Women’s Work: How the Women of M. A. C. Contributed to World War I

14 05 2018

The needs of the war effort were vast and varied, which meant that there were plenty of ways to help that were opened up for women and women’s departments. Whether staying home or travelling the country and the world, women found a way to help.

In the fall of 1918, two young women joined the Red Cross in order to serve as army nurses.  Alice Latson, ‘09, and Elizabeth Palm, ‘11, became nurses in order to help with medical needs.  Latson was trained as a dietitian in Asbury Hospital in Minneapolis and would be stationed at Camp Gordon in Georgia while Palm would train at Camp Custer’s base hospital.

Mary M. Harrington of the class of ‘18 moved from Flint, Michigan to Fort Riley, Kansas to become a Red Cross dietitian at the U. S. A. Base Hospital. She worked to help feed 2,100 patients, all suffering from influenza. Harrington noted that there were “several other dietitians here, but none are from M. A. C.” In her letter to the newspaper, she asked for a copy of the Record to keep up with her Alma Mater, for “Michigan seems quite far away when one is out here.”

 

canning participants

Canning Course Participants, 1917

The home economics department stepped up during the war in the whatever ways they could, especially when it came to teaching the community how to help in crucial ways at home: “Fifty senior girls are taking a special course in canning this term, most of them with the idea of offering their services this summer as demonstrators when the canning season opens up.” During the summer of 1917, the home economics department made two food talks and canning demonstrations available for the East Lansing community. The July talk was available to women with two years of training from the home economics department and would later be volunteer canning demonstrators. The August class was open to everyone. The classes were taught by former home economic students who were contacted with emergency registration cards asking “the amount of their training and experience, whether they were available for summer or winter emergency work, and the approximate amount of time that could be devoted to the work.” The ladies were also asked if they would be willing to help “without remuneration or with expenses only.” All over the state, former M. A. C. women agreed to volunteer their time and energy into helping teach “kitchen thrift” to the East Lansing community. The talk in July had 3,419 attendees, and the August demonstrations had 3,000.

 

The women also gave their time and money to help everyone, soldier and victim alike.  In order to help, “about 200 co-eds” volunteered for the Red Cross Association, using their time to knit “helmets, wristers and scarfs for the navy.” When sickness began to take its toll on the student soldiers, the co-eds of M. A. C. didn’t have any access to the new gym during the influenza epidemic. It was where Company B was housed as everyone was moved around and buildings were used as bunks for the sick.

War often leaves orphans, but some of the women of M. A. C. decided to do something about it. They adopted two french children whom they raised money to care for. It cost $36 a year to care for each child. With an average donation of 40 cents per person, the women raised $130 for the care of the children. The extra money was “used to buy delicacies for the convalescent soldiers.”

They also took over the jobs that typically went to men. With all of the secretaries for the class of ‘17 in the men’s sections serving in the war, a young woman named Lou Butler took over for the entire class as long as the war lasted.

With so much needing to be done, women were able and willing to help in any way they could. The ladies of M. A. C. sacrificed and gave whenever they saw an opportunity, and their creativity in finding where their help was needed is admirable.

Written by Catharine Neely

“Two M. A. C. Girls Entered Red Cross,” MAC Record, 30 September 1918, vol. 24, no. 1, pg. 3.

“From Mary M. Harrington,” MAC Record, 25 October 1918, vol. 24, no. 4, pg. 7.

“News and Comments,” MAC Record, 8 May 1917, vol. 22, no. 28, pg. 7.

“Home Economics Department Active in War Work,” MAC Record, 28 September 1917, vol. 23, no. 2, pg. 3.

“MAC Coeds…,” MAC Record, 22 November 1918, vol. 24, no. 8, pg. 3.

“Two French…,” MAC Record, 1 November 1918, vol. 24, no. 5, pg. 3.

“For Class Secretaries of ‘17,” MAC Record, 1 November 1918, vol. 24, no. 5, pg. 5.

“Some of those in Attendance at the Canning Course,” MAC Record, 17 July 1917, vol. 22, no. 34, pg. 7.

Advertisements




A M. A. C. Legacy, Part 3: Mary Crocker

16 04 2018

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

America entered into World War I on April 6, 1917 and put out the call for young men to join in the fight.  Michigan Agricultural College, later to be known as Michigan State University, answered this call with its own students who both served and contributed at home.  Of those many, three in particular stand out: the Crocker siblings. Thanks to a collection housed in the MSU Archives building and the correspondence between these three, Mary, Emory, and Martin, we are given a unique look into the life of M.A.C. students who stayed and went “over there.”

