Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day

Today’s paper came out with all the conditions of the armistice – unconditional surrender I should call it. Why, the terms the beaten Huns accepted do not even leave them with a tooth brush they can call their own.

My great-uncle Pete was a pilot during World War I. Fortunately, he had not completed his training when the war ended, or he might have ended up dead or injured as so many young men did, flying in machines that weren’t much more than kites with lawn-mower engines and machine guns on them.

Uncle Pete died in 1976. Among the things he left behind and passed on through my great-aunt, Freddie (who lived to see 100 years) and then to my mom, were a couple of letters he had written to his brother, Val (Valerien Dugue Choppin) from the Air Service’s massive training camp in Issoudun, France.*

Uncle Pete's letters to his brother Val on the German surrender of 11-11-1918.

Uncle Pete’s letters to his brother Val on the German surrender of 11-11-1918. (The pocket watch is from the 1940s but, hey, it looks neat).

One he wrote exactly 94 years ago today, on Nov. 12, 1918. He speaks about the war now being over, and the celebrations that went on. In honor of Veteran’s Day (originally Armistice Day, which commemorated the German surrender in World War I on Nov. 11, 1918) I’m sharing it with everyone.

Issoudun-11-12-18

Dear Val:

Today’s paper came out with all the conditions of the armistice – unconditional surrender I should call it. Why, the terms the beaten Huns accepted do not even leave them with a tooth brush they can call their own.

It is wonderful that we should have been able in four months to take them down from the haughty perch they sat on last July and today make them swallow the dregs of ignominious defeat.

The French have gone wild with joy. They say Paris right now is just one big joy factory. Yet I wish I was there, I know I would be having one hell of a time. They are keeping us pretty tight out here at camp and will not get us a chance to let loose. They know well enough what a bunch of wild birds the fliers are and if we are given the reigns once, they will have a hell of a time checking us all up when they want to call the roll again.

There was a pretty wild time last night in the little town near here. The people were going about the streets kissing every body they met and there are many Yanks who woke to sad reality and found the grizzly beard of a badly soused poilu [French slang for soldier] rubbed across their face as he kissed them with a resounding smack on each cheek. The old boys are death on kissing and they respected no one. They considered all worthy to be honored by their embrace.

I guess the military programming the U.S. will let up a little now & some restrictions will be removed & the world other wise made happy.

Peace has not been declared yet but it is not far off. The fighting has stopped and that alone is what we have been praying for so long. Don’t know what they are going to do with us now, but he powers that be say to keep our training, so training we will. But believe me, from now on, a fifteen degree bank is going to be stunt flying with yours truly.

Dearest love to you & mother,

Devotedly, Pete

In a later letter, he wrote of zipping around in hot-rod planes. Until I saw this letter, I always wondered why he didn’t remain involved in aviation when he returned to the states. The answer was, as exhilarating as he found it in France, he was terrified of flying:

Boy, I am almost an aviator, you might see me jazz around in a Newport, but never will, for when I leave France, it is fini aeroplane poir moi, they are alright during the war, in fact they are the most delightful things imaginable to make war in, but they are not peace time pleasure buses, not the ones I am flying at least, and when Uncle Sam tells me fin la guerre, it is fini aeroplane also.

My mother says he never flew again, either as pilot or passenger, as long as he lived.

*(from the Wikipedia entry) In 1917, the U.S. Air Service established its largest European training center, the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center, about nine miles northwest of the town. At the time of the Armistice, 11 November 1918, thirteen fields were in operation and well over 10,000 ground personnel, student pilots and instructors were located there. It was at that time the largest air base in the world. A single monument on Department Route 960 remains to mark Issoudun’s part in the Great War.

Share

Tags: , ,

One Response to Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day

  1. blathering on November 13, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Love the phrase “swallow the dregs of ignominious defeat.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *