Croquet and Chemical Warfare

Fearful and homesick, Grandpa wrote this letter a few weeks before his overseas deployment. I’m posting the entire letter, followed by a transcription.

Gas House 1Gas House 2, 3Gas House, 4

I’ve added punctuation in the transcription below. Grandpa often wrote without commas, periods, or capitalization. I’ve also corrected spelling and added a few notes.

April 30, 1918

My Dear, now Tuesday night. I have been out playing catch since supper. The evenings are awfully long when I have nothing to do. Would like to play croquet with you. We were out and tried the gas[s] this afternoon. We have been practicing with them [i.e. the masks] for three weeks so this afternoon they gave us the test. The gas house holds about a hundred at once and we went through three times. The second time we were fastened in with the doors shut five minutes and they say one minute would kill any man. So you know we were awfully careful that they [masks] didn’t come off. They also threw some gas bombs into the trenches to show us how it acted. The smoke and gas hold right to the bottom of the trench.

We are going to move in the next three weeks for France. 355 [an infantry, Grandpa’s group was the 356th] is fixing to go now and they say we will go soon and the Captain told the first Sergeant there would be no more passes issued, and the first Sergeant said we would go inside of ten days and I think so too. But I don’t want you to tell it for I am not going to tell the folks until after we are started and of course they will have to know it. I saw Clyde Black tonight. He was down after his mail. He is in the bunch that was sent to the detention camp [where new recruits were housed]. I sent some of our boys mail up to them by him.

Mother didn’t tell me about writing to you. What was it about. They sent me an affidavit for a farming furlough. I got it today, but the Captain said there wouldn’t be any issued at all so several of the boys were somewhat disappointed as they were looking for a furlough. But the late news has spoil it all. I got a letter from Marie Sawyer today. She was awfully funny. Poor girl, too bad she hasn’t got a beau. Well my Dear, I will quit for tonight.

Love & Kisses



2 thoughts on “Croquet and Chemical Warfare

  1. I like that Grandpa’s letter is a “stand alone” in this post. The juxtaposition of topics– as you make clear in your title– is what makes this a powerful bit of irony and emotion.


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