Letters Home: Frank Dillon Returns

Throughout the war, the Skidmore News printed letters from its soldiers near and far.  The January 23, 1919 edition didn’t need a letter – Francis Dillon had returned to town and gave the editor a firsthand account.  From page 1:

Francis Dillon Back.

Frank Dillon, who was with the A. E. F. in France, arrived here Wednesday morning, from Camp Dodge, Iowa, where he received an honorable discharge and was mustered out of service.

Francis experienced some hard service as he was in the 89th division that were the first U. S. soldiers that were put out on a sector of the battle line by themselves.  And they made good.  As they crowded the Germans back faster than the artillery could keep close enough to assist the infantry.

He was slightly wounded, losing a part of the little finger and a little of the end of the thumb of the left hand.

He landed at Newport News, Dec. 20, and was transferred to Camp Dodge until his discharge.

He never had but one hand to hand encounter with the enemy. He said one day he and two other boys were stationed in an old building where there was a spring at the side of it, and the Germans were in the habit of coming there after water. They notice three Germans, coming their way presumably for water, so they concluded to have some fun with them. They were pretty muscular looking Germans, so the boys took off all their non-essentials including coat and cap and made ready to capture them, whole or alive.  In order to get to the spring it was necessary to pass in front of the building and turn the corner and just after they turned Francis formed himself into a hollow square and undertook to surround the first fellow.  He succeeded, but it was no easy task.  The boys teased them a while and then let them go back to their line; but they didn’t let them have any water.  Someone asked Francis why they didn’t take them prisoners.  He replied that they had no order to take prisoners.

He told of an instance where there was a pipe projecting from the side of a hill from which a nice stream of water flowed, located about halfway between the two lines and the French and German soldiers would go there for water and they did not molest each other.  When the U. S. soldiers were put on that sector they would not allow the Germans to get water, but they would go there themselves.  So the Germans trained a small gun on the water pipe and when one of our boys would go for water they would fire at him. The boys had to have water to cook with and as it was dangerous to go after it, it was only the more sport for them to go get it, so one boy would take a bucket and when he got near the pipe he would start and run by, hanging the bucket on the pipe as he ran.  After the bucket was full another would run by and get it.

Francis is feeling fine, only he has the “trench feet” — well we don’t know how bad, but bad enough that it is somewhat difficult for him to walk around.

He says “trench feet” is caused by standing and sleeping in trenches in mud and water.  And after one stands in mud and water about like our roads and streets are now, for several days or weeks, even to months, he is very apt to have “trench feet.”

He says the sensation is like fancying holding your feet in water until the skin becomes all wrinkled, then plunge them in water hot enough to fill the wrinkles up with blisters.  Then for three or four months after that you have the sensation of needles running through your feet when you walk.