April 18, 1919 – Out of the hospital

One hundred years ago today, Sergeant First Class Shetler was discharged from Evacuation Hospital Number 49 in Coblenz, Germany. Back to the kitchen, grandpa.

He didn’t have far to go.  Company A was quartered in a former German barracks known as Telegraphenkaserne, just a five minute walk as we learned in his previous letter.  Here are photos of the place from 1919 and one hundred years later.  The buildings are now apartments and have been altered over the years.  But they have a very long history.  Jay and Company A are part of that history.

Telegraf kaserne 1




April 8, 1919 – Company A boys on film

Castle watch

During and after the war, photographers of the U.S. Army Signal Corps took thousands of photos.  Many of these photos showing the utter devastation that occurred in France were taken by them.  After the A.E.F. moved into the Rhineland, the photographers continued their work where their work took on a little more relaxed nature.

On February 8, 1919, Sergeant First Class Charles Mace took this photograph and on this date 100 years ago the Signal Corps received it.

It is a photo of two Company A men checking out Burg Eltz, an “old castle near Moselkern, Germany”.  Seated is Corporal Frank Grandel.  Standing is Corporal William Benoit.  Benoit was one of the cooks working under Jay.

The photo was taken by Sergeant First Class Charles Mace of the Signal Corps and provided to me by Peter Wever.

Castle watch - Copy

April 6, 1919 – The last letter home

1919.04.06 161


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.


Coblense Germany

April 6th, 1919

Evacuation Hosp. No 49.

Dear Sis:

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.

Sincerely  J.

Sgt Jay E. Shetler

Co “A” 301st Engrs.

A.P.O 755

A.E.F. France


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.

1919.04.06a (2)

Credit: thumb and finger provided by Peter Wever.

March 28, 1919 – Scenes from Evac Hospital #49

One hundred years ago on this date, Jay was still being treated at Evacuation Hospital #49 in Coblenz.  We will learn in his next letter what was going on but for now, here are more photos of the hospital.  Jay definitely would have been in several of these rooms and locations.

Nurses reception room
Nurses in their reception room
1 x-ray dept
X-ray department
1 Sterilizer and portable equipment
Sterilization and portable equipment
1 operating room
Operating room
1 bath house
Bath house
Morgue – Jay wasn’t here
venereal ward.jpg
Venereal disease ward – he wasn’t here 🙂


March 20, 1919 – Back to the hospital

1 receiving ward and barracks
US Army Evacuation Hospital 49, Coblenz Germany

On this date in 1919, Sergeant Shetler was admitted to Evacuation Hospital 49 in Coblenz.  This is one of many hospital stays Jay had since his entry into the Army.  In previous letters, he often wrote that he had problems with his lungs.  In an upcoming letter to Gertie, he explains what he is hospitalized for.

Today, one hundred years to the date of his admission, I am standing at the former site of the hospital in Koblenz (modern spelling).

The hospital complex was huge, I can see many of the original buildings spread across many acres, all repurposed into apartments. There are schools and modern apartment building interspersed between the old buildings.

Here are some photos of the hospital exterior and grounds:

1 Hosp 49 from Armin
Evacuation Hospital 49 buildings – 1919
Evacuation Hospital 49 Building – 2019 – now an apartment building  


Other side of hospital bldg -1919
General view
General view 1919







March 16, 1919 – A visit from Black Jack

1919.03.18 label is wrong

(This photo is mislabeled.  Pershing reviewed Company A in Coblenz on March 16, 1919, not in April.)

On this date 100 years ago, Company A of the 301st Engineers was reviewed by General “Black Jack” Pershing at Coblenz, Germany.  Company A was in Coblenz on a work assignment. Two days later, on the 18th, he reviewed the rest of the 301st near Brohl.

In the photo posted here, Jay’s there.  Somewhere.

But it’s still an interesting vignette about the March 18 review:

“Early in March it became known that it was the intention of the Commander-in-Chief to review the divisions and units of the Army of Occupation, the date to be the 18th.  Great care was taken to have the men of the regiment prepared for this event; uniforms were replaced or cleaned and there were one or two rehearsals in the formation to be used.

“At 4:55 a.m., the 18th, the entire regiment (minus Unit “A”) were transported by truck to a large plain near Kaisersesch.  The day was unfavorable.  The snow-covered ground and the wind kept the men uncomfortable, but the wait was not so long as upon other occasions.

“At the approach of General Pershing, “General’s Call” was blown and at the command of General Wells, Chief of Staff, all units presented arms, after which the inspection began.  Front ranks about-faced, and the General passed through questioning and commenting.  The Inspection completed, the troops closed in about a small grandstand and listened to the General’s address, returning by truck to Brohl.”

– The Three Hundred and First Engineers – A History 1917-1919





March 11, 1919 – Packing up again

On March 11, 1919, Sergeant First Class Shetler and Company A moved from Brohl to Coblenz Germany.  Company E had been assigned to work in Coblenz since January but by March, its work had grown so much that Company A was transferred there to assist.