Mary Yearbook PhotoMary Crocker graduated in 1918 from the home economics division and wrote avidly to her brothers while they served in France.  While Mary herself did not serve overseas and stayed home to finish her education at Michigan Agricultural College, she is an interesting participant to consider in this trilogy because of her collection of letters and her scrapbook.  Her contribution to the narrative of her family and the college was a quiet but crucial one.

During her education she enjoyed what is assumed to be an active social life, joining the Omicron Nu society while she was at school and attending dances. She kept some of the letters from young men asking if she would like to join them in attending dances or football games.  These all date from 1916, before America would enter the war, but several of them are from young men who would in the next year enlist in the armed services, such as Ralph Johnson, ‘16, A. Hopperstead, ‘18, and Harold Parks, ‘18.

She also enjoyed a constant relationship with her brothers. She exchanged letters with Emory and Martin when they were home just as she did when they were across the ocean. Emory wrote Mary a note about thanksgiving plans and how he had told Martin that he couldn’t get together later that afternoon. He also complained that when he tried to visit Mary at Howard Terrace, he was snubbed by some of the other women who were living there.  He wrote, “I rapped at the door and no-body came so I stepped inside and pushed the button and then some of those girls wouldn’t come and find out what I wanted.” He tells her that he’ll be going on a hike with Ralph Johnson, but then continues venting his irritation with her dorm mates: “If a girl would be in the same position the worst rough-neck in the dorm would be decent to her. If there is anything makes me sore it is to have some girl try to make a fool out of me. They knew I was there so all they did was giggle and whisper. The dickens with them.”

A few weeks before America entered the war, Mary sent her brother some sweets to enjoy, and as a thank you, she received a silly letter filled with flowery language from the men that were lucky enough to have Emory share with them: “Due to the fact that Emory is the only ‘Sir Galahad’ in this ward, the rest being nonchalant Knights of the Loyal Order of Jilted and Disappointed Youths, we must look upon him as our only benefactor and champion of our worthy and uplifted cause…Humbly and Confectionately yours.” The men who signed were Emory, Harry Weckler, Frank Warner, J. E. Foess, Cosmer LeVeaux, K. C. Beake, and Frank E. Hausherr.  Every man who signed his name would enlist in the war, and Cosmer LeVeaux would lose his life in the fighting.

During the war, writing to soldiers was encouraged in order to keep up morale, and Mary wrote to other soldiers besides her brothers. One was a M. A. C. graduate, Corporal John F. Galloway, ‘17. In a show of dark humor, probably in response to a question Mary posed in a previous letter to him, John begins with, “Dead? No, not just yet. Just busy, that’s all.” He goes on to tell her he’s proud of her and her accomplishments at school and the people he’s run into. He tells her a humorous anecdote about searching men for alcohol when he was on guard duty:

“Another time I was corp. of the guard and our post was at the terminal of the car line. Our duty was to search every one for booze. As they got off the car we would line them up and pat them in the chest, and hips, etc to see if there were any bottle on them. Usually there would be a bunch of women and girls there too, and you ought to have seen the expressions on their faces as we looked the men over. Must have thot [sic] their turn was next but we do not search them. It sure was comical to see them.”

After his story, he continues by talking about the football team and why they were doing poorly that year and about a messy training session he had on the rifle range. Overall, his tone is a lighthearted one written to a friend more than a letter of a soldier writing home.

Not all the letters Mary received were from friends or family.  One was marked “Dear friend” and was signed by a Pvt. Ray E. Dulmage. Having most likely already gotten a letter from Mary, Dulmage wrote back, “I suppose you already know much more than I can tell you about this country since you have two brothers here. I may tell you another side of the story, which may be of interest to you.” He goes into detail about the people and how they live, that “the houses are of stone and cement” and “very old and just as odd looking” with “ no furniture to speak of, no carpets only dirt, dirt, dirt.” He talks about the people, how the women “seem to be degenerate” and “all the men I have seen are the older ones,” which would make sense since it would be assumed that any man capable of fighting was fighting. He noticed the children were able to quickly learn english. Many of them would sing “Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here” when the soldiers would go back to camp, and Dulmage suspected that the children thought it was their national anthem.

