Thanksgiving, World War I style


The following is an excerpt from the upcoming Walking to Forest Grove, Copyright Ken Bilderback. All rights reserved.

When Forest Grove soldiers began arriving overseas, their letters contained little substantive news of the war, and when they did they were heavily edited by military censors. When James Benoit wrote to someone the News-Times identified only as “a young lady friend,” he was allowed to tell her only that he was serving in the trenches “somewhere in France.” Most of his letter was spent thanking her for writing to him. “Your big, cheery, newsy letter was just what the doctor had ordered for me,” he told her. Better yet, it arrived on Thanksgiving Day, just as he was sitting down to a mess hall feast of “turkey, dressing, cakes, salads, mince pies, pudding, dates, raisins, figs, bread, butter and punch.” The highlight of the afternoon, he told his young lady friend, was that his team from the Army beat a team from the Marines 12-0, although he neglected to mention what sport was being played. He said most of the time there was not much to amuse the troops except for watching the effects of the local vin rouge being consumed “by fellows who are not yet acclimated. Of course I have been here long enough for that, but you know me.” Then Benoit slipped up and bragged that the company commander had told them that his regiment “had drawn the most important assignment in France (and) we were to …” The censor cut him off at that point, but allowed a few closing thoughts from “Jimmie” to his young female friend in Forest Grove, hoping that “you girls will appreciate us when we come back from war.”