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thedrifter
08-20-02, 03:26 PM
PRIVATE FRANK LAST (Transcribed by Rick Riehl)



Pvt. Frank J. Last survived his war experiences and, although 50% disabled as a result of being gassed and having a shell inoperably lodged in his abdomen, led a life of service to his country. He received the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, and special commendations for extraordinary bravery while in captivity.

He joined the administration of the VA Hospital in Washington during the early 1920's and eventually retired as the vice president of the VA Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan in the early 60's. He passed away in 1976.

This original account was a combination of trench notes, and later memoirs that Pvt. Last compiled during his military convalescence in 1919. They sat in a drawer for three quarters of a century. Rick Riehl


Entry One

For most of 1917 I was at Lehr, North Dakota working as a rural mail carrier. In September, when the first draft was called, I was at the depot to see the boys off. Mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers of the boys were there also. There was crying, praying, yelling and the band was playing. It was an awful sight. Every mother, father, sister and brother who was there thought that the one who was leaving was sure to be killed at once—no chance whatever of his coming back. It was on a Wednesday. That evening while waiting at the barbershop to have some work done, I found a chance to sell my outfit to Mr. C. J. Rott, who also carried the mail. I got into the chair when my turn came and said to Kowan the barber (better known as “Kelly”), “What do you say about enlisting?” Kelly said to me “You’re on!” I asked him if he meant it and he said he did. The doings at the depot that day had gotten our “goats” and we thought this would be a good time to show our colors. When “Kelly” finished working on me he commenced putting his tools away and some of his customers who were waiting wanted to know when they were to be shaved. “Kelly” said: “I am through barbering; we are going to enlist.” The people there and a great many more about town thought that we were trying to play some kind of joke on them. Thursday morning I carried the mail for the last time and at noon that day we boarded the train for Bismarck. When we got there we could not find the recruiting officer and later on that evening we talked to a member of Company A, who told us all about the company. Next morning we met him and he started over for Mandan (where the company was maneuvering at a fair) to see the commanding officer, Capt. Murphy. We had our first army feed that day and watched the boys drill. We wanted to get in worse than ever then and the next morning (Saturday, September 22) we were enlisted at Ft. Lincoln by Capt. Murphy. We boarded the Saturday train back to Lehr in our uniforms. A great many of the people there came to us and in German told us how crazy we were for going “frei willig”, meaning volunteering.

That night the Americans of the town gave us a reception and a farewell party, as we were to leave Monday. A great many who were not Americans were very angry about this party, as they thought that we should not have anything like that. Think of it! “Going to fight our Vaterland frei willig!”

Monday came and twenty minutes before train time we received a call from Capt. Murphy telling us that we could go to our homes in Wisconsin and catch the Company on their way to Camp Greene, North Carolina. A few of our friends went to the depot with us, but there was no crying, yelling or band playing. We said goodbye and left in a hurry. We arrived at our homes Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday morning I received a telegram from Capt. Murphy telling us to meet the company in St. Paul. We thought it would be impossible to reach St. Paul in time, so we went to Chicago that evening and stayed there until Monday, when we rejoined our Company. After a few days we reached Camp Greene, where we remained until the first part of November, and then moved from there to Camp Mills, Long Island. Here we received our overseas equipment and were sent to Camp Merritt, New Jersey, to await transportation.

On December 14th we sailed on the giant steamship Leviathan (formerly the Vaterland; an interned German ship. This was her first voyage sailing the seas flying the American flag. There was something like thirteen thousand aboard, including 500 Red Cross nurses. We reached Liverpool, England on Christmas evening and from there went directly to Wischeser to a rest camp. We rested at this camp-and also rested our stomachs. We were put on English rations and they weren’t very good. Ask some of the boys who have been there.

New Years Day we went to Southampton and boarded another boat that sailed up the channel to Le Havre, France.

http://www.fylde.demon.co.uk/riehl.htm


Copyright © Chris Mills, January, 1997.

Sempers,

Roger

thedrifter
08-21-02, 07:00 PM
PRIVATE FRANK LAST (Transcribed by Rick Riehl)


"With the exception of the piece of shell in my abdomen, my left eardrum broken, my right ear stopped between the inner and outer ear, and my lungs not in the best of shape because of gas, I am alright."

Pvt. Frank J. Last survived his war experiences and, although 50% disabled as a result of being gassed and having a shell inoperably lodged in his abdomen, led a life of service to his country. He received the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, and special commendations for extraordinary bravery while in captivity.

He joined the administration of the VA Hospital in Washington during the early 1920's and eventually retired as the vice president of the VA Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan in the early 60's. He passed away in 1976.

This original account was a combination of trench notes, and later memoirs that Pvt. Last compiled during his military convalescence in 1919. They sat in a drawer for three quarters of a century. Rick Riehl

The following day we were told to remain available so that we could be called at any time as we were expecting to move. That evening we were assured that we would leave the next morning. A couple of our boys were sick and had been moved from the Infirmary of the camp to the hospital.

The next morning we were lined up and after "forming fours" in the English fashion we started on our hike for the station again. We enjoyed our walk this trip. A new covering of snow lay over the ground, and there were several sleighs about; also a number of bells on each that seemed to make things merrier.

We boarded the train again and unloaded at the dock a short way from the ship. We had to pass the great old American ship to get to the English ship. The "gobs" sure cheered us as we passed which didn't seem to amaze the "linies" very much and they exchanged some rather rough remarks. As the two ships were docked close to each other several boxing matches, which were not in fun, had taken place. The English would say something about their bulldog navy and our boys would give them a fitting answer.

The American ship, as I have stated, was a new vessel while the English one had seen better days. We were more than wishing that we could get on the American ship instead of the "frogs" and go right home, but we weren't routed that way. We walked the gang plank and I must say that the interior of this ship was no more, if as much, inviting as the outside was. We were assigned to our compartments and tables, above which our hammocks were to be hung. We started out about four o'clock, with the American ship 20 minutes ahead of us. At first we remained on deck and checked for floating mines. We could see the American ship ahead of us blowing up mines once in a while. We counted 24 in a short while, one of which some of the boys of the Bulldog navy shot at 9 times but left unharmed. We Americans, or "yanks" as we were called did some laughing and joking about it, but as we were by far from being the majority we had to slow down to the speed limit. The North Sea was very rough, and the ship was tossed about like a cork. We hadn't been out very long when several became sea sick.

http://www.fylde.demon.co.uk/riehl2.htm

Sempers,

Roger

thedrifter
03-09-05, 08:35 AM
Bump


Ellie