The earlier letters Mary collected show a life expected of young college students, which furthers the understanding of how thoroughly the war would change life for the individuals that are introduced through her photos and correspondences. While only a few letters written by Mary were collected, her contribution is crucial and her viewpoint is more of that of the narrator in this saga.  She herself is silent, and her words are read minimally, but she is the vehicle that allows for a deeper understanding through this intimate look at the life of students, soldiers and how the everyday was changed with America’s entry into the war.

Written by Catharine Neely

Sources:

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 21 November 1915, Box FD, Folder 1, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker, et al. to Mary Crocker, 19 March 1917, Box FD, Folder 1, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

John Galloway to Mary Crocker, 1 December 1917, Box FD, Folder 7, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Ray Dulmage to Mary Crocker, 21 June 1918, Box FD, Folder 7, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Mary Crocker Scrapbook, n. d., Scrapbook #244, Boutell Mary Crocker, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Box FD, Folder 14, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.





A M. A. C. Legacy, Part 2: Martin Crocker

2 04 2018

America entered into World War I on April 6, 1917 and put out the call for young men to join in the fight.  Michigan Agricultural College, later to be known as Michigan State University, answered this call with its own students who both served and contributed at home.  Of those many, three in particular stand out: the Crocker siblings. Thanks to a collection housed in the MSU Archives building and the correspondence between these three, Mary, Emory, and Martin, we are given a unique look into the life of M.A.C. students who stayed and went “over there.”

 

Photo of Martin

Yearbook photo of Martin from 1917 Wolverine

 

Martin Crocker was a member of the M. A. C. class of 1918 and Truck Company no. 6, 23 engineers during World War 1. Both he and his brother Emory left to serve and wrote their sister Mary, who stayed behind to finish school.  Unlike Emory, Mary didn’t have any letters from Martin while he was at school, either because he didn’t write or she didn’t save them. Before joining the armed forces, he was going to school to be a surveyor and asked Mary to look after his drawing tools, but there isn’t much beyond that. He did send her notes while he was in the service that add to the complexity of
understanding military life during this time.

Martin wasn’t exempt from having to deal with disease.  Like any other soldier, he received his inoculations when entering into the army, and he “got all through at 4pm, even had a uniform and a shot in the arm for typhoid and smallpox.” His opinion of military care was tepid at best. He wrote to Mary that “The hospital has two cure alls. If they can see anything on the outside, like a broken arm, they paint iodine on it. If that isn’t the matter they give you a dose of castor oil.” With diseases like measles and the Influenza epidemic running rampant through barracks and civilian homes alike, Martin’s flippant attitude towards healthcare can be understood. But the need for some kind of attempt to curb sickness was constantly apparent.  One night before shipping out to France, after Martin had been enjoying a brief leave to go into Brooklyn, he came back to find out that his entire barracks had been quarantined for diphtheria and spinal meningitis. Martin would also get word about how the other camps were fairing, including the one his brother was in: “If Emory is at Camp Merritt he is good for ten days more at least.  The camp has a measles quarantine on. The head nurse told me about it.” Martin would eventually be hospitalized with mumps, saying that his “face is swelled up like a freshman’s chest.” Earlier, Martin had been hospitalized for rheumatism, and while there, he saw that not everyone who was hospitalized made it out:

“There has been lots of excitement here lately, two fellows had pneumonia with their scarlet. One goes out of his head. I was in bed all the time he was sick so didn’t see him. One night the [sic] brot [sic] over a straight jacket in case of emergency. They called out the reserves about four in the morning and about six of the fellows put the jacket on him, but didn’t tie him down. In the morning the trousers were on the floor. He told them that they got too hot so he took them off. Imagine that? The other fellow with pneumonia died, he just got in from Ft. Leavenworth when he was sent over here, had just three weeks in the army.”

