Saturday, June 07, 2008

World War I Letter to Edward James Early of Wisconsin 1918

February 3, 1918

My Dear Captain:-

It is indeed a pleasure to receive such a letter as you write and your
cheering words deserve a much more speedy reply than I am sending.
However, as you may easily realize we are intensely active about now and
personal pleasures such as writing have to be cast aside.

Since I last wrote several real things have occurred to me up until
recently. I have been doing work on all kinds of trench warfare materiel.
One interesting thing was a visit to a British Trench Mortar school. At
this school I had an opportunity to study not only British guns but also
the various types that make up the British forces. My hat is off to the
Australians and our cousin the Canadians.

But this experience, interesting and exciting as it was, has been put
very far in the background by a more recent trip of mine. As I say I had
been handling trench warfare material in general but it seems that a
letter was received by the General that gave away my past history as an
“expert” on pyrotechnics and now, among other things, I am in full charge
of this interesting phase of the work. As a result when a call was made
for some one to go to the front lines to look into the subject, I was
hurried away and in a few hours stood gazing across “No man’s land” into
the German lines and beyond to their communications trenches. God, man,
it was fascinating and I shall never forget that first glimpse of what we
have all read about for nearly four years. Machine guns and rifles were
spitting away and now and then the big guns would boom. We left the car
in a certain spot in a certain town one day and the next day when we
returned that spot was a big shell hole. The dear little message arrived
during the night. As my work was of a special character and as the place
was not particularly healthy we did not stay long. We just got back to a
safer area when the artillery duel started up.

I learned a good bit about fireworks which I expect to supplement next
week with a visit to a large French factory. In regard to the Rifle Light
fired from the V. B. Tromblon the blank cartridges ought to be attached
to the light by a wire on something with about two extra cartridges to a
box of say thirty lights. The Very Pistol of the ten gauge variety is, I
am afraid, too small for signal, which when the air is full of dust and
smoke. The 25 mm or 1” of the French is better unless the light of your
pistol is more powerful. I would advise trying it out by comparison if
you have the French material. If not get Ragsdale to either wire for some
or send over some pistols and lights right away and I will do it. I wish
you would send me a list of markings on the boxes the different pieces
are packed in and also the markings on the pieces themselves. In regard
to the 35 mm Pistol of which I have cabled several times, it is
absolutely necessary for aviation as the other is too small. Only
yesterday I received your cable on that subject and made arrangements for
all information to be sent to you. It ought to arrive soon after this

See if you can get the real dope on the rifle grenade situation. What I
want to know is whether or not a really exhaustive test was tried to
determine the effect of the firing on the U. S. Rifle. We have had a lot
of trouble with the stocks breaking.

From time to time I may be able to give you information that will aid you
in developing the pyrotechnic game. I wish I might come over for a short
trip but I would want to be sure of returning. Lieutenant Shaw just
arrived. Best to all and write again.


American Expeditionary Forces
Signal Corps Replacement Depot
Office of the Zone Major
A.P.O. 925
January 25, 1919
FROM: Edward J. Early, Captain Ordinance, H. R. & C Zone Major.
TO: Major Philips, Personnel, R. R. & C., Tours.
SUBJECT: R. R. & C Work in Cour Cheverny.

1. The Field Signal Battalions in this area are being concentrated in the
local town, leaving the twelve towns in the zone free of troops.

2. Previous to the embarking of the men from the different towns, we held
meetings with the mayors and billet owners and had all owners of billets
sign short forms giving the outgoing troops clearance of all and any
damage to the property, and in the majority of cases where claims were
presented, we had an adjustment made between the property owners and the
battalion officers, paid by battalion funds. The enclosed form from the
town of Cellettes will give you a fair idea of the way the claims were
sent in and how adjusted, leaving but one claim open.

3. I have a squad of men who go into each town after the troops leave,
repairing all stone walls, fences, broken plaster and damage to the
woodwork in the area, and, in several cases, doing repair work on the
roads, etc. I found it necessary in a few cases to call in the
representative of the Franco-American mission in Orleans.

4. There will be several claims which it is impossible to adjust other
than by R. R. & C. funds, which will be forwarded shortly to the Claims

5. The continual shifting of battalions since my arrival at this station
has kept me so busy that it prevented my writing you at an earlier date.
Will endeavor sometime in the coming week to get into Tours on a few
special cases.
E. J. Early

Notes: After receiving his engineering degree from
Marquette University, Edward James Early of Green Bay, Wisconsin entered
the Army as a Captain was was sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in
Maryland before being sent to France. While in France, his pistol
discharged while he was mounted on a horse, the bullet penetrating his
leg, and after only several days in France, he was sent back to the
states. He and his wife had wanted to move to France just after World War
I to wonk on reconstruction but his son Ted came down with Chicken pox
and instead they moved from Green Bay to Detroit where he started
Michigan Drilling Company.

Submitter: John Early Andrews

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