Tag Archives: France

For Those Who Made The Sacrifice

I recently received a number of surprise emails with attachments from the sister who happily dives into piles of old photos and documents, sending me anything that she thinks might catch my fancy.  Louise had turned up a number of WWII era letters to and from Alvin D. Saucier (my father’s younger brother) after his enlistment; the kind of letters that say a lot without saying anything at all.  The folks at home trying to make out like things were normal, and the son in the service so obviously lonely for news of home and family.

I’ve had a wonderful time working through the letters; simple, everyday chatter of babies getting heat rash because the summer had been so very hot that year, the menfolk getting in quality fishing time, but who didn’t catch a lot because the summer had been so very hot that year, and recent overnight showers that cooled things down a bit and will do the garden good because the summer had been so very hot that year.

There was even news of Mrs. Sweeney returning home after an extended and mysterious absence, and that piece of news prompted me to ask myself a few questions:

  1. Who on earth was Mrs. Sweeney?
  2. I wonder where Mrs. Sweeney went for a number of weeks in June & July of 1943?
  3. I wonder if Mrs. Sweeney went to Chicago and took her cow along?  No. Wait. Back up. That was Mrs. O’Leary along about 1871.
V-Mail to Alvin D. Saucier from his mother, Ida Hoffmann Saucier

V-Mail to Alvin D. Saucier, from his mother, Ida (Hoffmann) Saucier, wife of James Garfield Saucier

(Note: You can click on any of these items for an embiggened view.)

The answer to my first question was buried in the pile of email in another letter to Al, this one from Bill Sweeney, dated 21 September 1945.  My best guess is that Bill was the son of the much-travelled Mrs. Sweeney, and in his letter, Bill made no mention of the weather.  His talk was all soldier-to-soldier, mostly concerned with daydreams of life after mustering out.  He did, however, mention that he was just back from “a typical sailors’ leave, one that he wasn’t much proud of, but had to admit it was fun”.  Okay.  A period can be put on that topic.  Moving along.

letter from Bill Sweeney to Alvin D. Saucier dated 21 September 1945

Bill Sweeney and Al Saucier - 1945

Bill Sweeney and Al Saucier – 1945

More letters, more news from home, and the very last attachment included assorted photographs that Al had saved – one photo in particular caught my eye, it was older than the WWII items – and then I realized what I was seeing…

Battlefield burial site of Charles Clide Saucier near Nancy, France

Battlefield burial site of Charles Clide Saucier

And For Those Who Made The Supreme Sacrifice

Charles Clide Saucier 1895-1918

Charles Clide Saucier 1895-1918

The photo was a burial registration photograph for Charles Clide Saucier, who on 27 September 1918, died of wounds received during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  This photo managed to reignite my search for great-Uncle Charlie’s final resting place, and allowed me to close another mystery – the date on great-Uncle Ben’s letter home during WWI.

Along the way, I’ve discovered a few more documents and newspaper clippings that not only shed a little light on Charlie’s time in the Army, but from his draft registration, we know a bit about his physical characteristics as well: tall, gray-eyed, with light colored hair.

WWI Draft Registration Card Charles Clide Saucier 5 June 1917

WWI Draft Registration Card Charles Clide Saucier 5 June 1917

Franklin County Tribune (Union, Missouri) Friday, 8 Nov 1918 page 4

Franklin County Tribune (Union, Missouri) Friday, 8 Nov 1918 page 4

From the clipping above, I think that it’s safe to infer that Ben’s letter home was one of the letters written on September 25, 1918.  In the letter, Ben wrote of being bivouacked outside of Nancy, describing his surroundings along with non-battle related experiences in a very general way.  The American Expeditionary Forces had liberated Nancy September 16, 1918, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive began ten days later on September 26, 1918.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Tuesday, 5 Nov 1918 (Main Editiion) page 4

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Tuesday, 5 Nov 1918 (Main Editiion) page 4

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Thursday, 14 Nov 1918 page 6

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Thursday, 14 Nov 1918 page 6. The Mrs. Thomas O’Donnell referenced in the clipping was Louise (Lulu Saucier) O’Donnell, one of Charles’ sisters.

Application for Military Headstone/Marker - Charles Clide Saucier

Application for Military Headstone/Marker – Charles Clide Saucier. The application was made by Mrs. Wm. Pace of Washington, Missouri aka Henrietta (Hattie Saucier) Pace, another of Charles’ sisters.

St. Anthony's Catholic Cemetery, Oak Grove (Stanton), Franklin County, Missouri.