Envelope from Martin to Mary

Envelope of letter Sent from Martin to Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin’s letters of being an engineer show a very different side of military life than what Emory experienced as a gunner. Once in France, Martin began to write more about what it was like for him to be a military man, and his related experiences are relatively pleasant, especially when compared to what his brother Emory was enduring at the front. One of Martin’s experiences that Emory notes with a little bitterness is that Martin has an easier time than him with the Engineers: “Got a letter from Mart today. He tells how he has a motorcycle to ride around with and French chefs to cook for them and women to wait table [sic]. Pretty soft I would say. We eat our beans sitting on mother earth and want to go to the front to get away from taking care of horses.” There may be some doubt as to how truthful Martin’s situation is, especially since Emory was at the front and in the trenches fighting in the French mud, but Martin’s letters home show that Emory isn’t that far off concerning Martin’s situation: “It is the swellest place in the world.  There are less than a hundred soldiers and a lot of laborers (civil). We aren’t getting our meals from the army but have french cooks using stuff that can be be bought and some from the QM. So the meals are great.” Most people don’t consider a base near the front lines to be “the swellest place on earth,” but Martin seemed to be enjoying himself, nonetheless.

Being in charge of taking care of the trucks, which were still a novelty at this time, Martin enjoyed local attention when the trucks were driven from one place to another: “We make a little sensation everywhere. When we pull through a little town the people all come out and collect the kids and chickens and animals out of the road.” His interactions with the townsfolk was limited by language, but he managed to still make do.  He drank a little since “wine and beer flows like water outside of the camp, but I haven’t found any that I care about yet so haven’t had any trouble finding my pass when I get back to camp.” He also would buy goods from local vendors but was aware that they would treat soldiers differently.  After he bought his sister a watch as a graduation present, he asked his mom to find out how much is was worth in American dollars: “I think it was worth all I paid for it because I got it in a good store, the better the store the less you have to be careful about being charged the ‘OD’ prices instead [of] french prices.”

censored letter from Martin to Mary

Censored letter from Martin to Mary

Despite all of the moments that were written in amusement, there are still reminders that a war was going on.  When Martin was writing to Mary about being in a French hospital, he writes a name of either an area or city, but it is censored thoroughly.  There is a section cut out and the name of the place is eradicated with no possibility of knowing where he was. Despite the somber reminder, it is humorous considering Martin’s next sentence is “I don’t know where that is.” Now, neither will we.

 

Martin’s letters show a different, more lighthearted side of working during the war.  Balancing the darker moments with humorous oversimplifications of common wartime occurrences, he makes for a unique conveyor of his experiences and what it was like for someone in France who was not necessarily fighting, but still a crucial part in the war effort.

By: Catharine Neely

Sources:

Martin Crocker to Mary Crocker, 24 January 1918, Box FD, Folder 5, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Martin Crocker to Mary Crocker, 9 January 1918, Box FD, Folder 5, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Martin Crocker to Mary Crocker, 10 December 1917, Box FD, Folder 5, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Martin Crocker to Mary Crocker, 28 December 1917, Box FD, Folder 5, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Martin Crocker to Mary Crocker, 25 February 1918, Box FD, Folder 5, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Martin Crocker to Mary Crocker, 26 May 1918, Box FD, Folder 6, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Martin Crocker to Mary Crocker, 15 March 1918, Box FD, Folder 5, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 6 July 1918, Box FD, Folder 4, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Martin Crocker to Mary Crocker, 25 June 1918, Box FD, Folder 6, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

 Martin Crocker to Mary Crocker, 2 May 1918, Box FD, Folder 6, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Martin Crocker to Mother, 12 May 1918, Box FD, Folder 6, Boutell Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

 

Mary Crocker Scrapbook, n. d., Scrapbook #244, Boutell Mary Crocker, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

1917 Wolverine, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.





A M. A. C. Legacy, Part 1: Emory Crocker

22 01 2018

America entered into World War I on April 6, 1917 and put out the call for young men to join in the fight. Michigan Agricultural College, later to be known as Michigan State University, answered this call with its own students. Of those many, three in particular stand out: the Crocker siblings. Thanks to a collection housed in the MSU Archives building and the correspondence between these three, Mary, Emory, and Martin, we are given a unique look into the life of M.A.C. students: those who stayed and those who went “over there.”

