July 4, 1918 – Full diary entry:
“A letter from Dad + Helen.
July 4 Baseball game.
A speech by Major Lemmon.
Tried to get honey but failed. Too many bees.
Everyone fired their rifles this A.M. Got a new suit. Wrote Aunt Aggie.”
That’s quite an Independence Day! Chaplain Edwards, in From Doniphan to Verdun, goes all out in his remembrance of the celebration:
The Fourth of July was spent here. In the morning as the representative of the regiment, the Chaplain was invited to visit the French schools. All the children carried American flags, but the number of stars or the number of stripes was evidently regarded as immaterial. A handsome brown eyed boy presented a huge bouquet to the Chaplain for the Regiment and desperately delivered quite a long address, accompanied by gestures in which he had been carefully coached. He looked the Chaplain squarely in the eye and never forgot a word. Nor did the Chaplain understand a word. The Chaplain responded with an eloquent little address which had been written by Captain Beau, a French officer of the finest type, attached to the Regiment. The Chaplain had been carefully coached in the pronunciation but was utterly ignorant of the meaning of the words. It was an impressive incident.
In the afternoon the whole regiment and about 300 French people gathered to hear patriotic addresses by the Mayor of the town, Captain Beau, and Major Lemmon. A fine Band Concert was given and several boxing contests. An amusing incident occurred during Major Lemmon’s address. The Major is well known as the most conscientious teetotaler of the regiment. At one point in his address he rose to the heights of impassioned oratory, his face was red, his gestures wildly emphatic. (The French made no gestures.) One of the school teachers, a very charming woman, turned to her companion and pityingly exclaimed “poor man boko zigzag.”
The third boxing bout of six rounds had been a particularly vicious one between two evenly matched middleweights. Many blows had been struck that would have knocked an ordinary man senseless. After the contest the French Captain confided to an officer: “I was much worried at first until I saw that with those nice soft gloves they could not hurt each other.”
I love the idea that Robert sat through the major’s address but then thought “the hell with this” and went out in search of honey. Here’s the Major (I think he is pictured here as a Lt. Colonel, and after receiving his Distinguished Service Cross):
Apparently, Robert wasn’t the only one with a sweet tooth. This is from Clair Kenamore’s From Vauquois Hill to Exermont:
The American Army ration is a good, substantial diet, but it becomes very tiresome. The men crave a change, and they usually prefer something sweet…
One of the results in the area south of Epinal was that beehives began to disappear. They would be discovered in the early morning by the thrifty French peasant woman, lying in a concealed place, and expertly looted of honey. This custom became so widespread in the army that it finally brought a general order from expeditionary headquarters setting a special penalty on the offense of robbing beehives.
Our men had regarded it as a sort of joke. They had come all the way over here to fight for France, so they would just help themselves to a little French honey. The French peasants regarded it as a high crime.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.