This post was written by Julita Braxton, AHMC Cataloger.
This Veterans Day, with a focus on an item from the American Historical Manuscript Collection, we have the privilege of seeing the Second World War through the eyes of one soldier: Charles Murray Foster of the 1st Battalion of the 114th Infantry Regiment, United States Army, deployed to northern France during the fall of 1944.
Encamped in an old apple orchard, his regiment made its home in pup tents, or what Foster referred to as “dog houses.”
In a letter dated September 23, 1944, Foster writes to his friend Lieutenant Donald W. Ruoff, stationed at Walker Army Airfield in Victoria, Kansas, describing the French landscape, which he compares to Connecticut, the rainy weather, which reminds him of Washington State, and the people, whom he says are “like the apples; red, small and a bit on the side of vinegar.”
In word and image, Foster provides insight into both the grisly and ordinary aspects of the life of an American infantryman.
“Most of the small towns are in ruins—the hedgerows abound with ‘minen’ and other explosives—German equipment can be found scattered about—overcoats with an arm inside and items of like nature. One is always reminded that there is a war in progress.”
Mealtimes provide some respite from the horrors of war: “The diet of Spam, beans, potatoes, carrots and more Spam is terrific—strictly class ‘B’ ration.”
After the war, Foster found his way back to New York City, and, as his interest in sketching might foretell, he found work as an artist.
Happy Veterans Day.
Cataloging of the American Historical Manuscript Collection (AHMC), a group of 12,000 small and unique manuscript collections, is made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Peck Stacpoole Foundation, and the Pine Tree Foundation of New York.