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WWI letter to Emily Gladys Bartlett
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Edward Wirt's ankle healed fast and he was out of the hospital at Camp Devens in Ayers, Massachusetts, when he wrote this letter. His unit, the 76th Infantry Division, was seriously under-manned. But by late May of 1918 it was finally approaching combat strength due to the steady influx of recent New England draftees, as Wirt notes. He knows that this means that it will soon be shipped overseas, to the war, and although he is a little apprehensive, like most soldiers he was also a little excited at the prospect. And they have at long last been issued perhaps their most important piece of equipment: their helmets (referred to here as "tin derbies"). Camp Devens was close to many of the soldiers, and as a result they were able to have visitors. His unit's training was rudimentary. The U.S. Army was considered second-rate by the other nations fighting in France (Great Britain, France, and Belgium), so much so that initially they insisted U.S. units be broken up and distributed among French units. Gen. John Pershing, the U.S. commander, refused, but U.S. units were given months more training once they arrived overseas.
<BR>There are ninety letters from Mr. Wirt to Miss Bartlett in the PVMA collection; twelve of them are reproduced here.
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