Emory Crocker

Yearbook Photo of Emory Crocker from The Wolverine, 1917

Emory Crocker, Class of 1917, was a forestry student. Before he began his war service with the National Guard, his career at M. A. C., according to his letters to Mary, was predictable. He wrote of playing football, going on hikes with friends, and asking if Mary could “get me a girl for the Forester’s Party?…Tell her I am not the best dancer in the world but will try and not make life too miserable.” During his participation in the forestry program, he spent one summer studying “the mammoth maple, gray and rock elm, birch and black ash trees” with other young men who at the time were simply students taking classes and learning their future profession. Among this group were others who would join Emory in the war: Sueldon B. Lee, H. N. Putnam, J. E. Foess, Roger W. Billings, Harold A. Clementsen, B. M. McClure, and Cosmer Magnus Leveaux, all with the Class of 1917. Leveaux and Emory were soldiers with Battery A, 119th Field Division, and Leveaux would lose his life on August 10, 1918, fighting “north of Chateau Thiery [sic].”[3]

The letters from Emory to his family start on October 8, 1917 when he was stationed in Waco, Texas. He mostly tells his family of camp goings-on, the people he met, and contagion scares and quarantines. On December 29, 1917, he wrote to tell his parents what Christmas in the military looked like:

“I got more this year for Xmas than I ever got before… I have got all kinds of knitted socks, toilet soap, tooth paste [sic] [,] wristletts [sic], trench caps, candy, tobacco, talcum pow[d]er, handkerchiefs and other things too numerous to mention. The box I got from the Lansing Red Cross was the best. There was even a gem safety razer [sic] in it. I will need every thing [sic] when we get in France I guess.”

Emory’s Christmas in the armed forces included packages from different Red Cross organizations and women who made knitted things to contribute to the war effort outside of his hometown, but he also received gifts from his family, such as “two packages…and a box of cake.” While this time was enjoyable, it was temporary, and a later line in his letter hints to the grueling hours of work: “I simply haven’t had time for nearly two weeks to do much writting [sic]. A man has mighty little time to himself in the army.”

Emory also talks mentions different attitudes that he and other soldiers had during their training: “I hear that every body [sic] that can is flocking to the Quarter Master [sic] Corps and the Ordinance [sic] Corps up North. I don’t blame them.  It is only natural that the majority would try to get in the safest place they could.” Besides the normal fears of the battlefield, Emory also had to face the technological advances that this war presented. The military began using vehicles, and this was daunting and unfamiliar: “Where I am out of luck in this war is that I know nothing at all about motors…. They have taken our horses and are going to replace them by motor trucks and motorcycles and automobiles. I am out of date in this war.” And of course, soldiers understood the military’s censorship rules.  “Don’t publish or talk to any one [sic] about what I write,”

Censorship approval Emory Crocker

Censor Signature of Approval, From Mary Crocker Collection, Box FD, Folder 4

Emory wrote to his mother. “There are strict orders out forbidding soldiers writting [sic] to news papers [sic] without just having the letters censored…. If any uncensored letters are published some one [sic] is going to get it. Of course that will be the soldier.”  While he understood what was at stake, he needed to make the rest of his family aware for his sake. Overall, Emory’s letters show how much war would change and shake up the life of a soldier as well as his family.

In addition to having to train and carry the responsibilities of a soldier at war, he also had to fight a battle with a less visible opponent: disease. Even though influenza is the best recognized illness during this era, other diseases plagued soldiers. In his first letter from Waco, dated October 8, 1917, Emory revealed that his camp was “quarantined with diphtheria” and that “there are a couple of cases now.” A few days later, he writes again, including a sarcastic comment to the perceived overreaction: “Well, we are quarantined to our Battery street. They say we have diphtheria. That is a couple of the men have sore throats so it must be diphtheria you see.” It only took a couple of days for his irritation to set in. He would be released only to be hospitalized again two months later with pneumonia. However, he was more worried about being left behind than succumbing to illness: “It was only a little touch….I only hope the battery doesn’t leave before I get out.” He was going to make sure that when his unit left, he would be with them. About a month later, his unit was scheduled to leave for Camp Merritt, New Jersey. Shortly before they left, he was still in the hospital, but “I argued with them so much that they let me out.”

It wasn’t all bad, however. Emory did also talk about running into people from M. A. C. fairly regularly, and how excited both parties were to see each other:

“I got a surprise the other night. Some one [sic] called me and I stepped outside of the tent and met Bill Anderson,… who graduated with ‘17.  He was shipped down with a bunch from Custer. He certainly was a tickeled [sic] fellow to see some one [sic] he knew….He didn’t know whether he would see anything of us down here and he was sore as the dickens because he didn’t say he wanted to be in the artillery when he first came. I never saw a fellow who was so tickled to see some one [sic] he knew as Bill was…. I took him over to Lt. Donelley and Donelley who knew Bill well in school is going to get him transfered [sic]. Bill Told me all the M.A.C. news from Custer. Harry Stewart is also down here in the 126th. He was another tickled kid to see someone he knew.”

