July 29, 1918 – Le Havre

American troops arriving in Le Havre, 1918

On this day a century ago, July 29, 1918, the 301st Engineers disembarked the ferries that had safely brought them from England to the harbor at Le Havre, France.  For Jay, and likely many of these soldiers, this was a first look at life in a European country.  Le Havre didn’t appear to give a very good impression.

The march through Le Havre to the rest camp is one which will never be forgotten.  Here were seen the first Boche (German) prisoners working contentedly enough in the railroad yards, and much to the surprise of the new American troops they were loosely guarded.  The weather was exceedingly hot, the streets were dirty, and the gutters were filled with refuse.  Little push-carts with a tugging dog beneath were the cause of much comment and whistles that were intended to be distracting, but the hard-working mangy beasts paid no attention.  The city was crowded with red-faced ‘Tommies’ and Australians with their turned-up hats, Belgians in their heavy-looking uniforms resplendent in tassels and bright patches of color, and ‘poilus’ on all corners watching the column with grave faces.  Here again were seen the patriotic Waacs as ‘motor women’ and ‘conductor-ettes’ on the trolley cars.  At last one could not help but realize that there was a war.  The rest camp was situated, like the ones at Winchester, on a hill a mile or two outside the city, and was typically British.  Tents were assigned to the men.  Flies were everywhere, and, as nothing was screened, it made a striking contract to the strictly military and sanitary camp in the States that the men had just left.  In this camp no one was allowed to leave the area, but there were canteens near by to supply the needs of all.  The men were benefited by these and the sleep regained after the trip across the Channel.

–  The Three Hundred and First Engineers – A History 1917-1920

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