An HHR reader sent me this family picture this morning. I was feeling guilty for not putting up an Armistice Day image for the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, but I've used up all the good WWI images in our collection. Problem solved!
Meet Maurice and Burton Jayne of Hood River, taken at a stateside army training camp before being sent to France. Happily both brothers survived the war. According to family lore they saw plenty of action.
Feel free to tell us about the Jayne brothers, or any other veterans whose stories you'd like to share on this day for reflection and honor.
My grandfather was a Belgian soldier taken captive by Germans. He worked on a German farm, and was able to sneak food back to the other prisoners.
I wasn't much interested in his stories when I was a kid. Now I sure wish I would have listened.
One time he cracked an egg on the fence post and ate the raw egg. I told him that was awful and he told me that was food when he was a prisoner.
I think he was not treated well when he returned back to Belgium after the war and he immigrated to the U.S.
L.E. on 11th November 2018 @ 1:59pm
A little long, but oh so relavent to the comment by L.E. above, and both the history and events yet today.
By Neal Lemery
November 11, 2018
World War I, the “Great War”, the “War to End All Wars”, ended one hundred years ago today.
That day, my grandfather was a prisoner of war in a Russian prison camp. He was drafted into the German Army and sent to the eastern front, a foot soldier in a war where nerve gas, machine guns, and tanks dominated the battlefields, causing horrific casualties.
Word of the end of the war likely reached the prison camp a week, maybe three weeks later, at the beginning of the harsh winter in what is now eastern Poland. The Russian guards just opened the gates and walked away, forcing the emaciated, sick German prisoners of war to fend for themselves.
My grandfather spoke little of that experience, and only a few times told of taking boots off of dead soldiers, stuffing moss and newspapers into them, and making his way west, back to his home in northern Germany. There was no food on the journey, except for frozen potatoes he could find in snow-covered fields.
I never knew how long that journey took him, or how many of his companions on that journey survived. But, cold weather bothered him. He always made sure he had warm boots and thick socks on when he went to the barn and milked his cows on winter mornings.
Being a curious child, I would ask him a few questions about the war, but he would only say it was “bad, bad times”, and grow silent. He was a quiet, contemplative man anyway, and would rarely share his feelings.
I’d ask my mom about Grandpa and the war, and she would say that he never talked about the war. She had never heard his story about the boots and the frozen potatoes.
We all called him Grandpa Henry, but one day, as we were working alone in the barn, he told me that his first name was really Ausmus. His middle name was Heinrich, the German version of Henry. He was the thirteenth child of dairy farmers, and when he returned from the war, hard times had come to Germany, and there was no work for him on the farm. There was no work anywhere.
He decided to emigrate to America. Somehow, he ended up working on my grandmother’s farm as a hired hand. Once, he told me about being on a ship crossing the Atlantic and he got very seasick, and it was a very long trip. But, again, no details, just a long period of silence after his few, soft words.
I was learning not to pry or ask questions, and I noticed he would tear up when he would tell me his stories.
He was my grandma’s second husband, and took on the role of stepfather for my mom when she was nine. He was the only grandfather I knew.
Years later, I did some research and found his naturalization papers on file. He got his citizenship in the mid 1930s, so he must have had his green card or the 1920s version of that, for at least fifteen years. My grandmother and my mom sponsored him for citizenship.
One time, I asked my mom if Grandpa had any photos or papers about his life in Germany and his family there.
“No,” she said. “Not anymore.”
There was a lot of anti-German sentiment in the US during World War I, and afterwards, too. People stopped using the common names for cottage cheese, and even sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage”, as German culture was in such disfavor. Even street names and the names of towns were changed, to put an end to German influence.
That is probably the reason Grandpa wasn’t called “Ausmus” or even “Heinrich”, but the Americanized “Henry”.
Grandma was afraid of Grandpa’s German roots and feared people would hate him and our family because of his heritage. So, she burned all of his photos and papers, hoping to put an end to that connection.
At holidays dinners, my mom would put on a feast, and she always made something special for Grandpa, something German. He’d have a big smile on his face when she put the dish on the table, and say how grateful he was for her kindness and thoughtfulness.
When I was a teenager, an Indonesian family moved onto a farm a few farms away from my grandparents. They were the first non-European farmers in the entire community, and their presence fired up a lot of racist sentiment. The racists around were the grandchildren of immigrants, yet no one seemed to see the irony in their behavior.
Grandpa was the first to welcome them to the community, helping them set up their barn, and even giving them five or six heifers to supplement their herd. He’d take his tractor down the road to help them out, and he made sure they had enough hay to get them through the first winter.
