Friday, January 11, 2019

Recollections of World War I

The post of December 27, 2018 contained a quotation from Don Beery, a corporal in the 162nd Infantry.

The manuscript in the Benton County Historical Museum's archives contains accounts with additional observations from Beery's military service in World War I.  He enlisted in the National Guard on March 17, 1917, was assigned to guard duty at critical installations in the Portland area until his unit was activated. Here is what he wrote about some of his experiences after that.
Don Beery leading a parade in Corvallis later in life
“December 11 – At about 2:00 a.m. We were awakened and told to pack.  We were leaving.  By daylight we were on board the steamship Tuscania and were sailing out of New York Harbor.  This was the last trip of the Tuscania.  On her next trip she was torpedoed and sunk off the northern coast of Ireland with a loss of about 50 men.”

“December 13 – We arrived at Halifax.  This was only a few days after an ammunition ship had been blown up in the harbor and although we did not go ashore, the damage caused by the terrific explosion was plainly visible.
December 15 – We sailed from Halifax in a convoy with seven other ships.  No storms were encountered, so the crossing was relatively calm.  We followed the northern route and approached England from the north of Ireland.  British destroyers met us three days from the other side and gave us protection the rest of the way.”

It was not until December 28 that they left for France. Beery recounts the trip:

“December 28 – We went to Southampton and boarded the Southwest Miller.... The night of December 29th we crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France.  The only protection for these ships crossing the channel was darkness.  They sailed after dark and made a run for it, hoping for the best and by daylight were in port in France.  They were terribly overcrowded, standing room only, and if one of them had been sunk the loss of live would have been high.

December 30 – The Havre.  We go to British Rest Camp Number 1.  We are provided with British rations (terrible) and British tents (worse).  These tents were round and although they had board floors, there were no bunks or cots, so we slept on the floor with our heads all to the center pole.  There were about eight men to a tent.  The weather was miserable, cold and windy.”
Next week's post will include some additional anecdotes from Beery's time in the military. 
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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