World War I -- Life Histories/Section 001/Joseph Lucius Reed

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Biography[edit | edit source]

Joseph Lucius Reed was born in Asheville, North Carolina in 1893, and grew up in the area. From there, he became a member of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I based in France. Reed is known for his letter writing to his family during The Great War. Reed was very young when he joined, only about twenty-three years old. He was a single man when he joined, like many men enlisted in the war were. He spent time in three different camps in the United States before being shipped to France in 1918, and only spent a few months there before returning back to the US at the end of the war. During his time as a soldier, he spent time in three different camps in the US before going overseas. This is where he learned "drill", and became accustomed to living amongst other young men and women in harsh conditions. He was a simple man, who wrote often about his everyday life and complained little. He often even spoke of how comfortable he was, considering the situations he was put into.

Young, Single Soldiers in the AEF[edit | edit source]

It was very common for the young single American men to enlist in the Great War, and a majority of the soldiers were in that category. For them, it was a chance to have adventure and excitement before having to settle down with a family. In an excerpt from Doughboy War: The American Expeditionary Force in World War I, one man describes the situation as such: "[w]e men, most of us young, were simply fascinated by the prospect of adventure and heroism. Most of us, I think, had the feeling that life, if we survived, would run in the familiar, routine channels. Here was our one great chance for excitement and risk. We could not afford to pass it up." [1] Many of these men were inexperienced in warfare and were not well prepared for what lay ahead, including Joseph Reed.

Life in the AEF, before France[edit | edit source]

Camp Sevier Postcard

Joseph Reed, or Joe as his friends and family called him, was stationed in several places in the US before going to France. He was first based in Camp Jackson, located on the border of North and South Carolina in 1917. In his letters, he explains that he sleeps on uncomfortable straw beds and claims that "the grub that we get is good". He discusses little things, like the cleanliness of his uniform, the quality of the food, and the warmth of the blankets that he's given. In one letter he briefly describes how the camp is set up: "There are about 200 soldiers in the barrack where I stay and we all eat and sleep in the same building... There are about 14000 soldiers in this camp now and the barracks, streets, and supply houses reach about five miles."

Reed was then transferred to Camp Sevier in Greenville, South Carolina. "We sleep in tents on cots-- eight in a tent." In his letters it's clear that he feels unsure of this transition but is hopeful of what's to come. The soldiers practice eight hours of drill a day. In this portion Reed discusses in his letters the issue of quarantine of the soldiers. During this time, diseases ran high. The American Expeditionary Forces wanted to keep the ill away from the well, and they did this by separating the two.[2] From what I could gather, Reed disagreed with the quarantine. In one letter he wrote, "I am very much disgusted by the army since the quarantine has been on. I did not mind it before but it goes hard on everyone now."

Next, Reed was transferred to Camp Merrit in Bergen County, New Jersey. He wrote a postcard to a friend upon his arrival there: "Am now at camp merritt, NJ and expect to start across the 'pond' soon. Had fine trip. passed through Baltimore, Philadelphia, and many big cities. Am well. Joe." This camp was used to transport soldiers to France, because of its closeness to Hoboken, a port town.[3].

Spanish Flu and the Quarantine[edit | edit source]

Spanish Flu Warning

During the time of the war, the world was struck with the Spanish Influenza, commonly known as the Spanish flu. It ended up kinning tens of thousands of people in just a matter of months. The symptoms were said to be high fever, sore throat, and harsh back pain. Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them Great War soldiers, were diagnosed. At the time, there was no cure. The makeshift hospitals on military camps were forced to separate the sick from the healthy in attempts to not spread this disease, resulting in the quarantine. Not much evidence is found that claims this tactic worked though, considering the amount of deaths in such a short period of time. [4]

Life in the AEF, during France[edit | edit source]

Reed was in the 30th division, also known as "Old Hickery" in honor of President Andrew Jackson, when he was shipped to France with the American Expeditionary Forces. The 30th Division was associated with the National Guard and took soldiers from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.[5] Not as much information is given by Reed when he arrived in France. In a letter to his mother he writes: "I can not tell you where I am at or what I am going to do because I am not allowed to." In the same letter he writes optimistically about how the scenery was beautiful and how trip over went well. It is hard to get a clear sense of what Reed is doing during this time, he can't even tell his family where he is based. On the top of all of his letters he writes the date, as well as "Somewhere in France". There are several times in his letters where the name of the Camp that he was at was ripped out, in order to keep information out. It is likely that those higher up in the military read the soldier's letters before sending them. From what is in Reed's letters, he moved around a lot but was mostly in the countryside.

Life in AEF, after the war[edit | edit source]

Reed, as well as thousands of other American soldiers during this time, could not return home as soon as the war ended. In fact, Reed stayed in France for over a year before he presumably returned home (although no record shows of it). Due to lack of transportation and technology, it took the US many months to be able to get the two million soldiers in Europe safely back home. There were not enough ships to bring them all back at once. This was very upsetting for AEF soldiers, including Reed, because they had all done their duty and felt that they deserved to go home as soon as possible. In the fall of 1918, AEF soldiers began to say "Hell, Heaven, or Hoboken by Chritmas". Those in charge had a hard time keeping the soldiers in order, and many of them refused to cooperate. They tried to keep things in order by having drill and some sort of schooling, but this rarely was helpful. [6]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  1. Hallas, James. Doughboy War: The American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000. Print.
  2. Byerly, Carol R. "The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919." Public Health Reports. Association of Schools of Public Health, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.
  3. Wright, Kevin. "Camp Merritt, New Jersey." Camp Merritt, New Jersey. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
  4. Brown, George. An American Soldier in World War ILincoln: University of Nebraska University Press, 2006. Print.
  5. Towers, Frank W. "Researching WWI / WWII - The 30th Infantry Division Veterans of WWII." Researching WWI / WWII - The 30th Infantry Division Veterans of WWII. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.
  6. Lawrence, Joseph Douglas. Fighting Soldier. Boulder, Colorado Associated University Press, 1985. Print.