Lot 649

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649. WORLD WAR I CORRESPONDENCE OF BREWSTER E. LITTLEFIELD An excellent and large correspondence by Master Engineer Brewster E. Littlefield of Boston Massachusetts, chronicling his service with the 101st Engineers on the Western Front. The letters, total approximately 420 pp., with the main body of correspondence dating between Sept. 30, 1917 to his final letter of Oct. 31, 1918. Tragically Littlefield was killed just a week before the signing of the Armistice of November 11, 1918. The letters are written in ink and in pencil, some bear cut removals by censors. In very small part: "...[Sept. 30, 1917] we are on the high seas...Our ship the [censor cut] is the flag ship and [censor cut] is the commanding officer o the division...[same letter Oct. 7, 1917] We are now in the danger zone...We picked up our convoy of [censor cut] torpedo boat destroyers this morning...[Nov. 22, 1917]...We had some good news in the paper to-night; the headline was 'British troops, in drive on Cambrai, smash Hindenburg line to five mile depth and capture 8000 prisoners'...[Dec. 14, 1917]...I haven't written for the last few days for two reasons; one was due to censorship and the other was because I have been rushing some maps and plans through to completion and therefore have worked ill very late at nigh on them...[Dec. 28, 1917]...Yesterday morning we proceeded to tour destination in a box car...We are the first Americans that the townspeople have seen and they put themselves to all kinds of odds to please us...this afternoon...two young ladies came in to visit us they were human question boxes, and as I am the only to speak French fluently...[Jan. 25, 1918]...We are in our own divisional area now, there being many other American troops all about. During the morning we would here [sic] American light and heavy artillery practicing all around us, and when they would let up for a spell we could hear the guns at the front...Rev. [Dwight] Moody is to preach there Sunday...[Jan. 27, 1918]...I have been wearing my steel helmet all day to-day so as to get used to the feeling. Gee but the blamed[?] thing gets heavy after a while...[Jan. 30, 1918]...I have been chosen as one of the gas-mask instructors for Headquarters...We took a half hour's walk yesterday with our masks on and you can't imagine how peculiar you feel. One of the Lieuts. got his windows all steamed up and couldn't see where he was walking and went into a ditch...[Feb. 2, 1918]...Headquarters went through a gas chamber yesterday afternoon in order to give the masks a final tryout. After we had been in a while they had us take off our masks to see what effect the gas really had even in small quantities; gee I didn't much more than get my mask off before my eyes began to run like a river and 'yours truly' beat it for the free and untainted ozone outside. The gas used was tear gas and has a very disastrous effect as used by the Hun...This is probably our last Sunday before we go up to the trenches. I am not sorry to go now. Our Yankee Division has the distinction of being the first N. G. division of the first American Corps and who among us here...isn't proud of this honor...[Feb. 5, 1918]...I saw some German prisoner digging some ditches....I have been vested with some new duties...I am now the regimental gas non-commissioned officer...[Feb. 16, 1918]...Last evening...we were visited by numerous boche [slang for German] machines While they were here the sky was full of bursting shrapnel, mysterious lights and rays from many search lights...They tell us to expect raids on every clear moonlight night and as tonight is just such a one we are expecting at any moment to hear the purr-r-r-r of the engine, and the rat-tat-tat of the machine guns...[Feb. 26, 1918]...this morning just as we were leaving one section of the Huns started shelling for all they were worth...This afternoon we had to pass over a road almost impassable as the Germans had been shelling it all morning. We saw two boche machine[s] drop thousands of leaflets, evidently some peace propaganda...[Mar. 9, 1918]...We had quite a visit from the...aeroplanes [sic] last night. As far as we could till they came over in two groups and circled over our heads. Although no bombs were dropped here, the bursting bombs of the anti-aircraft guns and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns, both on the round and in air made it quite interesting. You can't imagine how strange it feels to have the air apparently full of machines and yet, although they seem to sound no more than two or three hundred feet up, not be able to see anything but the stars. I have gotten so now that I think I can distinguish between the sound of French machines and German. I just stopped writing as I heard some more machines and sure enough it was another raid. We saw the bombs explode and felt the ground shake almost off your pins. However I guess the French machines were waiting for him as the sound of machine guns in the air seemed to be followed by a change of directions and back he went toward his lines...