St. Anthony’s Catholic Cemetery, Oak Grove (Stanton), Franklin County, Missouri.

I’d long assumed that Charlie’s headstone at Stanton, Missouri was a cenotaph, no remains, simply a marker for family members to take comfort in.  I’ve been through every database I could find, the final say coming from the American Battlefield Monuments Commission – there is no record of Charles Saucier being interred in any of the recognized cemeteries overseas.  Which brings me to the conclusion that Charlie was, after all, brought home.  The one unchecked item remaining on my to-do list is to apply to the Joint Mortuary Affairs Center for Charlie’s repatriation records.

Wish me luck that the records survived the fire of 1973 at the Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (records for Army personnel discharged November 1, 1912 through January 1, 1960 equaled an 80% loss).

Save

The Great War, A Biplane, & Damson Plums

Ben Saucier Ree Heights South Dakota 1920

The following is the transcription of a letter written by my granduncle, Benjamin Harrison Saucier – that’s Ben in the photograph above – addressed to his younger sister, Josephine (Saucier) Cowan.  The letter came to me through a Howell cousin, who was also the source of the bios written by Henrietta (Saucier) Pace.

Dear Jo,

Yes, I hear from you from time to time but not as often as I’d like, so get on the job and show your class – Am writing this in a greenhouse that is attached to a chateau that’s surrounded by the most beautiful grounds you ever saw.  We are in a small village 6 or 8 miles from Nancy and about the same distance from St. Nicolas – both good towns.  

With the possible exception of the day I was born, yesterday was possibly the biggest day of my life.  Two of my corporals & myself were strolling around a little and wandered over to the aviation field – going down I remarked that all I needed was to take a fly over Nancy.  They ran out a light bombing plane and one of the assistants asked – Who’s going along.  I said – “I am” first, so we soared for awhile — He started straight for Nancy and reached it at an elevation of 5000 feet.  The view was something that I shall not soon forget.  

We circled over the city rising to 8000 feet in doing it, then went out in the country.  It seemed more like a dream than anything I’ve ever experienced – We went to 11,000 feet high and came back over Nancy at that height at a speed of 96 per.  Could only see the earth then in spots for the sky was cloudy & the clouds were all below us.  

The only thing I regret is that I did not enlist in that branch.  It’s too late now to think of transferring.  We were up for about an hour and I wouldn’t exchange it for any other hour I ever spent.  It sure was great – The clouds as seen from above with patches of mother earth here and the mountains in the distance etc. etc. is the most wonderful picture I’ve ever seen.

We came back from the front lines again a few days ago and will most likely be back for a month or 6 wks.  We are altogether yet and feeling fine. – We are out of the mountains – in a beautiful rolling country almost level and for a change it looks pretty good.

There are worlds of damson plums in this vicinity.  I wish you might see this country – Pass this on to some of the rest for I’ve neither time nor stationery to write to all – been writing to Mother at Stanton today — Haven’t seen anything of Eugene’s bro. yet.  Would like to run across him.  Write – Good luck & lots of it to both of you —

Ben — Cack is right with me & is ok.

Sleuthing: It’s Not Just For Hard-Boiled Detectives

Many happy hours I’ve spent daydreaming while reading this letter.  Besides the letter being a cherished piece of family history, I’ve often wondered what kind of impact it may have had on my father, who later became a pilot.  Dad would have been eight years old at the time this was written, and it’s easy for me to imagine the family gathered to hear Uncle Ben’s letter from France being read.

What’s hard for me to believe is that this letter has been on my ‘to-do’ list for well over a decade – funny how time gets away from you.  My goal was to date it as closely as I could with something other than “Sometime during WWI: April 1917-November 1918”.

I was recently provided with a new clue from a Cowan cousin that rekindled my interest in the letter.  That one item, along with the clues supplied in the body of the letter itself have allowed me to narrow down the date considerably.

the clue

For a dove of long standing, I find it just a little embarrassing to admit to an interest in military history, but it helps that I’m aided and abetted by a husband who shares that interest.  Sifting through source material is an engaging pastime for us – so here’s hoping that you don’t find the journey a dry one.

Look Out… This May Be Your MEGO Moment

Shoulder Insignia of th 35th "Santa Fe" Division, WWIBenjamin and his brother Charles ended up in the 138th Infantry, Company E of the 35th “Santa Fe” Division made up of National Guardsmen and draftees from the states of Missouri and Kansas.  They trained for over seven months at Camp Doniphan near Fort Sill, Oklahoma (which by the way, is located less than fifty miles from my back door).

