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Posts Tagged ‘WWI’

grandad_pershing

The Library of Congress’ Today in History page reports that on this day in 1918, the “American Expeditionary Forces…launched its first major offensive in Europe as an independent army” led by General John J. Pershing. My family has a connection to “Black Jack” Pershing in two different ways. As seen in the photo above, my grandfather met the General in the days of WWI when Pershing inspected my grandfather’s squadron. In a letter to my grandmother back home in Indiana, my grandfather mentions the inspection and meeting. Pershing is the first man in uniform from the right (not standing on the car) and my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson, is the third from the left.

The second connection is through my husband. Pershing State Park in Linn county, Missouri lies across US 36 – 16 miles from my husband’s father’s farm. Each time we drive that road, we see the signs about Pershing and the Park.

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Last summer I found a large quantity of postcards that had once been in my grandfather’s collection which my mother had put away.  I brought them back home with me.  Most of them showed scenes of World War I or buildings in Europe.  Most were black & white.  A few, however, were tinted.  The following three postcards show (what appears to be the same) soldier and young woman “pining” for each other.

lmm122

“Cette lettre contient
mes plus tendres
baisers!”

“Find in this Letter
my sweetest
Kisses!”

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“Ton image cherie
est constante
a mes yeux!”

“I always have
in my Eyes your
beloved Face!”

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“I’m thinking of you”

On the bottom right of the first two are: DIX  975.  The bottom left of the last one is: FURIA 2071.

Apparently, these cards were made in Paris, but with the American Flag in the third one, leads me to believe they were American Patriotic cards produced for the Americans fighting in France to send home to their sweethearts.

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lmm124

Found in my grandfather’s postcard collection.  Scene of “La Porte Rivotte” in Besancon, France.

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This past week I shared this photo of the Caquot Observation Balloon that is on exhibit in the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.  I’ve taken many pictures of this balloon over the years.  Rarely do I visit this exhibit and not just stand gazing at it for a long time.  Why?  It’s a connection to my grandfather, Col. Glen R. Johnson. 

When my grandfather enlisted in the Army Signal Corps on February 5, 1918, he was sent to Fort Omaha, Nebraska for training on Caquot Balloons.  I wrote about his service in this post. Taken from his obituary is the following, “In the 1950s and ’60s, he was active as national commander and newspaper editor of the National Association of Balloon Corps Veterans (NABCV) (WWI), and had contributed many artifacts to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.” 

The official website of the Air Force Museum says of the balloon on display: Manufactured in 1944, the balloon displayed at the museum is believed to be the only survivor. The British used it for parachute testing and noncombat aerial observation and photography until 1960. The British Ministry of Defense, Royal Aircraft Establishment, presented the Caquot to the museum after it was located with the aid of American and British WWI balloon veterans in 1975. Assisted by the Goodyear Aerospace Corp. of Akron, Ohio, which had produced these balloons during WWI, museum personnel mended and sealed the balloon fabric and prepared it for inflation. It was placed on display in May 1979.

My grandfather was one of the American WWI balloon veterans who helped locate this balloon.  I remember his excitement especially when it was finally ready for display.  He also contributed many other artifacts to the museum including this:

Piece of WW I balloon fabric manufactured in the U.S.
Donated by Col. Glen R. Johnson, USAF (Ret) Dayton, Ohio

U.S. Insignia removed from the last observation balloon
flown by American Forces in Europe.  The balloon was
assigned to the 14th Balloon Company during occupation
duty in Germany, 1919.
  (This was donated by Evert Wolff, N.Y.)
(Grandson in front)

Ft. Omaha Squadron 2 Flag (donor unknown)

So the next time (or the first time) you visit the Air Force museum, take a look at the Balloon that dwarfs one of the areas and take the time to check out the displays that talk about the Balloon years.  I guarantee that you will learn something that you probably didn’t know before your visit.

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Yesterday I spent a few hours scanning letters that my grandparents wrote to my parents while my grandparents were stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany.  It has been several years since I read them so it was a chance for me to re-read while I was scanning.  I try not to handle these pages from the early 1950s very much in a way to keep them from picking up too much acidic content.  When I received them from my mom, they had been placed in a large manilla folder and kept in her basement.  To be clear, my mom’s basement is finished and air conditioned so they haven’t been in damp, musty or too hot conditions.  All of them are still readable and intact which is rare since most of them were handwritten or typed on very thin onion skin paper.  Remember, they were being sent from Germany to the United States so to pack a lot of pages into one envelope for the regular price of a stamp, they used very thin paper.

My grandparents wrote letters at least once or twice a week and they were in Germany for three years so I have many – MANY – letters to scan.  And that’s just of the Germany letters.  There are also letters they wrote to my parents when my parents were stationed in Japan twice.  Letters my grandfather and grandmother wrote to each other while they were courting, when my grandfather entered military training after they were married, when my grandfather went to France during WWI, and letters from my grandmother’s siblings and mother to her.

Here are some excerpts from the Letters from Germany.

 

Most of the letters are little more than reciting the more mundane chores of daily life or the functions that my grandparents attended.  For genealogical purposes, they provide a window into their lives that I wouldn’t have if not for these letters. My grandparents also took several weekend trips into other regions or countries during their time in Europe.  My grandfather took my grandmother to the area he was in during WWI in France and showed her spots she had only read about in his letters.  My grandmother saw what was left of some of the concentration camps from WWII.  They went to Holland and saw windmills and tulips.  They shopped in Garmisch. One thing that was always consistent in the letters they wrote from Germany: they missed their children and grandchildren terribly.  No matter where the military sent them, their hearts were always wherever their family was.

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