The 301st Engineers finally got the word, they were going home and on this date one hundred years ago, Jay and the Doughboys began that long awaited journey.
“The regiment was allotted one whole and one half train, each consisting of twenty-five American box cars, two kitchen cars, a baggage car, an officers’ coach and officers’ box car. About forty-two men to the car was the usual distribution, which was not excessive, and, owing to the bedding-sack which they were allowed, quite comfortable in comparison to previous movements. The kitchen cars, serving three hot meals a day, were other deciding factors in making the trip easier when had been lacking before.
“Promptly at 6:43 the first train began to move and the long journey to home and civil life began. The route lay along the Moselle River as far as Metz and then west to Verdun.”
– The Three Hundred and First Engineers – A History 1917-1919
The train followed a westerly route across France through the towns of St. Mihiel, Troyes, Bourges, Tours, Angers and Nantes and would arrive at the port of St. Nazaire at 3 am on May 30, 1919.
What was going through Jay’s mind as he packed up for the return to America? I’m sure, like every Doughboy, he was ready to get out of Europe and go home. But where was ‘home’ for him? Rinda was dead and Raymond was under the care of Gertie in Minneapolis. Reading between the lines of many of Jay’s letters before the war, I’ve come to the conclusion there was no love lost between Jay and Rinda’s family.
His parents and brother were in Gaylord, Michigan but over the past year, I’ve learned that his relationship with his father, my great-grandfather Edwin Shetler was anything but amicable; he wouldn’t go back to Gaylord. And there was no job waiting for him.
What lay ahead for Jay? We’ll find answers at the end of this blog.