Those seven months must’ve been eye-openers for a couple of farm boys hailing from a green and ‘water fat’ state, finding themselves just a stone’s throw from the 100th Meridian, the onset of the great American desert (only about sixty miles from my front door).

As mind boggling as southwestern Oklahoma may have been to them, the pair probably had little time to gape – the infantrymen of the 35th were drilled intensively by British and French instructors in the use of bayonet, hand grenades, and gas masks.

I’ve provided a few online sources below that you may find interesting, but what it boils down to is this: the 35th division was mobilized, leaving Camp Doniphan in late winter, 1918.  They were moved to the east coast by train, embarking from New York Harbor arriving at LeHavre, France May 10, 1918.  The infantry received additional training in Amiens until June 6, 1918.  Then traveling by rail – 40 men and 8 horses per boxcar – the destination was the Wesserling sub-sector on the Western Front in the Vosges Mountains where they remained through mid-August.  On September 1st, the 35th moved forward to St. Mihiel where they fought their first battle.  Between September 12th-16th, the American Expeditionary Forces liberated the town of Nancy and the 35th bivouacked in the Foret de Haye just a few miles west of town.  The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began September 26, 1918 lasting until the Armistice, November 11, 1918.

The 35th Division collapsed after five days of fighting in the Battle of the Argonne, which has been described as the greatest battle in the history of the American military.  In little more than four months, the division casualty list totaled 7,296 (killed in action – 1,018; wounded in action – 6,278).

It saddens me when I think of Ben’s last line: Cack is right with me & is ok… less than two weeks later, Cack was killed in action.

Charles Clide (Cack) Saucier born April 6, 1895 in Sullivan, Franklin County, Missouri – died September 27, 1918, age 23, in the Argonne Forest during the second day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Chas_Saucier Headstone App

Sources:
United States, Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 (p. 191-2)
The 35th Infantry Division in the Great War
The Diary of a Doughboy
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive
From Vauquois Hill to Exermont by Clair Kenamore

Have You Ever Been Beguiled By A Color?

Recently, I was at La Ruche des Quilteuses reading a post regarding the flax plant.  The original post is in French – thank you Google Translate – and it was there that I saw the photograph.  To say that my jaw dropped would be a very poor description.  Smitten?  Certainly, but it was more, I was amazed, thunderstruck, gobsmacked, and yes, beguiled, by the watery greens in a field of flax in bloom.

I found myself drawn back to that photo repeatedly.  I decided that I wanted to celebrate the color the best way I knew how, with textiles, in a quilt.  I confess that I am a green lover, and you won’t find a shortage of greens in my fabric stash, but I was looking for a very particular color of green.

I spent hours burrowing through every bin, box and bag of fabric that I own, and then I found it.  A length of vintage fabric that I’d picked up for a song a few years ago.  It was one of those fabrics purchased without even the foggiest idea of what it was going to be used in.

Seen up close, the fabric is a particularly virulent poison green overlaid with a grass green on white, but when you stand back it all blends into a gentle watery green.

Once I had my treasure at home, I kept trying to use it in a variety of scrappy style quilts, without success.  It looked wretched with everything.  The last time that I had it out attempting to make it play nice with all the other fabrics, I folded it up and with a sigh I put it away.

I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be seeing that fabric surface again for a while.

But here it was on the cutting table – unfolded and seemingly compliant – what if I just kept it simple (stupid) and paired it with white?  For a pattern, I could use a two-block combination, Snowball and Nine-Patch.  The pairing is a little old fashioned, but when used together it makes a dandy flower pattern, plus, I’d have all of that lovely negative space to work with when the time came to quilt it.

And now, on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor.   — Groucho Marx: A Night At The Opera (1935)

We don’t have a season that most folks would call Autumn here in SW Oklahoma.  No glorious show of color to bring down the curtain on a growing season.  We do have Fall, if by that definition you mean that all the leaves turn brown and fall on the ground (it usually happens overnight accompanied by a crash).  And of course the wind was up when I wanted a morning shot to play up the soft color in the quilt top.  No surprises here, the wind always blows in SW Oklahoma.  The only place outside that I could find where the top would hang and not flap, was the lee side of the donkey’s loafing shed.

While it’s not a perfect replica of flax green, ‘I done my best’ with what I had, and I was able to use up every last scrap of that lovely poison green.  No more frustrating moments trying to force this fabric to be a member of the chorus when all it truly ever wanted was to be a diva.

English: Sibyl Sanderson, American opera sopra...

Sibyl Sanderson 1864 – 1903 American opera soprano