Emory’s letters from France provide possibly the richest and most revealing chronicles of the entire collection of his writings. He started to share more with his family about what he did as a soldier. His new experiences were more richly detailed, starting with his training: “We get a lot of drill with gas masks. They say there isn’t any excuse of a man being gassed if he does as told.” Gas warfare was new in the Great War, and soldiers prepared for encountering clouds of different types of gases.

Gas Mask Museum

Gas mask used by soldiers during WWI with carrying bag, from the Michigan State University Museum Cultural Collections)

What Emory would be most recognized for was his work as a gunner: “I never worked on a gun squad until we came here except now and then an occassional [sic] drill. I was never very close to one when they were firing. The first few times out the firing gave me an awful headache but it doesn’t effect [sic] me at all now.” His work as a gunner became a point of pride as his Battery was the first from Lansing to fire on the Germans. In a newspaper article saved by Mary in her scrapbook, Emory is listed as the gunner, and the shells from the first two shots were “sent back home by Major Amos Ashley” and were “on exhibit in the window of Hurd’s Men’s Shop on south Washington avenue near Washtenaw street.”

Emory on cannon enhanced

Emory Crocker (left) on a gun with another soldier (unknown), from the Mary Crocker Collection, Scrapbook

At this point, Emory’s written trepidation of fighting was gone and replaced with bravado. Emory tells Mary that “I am a gunner and believe me I am going to have the sights of that gun right where they ought to be. I am going to make it a personal grudge.” He also wrote his parents about getting ready to go to the front, saying, “I hope our next shots will be fired towards the Dutchmen.” He would get his wish on June 12, 1918:

“We came to the front several days ago and have seen some hot stuff on two or three occassions [sic]. Yesterday morning the Hun gave it to us for about three hours in good style and then kept up a harassing fire throughout the day. No one in the battery was hurt. The Hun isn’t the only one who has been doing the firing. Up to yesterday morning we have bothered him continually; firing about three times as many shells as he did. Yesterday morning our infantry broke up a nice little party the Hun was figuring on and he got sore and gave it to us….I enjoy the honor of being with one of the two guns that were the first of our regiment to fire at the German. They tell us those first rounds done business too.”

Letter Emory Crocker

Letter From Emory Crocker to Mary, From Mary Crocker Collection, Box FD, Folder 4

Emory’s retelling of his first battle at the front reads as an exciting tale and, for him in that first battle, it was. There were no casualties, and he got to shoot at the enemy just like what he “thought we would be doing…when I enlisted.” However, it is important to pause and consider what these letters would have meant to those at home who had never experienced the kind of technology this war had introduced. If Emory was experiencing new and overwhelming technologies first hand, these revelations read by friends and family through letters must have seemed particularly alien—and frightening—in  nature.

Emory’s letters to his family offers a unique and personal look at what American, and specifically M. A. C., soldiers experienced in France and how they communicated that to their families back home. With varying levels of fear and boldness intermingled with touching, personal moments, Emory describes his experiences in Waco, New Jersey, and France in a way that is deeply appreciated by the people wishing to understand more about this crucial moment in history.

Bibliography:

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 8 January 1916, Box FD, Folder 1, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Mary Crocker Scrapbook, n. d., Scrapbook #244, Boutell Mary Crocker, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

“Cosmer Leveaux With ‘18,” From The M.A.C. Record, 30 September 1918,  M.A.C. Record digital collection, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 29 December 1917, Box FD, Folder 2, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 13 January 1918, Box FD, Folder 2, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 8 October 1917, Box FD, Folder 2, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 13 October 1917, Box FD, Folder 2, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 28 January 1918, Box FD, Folder 2, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 14 February 1918, Box FD, Folder 3, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 19 May 1918, Box FD, Folder 4, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 23 May 1918, Box FD, Folder 4, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 20 June 1918, Box FD, Folder 4, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Emory Crocker to Mary Crocker, 27 May 1918, Box FD, Folder 4, Boutell  Mary Crocker Papers, collection UA 10.3.104, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Written by Catharine Neely, intern for MSU Archives & MSU Museum