April 25, 1918 – Hope the cruel war will soon be over

One hundred years ago today, April 25, 1918, Jay wrote from Camp Devens, Massachusetts to Rinda in Osage, Iowa where she was working as a housekeeper.

Drilling….eight hours a day Jay writes…..he might be exaggerating but considering what I’m learning about my grandfather, I’m sure it SEEMED like eight hours.

Raymond’s second birthday is coming up but a training camp for future doughboys probably didn’t offer much in the way of birthday gifts for a little boy so Jay will send money for Rinda to get him a gift.  Seems like that is an age-old remedy for daddies who are away from their kids at birthdays.

Jay came to Camp Devens with the 7th Casual Detachment of the 33rd Engineers.  What’s a ‘casual’? As units and regiments were being manned and trained at Camp Devens and elsewhere, men were constantly coming and going.  Men were transferred to other units or got sick or washed out during training.  Some died.  Some who were ‘ready’ might have been sent to France already.

There would have been regiments and units at Devens that were under 100% staffing and needed more men.  But the Army couldn’t just send a soldier to someplace without him being part of a unit.  In Jay’s case, the Army found a need for men at Camp Devens so assigned him to the 7th Casual Detachment of the 33rd Engineers.  Still not having been given a permanent assignment, Jay would have been considered a ‘casual’.  So off he went to Massachusetts in a detachment of casuals.   Once he got to Devens, he would become part of another unit.

Dear Rinda,

Your good letter received and more than pleased to learn you were getting along so well.  Have written since coming here received your letter this week forward from Columbus.  Been drilling some here about 8 hr per day that enough for me however.

Because I am far from strong they have been transferring men from the 7th Assault Detachment to regular companies of the 33rd in fact they just finished examining most all the men that came here with me from Columbus.  Only one fellow and I left out of the bunch that come at that time.  Make one wish they were moving also the boys are very nice fellows and may run into a bunch of ruff after their going as the 7th Casual Detachment is only a receiving camp for the whole 33rd.  Some large camp have men from all over the U.S.  Plenty men here in 33 from Minn met some very nice fellows.

Seems strange but the men in army seem to always want to be on the move.  But perhaps the reason is that I have never been in with a company that has ever been assign to a permanent outfit.

My but wind has been blowing out here for last day or so.  Blowing like it does out in Dakotas.  Guess you remember how it blew around Blackduck one spring when we were out in the woods.

Very kind of you to offer to send me any thing I might need.  But there is little I need can buy most everything at the Co canteen same store on small scale.  Had ice cream, pie, cake, milk, coffee, soup, cigars soap and in fact nearly everything a soldier wants to buy.  We using no sugar or butter but rest of food isn’t bad.  But get hungry for sweet stuff.

The town Ayre don’t amount to much haven’t been there since coming here.

Can’t buy anything to send Ray for his birthday so will send you a bill for him and you can buy something I may receive some pay next month between 5 & 10 but don’t know, guess it’s a question.

But pay or no pay I send something because I will do without something myself and send it.  Sure some change from the life I have lived in regards to last living on best inland for many  years.  Think we always lived good out at Blackduck and the (International) Falls and in Iowa.  But now its some change.  But hope the cruel war will soon be over and I can return to my old position.

Nearly time to eat mess so I will close and wish you and Ray best of health and good luck.

Lovingly Jay

7th Casual Detachment

33 Engineers

Ayres Mass

Camp Devens

1918.04.26 145

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