He even took the farmer down to the creamery and got him signed up to deliver their milk, and get on the roles of the creamery to get a monthly milk check. It was a complicated process, but Grandpa made sure that everything was set up so his friend could sell his milk at the best price.
He never talked about that, or expected any thanks or appreciation. It was just something he did, quietly. It was just something he’d do, for anyone deserving of some help and friendship.
The family became close friends of my grandparents and prosperous farmers in their own right, citizens, and respected members of the community.
My times with Grandpa in the barn and helping him at haying time were special times, passing all too quickly. I was eager to grow up, and move away to college, and I took those quiet times with him for granted.
In the last years of his life, I’d look in on him, taking care of him at times, running errands, and making sure he was comfortable. I’d take care of his feet, cutting his nails, and putting on lotion. He had arthritis, and his feet bothered him a lot.
When I worked on his feet, I could tell that his pain wasn’t just from arthritis or old age, but that, many years earlier, some bones had been broken and hadn’t healed right.
When I asked him about it, he told me, “It was the war, the Russians.”
He didn’t say anything more, and I didn’t pry. The look in his eyes told me so much.
Now that he’s gone, I’d wished that we had talked a lot more. His life as a soldier was quite an amazing story, yet none of us will really know that tale.
I learned so much from him, in those long times of silence, in the tears welling up, but not usually shed.
Soldiers don’t share much of what they experienced on the battlefield, or in how they had to deal with the insanity, bloodshed and death. In their silence lies the tales that we should never forget.
Neal Lemery – Community member, author, blogger – his books: Finding My Muse on Main Street, Homegrown Tomatoes, and Mentoring Boys to Men more at neallemery.com
Spinsur on 11th November 2018 @ 2:54pm
Maurice wrote a letter to his father, A.A. Jayne from the front. The father had recently moved to Casa Grande, AZ for his health, and the letter was published in the Casa Grande Dispatch on May 18, 1918. I transcribe it here:
"Somewhere in France", April 14, 1918
We are having a great little thunder storm at the moment -- nature doing some cannonading of her own. It would take some thunder storm to make me shiver or hunt cover now; yes indeed. I haven't been over the top, but I have heard many kinds, varieties and sizes of shells go by me or over me. To hear them explode, even if not far away, isn't so bad, but it is hearing them come through the air that is the goat grabber at first, though you get used to all of it in time. A fellow hears them coming from over in Germany somewhere -- they screech and sing -- keep getting louder and louder but at about the same pitch. Then the sound dies lower and lower -- same proposition as those tin tops with holes in them; when you spin them they hum, the sound rising in pitch, then falling -- till it stops. About this time it hits and explodes if it isn't a dud (defective) or a gas shell.
We can look up in the sky at almost any time and see the black and white puffs of smoke, high explosives and shrapnel, respectively, chasing a bosche. Lots of fun.
Don't let me alarm you by writing about such things; it is just trying to let you see a little bit of it.
When you write next you might hazard a guess as to where we are. Then when I answer it, I will tell you how far you missed it.
The light is very poor, so finis. We are both well. Much love to all. Your son,
Corp. M.R. Jayne, 117th Engineers, A.E.F., France.
John Buck on 11th November 2018 @ 7:26pm
thanks all for the most interesting and sobering postings.....the commemoration of the WW 1 brings a lot of history to many of us. our Spruce Division Railroads exhibit at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center attempts to tell the story of the railroads built very quickly to get the spruce for the French and British to build aeroplanes….best to all who have and are serving.
Arlen Sheldrake on 11th November 2018 @ 8:41pm
The Leidl brothers were from Klickitat County. The family had a farm at Goldendale and one close to Glenwood on the Klickitat River.
Wendelin was stationed in England. Louis was in France. The local newspaper printed letters that the boys sent home. Louis was killed October 14, 1918 at Cunel, France, but there were many conflicting reports as to whether he was dead or alive. In February 1919 the family was informed of his death. In March the family was informed he was alive and in hospital. In April, the family is informed that his remains have been identified.
In March of 1923 the family is informed by the Red Cross that the "the remains have been identified in the Meuse-Argonne American cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, Department of Meuse, France"
In May of 1930, the United States government provides accommodations and travel to Paris France for the mothers of fallen soldiers. Mrs. Leidl traveled with the group to visit her son's grave.
L.E. on 12th November 2018 @ 4:54am
The Montana State Museum in Helena has quite a large section on WWI. Worth the visit if you are in that part of the country.
Longshot on 15th November 2018 @ 10:16am