Hiram G Carney was a North Carolinian veteran who saw a limited tour of duty in the First World War. Throughout his tour Carney kept five diaries in which he kept detailed accounts of his time spent in France during the conflict. These diaries provide a glimpse into the life of a soldier, who although didn't take part in any fighting, experienced first-hand the logistical and political problems of getting the American Expeditionary Force home.
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Carney was born in Wilmington, North Carolina to parents J.G. and Mildred Carney. Hiram and his younger brother Marshall both enlisted during the Great War, however had nearly polar opposite experiences. Marshall Carney lied about his age to enlist and was involved in heavy trench fighting in France. Hiram on the other hand didn’t ship over until much later and had no combat experience. Carney was shipped off around the end of the conflict in the year 1918, his company traveled from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, then finally arrived at Camp Mills in New Jersey where he was promptly shipped off to Britain. After having sailed through an intense storm and going several days without food Carney’s ship docked in Liverpool and traveled to Southampton, England. His company was then shipped off to France, however by the time he arrived, the Armistice had already been signed and all fighting had ceased. Carney remained stationed in France for roughly one more year, after which he finally returned to the States. During his time in abroad Carney develops a pessimistic attitude towards his time abroad, and an overall dislike for France stating that, “Everything in France and England seems about 200 years behind the States”(Carney). This sentiment was significantly influenced by the extensive time his unit was placed under quarantine throughout November in order to protect the regiment from sickness.
After the War
After the war Carney married Anna Gore and became a salesman for the Shenandoah insurance company. Carney also followed his passion for golfing eventually becoming an honorary member of the Professional Golf Association’s Hole in One Club in 1949. He served on the Draft Board during the Second World War and died in the year 1968 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
After the Armistice was signed the United States government was presented with the massive logistical challenge of transporting the entire A.E.F back to the continental US. This was made even more difficult as the force of French and British ships, which had been used to create a bridge across the Atlantic for the A.E.F, had essentially dissolved since the impending crisis of war was over (Crowell 77). This stranded many Americans, Carney being one of them, in Europe till mid 1919 after the war had already been over for months. This resulted in many problems with soldiers stationed in foreign countries such as troops going absent without leave, public drunkenness, and damage to private and public property. This insubordination led to US reparations being paid to French citizens in order to make up for the cost of these damages caused by the remaining American troops (Crowder 1).
The A.E.F Abroad
Although Hiram Carney didn't fight in the War his experiences do provide a unique perspective into the impact of the AEF in France and how the French population reacted to their deployment during and after the conflict.
The large majority of the French population showed a very strong feeling of obligation to impress the soldiers coming over from the United States. A French Chaplain visiting the States wrote that “our leading men in the educational or religious circles are anxious to provide the American soldiers opportunities to meet the best part of the French population.”() This exhibits that feeling the French had to show the troops that France was much more than a nation torn apart by war. American journalist Joseph Odell also addresses this in a column about French provided vacation spots for American soldiers. The French company adopted a policy of great hospitality stating that to them “the question of vacations for our soldiers became a vital problem, inseparably connected with the winning of the war” (Odell 2). This exhibits a great obligation shared by many of the French populace who sought to impress American soldiers, which was for many their first time abroad.
There are many times throughout his war diaries where Carney comments on life with the French, particularly near the end of his tour with comments like “believe me, I've had enough of this damn Frog country.”(Carney), which clearly outline his opinion. This is sentiment is carried throughout his time abroad and is amplified after the Armistice had been signed, when his unit was quarantined in a camp near Paris. Conditions did not improve in the winter months as his regiment was forced to stay there long after the war had ended, leading to many domestic problems with the French populace.() This problem grew in scale as the soldiers remained stationed there into the winter which lead to cases of American soldiers damaging public and private property of the French. After the army was entirely demobilized this issue was addressed with many claims made “by inhabitants of France for damages caused by American military” (Crowder 2). These requests were then fulfilled by the US government following a letter sent to the Senate by E. Crowder highlighting the urgency of the matter, as the British had already payed the claims filed against them. (Crowder) This exhibited a lack of responsibility on part of the AEF as once the conflict had ended many soldiers took to drinking to pass the time.
- Odell, J. H. (1918, Sep 04). VACATIONS DE LUXE FOR AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN FRANCE. Outlook (1893-1924), 120, 14. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/136986113?accountid=14244
- Monod, V. (1918, May 08). A FRENCH CHAPLAIN AMONG AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN FRANCE. Outlook (1893-1924), , 78. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/136995467?accountid=14244
- The Scientific Monthly Writer. “Education for American Soldiers in France.” The Scientific Monthly 8.5 (May, 1919): 475-477. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
- E. II. Crowder. “To Give Indemnity for Damages Caused By American Forces Abroad.” Senate. (1918): 1-2. ProQuest Legislative Insight. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
- Crowell, Benedict. DEMOBILIZATION, Our Industrial and Military Demobilization After the Armistice 1918-1920. New Haven. Yale University Press, 1921. Print.
- Series 1 Folder 2 Diary transcripts, in the Carney Family Papers #5136-z, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.