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WWI letter to Emily Gladys Bartlett
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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When he wrote this letter sometime in late July, Edward Wirt's division, the 76th ("Liberty Bell"), had been assembling for several weeks near the town of St. Aignan in the French province of Loir et Cher (some 100 miles from Paris). His unit arrived there uncomfortably packed in railroad freight cars; they had been there one week already. On their arrival, the units making up the 76th division had immediately been put through more training. The 76th was a "National Army" (draftee) division that had been hastily thrown together with little training. The marches Wirt writes about were a part of the effort to toughen up the soldiers. But in the end many of the National Army divisions were not used in combat; many were broken up, their men distributed to other units. Wirt enclosed a card thrown him by a French woman expressing her gratitude. By 1918, France had suffered more than any other western Allied power. Its losses had been so heavy (by the end of the war, more than 4 million killed and wounded) that in early 1917 there had been a large-scale mutiny in the army. It recovered, but the arrival of fresh American troops was greeted with joy and relief.
<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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