[April 4, 1918]...We are not on the [censor cut] front and things seem so different from the other sector as this place has never been held by the Germans. We can climb the hill in back of the town and with powerful glasses look over 'no mans land' into German territory, where I hope some day soon we shall be marching with nothing between us and Berlin...[April 10]...This country we are in now is so level that when you strike an up or down road it bout always manages to bring you within plain view of the Germans; such places are known as 'Dead mans turn' and each town has its own 'D.M.T.' We always manage to open up and 'let'er go' when we hit one...[Apr. 13, 1918]...To-day I was given a motorcycle...and made the rounds of the companies. The planes are sure using a pile of gas on our troops, but as our discipline in regards to the wearing of masks is much more strict than that of the French, we only [get] a comparatively few casualties from that cause...I came down over a 'Dead Man's Curve' and you bet I opened her up just before I started, they threw over a few shells and after I had gotten beyond they dropped some more. I guess I must have gone down while they were having a breathing spell...[Apr. 24, 1918]...Just after 'taps' last night, when all was dark, the lieutenant... and I slipped into one of the barracks and gave a gas alarm for drill. Each of us...had a flashlight and it was some fun to see those boys dive out of bed, any old way, and get into their masks in the quickest possible fashion...[May 22, 1918]...To-night I saw some very good boxing bouts, a coon, who was exceptionally clever with his feet, and a few other numbers. Just after the entertainment an American aviator came over and turned a few spirals, took a couple of nose dives, and a few somersaults, just enough to keep your heart in your mouth for a few minutes...[May 29, 1918]...Yesterday I was in a fairly hot position when I was up the front. They were doing some heavy shelling and I had to make a dash through the field of fire, however luck was with me...[June 3, 1918]...I suppose you folks at home are as anxiously watching the papers for news about this big [German] drive as we are. It looks kind of black but I really don't think it is as bad as it looks, anyway we hope so, don't we?...[June 8, 1918]...the Germans have taken an apparent delight on throwing gas into some of our positions almost every night. I expect to be sent to gas school again for a week's course...soon. The Germans are trying so many new gasses, not especially on our sector, and new devices for sending it over that one has to keep up on his toes all the time...[June 19, 1918]...things have been quite unsettled here of late. they have been shelling us lately and its no fun to be lying in bed about sunrise and hear a boom, whiz-z-z-z crash, get up get your steel Stetson; gas mask...and a few clothes if you want to stop long enough to grab them and beat it. It has been very active on this sector of late and we have fared as badly a back here as those up at the front. I wish you could have seen this place after the first bombardment everything was blow[n] around, my bunk was out of position and just covered with debris...[July 16, 1918]...I suppose by the time you get this the big German drive just started [Champagne-Marne Offensive, 15-17 July 1918] will be going on or maybe it will be over; we are not in it, just on the edge. I heard rumors today about the Austrians quitting cold...I was up yesterday morning on a gas attack for two hours...You know this mustard gas goes for the sweaty parts of the body, and burns badly so we have to have the men keep from sweating as much as possible. We have been having a few casualties each night due to the positions [censor removed next several lines]...[July 19, 1918]...an officer told me to-day...that this is the beginning of the end...I have been up to the front to-day and saw an American machine, chased by two Germans come down to within less than one hundred feet to where I was standing and when the anti-aircraft guns opened up the Boche machines beat it away both of them escaped...[July 25, 1918]...No doubt you will have noticed quite a skip in my letters, that is due to our moving ahead rather unexpectedly. I suppose you folks have been feeling quite elated over the success of our boys...You said that some of the boys called that we moved back to rest no such luck...we moved but it was far from a rest area...At least you wouldn't think so if you could see the dead Germans and horses all around...