We have some interesting World War I materials in our collection that are just gathering dust in our vault so I wanted to shed some light on a few items. First off we have a little book titled, Popular Songs of the AEF. The book was given out to enlistees to foster an esprit de corps among the men as they sang these songs together. Whether they actually did that while singing Beware of Chu Chin Chow (actual song in the book about a Chinese burglar) or the many Irving Berlin standards I don’t know, but from the line printed inside the front cover, It’s the songs we sing and the smiles we wear that make the sunshine everywhere, I wonder if they thought they were about to join a German glee club rather then fight battle- hardened stormtroopers.
Also in our collection is the English-French Hand Book for the use of United States Soldiers and is a helpful guide for soldiers in the trenches on leave in France. So after a long night out drinking absinthe in Paris you may need to ask De quel cote se trouve la caserne? (Which is the way to the barracks?). And if you are in really bad shape you may say J’ai gangrene (I have gangrene). On the last page are the words and translation to La Marseillaise, which is a song that I’m sure came in handy on the eleventh of November, 1918.
These artifacts were the property of Sergeant J.W. Springer. We also have about 15 of his letters that he sent to his sister, Anne, during the war. I am currently reading them and I will post something about the letters at a later date.