After a few months in sleepy Brohl, Coblenz seemed to be a nice break:

“March and April we spent in Coblenz, quartered at the Telegraf Kaserne, a former German military barracks.  This period of our stay in the Army of Occupation proved to be most congenial.  We were doing special work for the Third Army, consisting mostly of construction work in preparation for the Carnival (more about this in upcoming posts) and odd jobs in and about the various military buildings in Coblenz.  We sometimes had to work hard, but the freedom from infantry drill, that bug-bear of all hardened soldiers, was compensation complete!

“Evenings – unless we were selected for guard duty – we could wander about the city visit the Schwein or the Schoss Cafes, or give “Ted” Marshall our support in his fistic (boxing) endeavors at the Festhalle, or patronize any one of the several canteens, or pay the princely sum of 80 pfennigs and take a peek at German Opera, to the detriment of the fraternization laws.

– Our Memoirs: Company A, 301st Engineers

Ted Marshall, the Pugilist of Company A

But where was Jay?  I’m assuming he was still ordering food and other supplies, leading his cooks in food prep and serving.  Maybe, just maybe he was able to get away with the others, though, for some R and R in the town.

Some scenes of Coblenz, ‘courtesy’ my cousin Wilbur Huntley who was also in Coblenz after the war and brought home postcards of the city:







February 24, 1919 – I’m here to help

In Gertie’s letter to Jay informing him of Rinda’s death, she asked him to help with the expense of caring for Raymond by sending money.  Actually, knowing Gertie (Nanny) I’m guessing she told him to send money; she could be a tough cookie. He agreed of course and let her know he would contact his brother Del in Michigan to facilitate getting money to her.  I have the letter he wrote to Del asking him to get things going.

In this letter, Dell writes to Gertie letting her know he’s heard from Jay and encloses $25, promising to send more in the future.

News that my father had had the flu is news to me.

1919.02.24 160


Gaylord Mich

Feb. 24, 1919

Mrs. Gertie Upham

Minneapolis Minn

Dear Mrs. Upham –

I received a letter from my brother Jay E. Shetler, US Army France very recently and was very much grieved to learn that Rinda had passed away.

It was a sudden shock to me and can hardly make it seem possible now.  But so many people have gone to rest by the way of the Spanish Influenza and pneumonia that one never knows what to expect now days.

I have been fortunate enough to escape it so far and hope I may miss it altogether.  You have my deepest heartfelt sympathy Mrs. Upham in your hours of sorrow and grief and hope no more sickness or sorrow may come to you and family.

Glad Raymond is recovering all right from the flu and hope he keeps well and that you are feeling stronger by this time.

I am looking for Jay to come home sometime this spring and he requested me to send you some money to help care for Raymond so am enclosing order for $25.00.  Please let me know if you receive same all right.

With best wishes to you and hoping yourself and family are well.  I remain sincerely yours.

Mr. Dell Shetler

Gaylord Michigan

February 5, 1919 – Preparing for the future

Confiscated trucks, all in miserable condition, great for teaching auto mechanic skills in the 301st.

The leaders of the American Army knew that when the boys returned to the states, they would be looking for jobs.  The Army set up schools to help make the return home easier by teaching new skills to anyone who wanted it.  They had the time; policing the German people wasn’t very difficult in the Brohl area.

Jay?  I think he just kept cooking.

“Shortly after the arrival of the regiment in Brohl, the Regimental Schools were organized for those men in the regiment who desired to advance their educational qualifications before their return to the United States.

“From the start the men took great interest in the courses which were offered, among which were courses in algebra and geometry, elementary and advanced, arithmetic, American history, electrical and mechanical engineering, civil engineering, banking and accounting, freight transportation, Spanish, and music, both vocal and piano.  The instructors were taken from the qualified officers and men of the regiment, and the interest of their classes proved a high testimonial to their ability.  Some of the students desired to secure credit in subjects which they had taken, and expected to resume in the near future, in night school or college, while others wished to gain vocational knowledge which would aid them in their trades.  By far the most popular course was that of automobile repair.”

“More classes were added over time, including barbering: The barbering class, numbering seven students, learned their trade at the expense of the patient small German boys of the town.”

– The Three Hundred and First Engineers – A History 1917-1919

January 26, 1919 – Let’s visit the neighbors


The German civilians were behaving and had pretty much gone on with their post-war lives leaving little for members of the Army of Occupation to do.

“Numerous attempts were made by all in authority to help us forget that gnawing hunger for home and home folk, and though none of them quite accomplished the desired end, all of them helped us by affording diversion from the routine work in the business of “Occupying.”  Among these were the twelve hour trips to Coblenz which were afforded each man.  Details went by companies and were transported by truck.  Upon arriving in town, they were given tickets entitling them to restaurant meals free of charge, and were directed to the various places of interest about the town.  At ten o’clock in the evening the men reported back to their trucks and were rolled over the road to Brohl.

“Another method was the boat trip up or down the river in German river steamers.  The regiment was assigned one steamer for three days, and two companies were taken upon the trip at one time.  The men were transported to Andernach, where the steamer docked, by truck, and returned to Brohl in the same manner, when the voyage was completed.  Two meals were provided on board the boat and the regimental band kept spirits up and ‘Viel zu essen’ (have a lot to eat) down, for as a rule they were given a separate table and as much as they could eat as reward for their labors.”

– A Short History of the 301st Engineers

Sights along that Rhine River cruise, the town of Andernach with the world’s highest cold water geyser, Namedy Sprudel:

1919.01.10b OL