Maggs Bros Ltd

Diary of an American soldier in France.

RUETTGER Emil A. (1919.)

£1250.00 

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Manuscript in ink. Portrait photograph laid down to rear pastedown. 16mo. Original red straight-grained cloth, rubbed and soiled. 72pp. 21 July, 1918 - 11 April,

A laconic and ill-tempered account of service overseas by Sgt. Emil A. Ruettger of Indiana. Ruettger’s daily records are often darkly humorous and focus predominantly on the bad weather, “damn poor chow” and the letters he writes to and receives from his sweetheart, Olive Keyser (“O.K.”), who is likely the young lady standing beside him in the tipped in photograph at the rear of the diary. His reports of daily life give an insight into the attitudes of Allied Forces at this stage in the war, sailing from Southampton to Le Havre and then travelling by train or foot towards Western Front, where in early November he joins the action in the Battle of the Sambre: “Tues 5. Heavy fighting. Nothing to eat. Two Gerry planes downed.”

Ruettger doesn’t think much of Europe as he passes through towards the front line: “Strange country. Women look wild”. “Tasted wine, damn sour. Eats are few.” And even the proclamation of “Gee! Wha [sic] a pleasure to live in peace. I hope we move back” of November 11th 1918 is quickly followed days later by “Cleaning this filthy town of manure human and cattle. To hell with France.” Ruettger’s consistent references to Miss Kayser makes for a touching narrative; his fear that “Haven’t heard from Olive. Wonder if she is sick or dropped me. Gee hope not” were unfounded as the 1920 census tells us that Emil and Olive were married shortly after he returned to the United States. 

Stock Code: 213236