My grandfather wrote 25 letters from the time he was ‘called to colors’ in 1918 until his discharge 16 months later. The majority of these letters went to Rinda but after her death he wrote to his brother and to Gertie, Rinda’s sister who was then taking care of my dad. The letter posted here is the last of those he wrote while in service.
In this letter, Jay explains to Gertie why he is in the hospital, influenza. In his past hospital stays, he often referred to his lungs, that they just weren’t healthy and never had been even before his time in the Army. Those hospitalizations also occurred while those around him were hospitalized (some dying) for the flu. But this is the first time he mentions that it is influenza from which he suffers. He somehow escaped contracting the disease in the first and second waves of it in 1918 but it finally got him down in the third wave.
It was also in this letter that I learned the locations of the hospital and where Company A was billeted. Jay writes that the camp ‘is only about five minute walk from the hospital’. My recent visit to Koblenz proved that to be correct….it was in fact only about a five minute walk. Huge thank you to Armin Bode-Kessler for finding the exact locations and Peter Wever for taking me there.
April 6th, 1919
Evacuation Hosp. No 49.
Sunday once more and it finds me in hospital where I have been for past 16 days. During second week in March we had some very bad weather snow rain and cold. My work took me out of doors a great deal. Contracted a very severe cold which I was unable to shake from my lungs. On March 20th I went to Medical Dept and was sent to hospital where I still remain.
Flu leaving my lungs somewhat weak and needless to say they are far from being strong at present. Much improved over what they were when I came here.
Have had more or less trouble with my lungs since coming to Europe over eight months ago. During our long walk from France to Germany weather was bad and hardships great and needless to say I suffered in silence.
Don’t know for sure but think I will be released from hospital this week and sent back to Co. Our Co. is now stationed at Coblence having billets at Signal Park.
The park is only about five minute walk from the hospital. As I am up and can go out as I please now I visit Co nearly every day. Was down town this p.m. with a fellow soldier first time I have been down since coming to the hospital.
We are with in walking distance of the heart of the city taking about 15 minutes to walk down from Co or hospital. Coblense is a beautiful city one of the oldest in Germany housing a population of 60,000 people. Located upon Mosel and Rhine Rivers. Mosel emptying into Rhine here. I am enclosing postal showing view of the statue of Kaiser Wm. Which is a huge affair. We climbed up into base of statue coming out of the opening which I have marked with an X. This statue sets on a point of land extending out into Rhine at point where the Mosel enters. Sure as an ideal place to construct such a statue. There are many interesting sights to be seen in and about Coblence. Sorry but I haven’t saw many of them but when I return to Co may have a better chance. We were only in City of Coblence a few days before I was sent here.
Our Reg. headquarters is still at Brohl on Rhine some 30 kilos from here.
Our Co. is on what is a detached service being attached to 3rd army headquarters. We belong to no Div. We are what is known as auxiliary troops of Fourth Corp which make up 3rd Army or Army of occupation. 42nd and 32nd Div are booked to leave France during April. They are both members of Fourth Corp and last Divs to be removed from army of occupation until new troops are recruited for the present army of occupation. New army is recruited from the men in ranks here and new men over seas.
So we are sure out of luck as far as an early sailing is considered. Looks as if we would have to remain most of summer if not all of it.
Your good letter of March 6th reached me a few days ago and sure was pleased to hear from you. Thinking my letter to you might have gone astray.
Glad to learn Dell forwarded you the funds and I will assure you he won’t forget to send them until such time I am able to take care of the same. Also glad to learn the amount was satisfactory and came when it was needed.
Sorry to learn Ray and your daughter had been ill and awfully glad to learn they are both back to good health. Hows Raymonds limbs are they bowed? Last time I saw him they were quite bad.
Yes I will visit you at Mpls a short time after my return. Hope to have a very interesting and pleasant talk. Seems as if I had really met you as Rinda was always speaking of you.
Glad to learn you are going to send me one of his pictures sure would like to have one. I am planning on having some postal photo taken and will mail you one if they are good.
Pleased to learn Raymond is good to mind an untrained child is not the best for child or parents.
I will close for this time as I am some what tired after my long walk today.
I will close with kindest regards and best of wishes and good health to all.
Sgt Jay E. Shetler
Co “A” 301st Engrs.
Photo of the Kaiser William I statue in Coblenz that Jay and his friends had climbed up into. It’s not the actual postcard he sent to Gertie but is one that a cousin brought back from Germany after the war. The statue sits at Deutches Eck, a point where the Mosel River empties into the Rhine. This postcard photo would have been taken from across the Mosel. The wall at the lower left marks the point where that river flows into the Rhine.
The Statue was destroyed in WWII and eventually rebuilt. Here’s a then-and-now photo from when I visited a couple weeks ago.
Credit: thumb and finger provided by Peter Wever.