[Sept. 16, 1918]...newspaper is almost an unknown article, and we hear more rumors than reports. If all the rumors...were true, we would be almost into Berlin...Among the many, many prisoners that came through our town was a full German band, with all their instruments, etc. just as they were captured while out parading with their battalion...I wish you might have seen some of those prisoners, old men and boys, dirty, hungry looking, with that blank unintelligent look on the majority of faces; and especially so the Austrians...But in spite of this haggard, all in appearance, one couldn't but notice sort of relived expression in them; a few were even laughing and gay...[Oct. 4, 1918]...visiting all the companies at the front, going over what was, not so long ago, No Man's Land. We saw what was before the war a big forest but now just a lot of broken stumps and shell craters...Evidently the boche had made up his mind to stay on that ground for sometime, because where you generally see bare crosses marking the graves, they had cemeteries all nicely laid out and fenced in, and the graves each marked with carved stone monuments just as you see at home...the boche is using his machine guns to cover his retreat, we saw in the tops of several big tress that had a commanding view of roads etc. platforms where machine gunners had dome such damaging work. We heard this morning that in a counter attack, the boche had driven the American out of Cambri...[Oct. 8, 1918]...Sunday's Paper spoke of the Central Powers Demanding Peace but if you could hear the almost incessant barrage that is going on all the time you would think his demands were far from being heeded...[October 15, 1918]...went to bed...then about quarter past nine he started in sending some more [shells]. these were different, as we couldn't hear the gun or hear any explosion when they landed; all there was to it was the whistle. After four or five had come in this manner I said to myself they can't be all duds and yet they don't break like a gas shell...so I thought I had better get up and look into it. And sure enough it was mustard gas. Although the wind wasn't bringing it to where we were I just spread the word and told the men to be on the alert...This morning at an early hour he started in again sending them in but thanks to the wind again there was no danger...[Oct 19, 1918]...Fritz has been sending some big ones over to night and just a moment ago a big one landed quite nearby and a big junk of shrapnel went whistling by the window...[Oct. 22, 1918]...That [flu] epidemic is certainly terrible it seems so many of the boys are getting bad news nowadays...[Oct. 25, 1918]...I have moved up to one of the companies and am now living in a dugout...[Oct. 28, 1918]...This morning I went up to a couple of the companies and on one of the roads running through a ravine I found some pretty strong traces of mustard gas. We find from experience that that kind has the highest persistency of all those used by the enemy, and so it is bad stuff to work around...They have landed a couple of shells rather close to our dugout, in fact so closet that we didn't hear the whistle at all, but then we are buried six or seven feet under terra firma so a little thing like that don't bother..." His last letter, written October 31, reads like all the others, updates his family on some of the slang that peppers his letters and closes hoping "this letter finds you both in the best of health. Has the epidemic let up yet? Well anyway look out and take the very best are of yourselves. I am as ever your loving son. B. E. Littlefield Master Engineer 101st Engineers." The letters ceased after this point. According to a letter by Maj. Porter B. Chase of the 101st Engineers, in a letter to Littlefield's family on Feb. 25, 1919, reporting that "He was wounded on Nov. 1, 1918 on the CHARNY road between that town and BRAS by a fragment of a high explosive shell hitting him in the head. He was on horse-back at the time, returning, I believe, from the performance of his duty...It was a very serious wound and he was removed as expeditiously as possible to a hospital...He died the next day, Nov. 2, 1918 and was buried on Nov 4, 191 at GLORIEUX, MEUSE Military Cemetery in Grave #14 Row #89 and his gave his marked with a cross...Your son was a splendid soldier, and well liked throughout the regiment...the saddest part of it to all of us was to have it happed as it did so near to the end..." The collection includes numerous photos of Littlefield and his family together with other documentation concerning Littlefield's death. Overall condition is very good. A superb correspondence, worthy of further research and examination. $1,500 - 2,000

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