shunk) Cemetery, near Malinta, Ohio

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