December 24

This Day in History

World War I

Dec 24, 1918:

American soldier John Douglas writes home from post-armistice France

On Christmas Eve, 1918, Major John N. Douglas writes to his wife and young daughter from Mayenne, France, telling them of the challenges still faced by the soldiers in his regiment more than a month after World War I officially ended.

According to Douglas, he and his fellows were the first American troops to arrive in the area around Mayenne, located in the Normandy region in northwestern France. The brutally wet and cold conditions they encountered there, combined with the scarcity of supplies, clearly disheartened Douglas.

I arrived in Maron about noon on the 19th — and we waited there untilthe 21st before the train came. It rained continuously — the mud was 2 to 6 deep — there was no place to sleep — no fires — no water to drink — and very little warm foodIn France at this seasonit gets dark very early — about 4:00 — and as there is practically no kerosene — and candles being very high — everybody goes to bed at dusk — in fact by 6:30 everybody in the small town is asleep — we turned in at 6:00 — It was miserable — wet — cold — no lights — no fires — Oh hell

The Normandy area Douglas writes of in this letter, ravished by the Great War, would later become the staging ground for another great clash of arms during World War II.

To read Douglas's letter in its entirety, or to read other letters written by soldiers during World War I, visit the Dear Home: Letters from World War I exhibit at History.com.

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